Saturday, December 28, 2019

ARCA Awards Banquet Ends 2019 Season

Your 2019 ARCA Menards Series champion: Christian Eckes
Two weekends ago, the annual awards banquet for the ARCA Menards Series was held in Indianapolis in conjunction with the Performance Racing Industry trade show and I was fortunate to photograph all the festivities again this year. It's a black tie formal event and it was my seventh consecutive time shooting the event. It's so odd to see all the race personnel in their tuxedos and fancy dresses - I found myself struggling to remember the names of people because they all seemed so out of context. It's a very different kind of photography than working a race but it still comes down to the same basics: working with the available light. Color temperature is the biggest challenge to address for shots where people are on stage speaking or accepting awards.

Cathy and "Big Bill" Venturini team cars dominated the 2019 season
I do not like using flash in these situations for a couple of reasons. I was encouraged a few years ago by a photographer I respect to use available light whenever possible so I have become somewhat of a snob about it. Crank up the ISO and let it be a little underexposed if needed! Using flash on camera is inherently a little unnatural but if I had access to strobes and remote lighting, you can bet I would be using it. For an event like the banquet, however, I don't want big background shadows which you almost always get when you blast a flash straight at your subject. The other issue for me while shooting the banquet is I don't want the flash to be disruptive. When people are making acceptance speeches, I want the speaker to be featured and not have the audience distracted by a big flash pop so working with low light is a must. Most of the banquet I shot at 1600 ISO, 1/250th f4 which has other benefits. Shooting at f4 with my 70-200 is essentially shooting wide open and the lens has a nice soft bokeh so the subject is isolated in the foreground with a softer background behind them.

ARCA President Ron Drager (left) with team owner Wayne Peterson 
For the most part I don't care about shooting at high aperture settings as I learned a long time ago that depth of field is great for landscapes but not for sports and most other shooting. In 1987, I was shooting a boxing match for the Indianapolis Star during the Pan Am games in Indy and a photographer told me depth of field won't matter if you're not in focus, so I've tried to take that to heart ever since then. Even for the reception before the banquet, I didn't stray much from my available light settings as I tried to add just enough flash to illuminate the party goers without the exposure ending up too bright and seeming unnatural. I had another photographer tell me when I first started shooting digital to set the camera a third to a half stop underexposed all the time in order to add saturation and that's another little tidbit that has served me well for many years.

I made sure I got a selfie with  runner-up Michael Self  (center) and  Christian (right)
Before the banquet we got a sneak peak preview of some of the website design changes that will be implemented in early 2020 for the ARCA Menards Series now that NASCAR will be in full control and I am even more excited about supporting the series at the races next season! I don't yet know which races I will be assigned to work or exactly what my role will be so I am looking forward to sorting out those details early in the new year. The traditional first race of the 2020 season is at Daytona  February 8th and it will be here before you know it. In the meantime, I am looking for clients to support at LeMans next June and anxious to finalize my 2020 photography plans overall, which could include the St. Petersburg Indycar weekend for the first time!

To the victor go the spoils
So if you need photos, then I'm you're guy: I always bring back pictures. I don't mean to sound like I'm bragging but that has been my history so I am confident in what I can do at the racetrack. My dad used to always tell me it's not bragging if you can do it, and I believe I'm past the point as a photographer where I need to prove myself. In my next blog post, most likely my last one for this year, I will show you what I mean about always bringing back pictures. I will showcase a selection of my favorite photos from the 21 race events I worked in 2019. Thanks for staying with me this year!

The Top 10 finishers in the 2019 ARCA Menards Series
Ron Drager (left), Billy Venturini and his wife Emily look on as driver's champion Christian Eckes receives an award
Nic Moncher shows off a previous ARCA championship ring in front of the white screen backdrop we used for portraits.
Tommy Vigh (right) took home Rookie of the Year honors

No comments: