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I love Florida. I used to live there… years ago. And I don’t get back nearly as much as I would like to.
But last weekend I was back out in the Sunshine State for the 12 Hours of Sebring – the kickoff to the 2012 American Le Mans racing season. I was shooting for Falken Tire.

It’s been a month since I’ve posted a new blog. I’m so incredibly behind on updates, and I feel terrible about it. I know there are quite a few people out there who do read my blogs and are genuinely interested in my stories. Over the last month, in addition to shooting more Supercross for Falken, I have also worked with several models on different shoots as well as a full shoot with the Budweiser Girls in Orange County. I should probably create blogs with those photos for everyone, too.

But, anyway, I know thousands of people follow my work between Twitter and Facebook, and knew I was out in Sebring for a little race photography.

Ok. Let’s be real. It was a LOT of race photography. I was there to make sure that Falken had plenty of images from the race of their brand new 2012 Porsche on the track. I spent about four days with the Falken crew between traveling and shooting. I always enjoy the chances I have to work with their team. They’re amazing people. I was particularly interested in meeting their ALMS race team. I had been in loose contact with someone who handles their @FalkenALMS twitter feed. Whoever it was was someone that was very interactive – a trait you RARELY see from industry people. Turned out it was their PR Rep, Kelly. She’s awesome if you ever meet her.

I also got the chance to see two of their models again; Brittney and Melanie were both their to support the team this past weekend. I hadn’t had a chance to see Melanie since our shoot in Malibu several months ago – and this was the first opportunity I would have to get her to sign my poster. Haha! Brittney and I saw each other at Supercross. So now, after this trip, I have my poster complete! Silly things like getting signatures from models on pieces of my work mean a lot to me.

Most of my weekend was spent on foot though. I was walking around the track numerous times trying to get an idea of the corners and locations. I had never been to Sebring so I wasn’t familiar with the layout. The downside to all the walking was the 30+ pounds of gear I was carrying. On the one hand I could have left most of it in the rig at the paddocks. On the other hand I was out at two or three hours at a time and rather have all my stuff with me so I wouldn’t have to keep leaving the track.

I had an amazing time out at Sebring. I took a bit of video, too. I was hoping to do some behind the scenes type clips to show everyone what it’s like to see the race how I see it. However with all the gear I was already carrying it was too much to also try and get video and I didn’t come home with as many clips as I would have liked.

I shot over 2,500 photos over the weekend. I threw out 500 or so yesterday. And from the remaining I made a selection of about 60 to share with you guys below. So, click past the break… check out my weekend at the races.

Oh, and I promise I’ll get back on top of my blogs in the next week and have an update for you guys with other recent work of mine.

Let’s just go chronologically, yes?

The day we arrived in Orlando we picked up our car, drove straight to the track, got our credentials and headed out to meet up with the team. Afterward we went and caught a little bit of the night practice that was going on.

The Falken team only made a couple passes before going in, but I was able to capture this shot on their last lap around the track!

Friday morning was an early one… we had to be there at the crack of dark for the media meeting and get our photography vests. As the photographer representing Falken Tire, I was actually given an orange vest – which designates photographers who are allowed to shoot in the pits over those who are not.

This photo was actually taken on Saturday, but I’m sharing it here instead. This is me, geared up and walking the track. I’m also wearing my backpack with about 20 more lbs of stuff in it. And it’s 85 and humid out. Yuck.

Ok, let’s jump back to Friday. Practice day. The morning was starting with the tire rig prepping all the tires for the day.

You HAVEĀ  to respect these guys. They are doing this ALL DAY to support the rest of the team out on the track.

Meanwhile a quarter mile away on the other side of the paddocks the drivers are looking over the car as it’s prepped and readied for practice later that morning.

You can never have enough tools

The team swaps out wheels and checks all aspects of the suspension

While their support team continues to work on the car, the drivers meet the fans to sign autographs and take photos

Melanie and Brittney are all smiles

The crowds were pretty consistent the whole time and didn’t slow down much

They’re silly, haha. We always have fun

Next up it was the girls turn to meet fans and sign posters

About the same time the girls started their meet-n-greet, the team had wrapped up the car and it was time to head to the pits for practice.

As I left to head toward the pits the line to meet the girls was still pretty long considering how many people had left for the track.

