You may find this hard to believe, but there are actually people who don’t care for racing – I’ll pause here while you gasp in horror. When I come across these rare creatures, I generally recommend they go to a race to see what the hoopla is all about and if they don’t care about the cars to at least go for the party. What better place to combining racing and partying than at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg? (Okay, turn three of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is some stiff competition but work with me here.)
2010 Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete
Kicking off the 2011 IndyCar Season, the Honda Grand Prix or the ‘World’s Fastest Spring Break Party’ as it’s been dubbed, is one of the most well-attended events on the IndyCar Series schedule. From the Friday night festival to the post-race events on Sunday night, this is a weekend full of non-stop action both on and off of the track.
Dario Franchitti greets fans at the 2010 Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete
New to the event this year is the Trackside Club in Turn 10 where individual race goers and private groups can pay a fee to sit in the luxury of air conditioned club or adjacent grandstands; a more economical version of the Pit Lane Suite’s VIP Club. It’s the perfect place to introduce a racing newbie to the sport, entertain clients, or keep your high-maintenance girlfriend happy.
However, any real race fan knows the best way to watch a race is to be right near the track – or in this case the lovely streets of St. Petersburg. If your race guest remains unconvinced after that, you should really reconsider your company. Where ever you decide to stand or sit for this spectacular weekend of racing have fun and party safe. That means remember to hydrate, wear your sun block, and please – just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
Driver banners at the 2010 Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete
As the ice slowly begins to crawl across the lakes here in Minnesota, my mind wanders back to the smell of ethanol and warm sunshine. Simultaneously I also begin to plan and think about next year. Winter is always a season of change and experimentation for me. Most of those experiments happen at the local hockey rink, and make their way to the track come spring. An area I would like to explore next year is the world of HDR (high dynamic range) photography.
What HDR allows is the merging of several photographs into one, in order to better exhibit the range of light between the lightest and darkest areas of an image. Typically this is done through bracketing when you have a still subject to work with, or by editing a RAW file of drivers or track action. Essentially you are taking images which are correctly exposed, overexposed, and underexposed into one image! Once the images are merged you can make a number of adjustments, including definition, contrast, and color saturation you desire. There really is no right vs. wrong at this point…The program I use to merge my images is called Photomatix Pro, and is available for about $100.00. There are a variety of other programs available as well, including one for the new iPhone!
The topic has recently caused a little controversy amongst photography purists… Some see this as a new opportunity, while others view it as cheap photography. Below I have included some early experiments. We have included the original image as a basis for comparison. Let us know what you think?
Dario on Pitlane: f 2.8 at 1/8000
I really liked the increased definition in the firesuit and track here! However, where did those clouds come from?
Fan with Flag
(Fan with Flag) Photo Info: f 4.0 at 1/2000 with a 50 mm. lensbaby.
As I sat in the media center post-race, eating my complimentary corn nuts, it somehow seemed fitting that the guy with the green and gold helmet walked away with the victory… It was a “green” race, both literally and figuratively, green fields, green event T’s, green trophy, and of course the smell of ethanol. For Tony Kanaan, luck has been hard to come by as of late. As I stood in Tony’s pit box watching a tire bounce across the pit lane I thought for certain another victory had been lost, but a quick response by his crew kept him in the game. Then, with only a handful of laps to go, the golden handprints on the back of his helmet appeared to almost push him to victory on this Father’s Day.
(Pit Lane) Photo Info: f 2.8 at 1/8000 with a 50 mm. fisheye.
(Tony’s Eye) Photo info: f/14 at 1/160 with a 70-200 mm. zoom.
Through the Looking Glass (Car in Garage)
A view into the garage
Set-up day at the track s always an open invitation to wander and try new things as a photographer. Generally there is a more relaxed feel for both cast and crew, I never feel rushed, and am free to make as many mistakes as I’d like. There are so many times I see something I like, only to go back and find a fault when blown up on my monitor. No problem, the only thing to do is walk back… I love to take my fisheye with me on these days to take in the scene. Initially I had not centered the car in this composition, but returned later, and in the end a “peephole” effect ensued. I never have considered myself a “garage spy,” but here that just may be the case.
