What the F-stop: Event coverage from behind the camera lens


evolution dynamicsPerhaps the most captivating car I ever had the privilege of photographing was the Evolution Dynamics Evo that catapulted 14 times down Pikes Peak.  While I wasn't there to catch their demise and the controversy that surrounds the design of the roll cage and drivers experience can’t be downplayed, there is no more awesome sight than seeing a crumbled up, nearly unrecognizable steel object that two ballsy people rode to hell- luckily it was a round trip! Every busted body panel and bent frame rail helps tell their story.

I like shooting both raw (easier to play with colors, clarity, and adjust) and jpg (quicker for getting pics up somewhere) but the combo can eat through memory cards like Pacman. I carry a handful of 32MB cards with some 16MB and 8MB spares because the last thing you want is to run out of space and have to start deleting photos from the viewfinder in the midst of the final round. I also carry a space battery and recharge everything at night in case.  

A good lens can also empty the wallet. Three lenses that will provide a good range for covering almost everything are a telephoto (mine: Canon 70-200mm, f/2.8) to capture track events, a midrange zoom one for pits, shots of drivers and the crew and car shows (Tamron 28-75, f/2.8), and a wide angle (Canon 10-22mm, f/3.5-4.5) that offers excellent close-ups of products, decimated race cars, and engine bays. Keeping the equipment clean is a must. There’s so much sand, gravel, smoke, and dust you’re exposed to capturing track photos that can create spots on your photos that make you wonder why it's snowing in Texas in July.


pointbyCapturing a pointby is a great way to deliver a story within a photo.
JasonSometimes it's about catching moments that make us chuckle or human, such as Jason failing at his attempts of being an umbrella girl at the GTA event. Sucks since he fit in the latex skirt so well!
mediaIt's also about staying informed on the results, knowing the schedule, and getting the pictures you need to put together a good story. Luckily, the cameras here make excellent transcribing tools. One pic and you can go find a nice shady spot or WiFi connection and work on that article you need to turn in before they announce the winners.
aasboIt's also sharing in the enthusiasm the drivers and crowd have for great racing. When Aasbo finally clinched the podium after many times at #2 or #3, it was hard not to feel excited. If you travel to these events often, you know the stories behind the drivers and spend time with the teams. For the most part, it's one big competitive family that is also quick to acknowledge awesome driving skills or a come from behind victory.

The most important thing on track is to not be an asshat.  Obey the track marshalls, corner workers, and emergency workers.  Stay out of the way of teams and drivers. Never, ever, ever lay down on the track. Common sense, right? But one photographer at Road Atlanta learned his lesson the hard way and it's hard to take photos in a full body cast. Behind the camera, we sometimes disassociate ourselves from the activity on the track but there’s also a level of responsibility required.  You have to put down the camera if you can help. At FD Wall, Joon Maeng's car caught fire and I watched a nearby photographer reach for a nearby fire extinguisher rather than continuing to take photos. Props on using your noggin'!  

And then there's the weather. Rain and offroading excursions are one thing but you also have to cope with the sun. Sunscreen, a good hat, sunglasses, lightweight light-colored clothes including pants on track, and close toed shoes are a must.  A bandana applied over the mouth helps keep from inhaling clouds of tire smoke and you get to play dress up- cowboy or bank robber? Typically, I'll carry my telephoto and camera body on a strap (Black Rabid Cargo RS-5 which has a few pockets for business cards, cash, and ID) and put 3-4 waters and a granola bar in my backpack since it's often 2-3 hours in the high noon sun shooting a practice or qualifying session. 

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