Saturday, January 25, 2014

Daytona It Is!

The new Mazda diesels are beautiful and so quiet!
My first day at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona was a blast. I spent most of the day finding my way around and seeing where I could shoot and how to get from point A to Point B. I've been here for the Daytona 500 but the infield road course makes accessing certain areas quite difficult. I also found out a couple of areas which are off limits to photographers by mistake! People have been great down here and the corner workers have been extremely helpful when I had questions. I got out yesterday morning in time to shoot the TUDOR United Sportscar Series final practice, mainly from locations around the infield road course, going wherever the light was favorable. But man was it windy and chilly - still better than back home in Indy!

Coming here this year has been on my radar for a long time and today it's race day. It will be the longest race day of my life so far and this time tomorrow morning, the cars will still be circulating and there will be about five hours still left to race. Friday was easier by comparison and other than the crappy hotel I was in, this weekend has gone off like clockwork so far. I supposed that is fitting since the 24 Hours is sponsored by Rolex. The Continental Tire Sports Car Series (CTSCS) yesterday was full of yellow flags due to incidents and I already have my first spin and contact for the season, so I got that one out of the way. As it turns out, my Victory Lane pictures with Turner Motorsports are mostly unusable since the 96 car of Bill Auberlen and Paul Della Lana was disqualified after post race inspection for a technical violation and excluded from the results. But history was made in the aftermath as the DQ elevated Shelby Blackstock and Ashley Freiberg to P1 and gave Daytona its first female winner. To top it off, it was her first CTSCS race! Three BMW's took the podium positions from the race which unfortunately finished under yellow.

I got rolling early this morning to get a decent parking spot and get set up in the media center. A light rain had fallen overnight but the day has started off with less wind than yesterday. The day started off a little chilly at 45 degrees but the sun is out now and it is warming up. It is supposed to get up to 69 degrees today with partly cloudy skies, so it could be a good situation for photos with flat, even lighting and no harsh shadows which can be the case under bright sunshine. I would still take the bright skies anytime! Then the daylight will start to fade as sunset is at 5:57 p.m. and the real photo challenges will begin as nighttime shooting, even with the track's MUSCO lighting system, will probably mean high ISO settings. Direct head-on flash use is being discouraged as you might imagine, as the driver's pupils will be fully dilated during night racing stints. I'm not sure how much I will sleep tonight but I am staying at the track to soak in the entire 24 Hour experience. Sleeping in the car will still be preferable to the cheap hotel room and the periodic rumblings of a fast moving mile long freight train right outside my day which I've dealt with the last two nights. The sound startled me the first night as it sounded like the train was coming right into my room! The sweet sound of race cars will be so much better tonight.

In my last post I wrote about the sounds of language as well as the cars. Both are quite varied, and I got what I expected in the garage area as I heard multiple languages being spoken yesterday. The same has turned out to be true in the media center, as this event is truly international in scope and the photographer's room is probably representative of the countries on display in the race itself. Me? I'm just a Hoosier with a passion for the sights, sounds and smells of racing, so I go where that leads me whenever I can. Today, that's at Daytona International Speedway for the 52nd running of the Rolex 24 Hours. You should be here too. Back with more later!

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