Monday, October 30, 2017

Through the Looking Glass: 2018 Racing Plans

Dawn over a racetrack as team members arrive is a beautiful thing
Sometimes once my racing photography season is over, I can go into a funk and it might take me awhile to break out of it. My fiance is the first person to call me on it when it happens as she knows me better than anyone. God bless her. Anyone else who knows me shouldn't be surprised that I have that kind of emotional reaction when a passionate pursuit of mine comes to an end, even when it's just temporary. If you know me, then you know that I am a black and white kind of guy - I'm either all-in or all-out and there's really not much gray area in between. I throw myself whole-heartedly into any pursuit I am passionate about, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, and when one pursuit runs its course then I am on to the next thing with equal commitment. My family would tell you that I've been that way since I was a little kid. I would run until I dropped and they'd be looking for me only to find me collapsed in a ball on the floor somewhere too tired to move another inch! My fiance sometimes calls me the "Energizer Bunny" as I have continued much the same pattern as an adult, especially where racing is concerned and 18 hour days are normal at the racetrack.

ARCA Champion Austin Theriault
I do have one more photo assignment to wrap up 2017 when I shoot the ARCA Racing Series annual awards banquet in December. It will be good to see everyone again after bidding one another adieu at Kansas. But the "next thing" for me right now is looking ahead to the 2018 season. That's what really helps keep my funk to a minimum as I have to have something to look forward to. I already have plans made to shoot the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona at the end of January for Associated Press; flights are booked and I just need to arrange a rental car. I also have the tentative schedule for ARCA and I am trying to sort out which races I will be able to work for the series so I can continue as its Chief Photographer. I am so happy to be able to do that work for the series as I know we provide a valuable service for ARCA and its teams at every race event. It's been fun to work with Doc Hunter, Rich Corbett and most recently, with Doug Patterson at the races so we can provide more thorough coverage. We got some excellent and supportive feedback from the ARCA brass at Kansas which I was thrilled to receive, so it's important that we continue to do a good job as the series enters its 66th season in 2018.

Dawn at Indianapolis is a special experience
I also anticipate that I will work the Indycar races at Indianapolis next May for the French media company Vision Sport Agency again. I felt like I was pretty successful this year elevating awareness of their brand with key media people at IMS and it will be interesting to see how much we can build on that for 2018 at the Grand Prix and then the 102nd Indy 500. I don't know if I will be able to match the 19 race event weekends I was fortunate enough to experience this year as a photographer but I know it will be close. I still have to compile my "best of" photos for this year and I haven't decided whether to create a video from stills or just do a new gallery of the best individual images from all the series I've covered this year, but I know the decision will come in due time. Meanwhile I have an application in the works which I hope will take me back to Europe for Le Mans in 2018. I am sure getting the year started off the right way with sports cars racing at Daytona in January, which will  include Fernando Alonso as he prepares to take on Le Mans next June, and the debut of the Penske Acura program, so I know it is going to be an exciting year.

I still have to decide which ARCA races I can work next season as well, so in the meantime, if you know anyone who needs photography services and is willing to pay market rate, then please send them my way. Until next time I will leave you with some of my photos from the 2017 ARCA season finale at Kansas where Michael Self got his first series win. I'll have more soon so come on back!

Michael Self celebrates after winning at Kansas
Austin Theriault finally had a bad race in his championship season after something broke and put him into the wall
Michael Self has had one of the best looking cars at each race he's run this year
The race was decided on a late restart as a gaggle of cars fought for position going into Turn 1

Monday, October 16, 2017

One More Race to Go: Planning for 2018 Already Underway

Prototype racing at Daytona is incredible in person
What a year in racing this has been for me! My 2017 racing season as a photographer began in January and now I am only four days away from its conclusion. It all started at Daytona International Speedway where I was fortunate to get to shoot the Rolex 24 Hours race in the IMSA WeatherTech endurance series for This coming Friday, I will complete my 13th ARCA race of the season for the series at Kansas Speedway and it is hard to believe that this season has gone by so quickly. It seems like it just began. I guess being busy at 19 race weekends since the end of January will do that to your time sense! Now I have just one race left to photograph and my season will be over. This weekend  the ARCA season finale will see the 2017 champion crowned, and various other awards such as Rookie of the Year will be decided.

