The 99th Running…

Last weekend for the nth time in recent memory I was out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for what is proclaimed the Greatest Spectacle in racing.  The 99th running Indianapolis 500.  My last post was about working at the Speedway in general but this post is specifically about this years 99th running of the 500 as I took a much different approach this year.  The last post I also mentioned that I shot this year for both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and for Autoweek.  I always enjoy race season because I enjoy cars.  Car was my first word in fact unlike most photographers on the internet these days whose first words were usually Camera, Kodak, Nikon or Cyanotype….. ok maybe not that extreme, but no I did not grow up camera in hand; I had to find one later.  Anyway the 99th Running for me was a lot different because I went out to make some images that were different than anybody elses.  Normally this is a goal for any photographer, as usually at sports events the photographers are corraled into a corner or a box and everybody shoots from the same place.  At an event and venue this size that still happens except it happens all over the track.  Either way, the goal is to get something different than everybody else and this is my story about doing so.


(Nikon D4s, 250ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm.  0.3 seconds@F11.  Camera supported on the NEW Manfrotto 190GO tripod with XPRO Geared 3 way head with adapto body)

Start the day early.  I always tell my students or workshop attendees to get there early and to leave late.  I got at the track at 5:40 the morning of the race, and didn’t leave until almost 7pm.  The end of the day didn’t net much photographically, but that morning sure did.  That morning on the roof of the Grandstands however I was by far NOT the only photographer.  In fact, I bet there were at least two dozen that photographed the sunrise that day from slightly different angles around the grandstands including on top.  I was one of only two photographers up there who used a Tripod though.  The other being my pal Walt Kuhn from Roberts, who had discussed the idea of sunrise over the pagoda with me the week prior.  Other than that I was the ONLY photographer up there with Graduated Neutral Density Filters.  On that note you’ll have to stay tuned because the NEW Manfrotto 190GO tripod with XPRO Geared 3 way head and Adapto body along with the set of VU Sion Glass Graduated ND filters will be reviewed on an upcoming blog so more there soon!


(Nikon D4s, 800ISO, Reflex Nikkor 50cm/5 with Kenko 13mm Extension tube.  1/1600th@F5)

This image was a crime of passion.  Also half of a failure.  Not every inkling or ambition comes into fruition, but when they do it can be a real thing.  This image was because of a lens that was more of an impulse purchase thanks to working with Andrew Hancock over the last two weeks shooting a video for Autoweek.  While sitting in the rain in Turn 4 during the week of qualifications Andy was talking about how he wanted a Nikon Reflex 500mm F5 lens to add to his kit.  Now I am kind of a gear head but had never heard of such a thing.  I knew that Nikon had a 500mm F8 reflex lens, and those were relatively popular considering that normally 500mm lenses are exceptionally large and expensive, but the 500 Reflex you can find for between $300 and $500.  Even Joe McNally owns one and uses it to achieve the little donut backgrounds on occasion.  Andy however told me there was not just a F8 version, but a F5 version.  Later that night searching the internet I ended up finding one at Roberts Camera’s used department here in Indy at their used department which Andy bought inside of a heartbeat.  I greatly respect Andy, and his immediate jump on this lens told me that I needed to find one; which I figured wouldn’t be easy since it turns out they only made a little over 2,000 of them in the lifetime of the lens.  Unfortunately I didn’t have thhe time to wait for Robert’s to find another one, but after some intense internet searching I found one in northern Indiana, and I got it in time for the race.  AND I found a way around the fact that the lenses close focus distance was 50 feet.  Turns out the $40 set of Kenko manual manual manual extension tubes were perfect for this purpose, and the 13mm one put me at the perfect distance to fill the frame with a driver at the Intros at last weekend’s Indy 500.  Being a manual focus lens you would hope that the Focus confirmation light in the viewfinder works.  I found out that with the 500/5 it does not.  Live and learn.  Either way, I’ve got some shots that myself and my client were pleased with from this.


(Nikon D4, 100ISO, Nikon 24mmPC lens at maximum tilt, 1/1000th@F3.5)

Next thing I did differently this running of the 500 was that I used a Nikon 24PC lens in the Pits.  I had absolutely no intention of using a PC lens while I was there, but I walked into Nikon’s NPS depot and asked if they had anything that they carry that absolutely nobody asked to borrow.  Brian struggled for a minute to come up with something, but then pulled out the Nikon 24mm PC lens that he said never seems to leave the gear case.  That with that and an D4s body for the day I was off.  The lens was used about as frequently as the 500/5 in that I had a few ideas in my head and once those ideas had passed it went into the bag again.  Either way, it did provide a few different images from the day of a slightly less than seen perspective.


(Nikon D4, 200ISO, Nikon 24-70F2.8N@40mm.  1/250th@F8)

When Montoya took the lead in lap 198 I was already in his pits as I was assigned Juan Pablo Montoya, Alex Tagliani, Pippa Mann and Rookie Gabby Chavez for the race.  Montoya’s pit seemed larger than the others because it was next to an open pit, which included a lot of safety personnel. As the race was coming to an end I had to choose between the ends of the pit, and this was the shot I got.  not the shot I wanted, but the one that I got.  Unfortunately all the crew jumped off the wall into the pits after this image was taken, and then ran any direction that I was not.  Would have been better off at the other end of the pits, but oh well.  50/50 shot on that one.  At least I got Montoya’s car lined up between the crew members on his final lap.

Well there you have it.  Long day.  Antique lens.  Something different.  There’s always something out there that can be photographed differently.  Your job is to find it.  More soon.