Sunday, April 6, 2008

Race day

You know you feel cursed when you almost hit a cow driving to an assignment. Driving through the twisting curves of Patterson Road I knew I was in for a fun day as I headed to the Altamont Motorsports Park for opening day races.

I have never shot a race at the Altamont track so this was going to be an adventure. I figured it was going to be a lot like shooting any other sporting event, use a high shutter speed; long lens and a lot of follow focusing.

The raceway is actually three tracks, a ½ mile oval, a ¼ mile oval and 1.1 mile road course. The course is said to be the largest oval course outside Los Angeles. Having never shot there I wasn’t really sure where to shoot. The only thing I knew was never stand near the outside portion of a turn. With a VIP pass and a suggestion to shoot from a tire stand I was ready for racing.

The view was nice, I had a good view of the start finish line but I was looking for more dynamic shots. I spotted a couple of other photographers shooting from a position right next to the safety barrier, a line of K rails and rubber tires. I headed over and set up for the next race.

The spot was a good one; I switched from a 70-200mm zoom to the 16-35mm zoom to get a different take on the line of cars. It was dizzying trying to follow the cars as they sped by at their top speed past me. I was startled when a couple of cars went sideways in front of me and one slid through the grass toward the barrier I was standing next to. I managed to get off several frames before I began to bail out of the spot. I have been run over by a football player, I didn’t want to see what it felt like to be splattered by a racecar.

I guess I did ok shooting my first race. I came back with a variety of views, I even had time to for an artistic pan photo to show the race cars speed. Looking back I should have packed a jacket to fight the Altamont’s bitterly cold wind but all in all I think I did well, I didn’t hit the cow on the way in and I didn’t get run over on the way out.

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