Steve McQueen said "Racing is life."
This year was the second time I had shot the Rolex 24 race and I am planning to go back in 2018 to work it again, this time for Associated Press.  The 2017 edition turned into a sprint at the finish with an epic pass for the lead with only a few minutes left in a frantic 24 Hour event. It was a fitting way to start the year and I have seen a lot of great races throughout this season. The highlight of my season was getting the chance to shoot the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. My fiance and I were able to turn it into an extended visit to France and Italy this past June. Neither of us had ever been to Europe before this trip so saying that it was an epic adventure would be the understatement of a lifetime. I am working on going back and I sure hope I get that chance.

Road racing at Indianapolis is still a bit hard to get used to
From the beginning of the year, my racing stops this season were as follows: Daytona Rolex 24 Hours, Nashville (ARCA), Salem (ARCA), Talladega (ARCA, NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup), Grand Prix of Indianapolis (Indycar), Indianapolis 500 (Indycar), 24 Hours of Le Mans (World Endurance Championship), Iowa (ARCA), Lucas Oil Raceway (ARCA), Winchester (ARCA), Springfield (ARCA), Road America (ARCA), DuQuoin (ARCA), Salem (ARCA), Chicagoland (ARCA), Kentucky (ARCA) and soon Kansas (ARCA). From January to October, I logged plenty of miles behind the wheel of my Civic Si and logged some major miles flying to Daytona and Europe. In the process I shot races on paved ovals and dirt ovals, on road courses and at  historic venues. Next year is shaping up to include more of the same and I am excited to see what the new year will include.

It was great to get back to Road America again this summer
I have said for years that I would love to make a living as a motorsports photographer as very few people can say they do. I have been blessed with some great opportunities the last few years and there are times I wish I'd gotten more serious about it at a younger age. That may sound strange considering as how I've been shooting racing for media outlets since 1984, but the driving force in my life back then was making money to support a family and I didn't think photography would do the trick. What I have come to understand though, is that I have to do the things that I am passionate about no matter what, and there's no questions that I am passionate about photography in general and about motorsports in particular. The "joke" I like to tell on myself is that after my marriage broke up in 2005, I bought camera equipment and went racing again instead of buying furniture. Those of you who know me understand how true that is. So these last few years have brought a new determination and focus on what I love to do and I have had to figure out a way to go do it. I'm one of the fortunate ones who's figured that out and I am able to do what I love, even though it remains an avocation and not my full time gig.

Dirt miles at fairgrounds tracks are part of the lure of racing
There's so much more I have planned: creating multiple photo books, publishing an e-book or two, shooting more international races, finishing a novel I started many years ago, etc. Even this blog is a part of that desire to produce and publish creative works, as I decided long ago that if I was going to be a writer, then I needed to write. So you get this blog. If I'm going to be a racing photographer, then I need to shoot races, so I do that too and share the results with the world through traditional media outlets and through social media. Somehow I feel compelled to do these things and leave a legacy of my vision for others to hopefully enjoy. I see things differently and I know that. I hope you see that too when you read my posts or see my photos.

If you want to see more, then please hire me. You will not be disappointed. See you at a race somewhere soon.

From Formula One in 1984... flying Indycars at Indy in 2010... sports cars racing through city streets... fire...
...and rain, I have shot them all.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Theriault Does It Again: Grabs Win #7

Austin Theriault Celebrates Win #7
This is no Lucky 7 I'm talking about, even though the number on Austin Theriault's car, 52, adds up to seven. I'm talking about a champion in the making who came out of the pack late in the race once again to win an ARCA Racing Series race for the seventh time this season! This time he did it at Kentucky Speedway after another green-white-checker finish. Now there's only one race left in a 20 race season that has turned into the Austin Theriault comeback show and I have enjoyed every minute of it. He's won four of the last five races so his hot streak has come at exactly the right time to stake his claim to the 2017 ARCA season title. And this win comes at the conclusion of a grueling stretch of six races in 33 days that has shown the true mettle of the Kenny Schrader Racing (KSR) team and showcased the experience of their driver Theriault against his mostly younger competition. As the Chief Photographer for the ARCA series, I have witnessed this run and it's almost been like watching a modern day tortoise and the hare story. Austin lets the young guys rush out in front and burn up their tires while he bides his time and waits for the right moment to pounce. Don't forget he finished second in the other race of these last five and he's built up a nearly insurmountable 400 point lead in the championship chase heading into the finale at Kansas Speedway on October 20th. I can't wait to see the entry list for the Kansas race fill up and see who decides to join in the hunt for the checkers one last time this season.

