Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Photographic Adventure

Early Saturday morning I sleepily dragged myself out of bed. Dr. D. told me to meet him at 7:30 am to begin a day of a different photographic adventure. I would be photographing not my regular stationary floral objects, but subjects that moved at about 200 mph.

As I got to the designated home, I was shown a taste of what was soon to come. I was shown the three Porsches that sat quietly in the garage as I tried to imagine the incredible power that was sleeping like a beast about to awaken. Dr D. gave me my tickets and carefully put the special VIP Porscheplatz tag around my neck and sternly told me not to lose it--these exclusive tickets would cost about half my monthly graduate student stipend to replace. He opened the doors and trunk to the red Porsche 944 and I loaded my photography equipment into it as I visually took in the interior. When all was finally loaded into the car, I slowly sat in the cool black leather seat and was a little startled at how the car’s interior practically hugged my body. The car was started and we were on our way to the Mid-Ohio American Le Mans races.

I quietly observed the Porsche 944 being driven in what I can only describe as a dreamy state. Perhaps this was obvious to Dr. D. as he asked me if this was my first time in a Porsche? I blushed and nervously replied that yes, it was. How does a girl tell a man that it is her first time? A car that I only had pictures of on my bedroom wall in college was now actually holding my delicate body.

When we got to the gates of the Mid-Ohio racetrack, two wrist bands were secured onto my wrist. My VIP status by now could not have been more apparent.

Once we got to the Porscheplatz, I felt almost dizzy with excitement seeing all the different Porsches next to each other. There were so many of them. More than what I have seen in my entire lifetime. The most expensive one being worth around 250K—a 1956 model that seemed more suited to sit in a museum rather than a parking area.

We went into the tent of our Porscheplatz to listen to the talks. I was surprised that it takes 8 million dollars to put together a racing team of two for the race. Engines need to be replaced around every 30 hours. Turnaround time for a busted radiator is about a week. I listened intently and absorbed the facts as cold drinks were served to me—a necessity as the day would bring temperatures in the 90’s compounded by the heat radiating off the racetrack. Add to that the high humidity and it is not an understatement to say that conditions were brutal.

I could not spend my entire time luxuriating in the tent of the Porscheplatz as the qualifying races were about to begin. Armed with my heavy photography equipment and earplugs, I embarked on the banks of the track to get the best views of the cars. As the Porsche RS Spyders, Aston Martins, and Ferraris drove by, my hands just could not hold my telephoto lens steady—to be so close to such power my normally steady hands were put the limit. But eventually I brought my emotions under control and my hands managed to find their equilibrium. My photography equipment was certainly put to the test as the camera and its accessories were not purchased with high speed photography in mind. But I quickly learned what I needed to do to get pictures of objects moving at 200 mph with what I had.

After the qualifiers, it was time to get some lunch before the actual races. By then, I had worked up quite an appetite and a double cheeseburger nicely suited the bill. I also made a mental note to find a nice t-shirt to buy later in the day. The hard part was deciding on what car I wanted to display on my chest. A Porsche? An Aston Martin? An Alfa Romeo? A Ferrari? Yes, a red, low cut shirt with the Ferrari emblem was what I finally decided on. I also tried to take in as much fluids as I could so as not to lose the battle against dehydration and heat stroke.

The races began and I took my time getting different viewpoints of the race. The Corvette team no doubt was being naughty by competing against each other and periodically colliding into each other. But the cars that collide together spend time together in the penalty area cited with poor sportsmanship. Even after that incident, the Corvette team seemed determined to try the patience of the officials with their behavior of getting a little jab in every so often. Sadly, there also was a car fire as one car pulled out of the pit while the fuel hose was still attached. The fuel spilled on the ground and ignited into an explosion sending those around it to the burn unit—a reminder that although the races appeal to the little child in us, it is certainly not child’s play. Another car lost a right rear wheel, but with only about five minutes left, decided to keep going and finish the race on three wheels—an example of just how well these cars are engineered to deal with the difficult racing conditions. The race concluded with the Audi team driven by Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner taking a 1-2 finish. Complete race results are here.

After the Le Mans race, I decided to watch a bit of the Indy cars race around the track. But truthfully, by then I was in a state of sheer physical exhaustion and quite possibly on the verge of heat exhaustion. Carrying around heavy equipment all day and baking in the humid heat had sadly taken its toll on me. It was time to head home.

On the drive home, the storm clouds started to roll in. It was as though nature herself was not to be outdone by the thunderous man made beasts. I finally nestled myself into the quiet solitude of my bed with the visions of powerful Ferraris still racing through my head.

I do so love hard metal on smooth curves.

(All pictures were taken with my fastest shutter speed of 1/4000 sec with my 300mm telephoto coupled with my 1.4X teleconverter. They are at small low res jpeg posted here as I am contemplating selling them and don't want them used without my permission)


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