Worth A Thousand Words

There weren’t too many HPDE sessions before I bought the first photo of my car on track from a track photographer. Now that I think about it, I bought my first photo even before that, when I was autocrossing my car with the Martin Sports Car Club in Orlando, Fla.

Those early photos still find their way to my desktop as screen savers even though that car is long gone. As a magazine guy, I enjoy photography. I still like going through the folders on my computer and looking at all the photos of my cars on track, under construction — and sometimes under destruction.

It’s also fun being behind the lens, too, trying to time the exposure to catch an RX-8 as it blows two massive flames out the tailpipes, being in the right place at the right time to capture a slide or a spin is a challenge. Even just getting an image that depicts motion — a panning shot with blurred wheels and background, but a tack-sharp car — isn’t a gimme.

The photos always bring back memories of some the best times I’ve had on track. For example, I just returned from the crossover regional event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It’s hard to keep from smiling when I think about that race. That track is fun to drive, but even more fun to race, with loads of elevation change and tricky camber changes in the turns. I’ve never shot photos there, but I imagine it’s fun, too.

After looking through the photos Steve Cabana from Head-On Photos captured at Mazda Raceway, I couldn’t pick a favorite, so I bought the lot, a whole weekend’s worth of images from various spots he shot from around the track. We don’t get to race there often, so it’s good to have a bunch of images to commemorate our “racing vacation” to Monterey. If nothing else, I can use them to tell everyone in the “assisted living center” how fast I used to be.

I’ve missed more shots than I’ve gotten, but that’s part of what keeps me trying. It’s also what makes me so grateful to the track photographers around the country who supply Speed News with the art that accompanies our stories. I’m always amazed at what comes in. Some of the photos so perfectly punctuate the race updates from around the regions and some are so outstanding we set them apart in our “Shutter Speed” spreads we run in each issue. John Hiatt IV from the Central Region provided some great images of the Diasio sports racer.

Racing is a great subject to shoot. Unlike photographing, say, babies or weddings or family portraits, the shots aren’t posed. If you want something decent, you have to know where to go. Over the last year of looking through thousands of photos, the track photographers that shoot NASA events often find themselves in the right place at the right time.

When we race, we thank the course workers by waving to them on the cool down lap, but I’d like to pause for a moment to thank the photographers. Most of them are out there on spec, shooting NASA races on the hunch that they’ll be able to cover their expenses, if not earn a profit to make it worthwhile. Sure they like to shoot racing as much as I do, but no one likes to work for free.

Next time you’re in the clubhouse and the images from the track photographer are flashing across screens on the walls, head over and see if he got anything of you on track. Even if you don’t want to use the photos as a conversation starter at the rest home, it still makes a great screen saver that’ll help get you through the winter months, when the next race is months away.

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