Those who’ve been following me for longer than I’ve been a resident at Occam’s Typewriter will know that I have a passion – some might call it an obsession – for photographing fast-moving vehicles. Most of the time, it’s just for me – a hobby coupled to an enjoyment of motorsports. But one weekend of the year, it becomes more – a job, albeit an unpaid one, as a fully credentialed media photographer for the IndyCar dust-up on the Streets of Toronto circuit. This is where the teams, drivers and cars that run the Indianapolis 500 show up in downtown Toronto, on the Exhibition Place grounds, for a weekend of fairly loud, and very fast, competition. And what a weekend it is – full of challenging assignments, a shot list as long as my arm, and three full days of hard slogging around the track. Like my science day job, it’s about working with a team, meeting milestones, and going the extra little bit to deliver results. By the end of Sunday, the twice-a-day hand-in deadlines meant I’d reviewed over 1,500 photographs, and delivered just a hair fewer than 200 as my part of the equation – on time, each day. Compared with some open-ended projects I’m occasionally obliged to stickhandle at work, the sense of satisfaction and completion is a welcome change.
This was my third year on the team. You can read all about last year starting on race day here, and work all the way back to my inaugural year in 2010 from there, if you want to. As for 2012: here are some highlights.
In the morning, I watched the resident clown at the children’s hospital where I work film an interview with IndyCar driver Oriol Servia, and came up with a great joke: “Who’s the clown with the camera?”. Neither he, nor anyone else, thought it was funny.
Next I toddled off to the track to shoot a few press conferences, including one with Formula 1 legend Rubens Barrichello, a true gentleman of the sport, in the best senses of the word.
Then I completely missed the opportunity to be driven around the track at race speed in a Ferrari, because I’d left early to go home and rest up for the coming weekend. Argh.
I wandered around pit lane and a few other places, including a favourite haunt on the inside of turn one, adjacent to the Princes’ Gate, a Toronto landmark. The day involved photographing practice sessions, drivers autographing things, and fans having fun.
I also finally met a friend of my brother’s, who drives the IndyCar medical vehicle, after the third year of saying I’d try to find her at the track.
For the second year in a row, I was dispatched as part of the “you idiots didn’t take any photos in front of the turn 9 Pizza Pizza billboards yesterday!” detail. Just for fun, I snapped a photo of exactly the same driver, in exactly the same car, in front of exactly the same billboard. Felt pleased with myself for being so cheeky. But not that pleased, because last year’s photo was better.
Then I chased a few drivers around, including eventual second place finisher Charlie Kimball and local boy James Hinchcliffe engaged in some off-track shenanigans.
Along the way, I nailed a couple of “keeper” shots – an IndyCar jumping a curb, and an Indy Lights car blowing some flames. Jealous noises from the rest of the team.
Sunday – RACE DAY!
First, I ran around a bit cleaning up some sponsor billboard shots, and then set off at the request of a supporting series (the Star Mazda Championship, in case you were wondering) to get some photos of a couple of specific drivers and their cars. Sorted.
And then, the main event… I stationed myself in pit lane for the starting grid and pre-race activities, elbow to elbow with crews, drivers, guests, other photographers, race officials, and goodness knows who else. Once the grid started to clear for the race, I was able to snap a few shots of teams awaiting the coming storm.
It’s not trivial wedging yourself into the driver’s seat, as last year’s series champ Dario Franchitti demonstrated.
And then – the race, which was all kinds of amazing from my vantage point, out on the “island” between pit lane and the front straight. The shot of the day, for sure, was this one – the iconic Princes’ Gate in the background, a pack of cars late in the race, heat haze and smoke and tire rubber flying.
There was also plenty of pit stop action, with huge grandstand crowds in the background – the other reason I needed to be out on the island, the only vantage point from which it’s possible to get this shot.
Canadian James Hinchcliffe again… before his engine let go.
And so on to the finish, and a win by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who you can see in the yellow car at the top of this post. I wasn’t in the right position to catch the chequered flags flying like I did last year, but instead was able to capture a nice reaction shot from the team, including team owner Michael Andretti, himself a seven-time winner of the Toronto race.
And then back to the media centre for one final round of hand-ins, and for one more year, that was that. Exhausting, great fun, camaraderie and sunscreen and water and a lost lens hood all into the bargain.
More photographs, as usual, in the Autosport collection.