I have had the chance to photograph a variety of motorsports over the years but I recently got a chance to try something new. I went to see some drag racing at Pacific Raceways in Kent, south of where we live. I have seen drag racing on TV in the past but have not ever been in person. I was covering this for Speed and Sport Journal, a website run by my friend Joel in Chicago. I won’t rewrite the piece I put together for him but will, instead, include the link here to that work.
The focus on that article was not on the results and individual performances but instead what the experience was like going to my first drag racing. It was a very intense thing to be so close to. Incredibly loud and physically imposing stuff and quite unlike anything I had done before and that includes standing beside fast jets as they take off. Joel used a number of my images for the article so here I shall include some that didn’t make it in but that I liked for whatever reasons my brain may have.
I persuaded Nancy that a fun Friday evening could be had in Marymoor Park if we went to watch some track cycle racing. Not sure how I managed that, but the food trucks and beer garden might have swung it for me. Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome is located in the park and is the last velodrome available in the Pacific Northwest of the US. It attracts lots of riders as a result. It is ages since I last went to a velodrome to watch racing, so I was looking forward to it. The Nationals were on in California, so some of the regular racers were away but there were still plenty of competitors out.
I shall share some examples of the wider view of the arena, the competitors and the spectators for now. Some more racing specific shots will come in a separate post. It was a great evening with lovely weather (and great food and beer), and I think we both enjoyed it. The racing was well structured to keep it entertaining, and they even had races for the kids. The star of that show was a kid with a big wheel! It was all I could do not to reference respecting my “authoritie”.
I did a little filming on a bike ride with an old GoPro Hero 5 of mine. The current generation of action cameras has all sorts of clever tech built in which can deal with rotation of the camera and stabilizing the image. The Hero 5 doesn’t have any of that and I ended up spending a lot of time stabilizing the images in post processing to try and get something usable out of it. I was surprised how badly it came out and started thinking about an upgrade to incorporate all of the newer capabilities. It was at this point that I got a little silly. I had seen videos before about the Insta360 cameras and had found them intriguing but not so much that I wanted to get one. Now I was looking for a new camera, the capabilities that they have seemed like it could be a good step forward.
For those that haven’t seen one, the Insta360 in its current X3 form has two cameras on opposite sides of the body with fisheye lenses with over 180 degrees of coverage. The sensors are 5.7K resolution and the camera can stitch the two outputs together to give spherical coverage. It also has a stick on which you can mount it which the camera will recognize the location of and take both images to effectively remove the stick from the video. With the high resolution of the original files, you can then use their software – either on your phone or using the desktop app – to pan and zoom around the original files and generate video output of whatever you want.
What this means is that you don’t have to frame a shot when you are shooting. The only thing you have to do is have the camera in the right place. You can worry about where it is pointing later on which is great when you are already doing something else. The removal of the stick is very impressive, only slightly undermined but the fact your hand that is holding it now looks a little odd. Also, if the shadow of the stick is in shot, the software doesn’t know to do anything about that! (As an aside, there is a mode where you only shoot with one side like a normal action camera if you want.)
What is the downside to all of this? Big files! You are shooting a lot of data on two cameras simultaneously so you can fill up cards fast. You do also have to then review each clip and pick your angles for the shots, but you would have had to do that beforehand otherwise so no great loss. Other than that, not a lot to complain about. I have tried it on a few occasions so far. The length of the stick makes it seem like you have a drone flying above you if you put it up there. A cool result. I took it out on a bike ride to see how things came out and I have a short video below that shows you the result. No great cinematography here but an introduction to what can be done. Remember that each shot is only moving the camera around and the panning and zooming is all done back at home. Amazing tech!
I get plenty of emails about cycling events taking place in the Pacific Northwest. Some of them are of interest, some are way too hard for me, and some are not at a time that works for me. However, the Tour de Lopez ticked all the right boxes. It was a ride around Lopez Island in the San Juans so I asked various people to see whether they would be interested in taking part. I got a few positive responses, so I registered.
