Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Honda Indy Toronto Diary - Friday

DSC01225 - Raphael Matos, de Ferran Dragon Racing

So... after a night of poor sleep, waking up repeatedly in nervous anticipation (yes, really - I don't think this has happened since I was a young boy, awaiting Santa Claus), I drove down to Toronto's Exhibition Place at an unreasonable hour of the morning. There, I spotted my team leader John, standing on a corner waiting for a few other photographers to show up.

So - with minor faffling around, I parked in the oh-so-desirable underground parking, and headed back out to meet John. From there, we made our way to the Allstream Centre (née Automotive Building), site of the media centre, photographers' room, morning briefing, and copious amounts of bottled water and pop. No coffee, but fair enough - stocking the media centre with coffee would likely bankrupt the event.

A safety meeting, some location assignments, and off we went - sadly lacking the numbered photographer's "bib" that allows trackside access, but still with carte blanche (provided by my Media Pass) to investigate all the paddocks, grandstands, and most importantly, pit lane. This access would change dramatically later in the weekend - but more of that in future posts.

The first order of business - a press conference with popular and occasionally controversial IndyCar driver Danica Patrick:

DSC00978 - Danica Patrick

I must say, having seen her up close and personal, she (a) is very well spoken, (b) is very small, (c) is tremendously photogenic, even early in the morning in a bland meeting room, and (d) showed a real flash of interest and enthusiasm in answering a question about the relative difficulty in parking an IndyCar as compared with a NASCAR stock car. Too bad the journalist asking the question made some ridiculous comment about teaching his sister to park. Still, she acquitted herself with grace, leaving the newbies in the crowd (myself included) a little star-struck.

Right - on out the door. I snapped a few shots on the way to my assignment, through the fencing on Lakeshore Boulevard, a.k.a. the back straight:

DSC01038 - Bertrand Baguette, Honda Indy Toronto

When you have no "photo bib", you have to just deal with the fences. And, truth be told, I wouldn't have wanted to be much closer, as IndyCars traverse this part of the track at about 270 kph.

The assignment for the day was to try to capture fans having fun. I did, I think, an ok job of this, but the shot of the day for me was this one of IndyCar driver (and eventual third-place finisher) Ryan Hunter-Reay. Just after I snapped some shots of him signing autographs, he headed back to his team trailer and absolutely lit the paddock up with his smile. The sunlight co-operated, and I wound up with this shot:

DSC01105 - Ryan Hunter-Reay, paddock

For the rest of the day, I tried to take other "fan shots", but found a little time to photograph the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge (re-branded for the weekend as the "Acura Sports Car Challenge") drivers in a practice session. Although I could only shoot from pit lane, rather than through the trackside photo holes, I got a few shots that I'm happy with. Here's a rather pretty Porsche Cayman S, skipping into pit lane:

DSC01263 - Mantis Sport Cayman S

And that was that. Back to the media centre for frantic editing and submission of my photos to my team leader John, who passed the "keepers" on to the race organizers and their PR company, along with hundreds of others from my fellow team members. More photographs, if you can bear to look at them, in the Friday set.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Honda Indy Toronto Diary - pre-race events

DSC02240 - Justin Wilson

So, here I am, a week later on and I'm finally organized enough to write something about the amazing weekend I spent at the Honda Indy Toronto, the annual dust-up on a temporary street circuit in and around Toronto's waterfront Exhibition Place. Last year, I bought a general admission ticket for the Friday practice day and acquainted myself with a track I'd only been to once before, in 1990. That time, I had a grandstand seat, it poured with rain and was miserably cold, and Al Unser Jr. won. Last year, it was hot, dry, and I had a happy day exploring photo opportunities around the track while making sure I didn't inadvertently trip into any restricted areas.

This year, the game changed entirely.

This year, I was recruited onto the volunteer photo corps for the event, by a contact who had seen my 2009 photos on Flickr, and was impressed enough to offer me the gig. This year, I spent all three days on site, plus some shooting of pre-race promotional events. Twelve hour days, plus staying up into the early hours editing photos "for fun", endless slogging around the track, buckets of sunscreen, access to the media centre, shooting assignments, a shot list to be filled - a very, very different experience from my usual "buy a ticket, show up and shoot whatever I like" approach that I've applied time and time again at Mosport.

I have in mind to write a few posts - not a diary, exactly, since it's taken me over a week to get to this, but more a chronicle for me (and you, if you care) of what turned out to be a fairly gruelling, but absolutely enjoyable, gig.

Let's start off with a few "keeper" shots from the pre-race activities at Yonge-Dundas Square, on Tuesday and Wednesday before the race weekend. An easy lunchtime skip over from work, and a location I shot at last year as well. On Tuesday, Canadian favourite driver Paul Tracy was on hand to mingle with the crowd, sign a few autographs, and oversee the Honda Pit Stop Challenge, which pitted members of the media against each other in a tire-changing competition:

DSC00634-Paul Tracy

The team from local radio station Fan 590 won, in case you were wondering:

DSC00648 - Pit Stop Challenge - the victor!

Wednesday's big news was the unveiling of the brand-new Hot Wheels livery for the Fazzt Race Team entry of another Canadian favourite, Alex Tagliani. Characteristically photogenic, wearing his new race suit, shades and a blinding smile, Tags wowed the fans, posed with the kids, and even engaged in a protracted radio-controlled car duel with one young fan.

DSC00810 - Seat time

Thursday's call was to sneak down to a business-district watering hole, the Duke of Devon, for an all-Scottish photo-op between super-charismatic driver Dario Franchitti and some members of Celtic FC, who happened to be in town for an exhibition game. Quite a scrum, involving lots of photos of pieces of TV cameras, microphones, photographers' heads, and the occasional lunchtime patron, but at least I got a couple of interview shots, and a not-too-bad one of the jersey handoff.

DSC00889 - Dario Franchitti, Fan 590 interview

DSC00916 - Dario Franchitti, Neil Lennon, Scott Brown

That's team manager Neil Lennon in the middle, along with captain Scott Brown.

But - the big event was yet to come. That will be another post, or perhaps two. In the meantime, if you like this kind of thing, there are more photos in my Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Flickr sets.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Photow00t, part II

Dan Wheldon vs. Richard Antinucci

I'm excited.

Next week begins the run-up to the 2010 edition of the Honda Indy Toronto, a weekend racing event on the grounds of Exhibition Place. I went last year, for the first time since 1990, and had a blast wandering around on a general admission ticket, taking lots of photos as you might expect. This year, I would have been tempted to do the same, especially since Friday admission is now free.

But - I won't have to. Because this year I am an official member of the Volunteer Photo Corps, meaning full access all three days, as a photographer credentialed by the event's promoter. Fantastic! Paddock access, trackside, media centre - you name it.

Now, all of this comes with expectations, of course - I will not be free to roam. There are location assignments. There is a shot list that needs to be filled.

It'll be very different from my usual "shoot five hundred photos that I like and sort out the good ones later" approach. There will be latitude to be creative, to be sure, but this will be more like photo-journalism - get the required shots, get them fast, compose them in the camera as close as possible to how they're going to finally look, because there won't be time for editing, and get photos that tell the story. A whole new kind of challenge, and it will be fun.

Now, all I have to do before next Friday is make sure I have the shot list, a spotter's guide, a fully charged camera battery and a pocket full of empty memory cards and earplugs, and I'm all set. A new camera wouldn't hurt either, but that just ain't gonna happen unfortunately.

Watch the race on TV - you might even see me. 12:30 PM Eastern, Sunday the 18th, on ABC.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Canadian flag, May, 2010
Taken in Maple, Ontario, appropriately enough.