Breaking Records…

Every year one of the big events that I really look forward to shooting for the Indianapolis Star is the Indianapolis 500.  Believe it or not, most of the photographers at the paper aren’t as enthusiastic about shooting a 500 as I am, but most of them have shot 20 of them straight, where I’m sitting at a solid 7.  As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I like cars.  All kinds of cars, and while in the past I haven’t necessarily cared about the race as much as I have the cars, or specifically this year the 2014 Corvette; this year was incredible.  I’ll tell you what; if all IndyCar races were as exciting as this one was I’d want to go see them all.

(Canon 1DX, 800ISO, Canon 600mmF4IS2, 1/2000th@F5.6)

The day started out for us at the newspaper as any Indy 500 would.  I had the fortune of Riding to the track with the Nikon Pro guys including Scott Diussa and Mark Suban.  Most people are up at 4am to get to the track by a reasonable time because traffic for an event with 250,000 attendees can be crazy.  At the Indianapolis Star however we go in style; with a police escort.  That doesn’t mean we still aren’t up early as meetup time at the paper is 6:30.  6:30am is still a lot better than 4am though.  While we were in the car on the way to the track, Scott was telling us about how there is always one thing his wife refers to as a “Forrest Gump” moment from each event he works.  These “Forrest Gump” moments make up his favorite memories of his events.  Turns out Scott’s “Forrest Gump” moment from the 2013 Indianapolis 500 was the police escort to the track.  I can’t blame him because it is pretty cool, I did however regretfully inform him that his day peaked a grand total of one minute in…. There was still a lot of day left for everyone. In all seriousness, the folks at NPS are great.  They have done a lot for me over the years; especially Jeff Penn who wasn’t part of this group.  Nikon hasn’t had a presence out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since before I started shooting the races.  It was great to have them there able to clean and provide gear loans to shooters that needed equipment for the day.  Unfortunately, not knowing they would be there I was shooting Canon for this race day.  That’s not to say that Canon doesn’t make great equipment, but my Canon equipment has been at the newspaper longer than I have, so for something like this I usually like to take my own gear to shoot as best as I possibly can.  That being said it was really great to see the Faces of Brian Masumoto and Marry Mannix in the CPS center.  They have always been good to me to, and on Sunday were no different.  My assignment changed a few times over the course of the day.  Originally I was supposed to be in need of a 600mm Lens and I wanted a Canon 1DX to replace my 1D Mark II for the time that I was out shooting.  (Yes I still have a working 1D2).  CPS is a first come, first serve service at the track and when I talked with them, they were out of bodies so I went down to Nikon since I’m a NPS member as well.  Scott hooked me up with a D4 and one of their 600mmVR lenses meaning I’d have been carrying half Canon and half Nikon for the day.  Wouldn’t have been the first time, it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with either system.  Minutes later I Found out I was no longer in need of the 600mm setup and took it back to Scott and greatly thanked him for checking it out to me in the first place.  Of course then after shooting some other features that morning I found out I had been assigned the roof across the track like I shot for the Brickyard last year and as luck would have it at this point CPS had finished some repairs on a 1DX and had a brand new 600F4IS2 for me to haul up there.  I consider myself incredibly lucky to have made the acquaintances I have at Canon and Nikon over the last several years to be able to go to either side of the fence in order to get what I need to do my job.  Really the Pro reps don’t get enough credit from the Working photographers out there, and just a mention of the credit they deserve on my blog isn’t enough as likely few to none will see it.  If you are a pro shooter though, just remember to give your CPS, or NPS rep an extra thank you when you talk to them next; they deserve it.

(Canon 1DX, 800ISO, Canon 600mmF4IS2 with Canon 1.4xII Teleconverter making 840mm, 1/1000th@F5.6)

What I needed to do my job was some long glass.  Last year shooting the Brickyard I was able to do a quick review of the Canon 600mm F4IS2 which at the time was pretty hard to come by.  That’s what I ended up with again this weekend, except this weekend I had a Canon 1DX to go with it.  Wow what a camera.  Unfortunately due to my position I wasn’t able to shoot RAW as our photo editor for the races wants JPEG ONLY for speed purposes, which kills me because I have plenty of pictures that I’d love to have had in RAW for tonal range purposes.  The flyover for example.