The 2017 season as a whole has kind of followed the same pattern as Theriault's racecraft. Youngster Dalton Sargeant started off the season on a hot streak and won three races but hasn't been able to get his Cunningham machine to match Austin's pace when it counted. Sargeant's results have been good enough to place him second overall this season but I'm sure he was looking for more than that this year after taking over the #77 machine that Chase Briscoe drove to the season title last year. Sargeant's teammate Shane Lee hasn't been able to muster a win but he's still third in points after posting 13 Top 10 finishes in the 19 races run so far. I know he's chomping at the bit to get the 22 car into Victory Lane, but Theriault's dominance has been such that only one other ARCA regular has been able to win a race in 2017, and that was rookie Riley Herbst at Pocono in June. Herbst is currently fifth in series points behind his main competition for Rookie of the Year, Gus Dean. That battle will go right down to the wire since their points totals are extremely close with just  one race remaining.

Sheldon Creed tried to run and hide but couldn't get the win
This season ARCA regulars have accounted for 11 wins of the 19 races contested and Austin Theriault has seven of those. The remaining list of eight race winners reads like a who's who of stock car racing's future stars with Justin Haley winning both times he raced this year, 2015 ARCA champion Grant Enfinger, Christopher Bell and Harrison Burton each winning in the only races they ran, plus Chad Finley, Kyle Benjamin and Brandon Jones each swooping in for a race win apiece. I admit that I am biased with my insider's view, but I tell people all the time that you need to get out and see these kids run for yourself. I'm sure you will be favorably impressed with the level of skill and the quality of equipment at the front of the field. Most importantly, I know you will enjoy the racing as these kids get after it, especially as the laps start to wind down and they sense it's time to go. I love it and after more than 10 years covering the series as a photographer, I believe the series has never seen better racing and it just seems to get better every season. Granted, ARCA is regarded as a training ground for drivers, mechanics, crew members and team owners, but the talent level is there and there is no questioning the desire of everyone involved.

The MDM team with drivers like Vinnie Miller (41) has been impressive at every race
The biggest challenge for me at each race is just getting editing done once the race is over. By the time we are done shooting Victory Lane and we get back to the ARCA trailer to edit, any ARCA staff who aren't involved in post-race tech inspection are busy packing up all the gear in the semi trucks and getting ready to hit the road. Our first priority is to get a Victory Lane photo or two out to marketing for use on the ARCA website. Once I start editing from a race, I usually have 700 or more photos to comb through which includes everything from pre-race festivities through the completion of the extensive hat dance in the winner's circle. We have to download files, select the best images, export them to folders, then copy all the files onto ARCA's external hard drive in less than an hour. This means hardly anything can be cropped or adjusted so I mostly pick the ones that are correct coming right from the camera and skip the rest for another time.

Ty Majeski has looked like a winner in his ARCA appearances this year
I do wish I had more time to be even more selective - to crop more images and set them up the way I'd like - but we just don't have that luxury right now. Maybe someday we will. My main goal shooting for the series is to showcase ARCA with the best quality images we can produce and I think our photography work would stand up against that being done by about any other racing series out there right now. I am quite proud of that and it's a true blessing to get to work with other photographers like Doc Hunter, Rich Corbett and Doug Patterson who share the same philosophy and passion. It's all part of the job and I have no complaints as not many people get to do what we do on a regular basis so I am very grateful for these opportunities. It's surreal to think this season is almost over, but it's been a whirlwind which began with the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona back in January for me, but that's another story which I will leave for another day. For the time being, I am going to enjoy being at home for the next few weekends before I start officiating girls basketball! Oh yes - did I mention I registered 21,873 steps on my pedometer app at the Kentucky race? Yeah baby! Now I can relax a little.

This effect was done in the camera and not with Photoshop or Lightroom
This was originally a color image that I transformed in Lightroom
Restarts were crazy at Kentucky
You know you're in Kentucky when you see the Colonel