Gentlemen, start your engines…

One of the biggest events in sports takes place this Sunday with the 51st running of the Dayton 500. This time of the year I get a bit antsy, wanting to get back to the track to start another project. It’s been four years since I began shooting photos for my book “Faces of NASCAR” which was publish late in 2006.

When I had completed the shooting and editing phase of the book, I copied all the data to an extra external hard drive, bought a small Pelican case to store the unit and gave it to a neighbor for safekeeping. That neighbor reminded of the gray pelican case the other days so I retrieved the hardrive and began to review those images. I began looking back through the entire collection of images from the book; nearly 12,000 images and a few things jumped up and grabbed my attention.

I’ve broken it down into four areas:

#1–The Stars–Before starting this book, the only other time I had shot a race was the July 4th 1984 race in Daytona , I think they called it the Pepsi Firecracker 400 and Richard Petty was the winner. Petty won his 200th and final race of his long legendary career and then he stopped his car at the start/finish line, walked up the steep banked track and shook hands with a very special guest that afternoon-then President Ronald Reagan. Richard Petty or King Richard as they like to call him was one of those guys with a 1000-watt smile. Every time he was around the track I tried extra hard to capture a portrait of the King.

#2–The details–I was working late one night, fine-tuning a pile of images when I began to look at a photo of King Richard really close, like 300% close. That was when I first noticed the famous belt buckle. Instantly I knew I needed a really tight pictures of the buckle and began to plan out the photo. My assistant in Dover has seen my crude sketch of what I wanted and we had planed to put down a white reflector on the grown to bounce light up into the photo.When I saw the King in the garage are on Saturday before the big race, I quickly told him what I was doing. He agreed and I only shot maybe 10-15 frames. But that was enough and I knew I had my picture.

#3—The Scenes– This is one of my favorite shots. The way the American Flag staff seems to go stab the Target logo really works for me. Very clean composition with the flag, the cloudy blue sky and Target hauler (that’s NASCAR lingo for the trailer trucks that carry all the race gear) just works for me. I originally tried to do a panorama shot with a long row of the haulers but sometime less is more.–Techie tip: It’s kind of old school but I worked hard to keep the trucks from leaning too much. I hate those photos where people who don’t know how to use wide lens point up at something like a building and the things seem to be falling backwards!

#4–The Faces—It would make sense if you titled the book” Faces of NASCAR” you might have a few portraits. The staff and crew were so used to having a camera pointed at them that I felt nearly invisible—which I love. This guy was working on pit row and when he took off his helmet (all people working on the car wear helmets) he was wearing this fireproof, tan-colored Ninja mask. I loved the way it framed his face and by using a long lens (300mm) and moving in very close it made the background go out of focus. The light was very overcast and soft that day so the combination along with the incredible sharpness of the lens made for a really nice portrait.

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