I’ve had the chance to shoot some motorsports again lately and I absolutely enjoyed every second of it! A month beforehand (post iheartradio 2015) I did some change up in gear. I got rid of a lot of my lenses that I was leaving behind on my most common jobs, and traded up my Nikon 300mm f/2.8 afs-ii for a 400mm f/2.8 afs-ii, and got an 1.7x tele converter and the necessary grip equipment to support the new 400mm. It had become clear the 400mm was more useful here in Las Vegas when it came to paid work. I’ll definitely miss the smaller, and lighter 300mm that was actually hand-holdable, but I’m more than happy with the results of using the new 400mm as of lately.
Anyways, some people may not know this, but I got into photography through my love of motorsports. I had a 95 Nissan that I would drive out to Willow Springs (WSR) in Southern California and Firebird & Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona to do US Drift events and NASA HPDE. Post race weekend I would enjoy looking through hundreds of pictures that the numerous photographers that were track-side that weekend took. Between races in Phoenix, maybe 2006-ish? I remember taking photos of a porsche club that was running at the time and I was getting upset that the Porsches’ would look FROZEN on track, no movement in wheels, nor background. Your typical point and shoot auto-default high-shutter speed. I made friends with a few photographers, I learned a great deal from them and I still keep in touch with a few of them til this day. Another thing that helped make it an easy decision was that cell phone camera technology was equivalent to a potato back then, so purchasing my first dslr would obviously help document any car-build related progress for personal documentary. Shortly after, I purchased my first dslr which happened to be a canon 30d. I never had thought I would be photographing for a living. I probably would have laughed if you told me I would.
Fast Forward to 2015. I’ve never shot an air race before, it was just something I’ve seen advertised lightly (the previous year during the air-race I was hired for an Air-Race Pre-party). I really had no clue what to expect, the only footage I saw was playing on loop at that party which was mainly Abu Dhabi and Croatia footage (All surreal locations, which the air races occur over water vs the LVMS cement!) I was super excited to have the chance to photograph the race this year, all I know was upon arrival I was shocked that it wasn’t as loud as I expected. Winds were high and it was raining off-and-on during qualifying making it challenging for everyone. Also..immediately noticed 400mm was too short, 1.4x tele was good but I had a brand new (well…new to me) 1.7x tele that was begging to be used! Panning these small planes going 236+ mph at a 680mm focal length equivalent (400mm + 1.7x tele = 680mm f/4.8) was indeed challenging. It took me a while to be able to track them continuously throughout the course. To make things even harder….I threw in a 6 stop neutral density filter (nd) which darkened the viewfinder tremendously, making it harder to track but I was able to get my shutterspeed down to 1/40th. I obviously don’t recommend this, I definitely think 1/125+ would have been sharper/higher keeper rate, but from just in-camera comparisons, the faster shutter speeds seemed so much more cookie-cutter and I wanted to leave with something I was proud of.
Redbull Air Race – The Final Challenge at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 10/17-18/2015
A few weeks later (post-Halloween) during The SEMA Show, Redbull had its Global Rally Cross. Another event that happened last year that I missed out on. It was POURING that night…..I actually got stuck in traffic for over an hour getting to MGM’s “The Village” Lot where the event was held. I also chose to bring my 400mm again, because well I had purchased an aquatech rain coat for it, and I didn’t have any kind of protection for any shorter setup. Once I got track-side, I immediately found out the 400mm was too long for the track layout unless I wanted to shoot them coming down a straight the whole time. I also haven’t really worked in that type of rainfall. I luckily was prepared for the most part, but wasn’t expecting my hands to cramp up from being wet/cold and having the viewfinder fog up. All I can say about this race was “HOLY CRAP!!” It was basically bumper cars in the corners and cars were just falling apart by the end of the race from either damage from the jump, damage from fellow drivers or just ripping off of body panels getting stuck in the mud. The race was post day-light savings time, so it was for the most part dark out. The track had some dark corners, and the headlights on these cars are well….stickers, drivers had windshield wipers on blast….and I also noticed some slight fogging of the lexan windshields which I’m sure wasn’t HORRIBLE….
On the other hand…. Fiesta ST’s, Volkswagen Beetles and Subaru STI high revving engine tones with the turbine back-pressure or blow off valves fluttering, the glowing of the turbos, the sound of the ceramic brake pads squealing before the corners, the sound of the rain hitting the track, and the dirt & mud kicking up, flying everywhere… ALL THE FEELS!!!
I can’t imagine what it’d feel like to be behind the wheel at a race in these conditions. I’ve been stuck out in snowstorms, and I feel that’s probably what it felt like (minus the pulling over at the next stop and chilling at denny’s til the weather clears) – just absolutely nerve wrecking.
4th Annual Redbull GRC Finale, Las Vegas, NV. MGM Village Lot across Mandalay bay Resort. 11/04/2015
Hope you enjoyed these. I really enjoyed photographing these two events. I left both events with the largest grin! Thanks a bunch Redbull/RedbullLV for the opportunity!!