The months of May and June are a great time of the year to be a race car fan with the Triple Crown of Motorsports being held. This week is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A few weeks ago were the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500. They call the Indy 500 “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and you can understand why when you see and hear 350,000 fans cheering at the start of the race as the Indy Cars speed down the front straight. The last couple of blogs were on Fernando Alonso and Takuma Sato. This blog is about the Indy 500 in 50 photos and the stories behind them. Hope you like the photos.
The Indy 500 is more than the race itself. There is the week of practice leading up to Qualifications and Armed Forces Pole Day, another practice day, followed by Carb Day, Legends Day, then pre-race festivities. I hope these 50 photos give you an idea of what its like to be at the Indy 500 during these two weeks.
Also, for something different, I’ve added my thoughts on what I was “seeing” before pushing the shutter button. In most cases it was an element in the frame that caught my eye, then I waited for the subject to enter the field of view or do something interesting.
Thanks to everyone who helped me at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), especially the IMS Photo Operations team. I learnt a lot from the IMS Photo Operations team and really enjoyed there camaraderie and thankful for there support. Now onto the photos.
May 15 – Practice
(1) Grid position – Jack Harvey in the #50 Michael Shank Racing w/ Andretti Autosport.
This shot was taken from the top of one of the grandstands on the outside of Turn 1 in the afternoon. The white grid position markings caught my eye, and thought it would be cool to get a shot of an Indy Car going straight down the front straight over the grid markings. Needed to wait for the right moment, since most of the time the cars were taking a racing line which wasn’t straight over the grid position markings. The #50 car is one of the few shots I took with the car front wing nearly parallel with the front grid marking. Also, used a fast shutter speed to capture the car motionless, since they were probably speeding down the front straight at greater than 200 mph.
(2) 180-degrees – Marco Andretti in the #27 Andretti Autosport.
Here I saw the semi-circle that was created by the track marking, run-off area, and grass. So exposed for the white concrete run-off area and waited for a car to enter the frame. Was lucky to capture the #27 car at the apex of the corner and side-lit by the afternoon sun.
(3) From the shadows – Jay Howard in the #77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
I’d seen images from other photographers of the IndyCars speeding through shadows and light and wanted to make a photo of this with my interpretation. Thanks to the other phototogs who told me about this location. This shot was taken in the mid-to-late afternoon from the outside of Turn 1. At this time of day, the shadows were cast over the track from the grandstands. Wanted to make an image where the car appeared to be coming from a dark background (the shadow) into the sunlit track. After a bit of trial and error with my timing, managed to get a shot of the #77 as I envisioned.
(4) Along the white line – Ed Carpenter in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing.
This shot was also taken from the outside of Turn 1 during the mid-to-later afternoon. Wanted to be a bit different from the previous photo, so included the shadow and light, but also the white line and run-off area which gave depth to the photo, as well as the feeling of where the car was coming from and heading to.
May 16 – Practice
(5) Alonso – Fernando Alonso, driver of the #29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda.
Previously wrote a blog about how Alonso was the focus for the Indy 500 (https://dlymotorsportimages.com/2017/05/23/2017-in-the-spotlight-with-fernando-alonso-during-practice-and-qualifying-for-the-indy-500-may-23). After writing that blog, I found this additional photo of Alonso, which I think captures how he was in a relaxed and thoughtful mood at the Indy 500. This shot was taken before the start of the practice session at the exit of the road that leads from Gasoline Alley to the pits. It was a lucky shot, since Alonso was speeding by in a golf cart and I only had a moment to press the shutter button.
(6) Sweeping corner – Scott Dixon in the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing.
This is a shot of Turn 3, with the goal of showing the race car in context with its surroundings, to put things into perspective. Used a wide-angle lens and looked for an element to include in the photo. This time it was the white crash barrier, which added to the depth of the photo.
(7) Speedster – Pippa Mann in the #63 Dale Coyne Racing.
Thanks again to the Phototogs who told me about the inside of Turn 3 being a good location for panning shots of the cars. Here I wanted to shoot at a slow shutter speed to contrast the car as it was speeding by the grandstand, to make this element appear as parallel lines. Also positioned the pan so it was perpendicular to the car with patches of light coming through the grandstand to add a background feature to the photo.
May 17 – Practice
(8) Getting ready – Carlos Munoz in the #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
Here their was some nice contrast between the car in the light and the grandstand in the background shadows, which makes you focus on the car in the foreground.
(9) Eyes – Carlos Munoz in the #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
(10) Pit On – Graham Rahal in the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
For the two shots above, filled the frame with the cockpit of the car, then waited for something interesting to happen such as the way Munoz was looking forward with his eyes visible below the helmet visor (top) or the Pit On LEDs and the drivers glove on the steering wheel (bottom).
(11 and 12) Pit box exits – Alexander Rossi in the #98 Andretti Herta Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian (top) and Carlos Munoz in the #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (bottom).
