01
Aug

Having never been to Bandimere Speedway before I was really looking forward to my first trip to the Mile High Nationals. New tracks are always fun to shoot at because I have three days of racing to explore the track and learn for myself where all the cool shots are to be had. Sure I could (and sometimes do) get advice from the other photographers out there but its honestly more fun to find out for myself and hopefully come up with shots the other guys don’t notice. Strap in as we go a Mile High with the stars and cars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series!

The first thing I noticed when I rolled into the track for qualifying on Friday was the huge crowds that turned out, even in the 90 degree heat, to watch the hot action on the track.

Below, you can really get a good gauge of the massive crowds in this shot looking down “Nitro Alley.”

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f5, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

Here is another example of the crowds as I held my camera above my head in a sea of spectators watching the car of Doug Kalitta warming up prior to their first run of the weekend.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 320iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

Smoke pours from the car of funny car driver John Force (below) alongside Ron Capps. This run was expensive for the Castrol GTX team but it would get much more expensive later in the weekend for the living legend.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 500iso, f4, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

In the below frame of pro stock motorcycle rider Karen Stoffer you can see the intensity in her eyes as she peeks through her wind screen as she races down track.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 640iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

As the sun set over the mountain the track is carved into the side of I noticed good cloud patterns that was sure to lead to a cool sunset. The key to interesting photos is interesting backgrounds. Nice clouds always help make an average shot look amazing.

Below, crew members wait with the car of funny car driver Cruz Pedregon prior to his second qualifying pass.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, funny car driver Cruz Pedregon (far lane) would run an out of this world 4.09 alongside Bob Tasca III during the second qualifying session. 4.09 is a ways off the national record of 4.01 but in the mile high altitude it was nothing short of spectacular and was widely regarded in the pro pits as the funny car run of the year.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f7.1, 1/250th, Manual

As the sun dipped lower and lower behind the mountain the colors of the clouds begin to change.

Melanie Troxel, below, launches off the starting line alongside Matt Hagan.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

After the funny cars finished running the clouds begin to turn red on the undersides. In the below frame of the main grandstands you can see what I am talking about.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 2500iso, f2.8, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, in what would be my favorite shot of the weekend I composed the main grandstands on the left side of the frame to get the nice clouds and shot top fuel driver Dom Lagana on the right blasting down the track with header flames above his rear wing.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Top fuel driver David Grubnic (below) begins to lose traction as he races down track during qualifying.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1000iso, f4, 1/200th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

In the below frame I went wide to get both cars belonging to teammates Shawn Langdon (left) and Morgan Lucas in my shot. Mission accomplished.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f6.3, 1/250th, Manual

Below, barely able to breath from the nitromethane fumes (I wasn’t wearing a gas mask) I shot Del Worsham warming up his car in the pit area.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

While walking to the starting line chatting with a friend I stopped in my tracks when I saw the below scene in front of me. By standing in a perfectly lined up spot I was able to get a symmetrical picture as the two pro stockers raced down track with the crowded staging lanes in the foreground.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f4, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, top fuel dragster driver Spencer Massey rides through the staging lanes on the wheelie bar of his dragster.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

During the final qualifying session the sun started dipping behind the mountains with some nice clouds so I ran to that side of the track and shot wide to get the below frame of Matt Hagan doing his burnout.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

Normally when shooting on the starting line I will shoot the burnout of one car and then the launch of the other car. Hagan was lined up against John Force who is always worth shooting since he is arguably the most famous driver in the history of the sport. I decided to shoot Hagan again since he was running a special paint scheme on his funny car, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

After the cars passed me I set the camera down and watched them going away. All of a sudden I saw a flash of flame from Forces car and the body blew off his car.

The below frame is My first shot of the incident. It looks out of focus but thats simply the result of the tsunami of heat waves the nitro cars leave in their wake….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

I quickly got the car in the frame and fired off 8 frames a second….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

…as the body gracefully performed a perfect backflip….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

…. the body continued flipping as Force slowed to a stop with his two parachutes (that automatically deploy when the body leaves the car)….

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

…..and his Mustang body sparked as it touched down on the track…..

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

…..and slid gracefully to a stop.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

Force would be unhurt in the incident and would go on to give a funny interview to the crowd that you will never hear replayed due to his “colorful” language.

That would wrap up day two of the Mile High Nationals.

In the first round of top fuel on Sunday I got the below frame of Dom Lagana getting his car way sideways alongside Rod Fuller.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Manual

Below, funny car driver Robert Hight slows to a stop after defeating Todd Simpson in the first round.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Manual

With some nice puffy clouds in the background I shot wide as funny car driver Cruz Pedregon did his burnout alongside Jeff Diehl, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f4.5, 1/6400th, Aperture Priority

Below, funny car driver Matt Hagan (left) deploys his parachutes after narrowly defeating Melanie Troxel in the first round.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Manual

While shooting in manual mode I forgot to change my exposure settings as a cloud cast a shadow over the track. It was a lucky accident as it produced a pretty artsy looking shot in the below photo as pro stock drivers Kurt Johnson (left) and Erica Enders did their burnouts.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f7.1, 1/3200th, Manual

A capacity crowd was on hand to watch Sundays racing action, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f7.1, 1/1000th, Shutter Priority

In the semi finals of pro stock I went wide to include some cool clouds as Allen Johnson squared off against Kurt Johnson.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

For the final rounds I went to my normal position at the end of the track to shoot the winners celebrating. As a photographer (and fan of the sport) I always hope for happy drivers who celebrate with real emotion but sadly these days a lot of winners are so used to winning that they are rather tame at the top end.

That was until I shot Clint Neff winning comp eliminator. The dude went crazy and was running around and screaming and yelling (below) it was awesome!

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 250iso, f4.5, 1/800th, Aperture Priority

Below, pro stock motorcycle winner Karen Stoffer celebrates after winning the race. The win propelled her into the points lead.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Using my 400mm with convertor I would shoot the winners coming up the hill with their parachutes out, below….

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

…..and then run 100 feet over to where the winners would climb out of their cars, like pro stock winner Mike Edwards, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, funny car winner John Force comes over the hill after defeating Matt Hagan in the final round.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Manual

A happy Force would climb from his car and celebrate as if it was his first win.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Not bad for a guy who blew the body off his car less than 24 hours earlier!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Below, top fuel winner Spencer Massey comes up over the hill….

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Manual

….after defeating teammate Tony Schumacher (below) to pick up yet another win in whats quickly turning into a career year for the young driver.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Manual

Below, a happy Spencer Massey celebrates with the silver Wally.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f9, 1/250th, Manual with SB-800 Flash

Here is a link to my Facebook page for my photography. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing as well as my favorite photos from each event, as well as some old favorites from the last 20 years!


 
Posted in Drag Racing, NHRA, Racing, Sports   | 2 Comments

2 responses to “Beautiful skies over the Mile Highs in Denver”

  1. Curt says:

    Once again some great images Mark. I wish I could have been there. The night you took the sunset shot, I took a shot a couple hours earlier from afar. If you look to the right of the image you’ll see Red Rocks poking up behind the hogback. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sackhappy/5968645243/in/photostream

  2. Ron Neff says:

    I never have seen anything as “COOL” as your fine work at the Mile Highs. My family are so happy be able to see our sons Clint
    reaction after winning Comp.
    Thanks
    Trudy and Ron Neff

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Check out my Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to "like" the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!