It’s May in Indianapolis. Anybody from Indy might know this, but for the rest of the world that means it’s the fastest time of the year. Indianapolis is the proclaimed Racing Capital of the world thanks to the Indianapolis motor Speedway which this upcoming weekend will celebrate it’s 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500. Of course that’s not the only race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as there is the Brickyard 400, the Redbull MotoGP and also the newest addition; the Angie’s List Grand Prix. The Indy 500 is the largest though and it is the race with an absolutely incredible amount of history on and off the track.
That’s Will Power’s car during the 2015 Angie’s List Grand Prix, which he proceeded to Win. The cool part about the Angie’s List Grand Prix is that the cars aren’t just on an oval, they are on a road course with a bunch of twists and turns. In my opinion it makes it a much more difficult and interesting race. That said, I can’t imagine the mental ability it takes to drive 500 miles at 230mph in one sitting. What’s interesting if you think about it is that most of us could have been race car drivers in the 50’s or before. Did you know that in 1950 the Indy 500’s Average speed was only 124 miles per hour? Even Shannon’s Mazda can get to that speed today!
I digress. The Indianapolis Motor speedway has a ton of events, and a ton of history. I’ve seen a bit of it myself, and have written about it a few times on the blog for those who have reading for a while. I’ll never forget some of the MotoGP’s that I’ve been to as I’d never seen motorcycle racing to that point, and I greatly look forward to the opportunity to shoot this year’s race as well.
(Nikon D4, 1250ISO, 600mmF4 AFS with Nikon TC20eIII making 1200mm, 1/3200@F9)
The way that credentialing works for the MotoGP is that you have to arrange from overseas to have access to inside turns. I however did NOT get that access as the Indystar only got 2 of those credentials and needless to say I was not top of the list. This was a bummer but also ended up being a great opportunity to try to get something of a slightly different angle from the Stands. It’s not the EPIC Pan that my friend Andy Hancock has as the banner of his Blog, but not all shots can be a Pan despite Andy and my shared love of a good Pan. Eventually you do have to move into different kinds of photos or some safer photos even, pushing for the perspective I had at 1200mm that day was different enough at the time. While I don’t own a 600 and Nikon had not been at the track at that time, Robert’s Rental department came to the rescue which as you can tell, was a pretty solid move.
I also remember being out at the Media Day before the MotoGP first began. They had Nicky Hayden (Dani Pedrosa above, Nicky Hayden below) riding an original Indiana Motorcycle as raced at IMS originally. Turns out that the Speedway was originally used for Motorcycle racing, and this was actually a return to motorcycle racing. Nicky took the first lap around the course, and a media frenzy it was to say the least.
(Nikon D2x, 250ISO, Nikon 10.5DX Fisheye, 1/1000th@F7.1)
This is all on top of the Brickyard as well, which is also a fan favorite out there. I’ve been to a few Brickyards and they aren’t easy to cover believe you me. If you’re in the pits you’re lucky to get the deflated tire, or something on fire but you can’t see the driver at all unlike open car racing. It’s about as interesting as you let it be though, and it’s always exciting when you are on the hunt to make an image that’s different than everybody else, sometimes it’s from a place that’s difficult meaning that there aren’t a lot of other shooters there to get the same vantage point.
(Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 400ISO, Canon 600mm F4 IS, 1/4000th@F4)
Of course there is more there than just race action. One time we towed the Bob Sweigert Racer out to the yard of bricks to shoot an ad for Nancy George Design’s Knit Stop. I wish I could go back and do this shoot again honestly, there are lots of things I know now that I didn’t know then that would have greatly changed my approach to the project. Either way it’s indelibly in the history books now including an image that ran as a full page in the 2009 Indy 500 Program.
(Nikon D3, 250ISO, Nikon 18-35F3.5-4.5@24mm. 1/80th@F10. Nikon SB800 Speedlight shot through a 32″ umbrella set to 1/2 power, single Nikon SB800 Speedlight on a stand with the supplied Diffusion dome set to 1/8th power. Both speedlights triggered by Pocket Wizard Plus II receivers, from a Pocket Wizard Plus II Transmitter from the cameras hot shoe).
Truly funny part about that project was that this car came from the museum and it looked like rain. The girl in the car was Nancy George’s daughter Jesika (Tony George’s Niece). Not only did it look like rain with this race car out of the museum outside, but we then put a small dog with her in the car. The look on the museum Curators face was priceless, however as a lover of classic cars I totally understood what he was feeling. I guess it just adds to the history of that particular car now, even if only a few know it’s obscure addition to an already illustrious racing career.
(Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, 400ISO, 70-200F2.8IS2 with 1.4x Extender @140mm. 1/500th@F7.1)
Lots of history has been made at the track. Dan Wheldon was part of that, as is “Cell Phone dude” in the bottom left hand corner of my frame in this photo. This was not a shot chosen to go anywhere of Wheldons Victory in 2011, but it’s my photo of his victory moment which is obviously why it’s here. There’s no way I could have known the significant of the win for Wheldon as in October 2011 he died in Las Vegas. I guess you just never know when something either incredibly amazing, or incredibly terrible might happen. You have to respect what these guys do at 230mph.
(Nikon D4, 125ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@105mm. 1/80@F8)
Speaking of respect of what these guys do, this year I’m shooting for a set of mixed clients. I have had the great opportunity to shoot a few days with Andrew Hancock and Autoweek on a story of Gabby Chavez (as seen above racing in the 2015 Angie’s List Grand Prix ) in a story about being a rookie at the Ind500. Gabby is an incredibly gracious young man who was happy to work with us on the project. Gabby is also a fearless driver, whom I greatly look forward to watching drive on Sunday at the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
(This part of the blog will be updated with a link when the Autoweek story goes live. ) Check out the video we did HERE.
If you’re in Indianapolis, or the surrounding areas you should come out and enjoy the race if you’ve never been. It’s quite a thing. While not for everybody it’s definitely something awesome and worth experiencing at least once in your life. If you’re out at the track and you see me also be sure to say hello! I’ll be out there before sunrise the day of the race,