The ferry times to Lopez are not normally good for an early start but Washington State Ferries had arranged for the 7:30 from Anacortes to make an extra stop at Lopez for the event. This was good but it did mean an early start from home to get up to Anacortes in time to put the bike together, get a ticket and board. Unfortunately, in the days prior to the event, everyone progressively bailed on me. The night before, it was just me. I decided to go for it anyway.
The weather on the island was forecast to be nice but the temps are significantly lower on the islands at this time of year, so I decided to layer up. This worked well. I also decided to take my old GoPro with me to record the day. I was glad I did. It was an excellent ride. The route winds around the island and comes through a variety of bays. With the sun shining, these bays look so idyllic. On a normal ride, I might be more focused on keeping moving but on this I was in no hurry so I would stop to make sure I could get some video of the ride.
There were a bunch of rest stops along the route. Plenty of cyclists were taking part – it was sold out – but it never felt crowded. You would see people passing by but wouldn’t be in large groups. The nice thing about the island is that there is not a huge amount of traffic, so it is a great place to ride. I would occasionally see some familiar faces from earlier in the ride too. It ended up back at Lopez Village where they had laid on some food. I bumped into a couple of guys I had seen before, and we had lunch and then rode back towards the ferry.
The ferry ride back was a nice way to end off the day and I was able to pack up my stuff in the car and head home. The day was so much fun, and I hope the video shows just how good it was. The guys that had been unable to join clearly liked the video because we ended up setting up a second attempt. We did this a few weeks later and used a later ferry to start the day so it was a more relaxed affair.
The University of Washington has a long history of competitive rowing. A few years ago, we accidentally came across a regatta underway when visiting the campus. The racing was just concluding when we got there and the crews were getting ready to head out. I had paid a little attention to the schedule for the rowing earlier in the year but almost forgot about it until recently when I took another look at the schedule. The last big event of the year was coming up – the Windermere Cup. I decided to head along.
The racing takes place along Montlake Cut. The starting point is out in Lake Washington beyond Foster Point. I decided to park up at the arboretum and walk out to Foster Point to see some of the racing from there and then follow the trail along the south side of the cut to end up at the Montlake Bridge. This is a popular viewing location and is closed to traffic during the races. It is still a bit short of the finish line but I didn’t think going any further would be worthwhile. Besides, I had to backtrack to the car at the end of all of this.
The weather forecast was not favorable. I decided to prepare for anything and took full waterproofs with me. When I left home, it was raining very heavily and I was skeptical about how things would turn out but the rain was very localized and it was significantly better near the city. However, it did start raining again so I put the waterproofs on when I got out of the car. This proved to be a mistake. It did think about raining a few times but it was quite warm and sunny near the end of the racing and I was rather overdressed.
The other thing I hadn’t accounted for was the condition of the trail. It is a combination of boardwalk, trails and some metal planking. However, the lake water level is quite high and sections were under water while parts of the trail were very soggy. I had worn my hiking boots and I was glad that I had as I was able to walk through the watery sections without too much trouble. I was constantly wondering whether it would get worse and how far I was prepared to go before turning back. As it turned out, I made it through without a problem but I did walk back via the roads to make things simpler.
There were loads of large boats out along the course. They were all moored with the sterns towards the course to give the rear decks the view of the racing. Lots of people with plenty of cash judging by the size of some of them. The parties looked like they were in full swing on a Saturday morning. There were two smaller boats on the south side of the course that could not master mooring up and were drifting on to the course which resulted in much shouting from the officials.
There were good spots to watch from all along the cut. I made my way progressively along the course shooting both stills and video as I went. Plenty of students were out to cheer on the home team. They seemed to be winning a lot of the races. However, UW does take its rowing very seriously unlike some of the other schools in the area so not a great surprise. The final events were the men’s and women’s Windermere Cup races and these had attracted some international competition. In the women’s race, the GB national team won while the men’s race was won by the Netherlands national team. The racing was still tight but the UW team does include a number of the US national team so not such an unbalanced race.
The Montlake Cut is a narrow waterway and the races happen in quick succession. With the length of the course, the next race has started before the previous one has finished. This means there is no space for crews to row back out from Portage Bay after their race is over. They have to wait in the Bay until all racing is complete. Then there is a mass exodus of crews back through the Cut. It makes for a neat spectacle to round off the racing. Then it is time to get off the bridge because they open it up for a few hours and you don’t want to be on the wrong side!
