Exploring Speed and Light

Reprinted from Portfolio Magazine

It’s a million dollars of high technology wrapped in carbon fiber screaming through a forest in northern Georgia. As the sun sets, the driver negotiates a turn dropping from 185mph to 90mph and back up to 185mph… all in a matter of seconds.

Far from the homogenized world of stock car oval racing, this is sports car endurance racing. It is one of the last forms of motor racing where car manufacturers and their engineers push the envelope unfettered by artificial limits imposed by organizers attempting to manage “the show.” This is where technology combines with team management and driver skill to push back against gravity in an endeavor of man and machine toget to the finish first.

My job? Tell the story in photos. Capture the absurdity of the challenge. The blood, sweat and tears spent striving for the top step of the podium. It’s everything ABC’s Wide World of Sports said in their thematic… “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.”

What I like about photographing endurance sports car racing is the challenge of presenting a story that intrigues those who love the sport… the fans, and the uninitiated alike.

I imagine the strained excited voice of a fan who has just spent three days at the 12 Hours of Sebring or the 24 Hours of Daytona and how he would struggle to verbally describe to his friends what he had just experienced… how amazing… how incredible… and knowing he would fail to state his case with words and words alone.

No. Words don’t describe this. You have to see it to believe it. That’s my job.

Photographing endurance sports cars not only requires some pretty specific camera equipment, it requires a broad understanding of story telling through the lens. And not unlike legendary guitar players like Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn, you need to manhandle and leverage your gear to deliver your point of view. And even then, you’ve only penned one part of the composition.

These are typically three-day events. And behind each and every car, there are three or more drivers sharing the 10, 12 or 24-hour duties behind the wheel. There are engineers, mechanics, designers, fabricators… human beings… all working in harmony to harness the potential of this four-wheeled beast. If it’s anything, it’s managed chaos.

It’s all about finding and managing the limits of the unlimited. It’s about assessing every aspect of the process… every link in the chain… everything and anything that might lead to imperfect. Because winning requires perfection… until someone does it better.

For me, I like the atmosphere and the human spirit. I like the faces. Obviously, the cars and their struggle with gravity’s limits are an endless source of visual excitement. But so are the people…. on both sides of the protective barrier.

When you’re at the track, you imagine what a dog’s sense of smell is like going 50mph with its head hanging out the car window. You don’t know where to look first. It’s all happening. Everything and everyone has a role… a purpose and a mission. Consider this. When you go to an NBA or NFL event, two teams take to the field. When you go to a race, 30+ teams take to the field. They’re all there… it’s the equivalent of an entire season playing out before your eyes in one single event.

And it’s not just about race day. From the moment a team’s transporter rolls into the track, the clock starts ticking. In fact, all team transporters must be parked and in place before unloading can begin. Everything… everything is time certain. It’s the same for everyone.

It’s a unique form of photography. Sure, you start out with a shot list. You start out with a strategy of where you’d like to shoot… what you’d like to get done. Unfortunately, you’re not in control. It all rolls out in front of you and you have to play the cards you’re dealt. You’re chasing light and sometimes working against darkness. You’re fighting to get a unique angle, you’re working against time…. and you’re carrying 30lbs of gear while trekking through the woods… sometimes in the rain. Did I mention the course is three miles long?

Creativity requires friction. To make something different you need forces pushing back. You need work your way into spaces. Fight your way past the mundane and look for opportunities as they present themselves. Chances are, whatever you have planned is not going to happen. You need your head on a swivel. You need to look where everyone else is going… and go the other way. The opportunities are endless.

John Thawley

For most my work I shoot with Canon gear… three camera bodies and an array of lenses including a 16-35mm, 24-105mm, 70-200mm a 50mm prime and a 500mm prime. I also use a Leica M Series Rangefinder with a 35mm, 50mm and 90mm prime Leica lenses, a DXO One attached to my iPhone 6S+ and vintage Polaroid cameras. Each camera and each lens has a purpose… and each helps define the point of view I’m attempting to bring to the shot.


Test Drive: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

Cadillac made a bold move over ten years ago when they introduced the first CTS-V model to take on the Europeans that dominated the high-performance sport sedan segment. The recipe for that first CTS-V was pretty simple – stuff the V8 engine from the C5 Corvette into the engine bay, tighten up the suspension and bolt on bigger brakes. That first CTS-V was very fast, but it failed to bring all of its elements together in a cohesive package. Thankfully, Cadillac has remained committed to improving their V-Series models over the last decade, and racing them has contributed significantly to their evolution. Cadillac still sells the CTS-V today, but has also dropped in a new model with the smaller, lighter and less expensive ATS-V.

Click to read more ...


Reversing The Order, Whelen Engineering Corvette Conolidates Action Express Racing's Back-to-Back 1-2 Wins


Eric Curran and Dane Cameron (No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP) captured their first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory of the season Sunday in the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, leading Action Express Racing to its second consecutive 1-2 finish. The pair led 66 of the 125 laps in the two-hour and 40-minute race, including the final 36 circuits. Joao Barbosa (No. 5 Action Express Racing Mustang Sampling Corvette DP, started by Christian Fittipaldi) passed Jordan Taylor (No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP, started by Ricky Taylor) for second place in traffic with five minutes remaining. Three minutes later, the third caution period of the race froze the field with Cameron leading his teammate by 17.067 seconds. Curran and Cameron trimmed the points lead of Fittipaldi and Barbosa to four, 220-116, with three races remaining for the Prototype class. The Taylor brothers finished third and are third in the standings with 211 points.

Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe (No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT) delivered their third consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class victory at the track formerly known as Mosport. A strategic call by the Chip Ganassi Racing team sealed the deal for the duo. After running most of the first half of the race in third or fourth place, the team put fresh Michelin tires on for the final time when they pitted under full-course caution an hour and 20 minutes into the two-hour and 40-minute race. The No. 67 Ford GT was sixth in class following that stop, but as the cars running ahead of them made their final pit stops for fuel and tires under green-flag conditions, Briscoe gradually worked his way to the class lead. Then, with approximately 50 minutes remaining in the race, the Ganassi team brought Briscoe on to pit road for a seven-second splash of fuel only and sent him back on course without losing the lead. That was the difference, as Briscoe maintained a 5-6-second gap to Tommy Milner (No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, started by Oliver Gavin) for the remaining distance and the win. “We were in tire and fuel conservation mode as soon as we left the pits, but needed some help,” Briscoe said. “When everyone else pitted we knew we had the opportunity to take a splash of fuel but not change tires. It was a brilliant call by the team. Tommy was a bit quicker, but I was just trying to hang on and bring it home.” Westbrook and Briscoe now trail Milner and Gavin in the GTLM class standings by five points, 192-187. Gavin and Milner finished second, while their teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen (No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R) finished third. Garcia started the race from the pole and led throughout his 42-minute opening stint, while Magnussen also led for more than 50 minutes.

Click to read more ...