Tailing the 500…

In every city around the globe there is something that some of it’s residents call the greatest day in the city while other residents in that said city view that day as the worst day to be in the city.  That would pretty much summarize the love that Indianapolis has for the Indianapolis 500.  It is most certainly the greatest spectacle in racing, as it is also the greatest spectacle in traffic, concerts, celebrities, and drunk fans.  Everybody in Indianapolis knows when it is and has most likely been to it at least one time.  Not being from Indianapolis originally I had never been before a few years ago, but I have had a few run ins with the 500 or with racing in general since I moved to Indianapolis as I talked about a little more as we came into the month of May. This year was a little different for me though in the sense that when I went to the race, my assignment wasn’t actually racing……at least not to start.

(Canon 1D Mark IV, 200ISO, Canon EF70-200F2.8IS@80mm.  1/250th@F7.1)

Kellie Pickler and Jim Nabors here can indeed confirm that my assignment was on Red Carpet duty with my good friend and photographer Michelle Pemberton.   The original plan was that she was going to ride the Celebrity bus to the 500 taking still photos and video for her own part of the Indy nation project.  That plan sort of when awry though when she wasn’t allowed to get onto the first celebrity bus, and then the second one never showed up.  She WAS still with the celebrities though who in celebrity fashion proceeded to hijack a different bus that was nearby.  I only found out when another good friend and photographer Bob Scheer came out to the Red Carpet to shoot some stills.  He couldn’t stay until Michelle got out there, but I also had the heads up then that I needed to shoot stills because my real assignment was to shoot and assemble a video; which you can watch here.  You can check out all of the Star’s Celebrity photo coverage of the Centennial Indianapolis 500 Red Carpet here.

Simple enough assignment, right?  Build a 1-2 minute video about the celebrities on the Red Carpet and have it up before the race starts.  The video was shot, layed out rendered out, and saved by 11:30 that morning.  What does this mean?  I’m a badass Failure.  My workflow includes converting all video out of the 5D Mark II, and 1D Mark IV from H.264 video to ProRes422, but unfortunately due to an act of God when I layed down the video inside of Final Cut Pro not a single one of my transitions would render out.  Each time I placed a transition onto the timeline FCP would render it out as a glitch instead of a smooth transition making everyone skip a beat looking like a horrbile youtube remix.  I then spent the next two hours re-converting all of my video out before I was re-assigned to the race.

(Canon 1D Mark IV, 400ISO, Canon EF70-200F2.8IS with a Canon EF 1.4×1 Extender@280mm.  1/1000th@F6.3)

My next assignment was in the Pitts.  Had I not had video problems I’d have been out there earlier than lap 150 out of 200, but I was still excited as I’d never shot pits anywhere other than Nascar or Go Kart Grand Prix races.  My friend Brian, and new friend Mike Mount at CPS loaned me a 1D Mark IV for the day which I shot some video with at the Red Carpet and was able to take a number of (the few) Stills I took that day.  When I was told I was to go to the Pitts, I asked what lens was recommended, then inquiring if maybe a 400 was the right lens.  After enduring a quick laugh at my expense I ended up going out into the pits with just my 70-200.  It wasn’t long though before I had the 1.4x Extender on my camera, and if you do the math with the 1.3x crop of the Mark IV, maybe I should have gone with my gut….at least for a few frames.

(Canon 1D Mark IV, 400ISO, Canon EF70-200F2.8IS with a Canon EF 1.4×1 Extender@280mm.  1/1600th@F6.3)

It was really the first time I’d ever used a Mark IV to any great extent, and after racking through all the menu options to get it set up to where I wanted it I must saw I was pleased with its overall performance.  I found the 16 Megapixels to be a nice size to work with as compared to the 8 that I get out of my 1D Mark II.  It was a great compromise between the resolution of my 5D Mark II, and my D3s.  All the speed and accuracy of the D3s, at a bit of a resolution Sacrifice from the 5D2.  If I could compare the Mark IV files to anything I’d compare them to the Original D3, which is fantastic considering you’re looking at almost 50% more resolution to the D3 in terms of noise and just the data found in the files.  I didn’t shoot anything above 400ISO, but that’s just my impression in terms of what I saw out of what I shot.  Great camera, I was very pleased with it.

(Canon 1D Mark IV, 400ISO, Canon EF70-200F2.8IS@140mm.  1/500th@F7.1)

Dan Wheldon won the race when JR Hildebrand tragically crashed in the fourth turn on the last lap to lose.  This however was more than just a race victory for Wheldon though because at midnight that night he became a free agent in Racing and would no longer have a ride.  This could have been the most important race of his future having won the Indy 500 a mere hours before his contract ran out.  Talk about timing right?  Shot that from the far side of the fence.  My job was done as I wasn’t close enough to any notable Pit to look for happy or sorrowful photos from the teams so I stopped and went after the long shot.  It’s not something they will put into the system at the paper, but for being at the far end of the fence being pushed around by security who were trying to get people to continue the flow of traffic I can’t complain. (Except for Joe Schmo with the cell phone, that I’ll complain about all day….) When it was all said and done, I gave my camera back, edited the few photos that I got down and put them into the system with the Indystar Visuals staff and I packed it in for the trek home.  First race I’ve worked two assignments quite like this, and while I can’t say it was a complete victory for me, I can’t say I failed either.  Things seemed to go smoothly and I look forward to the Kroger 200 again in July, as well as the Brickyard this year.  Last month I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to any Races this year, but it looks like it’ll be the most Racing I’ve been to yet.  More Soon.