Chasing Cars…

Some people know it, and many don’t, but I’m an absolutely huge car buff.  Seriously, most kids first words are “Mom” or Dad”, and the daughter of our chemical engineer friend had the first word of “Aluminum” (kidding, kidding), but my first word was “Car”.  It frustrated my mom and dad so much that at one point my mom told me I needed to learn a new word; so being the little turd that I was I started saying Truck.  When we got rid of our family sofa to replace it with a new one we cut the bottom open to retrieve all of the matchbox cars that I had lost to the fate of the cushions during the time of our ownership.  Best day ever as a child finding all the toys you didn’t know you had lost.  As an adult now in my chosen profession I still love cars, but due to trunk constraints and the income of my chosen profession cars are something I like to look at, but not touch.  I’ve been considering shooting a personal project with classic cars, but I’m still trying to figure out what to do.  In the past I’ve had some really cool assignments that have involved cars, and in fact I get to go to the Indy Auto show every year for the paper, as well as the Indy500 where I’ve seen some really neat cars just parked in the drivers lot.  Things ranging from Corvette ZR-1’s (Original 1990 models and 2010 models), Rare Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette’s, various pace cars all the way to classic GTO’s and Chevelle’s not to mention some of the more exotic stuff just parked on the grounds of the Motor Speedway.  It’s really cool just to even see.  Last year I was assigned to shoot the Gumball 3000 cars at the Indy 500, which was really neat since the cars there included some so rare many will never get to see them in real life much less walk up and touch them behind the guards and fences.  (Things like a completely chromed out Lamborghini Adventador, and a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, which costs about 2 million bucks to buy).   Really in the kind of winter weather we have in Indiana 4 wheel drive Rally car’s are the car of preference to people that want to drive them all year round.  While I’ve always loved my uncle’s 87 Vette I was really into Subaru’s for a while thanks to some college friends along with the help of my sister’s then and still boyfriend Derick; and in early January of 2008 that landed me up to the Sno Drift Rally in Atlanta Michigan with my trusty Nikon D2x, and at the time the brand spanking new D300 that I had only had since thanksgiving.

(Nikon D2x, 200ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8D, 1/400th@F11.)

I went on this trip with a couple of old friends from the Purdue Pistol team that I shot on while I was in school there.  Coolest thing I ever got to shoot in that was a match against Ohio State, but I didn’t do all that well.  We should have known what would happen based on the fact that Ohio state had uniforms for their team and we didn’t even have a set schedule during our regular  practices.  That’s another story for another time though, just like trying to walk onto the Purdue Golf team.  James and John both owned Subaru’s and in fact as I recall, John’s Uncle worked for them so he regaled us with stories of “things to come” thanks to knowledge he had of stuff happening at the proving grounds.  I don’t remember if any of those things actually appeared in the market though, I was just as amped to be out looking at  and photographing the the cars.  The temperatures were pretty low since we were so far north in Michigan we might as well have been in Canada.  I learned a lot on this trip about the care of my cameras in sub zero temperatures, and putting them in plastic bags when back inside to keep condensation off of the sensors.  It’s not something you need to do on the regular if you’re outside when it’s cold, but when you’re outside all day and it’s negative temperatures; you’ll want to bag em when you get back inside.  If you don’t, the moisture in the air will cause condensation on the internal components of your camera which can cause problems.  Easy way to take care of it is to put your camera(s) in a ziplock bag and press all the air out of it.  That way the camera can warm up without the water in the air turning into condensation on the pieces and ruining your expensive gear.  No, you won’t get all the air out of the bag, but whatever you do get out is sure to be better for your gear than not doing it.

(Nikon D2x, 200ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8D@70mm, 1/400th@F7.1. Shot from the passenger seat of James’s WRX)

I’ve actually owned two Subaru’s in the past; neither of which were anything terribly notable.  Both were 06’s and the first one I bought brand spanking new.  At the time it seemed like the right idea but I ended up putting 100k miles on it by 2009 which is when I got rid of it. The mileage didn’t scare me, I just got a great trade in on the next one after doing a bunch of photo work for an auto dealer here in Indy.  The second 06 was the bigger Forrester model and I bought it used with 40k miles on it.  That was a fun car.  Automatic, but had the big turbo in it making it an almost full sized station wagon that could go 0-60 in just above 6 seconds; which was right about as fast as my  Uncle’s 87 Corvette the last time I checked.  Unfortunately my Uncle’s Corvette was probably better on gas since the Subaru was getting only 300 or so miles out of a 16ish gallon tank while on the highway.  You can say it was my driving, but even if it was a straight highway trip the best I ever got was 350 miles out of a tank before I needed to fill it bringing it’s highway mileage to a solid 23mpg.  That made it sort of an uneconomical car for what I do and sadly I got rid of it once it hit the 100k mark, even though I knew full well that it would have driven much, much, longer.  Shannon once drove my Forrester to the store, and at home I noticed it was taking her a really long time to come back.  When she finally got home she admitted that she had just been driving around and had considered running away with it because of how much she liked driving it; but it sank in that sooner or later she’d want to see me again which is when she came home.  I only imagined her driving it around like I saw at the drift race in Michigan that this whole blog was started about in the first place:

(Nikon D300, 400ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8D@40mm, 1/3200@F3.5)

The drift race was really cool to watch but being there with spectator credentials the photos only ended up being alright.  It wasn’t a race as you’d imagine it to be with all cars going at once.  It was more about getting the best time on a certain course, so a car would go past every two minutes or so each on their own on the course to try to get the best time they could.  Every so often one would get stuck and some of the fans would break the rules to run out and push them out of the drift to help avoid an accident from the next car two minutes later, but otherwise it was the same thing with car after car.  I’m not even sure anybody notable raced in this race, except for maybe Tanner Faust who also stunt drives for the movies when not racing including films like Iron Man 2, Fast and furious and lots of others.  More of you would probably know him as the host of Top Gear America.  Turns out he raced for Rockstar Energy at this event, and placed 6th.  I had no idea until I was checking facts while writing this blog, and why should I remember?  All I remember is being blown away by my reasonably new D300, as to how well it tracked using the Autofocus for a $1700 camera.  To that point the only way to get that kind of AF was in the D2x and that cost me $4400!  The D300 was also the Bee’s Knees when it came to low light, second to only the D3 which had been announced at that point but wasn’t yet available; not to mention out of my budget at the time.  The D300 made ambient light shooting truly possible later into the evening for me for the first time at this event, and being able to catch photos of the people who came to see it easily was truly a joy even though a lot of the environments I was shooting in were environments the D2x was capable of shooting as well.   Everybody’s got to warm up right?  I had to shoot the D300 in light I knew it would be good in before taking it somewhere that would really challenge it.


(Nikon D300, 400ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8D@70mm, 1/3200@F3.5)

Of course eventually the light fades so that the challenges for drivers and photographers can begin.  What would a drift race be if it was all in the daylight right?  Drifting cars through the snow on a race course surrounded by people and trees to see who can get the fastest possible time only seems right when it’s done in the dark doesn’t it?

(Nikon D300, 1600ISO, Nikon 18-35F3.5-4.5, 1 Second@F4.  White balance set to 3200K to give the image the nice blue)

When it gets dark as a photographer you have to start getting creative.  Without light there really are no pictures.  Yea, my D4 will take me up to 100,000 ISO, but if you’re in a cave with no light you won’t get a photo at that setting; it’s just the way photography works.  The D2x is the reason I had to take lighting so seriously, because it really forced me to think at below 250ISO standards, where as my D4 allows me to shoot at 1600ISO without hesitation because the quality is still there.  Not so with the D2x, where anything over 400ISO was a Hail Mary.  Yea, I had the D300 with me, which was really good to 1600 and was pretty useable at 3200, but 6400 was a last ditch effort with that thing.  In fact it didn’t even say 6400 on the readout when you got up that high, it simply read as H1.  6400 now a days is a reasonable ISO if you need it and it was back then on the D3.  Shannon and I have shot several things with her D7000 at 6400 that would have simply not been gettable photos in the past.  If this race had been a paid assignment this is when the panic would set in a bit because gosh, how would I get the shot?  Really it was a good exercise in out of the box thinking, and in the end having to learn photography with the good old Nikon F4 and Ricoh KSX Film cameras and eventually with the D70 and D2x sporting their low light capabilities, creativity came through.


(Nikon D300, 200ISO, Nikon 18-35F3.5-4.5D@18mm, 2.5 Seconds@F14.  Nikon SB800 Speedlight held about 30′ down the road on daisy chained SC28 Off camera cables stretched out as far as they would go held by John, who pointed them at the cars as they came past)

It’s a little abstract and probably not something that would go into a magazine, but I was the only one really attempting pictures at that point including the folks hired to shoot the race wearing the yellow safety vests who at that point had already turned back to their hotel rooms to edit for the night.  The rule was that if you wanted to take a photo, it had to be after the cars came past with the flash.  I really felt as though with my rear curtain sync I could get them coming, going, and still freeze them which you can see in this shot kind of happened.  I had a couple of them with the car in it multiple times in multiple sizes thanks to a few folks with their point and shoot’s attempting photos of their favorite cars as they came down the road too, but for whatever reason this was the one in the selects folder.  I really should go back and dig through these more as it looks like my tastes have changed a bit since I made all these selects in 2008 (big surprise).  May have to go look, but who knows.  I always start to look for cool cars on the roads when the weather starts to get warmer, as you always see the really cool ones out on the nice days (for obvious reasons).  Thinking about starting a personal photo project dealing with more classic cars since I enjoy them so much, but trying to nail down as to what.  I know where I can find a 73 Big Block 454 Corvette Stingray, a couple 65 thunder birds, a 71 Charger, a 73 Grand Prix, 84, 87 and 92  low mileage Vettes, and a few others…..There’s got to be a photo project in there somewhere right?  More Soon.