In both cases above, wanted to capture the feeling of speed as the cars left their pit boxes, so used very slow shutter speeds. The #98 car was taken at 1/25 sec and the #14 at 1/10 sec. You can really see how the lower shutter speed for the #14 photo made it more abstract looking.
May 18 – Practice
(13) White line approach – Conor Daly in the #4 A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
(14) Silver arrow – Will Power in the #12 Team Penske.
The two photos above were taken “through the safety fencing” (i.e. lens pushed up against the fence) on the outside of Turn 2. Here the cars approach you at very fast speeds and close to the wall. You can literally feel the cars go by you, so you need to keep an eye on the cars and watch for any deviations from there racing line, which may indicate they are losing control. The “white line” is actually the top of the white painted safety wall and thought it made an interesting element for the foreground of the photo. Due to the speed of the cars, used a fast shutter speed and an aperture with sufficient depth of field, to allow for the movement of the car as the shutter button was pressed and photo taken.
May 19 – Practice
(15) Silver and red flyer – Will Power in the #12 Team Penske.
This shot was taken from the top of the inside grandstand at the end of the front straight. Noticed light coming through the empty grandstand seats, which produced the yellow, blue, and green lines seen in this panning shot of the #12.
May 20 – Practice and Qualifications Day
(16 and 17) Getting covered – Ryan Hunter-Reay (top) and the #28 Andretti Autosport (bottom).
On this morning, rain interrupted the morning practice. By chance, something caught my eye and made me look left (maybe it was the black cover), and saw this shot of the #28 being covered to protect it from the rain. Also noticed Ryan Hunter-Reay removing his ear plugs after exiting the car.
(18) Ready to go – Conor Daly in the #4 A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
For this shot focussed on the drivers helmet as the main focal point and positioned this to the left of the frame so that the lines of the cars fuselage leads you into the photo. Also liked how the green tint of the helmet visor contrasted with the red, white, and blue of the car livery.
(19 and 20) Focussed – Conor Daly, driver of the #4 A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
These two shots were taken moments apart, and despite the small difference in time, portray a different message, which was emphasized by processing the photo in black and white or color; and the position of the subject in the frame.
(21) Eye of the storm – The Pagoda.
Rain delayed the practice session, so decided to try something different while I had the free time. Borrowed a fish-eye lens (was actually the first time I had used one) and walked outside to look for an interesting subject. Saw the Pagoda in the background, so used the walkway leading into the photo for depth, then waited for some people in rain gear to walk by, for putting the photo into context.
(22) The Trophy – Figurine on the top of the Borg-Warner Trophy.
For the afternoon qualifying session, the Borg-Warner Trophy was on display in pit lane. Naturally a lot of people were around the trophy, so it was not possible to get an unobstructed shot of the whole trophy. Because of this, decided to get a close-up shot of the iconic top part of the trophy and the grandstand for a clean background. Processing in black and white really made the trophy “shine”.
(23) Smile – James Hinchcliffe driver of the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with his girlfriend.
What’s really cool about Qualifications Day, is that after each car does its qualifying laps, they re-enter pit lane for photographs of the driver with his team, family, and friends. I think this is one of my favorite parts of the event.
May 21 – Armed Forces Pole Day
(24) Fast Nine – Marco Andretti in the #27 Andretti Autosport.
This shot was taken with a long lens from the outside of Turn 1 in the late afternoon. The long lens really compressed the photo and emphasized the car speeding from team members, media, and fans.
(25) From shadows to light – Ed Jones in the #19 Dale Coyne Racing.
This shot was also taken in the late afternoon from the outside of Turn 1 during the Fast Nine part of Pole Day. By this time of day the shadows were cast over the front straight, but their was still some light at the end of the straight. So framed the white wall for depth and waited for a car to come towards me and enter the light, then pushed the shutter button just before it started to turn onto the first corner. Took a few shots, but managed to get this one of the #19.
May 22 – Practice
(26) Across the Yard of Bricks – James Davison (replacement for the injured Sebasiten Bourdais) in the #18 Dale Coyne Racing.
For this session went to the top of the Pagoda for shots of the cars speeding down the front straight to capture shots inspired from others. Took me a while to get the timing to pan the cars as they were going over the Yard of Bricks. Most of the time was either pushing the shutter button too early or too late. But as they say, “practice makes perfect”, and after some perseverance managed to get some shots.
(27) Slot car racers – Conor Daly in the #4 .J. Foyt Enterprises and Marco Andretti in the #27 Andretti Autosport.
During this session, many of the cars were practicing there over taking moves, so took some looser shots to capture this moment.
(28) Waiting – Marco Andretti in the #27 Andretti Autosport.
(29) Smokin’ – Oriol Servia and the #16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
From the top of the Pagoda you also get some great views of the cars in their pit boxes.
(30) Across the finish line – Takuma Sato in the #26 Andretti Autosport.
