First of all I would like to give a huge thanks to PitRat Racing for making us feel like part of the team for the day, both the highs and the lows. Just by hanging around with you for the day, I learned a lot about photographing this high octane sport, the nuances and the opportunities. I hope you enjoy the images and would love to do it again.
If you want to see the whole gallery of all the images, click on the slideshow or click here and it will take you to the gallery.
Having never been to a drag racing event before, I had no preconceptions, no history to base my thinking on. Of course I could draw from my experience of photographing similar types of events in terms of settings and possible angles but I must admit it was quite refreshing to try something new. The chance to just watch for the afternoon, to learn, absorb and experiment, was fun. Of course I did a little research beforehand to give me a few pointers, but nothing compares to seeing it with your own eyes and experimenting to find what works for you.
It goes without saying really that these cars are quick. Forget handling corners or any other car racing trait except for acceleration and braking. Fuel consumption, who cares, tyre wear, I think the burn outs before each run answer that. The aims are really quite simple, get on to the start line, get the tyres boiling hot, have the perfect reaction time, then cross the finish line before the guy in the next lane.
One thing you can't forget with this type of racing though is ear protection, these cars and bikes are loud, even with ear plugs in. In fact they were surprisingly loud to be honest, especially for the cars in the top classes. You could feel the explosions in the massive cylinders, vibrating through your chest as they roared past at top speed.
So what did I learn? If you want a photograph to impress a driver or serious petrol head, make sure the butterflies are fully open in the image. Not sure what butterfly is (no in this case it is not an insect!), these are the valves on the supercharger which are connected to the throttle. So if the butterflies are open, the car is accelerating, closed, then the car is coasting or slowing down.
The second thing I learned was that these cars can really leap off the line. All that power surging through the tyres, lifting the front of the car. So those first few milliseconds can really make some great images, which looked great with a nice high shutter speed. Some cars and drivers are more adept at it, so after a few rounds you can focus on your favorites. At some point I think the height will slow the car down ultimately but for photographs they look spectacular.
All in all it was a fun day with the commentators providing a great blend of entertainment and commentary. Some of the witty one liners were great. Some of my favorite expressions I heard through the day were, "you can just about hear the mullet growing with that run" and "That reaction time was slower than a sun dial"