(Canon 1D Mark II, 200ISO, Canon 16-35F2.8L@35mm, 1/1250@F5)

With a RAW image I’d have been able to bring the exposure down just a little more to make the clouds a bit more contrasty.  Probably too much for newspaper purposes, but at the same time I’d really prefer that image versus this image of the planes, despite being able to tell what they are in this one:

(Canon 1DX, 800ISO, 600mmF4IS2, 1/3200@F9)

I did have a wide angle shot which included the Racetrack and Pagoda, but unfortunately the planes were just about directly overhead meaning both the planes and track were at the edge of the frame.  Also to be noted the frame was reasonably out of focus, which I think sort of kills it’s use more than the fore-mentioned composition.  Despite that fact, I did find a use for my wide angle from up on top of the grandstands, and frankly I wish I’d have done it more because the only car that my little action pan experiment turned out for was one that really didn’t end up being needed in the race coverage.

(Canon 1D Mark II, 50ISO, Canon 16-35F2.8L@16mm, 1/25th@F20)

I’ve actually had any number of people ask since last year if shooting from the roof is fun.  Honestly it’s kind of a mixed bag.  The race action is through the fence so anything that happens in the straight away is sort of a low percentage shot seeing as how you’ll have a fence to contend with.  Anything in turns 1 or 4 is reasonably far away, which means I’d have needed Canon or Nikon’s 800mm in order to really get anything out there and you would still be cropping pretty heavily.  The front of the pits (which was the closest end to where I was) is ever so slightly too far for a 600mm on a full frame to reach so you’ll need to cop but you can get it, and the pits right in front of you are a good range for a full frame 70-200.  Honestly that’s the good news because when you’re on the roof your job is mostly the pits.  The bad news is that each pit stop takes 3-5 seconds, and the cars tend to pit at roughly the same times give or take a lap on each side.  When the cars come in for a pit you’re just burning frames, but when the cars are racing you’re watching through your camera just in case something happens.  Makes for a long day of shooting, which has great potential for photos, but really nets only a few interesting photos in reality.  That’s why sometimes you get to look for other interesting things.  After all, I was standing there with the Top of the line Canon Camera, and the second longest lens they make….

(Canon 1DX, 800ISO, Canon 600F4IS2, 1/6400@F4)

At one point I looked up over the pits into the garages and was able to catch Pippa Mann being interviewed after crashing out of the race.  I just found the location interesting considering all of her fellow drivers seemed to be there with her for the interview.  Unfortunately with something like this I don’t know who the interviewer is for a caption thanks to being what could amount to 300 yards away, but nonetheless I feel like it’s more interesting than some of the other stuff shootable from my position, despite being a record breaking race.

(Canon 1DX, 800ISO, Canon 600F4IS2, 1/4000th@F4)

As talked about in other posts, and hinted at earlier in this one, I’m a pretty big Corvette fan and have been ever since my Uncle bought one when I was 10.  Seeing the New 2014 Stingray pace the race was pretty cool, even though this was as close as I was able to get to it.  Turns out they announced the final production specifications of the car last week and its pretty safe to say that it puts my Uncle’s 87 to shame.  Definitely a car worthy to be on the track yesterday as two new records were set.  The first being the average speed at 187.433 miles per hour which had been held since 1990, and the other in that there were 68 official lead changes (up from 34 set in 2012).  As I said earlier in this post.  If all IndyCar races were like this one to watch, I’d want to go see them all.

(Canon 1DX, 800ISO, Canon 600F4IS2, 1/3200@F5.6)

That’s Tony Kanaan’s pit crew including his wife Lauren wearing grey in the center.  As I mentioned earlier, the fence sort of prevents me from shooting down on the straightaway so getting him coming across the bricks would have been worthless.  A shot of the crew celebrating though from this angle is pretty solid; especially since I was the only one over there.  The orange vest you see on the left side of the frame is Sam Riche shooting for the Star.  Turns out I wasn’t the only one thinking it would make a nice photo.  Not sure either shot ran in the paper, or online; but at least I feel good about not being the only one thinking of it; especially if a shooter of Sam’s caliber is the other one to think it.  Instead of waiting around after the win to see what the crowd was going to do , I rushed down two flights of stairs to attempt to get a shot similar to the one I got of Dan Wheldon in 2011.  Even though in 2011 my assignment was a bit closer I thought that the same angle might be something a little different, as well as a more clear shot of the winner.  I was wrong.

(Just make some shooting data up for this one…)

Turns out someone put their D800E on a monopod from my exact angle.  All I can say is that I hope they got something interesting because I sure didn’t.  Oh well; that’s life.  I can only hope that the Brickyard in July is as exciting as this race was.  Will I be on the roof again?  Who knows.  I’ll enjoy it either way. More Soon.