This shot was inspired from others and was captured using a wide angle lens, high shutter speed (to freeze the speeding car), good depth of field (so car and Pagoda were in focus), and multiple frames per second. Once again, timing was the important thing, with some trial and error to get the right time to push the shutter button in order to capture the car near the Yard of Bricks. Looking back, it was great to be able to catch Sato near the finish line, since a week later he would win the Indy 500.
(31) Through the hole – Will Power in the #12 Team Penske.
As I was looking for a location to capture the shot in the previous photo, I noticed a water drainage hole near the base of the platform that over looks the start/finish line. So I put the wide-angle lens into the hole. I couldn’t see the cars since I was knelling down behind the safety wall, but used the sound of the cars to get an idea where they were. With a high shutter speed, multiple frames per second, and a bit of luck; managed to get the #12 just before it hits the start/finish line.
May 25 – Media Day
(32) Smile for the camera – Fernando Alonso (left) and Tony Kanaan (right).
There is a funny story behind this photo. Was standing to the left of Alonso, when Kanaan came from the left and started to pretend he was Alonso. There was great interaction between the drivers and the media. As Kanaan was leaving, I asked if I could take a photo of him and Alonso. Kanaan thought I wanted a photo of only Alonso, so he stepped out of the way. But I then asked Kanaan if he could be in the photo. Was great that Kanaan and Alonso spent the short time to pose together for the photo above. Many thanks to both.
May 26 – Carb Day
(33) Spectacle – The Pagoda.
For Carb Day we were greeted with beautiful sunny blue skies and a large crowd. Wanted to capture this with the iconic Pagoda. So for this shot used a tilt-shift lens (borrowed from Canon Professional Services) to focus on the Pagoda and blur out the people on either side of the photo.
(34) Burn-out – Ed Carpenter in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing.
The Pit-Stop Challenge was one of the highlights of Carb Day. Its really cool to see the cars speed from a standing start to their pit box, where their crews quickly change their tires, followed by the cars speeding to the finish line. For this shot wanted to emphasize the car against the crowd of people in the background, so exposed for the car in the light. Also used the white line to add depth to the photo. Was lucky, that the #20 did a burn-out which created a lot of white smoke which really added to the photo.
(35) Push-back – The #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Once again, wanted to make the car the highlight of the photo, so exposed on it, which helped to emphasize the car being framed by the people around it.
(36) What’s over there – Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Team Penske.
Kept an eye on the drivers when they left their cars, since many of them would interact with the cheering fans in the stands.
(37) I see lights – Graham Rahal, driver of the #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Noticed Rahal standing on the pit lane wall and looking up. So focused on Rahal and positioned him in the lower right corner of the photo, to give the impression he was looking up into the colored bokeh in the background.
(38) Pit-stop Challenge winner – Will Power, driver of the #12 Team Penske.
Most of the photographers were in front of Power to get the standard shot of the driver with the car and team behind him. Wanted to get a different perspective, so went to the left of Power and sat on the ground, waiting for him to look my way. By chance caught Power looking over his left shoulder, which adds to the photo.
May 28 – The Indy 500
(39 to 41) Many pre-race festivities, including marching bands along the front straight, celebrities on the red carpet in front of the Pagoda, and a B52 fly-over, occur before the start of the Indy 500. Seeing these pre-race events in person was amazing.
(42 and 43) For these two photos wanted to illustrate what grandstands filled with people as far as you can see looks like (top) and of the cars speeding down the front straight with the packed grandstands in the background (bottom).
(44 and 45) Race day is about showing the grandstands full of spectators, so went to the top of the Pagoda for different perspectives of the cars and fans.
(46) Wait – Ed Carpenter in the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing.
Was great watching the teams do pit-stops under race conditions, where their was the added level of urgency.
(47) Flying past the fans – Carlos Munoz in the #14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
This photo was taken looking back from the top of the inside grandstand near the end of the front straight. Race car with fans was the goal of this photo, so framed the photo with both of these subjects in mind. Timing of the pan was key again, since you don’t get much time to track the car as it speeds down the front straight.
(48) Fans cheering as Takuma Sato crosses the finish line in the #26 Andretti Autosport to win the 101st-running of the Indy 500.
(49 and 50) Winner – Takuma Sato, driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport.
For the Victory Celebration wanted to try to get a different shot, since the vantage points from the front and above the car were covered by other photographers. Decided to take a chance and go to the left side of Victory Circle, knowing that a crowd of people would soon be in this area. Managed to get a clear shot of Sato as he was pushed in his car to Victory Circle (top). However, as soon as the car was in position, a crowd of people entered this area and blocked my line of sight for Sato, expect for a small opening between the heads of some spectators. Was lucky to capture this one frame of Sato pouring the bottle of milk over his head to celebrate winning the Indy 500. Congratulations to Sato and his team on their great win.
Many thanks for spending the time to read this blog about the Indy 500 in 50 photos. Hoped you liked the photos and the stories behind them.