It wasn’t terribly long ago that I became away of a motor racing circuit not too far from home. The Pacific Raceway is down near Kent and is about 40 minutes from home if the traffic is moving normally (by which I mean moving and not bogged down with traffic which might seem normal sometimes). With one of the early events of the year coming up, I decided to pay it a visit. I was planning on shooting for a friend’s website but they limited media credentials to those that had shot there before due to a shortage of staff.
No matter. I figured I would go down anyway and shoot from the public viewing areas. As it happened, this suited the friend as he needed some material for an article on anyone shooting motor racing for the first time. The event was the SOVREN Spring Sprints. I got down there at lunchtime on the Saturday after visiting the opening event of Exotics@RTC. There was nothing happening when I got there and it turned out that there had been a fatal accident during one of the sessions. After a little waiting around, it was announced that there would be nothing further that day and they would start the following day.
I headed home and came back the following morning. A few of the competitors had gone home after the Saturday so the field was a bit reduced but there was still plenty to see. There were very few spectators so it was easy to go wherever I wanted in the public areas. The best shooting locations are on the south side of the course but that is only accessible with credentials.
The variety of vehicles was great. Plenty of single seaters but also lots of road cars modified for track racing. I am not familiar with all of the classes of car racing but I just get to enjoy watching them blasting around the course. I wandered from place to place to try different shots. The light was not ideal with backlighting for a large part of the day. I was messing around with low shutter speeds which, with the speeds they are at and how close you can be to the track, resulted in a lot of blurry images. You get parallax issues that close as well so deciding which bit of the car is sharp to be an acceptable shot is a bit of a taste issue.
The entry to the track from the paddock area is by a stand so I would often sit on the ground but the entry point as the cars drove in. It made for a slightly different view of the cars but the backgrounds can get pretty busy. I also went up in to the stands to get some shots looking down. The barriers could sometimes be a hindrance but they do have some platforms at ground level to get you close to the track which is handy.
I probably was being too aggressive on the shutter speeds which meant lots of useless shots but, to be fair, it was a day for playing around and, as long as you get some shots out of it, does it matter? I was getting a little tired in the afternoon and then realized, I wasn’t shooting for anyone else so I was free to leave if I wanted. Therefore, I decided to head off home. I took one more pass through the paddock area shooting people working on their cars or just hanging out and then I called it a day. I will aim to be back for some of the upcoming events, though.
The approach to Los Angeles International from the north brings you in from the coast heading east almost directly over downtown before turning south and then west to make the approach to the north complex. This approach gives you a very good view of Dodger Stadium. I had the camera to hand as we came in so grabbed a few quick shots of the park. With the MLB dispute now solved, there should be crowds showing up here before too long (if they haven’t already depending on when I post this).
The Cascade Bicycle Club organizes a few large rides throughout the year and March is the time for the Chilly Hilly. This is a ride around Bainbridge Island which means taking the ferry from Seattle across to the island. I was going to do the ride with a friend of mine but he got injured prior to the ride so I ended up doing it alone. Not many photos from the ride but I did record some video on a GoPro and that result of that is below. It wasn’t too chilly but it was definitely hilly! No video from the big climbs. Too much effort went in to not grinding to a halt!
One weekend afternoon, we took a walk through Discovery Park in Seattle. We started up near to the top of the park and then took a trail that brought us down to the shore. The trail continued along to the lighthouse at which point we started back to our origination point. As we walked along the shore, the wind was quite brisk and it was proving to be fun for some guy that was out kite surfing. Not only was he enjoying the conditions but I think he quite liked the attention. He was very close in to the shore so was being watched by a lot of people doing the same thing as us. I shot a little video of him before moving on and here is what I saw.
Victoria residents like to make use of the water for their activities. While we were there – and despite the weather being far from friendly – there were plenty of people out on the water. Their choice of activities varied. We had some stand up paddle boarders, there were kayakers, canoes and what looked like dragon boat teams but maybe that isn’t the right term for this type of boat. Wherever I was wandering, there was always someone out on the water. They managed to avoid the ferries and floatplanes without too much trouble!