Where Have You Been?

By Roger (12 June 2018)

Too long gone. Many reasons; some of them valid. I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things, but there have been so many changes in the last six months. If you follow me on Instagram (@roger_dallman), you know that I've been posting pretty regularly there. I've been alternating between people and travel photos.

Travel has been my main goal this year. There are so many new places to go, and, on the other hand, there are several advantages to returning to a location you've already visited. When it comes to travel, you need to just go. There will be several blogs about the trips taken so far this year.

My first real trip was the Rolex 24, in Daytona, way back in January. The Rolex 24 is a place and a race I'd seen before, but there are photos there you can't get anywhere else, so several of us planned to go.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the others began backing out. I was facing a solo trip (it's always more fun when you have someone with you). On a hunch, I asked a friend's husband if he wanted to make the trip. We had only met once, but, with only 36 hours notice, Scott joined me for the trip to Florida. He also has a Nikon, so he got to use some of my gear to augment his kit. He got some close up photos as we were inside the track, right next to the fence. And, since I'd done this trip before, Scott is standing on a ladder I learned was a handy way to get above the catch fence.

Yes, we actually brought a small ladder

We had access to the entire track while we were there and spent our time, during the pre-race, checking out the cars and planning shooting locations. Since the track is more than a mile from end to end, we got in plenty of hoofing. While we were in the garages, the teams were putting in their final preparations for the races, and I managed to get a close-up of the Bar1 Motorsport's #20 prototype and one of its drivers.

Getting ready to leave the garage

On every trip I have a priority shot to work towards. For this Rolex, I wanted to work on panning. To create a panned photograph, you set a slow shutter speed and move with your subject. The shutter speed needs to be slow enough that the background is blurred as you move the camera with the subject, but fast enough that you can maintain sharpness during the movement. You need to keep your movement level with the subject, as well, to ensure sharpness. You'll want to do this in Manual Mode, so the camera doesn't interfere with your settings. When you mess up the procedure and shutter speed, you get garbage that looks like this:

This wasn't quite what I wanted

There was plenty of trial and error before I found the best shutter speed and managed to move the camera and lens properly. Luckily there were plenty of cars to practice on, and they were moving almost 200 mph around the track, so they passed by frequently. Panning is not that difficult with practice, but can be intimidating for those who rarely try the technique. Once you have the feel for it, however, you get some really nice photos. The nighttime shots were my favorites because the darkness simplifies the background and the lights on the race cars help make the photos pop.

Acura NSX GT3

Mercedes-AMG GT3

During the daylight hours, we found a great location, near the chicanes, where the competitors had to brake hard to get through the curves. This gave the drivers a good chance to pass other cars, if they could maneuver better than the other drivers. They were only going about 120 mph while they were navigating this corner. How close were they to the other cars? Umm, pretty close....

Pardon me, sir....

It was a long race. We were there hours before it began and napped during the night inside my truck to the sound of high performance engines. The weather was great, with only about 90 minutes of drizzle. The cars were kept running, non-stop, by the teams, but you could see the wear and tear of a 24 hour race. Here is the Chip Ganassi Racing Team's Ford GT, just a few hours before the checkered flag flew. They finished second in the GT LeMans class. They ran 783 laps around the 3.5 mile course and made 26 pit stops.

Ganassi Ford GT

While you're on a trip, keep yourself open to other locations that may be of interest. Scott and I made a side trip to the Polly L, the treasure-hunting ship for Amelia Research that I blogged about last year. (link)

The Polly L has three legs that lift it out of the water while the crew is diving for the wrecks off Florida. When we visited, they were busy adding 20 feet of extra extension to the legs. Amelia Research was preparing for a contract requiring some precision drilling. They were welding on the additional length to enable working in deeper water. Scott got a personal tour and a few different photos than we expected. We weren't planning on this trip, but we took the opportunity while it was there. Industrial photos may not be your cup of tea, but how many people have been on a boat that hunts for the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet?

Three cranes and some serious welding

It was a great trip and a long weekend. The first step to taking better travel photos is just to take that first step. You have to go somewhere. It doesn't have to be far away, in some exotic location. There are photos everywhere you go.

There are many reasons to stay home; they'll all interfere with your travel goals. Sometimes the interference has a higher priority than your travel plans, but, too often, people just create excuses to stay home. I was prepared to go to Florida with or without a shooting partner. Scott's readiness to go on such short notice gave him an unexpected photo trip and saved me from my usual solo travel mode. Thanks, Scott; I know you got some good photos from the trip.

Get off the couch, and go make some photos.