Remember when I used to feature car stuff here? No? Me neither, but the navigation bar tells me I otherwise. However unlike the past this post should be slightly more interesting.
This weekend I went to Mosport International Raceway for the American Le Mans Series of racing as well as support races. Mosport is a track I know well, I’ve gone since before I was born, my parents used to go there to camp and watch races, and my father even used to race a BRG Austin Mini there. He has many great stories of back then and often tells me how the track has changed a lot over the years, it’s much safer now of course. One such story he tells includes flipping his Mini just before turn 5a (Moss Corner) in such a way that his roof never hits the ground and he lands on all four wheels. Of course in doing so all four corners of his suspension are crushed, his sub-frame ruined and a set of rims damaged. Up until this race he’d only participated in 30 minute events, this race however was his first 2 hour race and due to a lapse in concentration in around the 30 minute mark, the aforementioned crash occurred. He never had any great success racing, but the way he tells the stories you can tell he really enjoyed every moment of it and I think it’s because of that enthusiasm I became interested in auto racing at a young age. It’s been a passion of mine long before I knew about anime, figure collecting or even computers.
I suspect had racing remained as cheap as it was when he participated, I too would have started racing, in fact my father at one point almost bought me a go-kart, however after attending a couple of karting events he decided against it. Not for safety reasons, but because of the petty arguments between families of the participating children. Somewhat unfortunate, but I can see how the competitive nature of these events would spur the worst in some people. Eventually, I did get a go-kart, but not the kind you’d go racing with. It was of the home made variety with just a little 5.5 hp Honda motor, cantilever chassis and did at best 52 km/h (~32 mph). Our neighbours at the time allowed us to use their field in which my father cut out a race track in the grass.
Unfortunately, the costs of modern racing are exorbitantly high and are ever increasing, even in the smallest of series. Not only do you have to buy a car, you need to maintain it and most importantly outfit it with the proper safety kit, such as a roll cage, proper seat with racing harness, fire extinguisher etc… Additionally you need to outfit yourself with all the appropriate safety gear, helmet, fire retardant clothing, coveralls head restraint if required such as HANS device. All of this adds up considerably, and of course doesn’t include entry fees, transporting your car, accidents, broken or worn parts, consumables etc… etc… All of this means I’ll likely never get to actually participate in a real race, but that hasn’t stopped me from attending. (Or blowing up a motor….)
Having visited Mosport so much, one would think I have a lot of great pictures from there to choose from, and over a number of years. This however isn’t the case, photography wasn’t a hobby of mine back just a few years ago, nor any of my family members. Because of this we only had your average P&S film or digital cameras prior to my dSLR. So, that means all these pictures are from after I got into photography, as such their quality varies greatly, so bear with me.
One of the really neat things about the ALMS is how close they let you get to their cars, sure some teams are a little more secretive than others with specific components but generally you’re able to nearly sit in the cars. Before the start of every race they let the crowd out onto the grid to get a good close look and even touch the cars. I’m positive that if I were a car owner, or driver this would be nerve wracking for me. I’d worry some idiot would trip and fall on my car or break something or adjust something that couldn’t be fixed in time for the race. Generally I don’t think anything too substantial could be done, but still it’s a great deal of trust on behalf of the teams, even if they are all there keeping a close eye on things.
While the grid walk is fun, it’s also a very crowded place and hard to get a shot without people, in fact it’s impossible without multiple shots and tricks in post-processing. This is why I prefer wandering the paddock instead, not only do you get to see the cars, but you get to see under the bonnet, the drivers, and the teams preparing the cars. You also get to see teams receiving their battered and broken cars after a wreck. All of which seems much more interesting to me than some parked cars. You have to pay attention though while you’re there, there’s always vehicles moving about and you don’t want to get in their way. From segways to ‘Ferrari’ semis from Texas.
Enough with the still life shots, lets get some action…
Not actiony enough I don’t think, racing always needs crashes, it’s what everyone is sadistically hoping for isn’t it?
Auto racing photography presents a number of challenges over my usual figure shoots. Of course the objects are moving, but in addition to that my viewing angles are limited, my lenses not always suited to the distances and the lighting is uncontrollable. This past weekend for example was a very sunny weekend, and the races all took place with the sun high in the sky creating very harsh shadows, fairly undesirable, and in addition to that as the sun set in the west, I started to get the dark side of the car causing me to over expose the surrounding scenery. I really do wonder how the pros do it, what filters I should buy, or settings to use but all in all I feel I got some decent shots over the few years I’ve been shooting. I do have plenty more I could include, but not all of them are from Mosport, perhaps in the future I’ll do another post with sort of a ‘best of’* from the race tracks I’ve been to and have bothered taking pictures at, such as Mid-Ohio and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
(* I wouldn’t call this current set a ‘best of’ as there was somewhat of a narrative going on in my head as I wrote it.)