Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Graham Rahal In The Pits

I highly recommend getting a media pass for events like the Edmonton Indy.

It hangs around your neck and lets you into places like the Media Walk. Visualize this: the stadium seating is behind a fence. In front of the stadium is a walk right next to the track. There are holes cut into the fence at strategic places and when the cars come snarling by, you are just a few feet away from them.

So there I was, leaning into one of the conveniently placed holes in the fence. My leg was braced against the concrete block for stability when I saw two magazine type photographers standing behind me.

One of them had a lens longer than my car. He was wearing a seriously disapproving look. I shrugged and went back to shooting. The cars were coming so fast and I was trying to track them and get my shot.

When I turned back, the Serious Photographer Guy was frowning so deeply his eyes disappeared. He was looking right at me. The cars were loud but the tisking sound was loud enough to be heard over the roar.

“What?” I asked.

He gestured to my feet.

“You got to step back from that block, guy,” he said.

“Huh?” I inquire shrewdly.

He pointed to the concrete block again. Then he pointed to the track.

“One of those cars crash into the concrete,” he paused to smack his hands together, hard enough to startle me just a little. “If that happens, your ankle snaps.”

He holds his fists together and snaps them apart like he’s breaking a pencil in two.

I realize that this guy isn’t being a jerk. He’s looking out for me…so I thank him, step back and we both start shooting again.

We stood side by side for a while – he wielding a lens that could capture a pimple on the butt of a naked astronaut on the moon – and me with my Olympus telephoto.

“So…I haven’t shot at the races before,” I started.

He looked at me like he’d sort of suspected this already.

“Are there other things…etiquette…for shooting at the track?” I asked.

“Don’t put your crap on the walls,” he says. “Don’t ever lean your camera against the wall. Shooting is cool, but when you are looking at your shots, move aside for the next guy. We all have our shots to get.”

Serious Photographer Guy points to Not Quite So Serious Photographer Guy, who is standing beside him.

(I know he is not quite a serious because his lens is shorter than the one the Serious Photographer Guy has...and he is only carrying two cameras, whereas my mentor has FOUR cameras. All serious looking Canons. Geez.)

SPG points to NQSSPG and says "He has to get shots of specific drivers," he says.

"I do not," says NQSSPG with a self conscious laugh.

SPG ignores him. "One of those cars crashes against the wall, crap goes everywhere, tiny bits of it. You want to be out of the way."

I nod in agreement. I have a sneaking suspicion they are having me on a little...but still, it makes sense.

"Have you ever seen a crash?" I ask.

"" responds SPG. "But I've heard it's bad."

I nod again.

“That’s it?” I ask. "That's all I need to know about shooting here?"

“Yup,” he says.

I thank him again and he smiles and wanders off, his good deed done for the day. I was actually grateful that he took the time to tell me this stuff. How else am I going to know?

So I stay and shoot some more. But before long I come to the conclusion that photographing cars isn’t all that interesting to me.

So, a few minutes later I am back in the pits again. It has become my favourite place. I love the sounds and the people and the colors. Besides, I realize I may never be in this position again…with a media pass and access to the pits…and the media walk.

A car rolls into the pit a few feet away from me. These drivers really are the rock stars of the weekend. When the drivers come into the pits, someone stands over them with an umbrella to keep the sun off of them. Someone else puts a blower directly in their faces. I can only guess how hot it is in those suits.

One of the biggest drivers, Graham Rahal is in the pit, a few feet away. He is waiting for his car to be put back on the track. I know he’s only going to be here for about 45 seconds.

I step into the pit and raise the camera. Rahal looks at me and I look at him. I take the shot and smile a thank you. It would be cool to say he nodded or waved back. He didn’t. He just fixed his eyes back on the track.

I am learning a LOT about photographing at the Indy.

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