Sunday, February 12, 2017

500 Blog Posts - And Counting Thanks

Sam Hornish takes Turn 1 at Indy in 2006
This is the 500th blog post I have written here since I started in 2007, and it's hard to believe that 10 years has passed already. When I began blogging, a marriage of 18 years had ended and my career in real estate development and utility management was also in transition, so this blog was a creative outlet to write about my passion for motorsports. I still tell the joke on myself that when I got divorced, I bought camera equipment instead of furniture and went racing again, with the Indy 500 in 2006 my official re-entry into the changing digital media world. It was also my first race shooting high speed digital still photography. I am still grateful that Greg Griffo at the Indianapolis Star gave me the chance to shoot Indy again that year after I sat out 2004 and 2005 when I went as a spectator. I have had a number of great opportunities since then and now 11 years later, I am facing another transition as I search for a new media affiliation for my home races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Shooting for American Motor Journal included  USAC dirt racing
If you read my blog regularly, then you know I started shooting Indy in 1984 as a turn shooter for UPI. After that, I shot for the Indianapolis Star for five years and the Speedway's staff for five years before taking 1997 and 1998 off due to personal problems that were masquerading as burnout. Even though I kept my consecutive string if 500's alive by going as a spectator, I  discovered I missed the media work terribly and came back in 1999 with Agency France Pressed for the next five races. After the 2003 race my personal life imploded, everyone at the track switched from film to digital, and I needed time to assess where my life was going. After much soul searching, a move out of my marital home, and changes in my professional career when the housing market crashed, I bought my first good digital cameras and was ready to go racing again. And I was ready to get serious about numerous life changes I had been wrestling with. So May 2006 was a renaissance for me and I also met someone else that month who would help me rachet up my racing photography: Don Hamilton.

Chicagoland was a great track for Indycar
I had known Don for years but that May he told me he had acquired American Motor Journal (AMJ) and asked me if I'd be interested in shooting some races for him. Don passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, but the seven years I worked with him I shot Indycar at the 500, Chicagoland, Nashville, Kentucky, Mid Ohio and Michigan, plus Grand Am and American Le Mans at Mid Ohio, plus the Brickyard 400 and ARCA races at Salem every spring and fall. Throw in a few USAC dirt races here and there and I felt I was living large while doing what I lived. More changes were in store for my professional career as I got out of the utily business and went back to graduate school at Marian University to get a teaching license. My hope was to teach math, coach basketball or soccer, officiate both sports, and shoot even more racing during breaks from teaching.

Sunrise at Daytona; I slept in my car more than once here
In 2010 I started looking to branch out from AMJ as I had gotten tremendous experience shooting all aspects of race events and felt I was ready to do more. I reached out to another photographer friend from Indy, Glenn Smith, about shooting for Associated Press at places like Daytona and Talladega. He introduced me to the AP folks down south and I did my first Daytona 500 and Talladega races in 2011 and have been going back ever since. I also got to shoot my first Rolex 24 Hours race in 2014  and make new connections  that led to shooting at Atlanta for AP as well. Glenn ran into his own life problems and then passed away a few years later but I am forever indebted to him for the help he gave me with those introductions.

Shooting Victory Lane at Indy in 2013 was the thrill of a lifetime
Another key aspect of those experiences was meeting other photogs and while I didn't know it in 2012, I would be branching out again the next year as a result of the relationships I had developed. At Indy in 2012, I happened to be sharing a drop gate outside Turn 3 with another photographer and of course we were chatting during down time. That photographer turned out to be Eric Gilbert with who gave me one of his business cards. Over that next winter,  I contacted Eric about shooting for his site during 2013 and found out that one of his photo editors was someone I had already met and worked with at AP at Talladega, Rainier Ehrhardt. Don Hamilton had passed away in the meantime so AMJ had folded and I had nothing lined up going into 2013. Thank goodness for relationships as I got the opportunity at Barber Motorsport Park in April 2013 to shoot the Grand Am and Indycar weekend as a trial run for That led to shooting the Indy 500 that year and shooting in Victory Lane for the 500 for the first time, which also happened to coincide with fan favorite Tony Kanaan's first Indy win. I also shot Indycar and ALMS at Mid Ohio and the Brickyard that year for the site. I've shot the Indy 500 since then for the site and just last month I shot my second ever Rolex 24 Hours. 

Indianapolis is still home for me
I can't even begin to tell you how much I have learned from all the people I have worked with these last eleven years, and I hope that my gratitude for the opportunities has come through loud and clear in my blog posts since I started writing on a regular basis in 2007. Those lessons and relationships have also led to the role I currently have with the ARCA Racing Series as its chief photographer through the help of Harlen "Doc" Hunter. I have learned this week that I must find another media outlet for the Indy 500 this year so I am actively pursuing other opportunities. I am still hopeful of working as a credentialled photographer at Le Mans this June for the 24 Hours but if that doesn't happen, my fiance and I are going anyway and I will do what I always do: bring home pictures. I trust the experiences I have gathered these last 11 years will continue to show themselves through my photos. So if you need someone reliable who knows how to shoot racing, then I'm your guy. Give me a call, or check my website. I am excited to see what the future holds as you know that when one door closes another opens. I am confident that I'll be there to walk through that door, but above all, I want everyone to know how thankful I am for the chances I've been given to show what I could do. It means the world to me.

Talladega has become one of my favorite tracks to work and the folks at AP have been great
American Le Mans at Mid Ohio was always a treat
Bump drafting at Daytona keeps you on your toes for the "Big One"
Indycar races at Kentucky were usually nail-biters with photo finishes
The Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona this year had more than its share of drama and "moisture"

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