Photo Info: f 2.8 at 1/250 with a 50 mm. fisheye
Through the Looking Glass (White Bodywork)
Hard to tell what this i
Set-up day at the track is always an open invitation to wander and try new things as a photographer. Generally there is a more relaxed feel for both cast and crew, I never feel rushed, and am free to make as many mistakes as I’d like. There are so many times I see something I like, only to go back and find a fault when blown up on my monitor. No problem, the only thing to do is walk back… There is also time for me to try my hand at abstractions. The garages are a place where you sometimes ask yourself if you are looking at a lunar lander or an IndyCar? The technology is ever present and beautiful.
Photo info: f/4 at 1/2000 with a 70-200 mm. zoom.
Five from the 500
This year’s 500 will be remembered for many things. It will be remembered not only as the hottest race on record and for Dario’s second win, but also for Danica’s charge to 6th after starting 23rd, and Alex Lloyd’s heroic battle to 4th.
The winner's stuff
Bottles Photo info: f/2.8 at 1/1000 with 50 mm. lensbaby
Working in the pits on race day allows me to watch these stories unfold firsthand. Shooting Dale Coyne eagerly watching his crew at work, and Danica climbing from her car after an exhausting day, are among the shots I cherish most. These are the moments you feel fortunate to capture. I’ve been told… “If you see it through the viewfinder you’ve missed it.” Fortunately, for both these moments, my shutter got in the way and I did not miss the shot.
More than meets the eye-Track
The week leading up to the 500 can be filled with seemingly silent days compared with the numerous practice days before qualification. I savor my quiet time at the speedway, whether it is walking to my car in turn three after a busy day, or before an early morning photo shoot of the front row, when this photo was taken. It is a time when you can truly feel the history, by taking time to see beyond the drivers, fans, and cars. Ron McQueeney always encourages us to take a look at alternate perspectives. With so many talented individuals on the IMS photo staff, there is no need for five of us to shoot the same thing. So, early on that bump day morning I journeyed down into turn one and created this shot of the finally grooved track surface with a lightly blurred pagoda breaking through the background. I could have never anticipated that the speedway would become one of my favorites for shooting landscapes….
One of the most recognized icons of the Speedway has to be Tom Carnegie. The iconic voice is as much a part of the speedway as the bricks themselves. His smile and his infamous voice are so full of life, that as a photographer, you cannot help but want to try and capture it. I was fortunate to catch Tom during an autograph session on Fast Friday, however it was not an autograph I was after, but a moment instead. Compositionally, as I peered through my viewfinder, I decided to crop Tom’s face in half to better focus on the wonderful character and characteristics Tom’s face offers. It is only one of a thousand wonderful shots IndyCar has to offer on Flickr now.
The Legend - Tom Carnegie
Photo info: f/5.6 at1/500 with a 70-200 lens.
I just haven’t been able to put down my new lensbaby! I love playing with the sweetspot that is created by the lens. It’s a great tool to help guide viewers through your compositions. I am often taken by the peeled back eyelids and look of concentration so many drivers exhibit when stepping from their cars. Luckily, I got the focus right here to capture that.
Danica walking through pit lane
Photo info: f/4 at1/640 with a 50mm. lensbaby.
For me, one of the most beautiful cars on the grid is Ryan Hunter Reay’s. The paint scheme is so dynamic. When creating this image I wanted that energy to come through. A simple tilt of the camera seemed to do the trick!
A good looking car
Photo info: f/4 at1/640 with a 50mm. lensbaby.
Rookie: Defined as an untrained or inexperienced recruit.
However, Simona has already shown that she belongs here. Moments before her first laps at IMS, I ran across Simona as she suited up as one of five women in this year’s 500 field. The moment reminded me of my “rookie” season as an IMS photographer just four short four years ago. The nerves, wonderment, and the challenge. It was also a “rookie day” for me with my new lensbaby lens!
Photo info: f/4 at 1/1000 with 50 mm. lensbaby