The car is ready and it’s getting close to warmup time!

Wolf gloves up and preparation to race

Wolf climbs into the car ready to drive. And man, can this guy drive the crap out of that car. It’s incredible.

The Falken Porsche cockpit… they even have air conditioning!

I had one very specific task to make sure I completed this race… that was to get at least one super-sharp front-to-back panning shot of the new race car. I was told it needed to be crisp all the way through, with nice motion blur in the wheels and smooth panning for the background. I nailed this shot at Turn 1 on the second practice lap (and got many more throughout the weekend).

Ripping through turns 5 and 6. You can see the heat pouring off the car’s rear engine.

Martin, heading out a quick pit stop

I really love this shot of the Audi team. It’s gorgeous high-res. I wish I could post it large, but I just don’t trust the internet and image theft unfortunately. You can see a slightly larger version in my portfolio linked at the top of this page.

Martin fighting for position during the final practice round of the day.

I was able to get one last sharp shot of the car before practice was done. Going to be a long day tomorrow though…

Just one of the racks of monitors the team uses to monitor the race and the vehicle.

Back in the paddocks you’ll find all Falken employees lend and hand and meet the guests to talk tires or just BS about the day.

Me and Ed, pretty much done for the day!

All is quiet at 7am on pit row

The media tower is lit up. And various crews are arriving to prep their pit area for the day.

Falken’s pit

And just like us, their pit crew was already there and working

Me and Ed, on about 5 hours of sleep and ready for a very, very long day.

During the morning warmup/practice Falken blew an engine. I’m not positive which part… they weren’t even completely sure. However they completely swapped the engine for another one IN NINETY MINUTES. That’s just incredible.

The backup engine that you hope you never need.

We headed over to the other rig to see how they were doing that morning before the races started… I found Melanie and Brittney goofing around

Had to get a group shot of all of us that day

And I needed a shot with just the ladies, of course! Haha. It’s one of the harder parts of my job… clearly.

We stopped back by the paddocks and the team was still working hard to get the new engine in. There was also nearly every manager standing there looking concerned. No pressure at all for that team… none…

And right after the opening ceremonies are done the Falken team rolls out of the paddocks to head to the track!! So exciting!

Wolf waits (probably impatiently) to get the go-ahead to join the rest of the cars on the track and try to regain some ground on everyone that had already started.

Wolf had some serious time to make up as he takes off through turn 2.

Yellow flags were no-good if you’re stuck in the pack and want to regain some time.

Many cars came out of Turn 5 way too hot and would under steer and hit the dirt before entering Turn 6.

Catchin a bit of air off the bump at Turn 5.

There is a small cutout at Turn 6 for photographers to stand. There is only about 6 feet or so between us and the cars as they shoot past us.

After a brief dinner break the sun finally begins to go down. This is the the 30 minutes or so we have to create some really cool looking photos.

As night falls the sky becomes a really incredible shade of blue.

The sun has completely set and now it’s just dark. Photos during this time are very hit and miss. You’ll find your AF going crazy with the headlights. Plus you can’t even tell which car is coming at you. So you have to shoot every single one or just hope you can tell him time to catch the vehicle you want to shoot before you miss the shot.

I really enjoy night photos though. It goes back to my love for lighting and color. Except these are extremely fast moving vehicles and not models. haha!

The crowds were still packing the viewing areas. Turn 7 still had just as many people at night as during the day!

The Falken Tire Porsche’s Brembo brake rotors glow bright read as it comes shooting through the turns.

And it wasn’t just the Porsches that were running hot on their rotors. Made some really cool looking photos though!

And that was pretty much it for me for the night. I had to return to the rig to get images out to Falken Headquarters for their Facebook updates, etc. Due to the amount of time lost because of the engine swap, Falken wasn’t close enough to the front to make the podium. But really, they did an amazing job dealing with all the issues that came up. I know everyone was incredibly impressed and proud of their performance.

Sunday, on the way home to California a bunch of us had a layover in Denver and had lunch before our last flight. Do we all look like we’re on just a few hours of sleep?? Yeah… probably do.

So that’s it. Hope you guys enjoyed seeing a slightly different side to the race weekend – one that’s not just action shots.
I hope to have my video clips cut together soon to share with everyone. So check back… I promise I’m going to be back on topĀ  of these updates from now on.

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