Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/800th

After a late night shooting NFL the previous day it was a 45 minute flight over to Ontario, CA to shoot my first nascar race in nearly two months. While this race is typically one of the most boring races of the year I continue to go because of the great light. I wasn’t disappointed!

I got to the track right as practice was starting and immediately geared up to head to shoot in the garage area. On the way there I came across a track worker holding a stop sign at a pedestrian crossing.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/4000th

Got bored with that after about 25 seconds so I headed into the garage area to fire off some frames. First I came across Dale Earnhardt Jr getting ready to head on track.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm with 1.4 convertor, 800iso, f5.6, 1/320th

Walked around for awhile more and came across my buddy Tony Stewart hanging out in his garage area.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/500th

I was lazy and bored so I tried finding something other than driver head shots to shoot.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 320iso, f4, 1/2500th

After the practice was finished it was time to transmit some images real quick before the Nationwide Race began. I hustled out to my spot and it was time for the boring race to begin.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

It was a dominating performance by Kyle Busch so I mainly focused on him.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1000th

For the finished I walked close to a mile from where I was shooting in turn two over to the finish line to shoot the finish and celebration. With Kyle Busch winning I knew he would climb from his car and stand on the car celebrating so I lined myself of directly on the finish line.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Then the flagman dropped the flag down to Kyle.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/1250th

Then I threw the 600mm on and shot across track as he celebrated in victory lane.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 2500iso, f4, 1/1500th

That was it for Saturdays action. Headed out to a late dinner at Chilis with fellow shooters Dustin Snipes, Gary Vasquez and Kirby Lee. Then it was back to the hotel for some sleep.

With Sundays race being at 5pm it allowed me to sleep in (a rarity this month) Headed out to the track and killed a few hours before it was time for the race.

While killing time I shot a goofy picture of Dustin Snipes acting like an idiot on a giant Miller Lite sign. Haha good times!

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, 200iso, f4, 1/2000th

During driver introductions Tony Stewart came around the track with Subway spokesman Jared Fogle in a matching driving suit. Classy.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 250iso, f5.6, 1/1600th

Nikon D3, 600mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/1250th

About an hour into the race I got my only incident of the entire weekend, a weak spin by Kurt Busch.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm with 1.4 converter, 320iso, f4, 1/3200th

As the boring race went on the sun got lower and lower and began to make for awesome lighting.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm with 1.4 converter, 320iso, f4, 1/8000th

Too bad the fans don’t care about nice light, evident by the sparse crowds of fans in attendance.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 500iso, f7.1, 1/800th

I know as a fan of Nascar I would never pay to watch a race there. Thats like paying to watch your friend get their taxes done.

As the sun got lower and lower the track was bathed in shadows and for a few minutes you would have the shadowed track with a bit of edge lighting on the cars. If you underexposed by a few stops it made for great light. Here is a wide version I shot to show off the nice mountain in the background.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 320iso, f2.8, 1/2000th

Busted out the body with the 600mm on it for a closer shot of a pair of cars. It came out really cool.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 800iso, f7.1, 1/400th

With the edge lighting gone but still some ambiant light left I decided to go gimmicky and bust out a star filter to take advantage of the musco lights on the inside of the track. Most photographers give me crap when using a star filter because its a gimick and no real skill is required but judging from some of the web usage perhaps what other photographers think doesn’t matter. Obviously web usage doesn’t pay much (for anybody) but it still adds up. I’d rather make an editor happy than a photographer any day. I predict by the end of the year 3-4 of my Nascar shooting friends will be using them.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm with a star filter, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/1600th




With the sun now set there was about 15 minutes of colored clouds/sky before the sky would become a boring black. So I fired off a few shots from my position……

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th

…then jogged about 1/4 mile to another spot to get a different angle with a blood red sky.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/640th

With the pretty sky now gone I had to force myself to stay awake to finish off the bring race. During a caution I looked up and the flagman with the yellow flag was invisible behind the sign while the flag glowed beneath the bright stadium lights.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm, 2000iso, f2.8, 1/500th

With about 50 laps to go it was time to leave my shooting position at the end of turn two for the nearly 1 mile walk to the finish line to shoot the finish. While on my way there I ran into motorsport shooting stud Will Lester and had him come into one of the photo cages he’d never been in. Of all the tracks I have shot at in my career this spot scares me the most. Its on the straight away going into turn one where the cars are peaking at around 205mph. You are elevated nearly flush with the top of the wall and you are inside of a cage fence so if something happens theres no place to run…oh and the cars are less than a foot away from you at this speed.

Photo by Dustin Snipes

As you can see in the photo, Will Lester (bottom) chose to bail as I braved the danger to shoot a decent angle of the cars.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm with 1.4 converter, 5000iso, f4, 1/640th

Finally the race came to an end and Jimmie Johnson totally dominated the race to win. Celebration was a bit lame but I expect nothing exciting out of Jimmie anymore. He wins so much that all the excitement has been used up a long time ago.

Nikon D3, 80-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/2500th

Then I grabbed the 600mm and shot across the infield as he celebrated in Victory Lane.

Nikon D3, 600mm, 3200iso, f4, 1/640th

Next race for me is in a few weeks, hopefully it will have more action.




Posted in NASCAR, Racing, Sports   | 12 Comments

12 responses to “Driving into the California Sunset…..at over 200mph”

  1. trent says:

    great stuff.

  2. Gary says:

    You are right about that cage spot, it is pretty dangerous. And that is one scary looking sky, looks like the devil (aka Jimmie Johnson) took over that night.

  3. Walter S says:

    Great shots Mark! You are right about the lighting it is awesome!

  4. D. Gray says:

    Awesome stuff! I found your blog during the Olympics and have enjoyed it since. Do you ever shoot any NHRA stuff?

  5. GT says:

    Nice stuff…. If we buy that star filter thingy – will our images get published on cool websites too?

  6. Mike says:

    Mark your images and your web-blog is absolutly awsume!!! I been a fan of NASCAR since the mid-seventies and have seen a few photos of races….these by far are the best and most fun to view that I’ve ever seen. The Sundown hour shoots are wnderful. I also noticed how your ISO changed to chase that light!!LOL The cage shoot that Justin took is sick!! Hows that rubber dust on your lungs?!!

  7. John Thawley says:

    Very nice. I hope aspiring photographers pick up on the subtle “lesson” hidden in your work. In the set you’ve posted I noticed only one shot focused on a single car. The rest are all show the cars in context and include the environment. Stories… they all tell stories. Great job!

    John Thawley

  8. Rachel says:

    Great work. I’ve really been enjoying checking in with your blog every so often. Pretty funny about how boring the race was. I’m sure I had more fun looking at your blog than the fans did watching the race. Keep up the good work!

  9. Comee back out and shoot CORR again Mark if you’re bored. The competition this year is intense.

  10. Luke says:

    Awesome shots! I enjoy your blog, keep it up!
    cheers, luke

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