Racing to Capture the Perfect Shot – Part I

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Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook may be aware that I am in the midst of a huge photography project. I wanted to wait until I was completely done before posting this article but it looks like I will be splitting this into two parts, since I am just busting at the seams to share these albums with you. I took over 6,000 pictures in the first 2 months of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. I’ve been able to attend the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the first practice for the 2014 Indianapolis 500, the qualifying weekend for the 500, the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. Thus far, the only race weekends I have not been able to capture in person are Long Beach and Fort Worth so my camera cards being full is an understatement.

Somehow I have managed, over the course of seven days (or rather evenings after work and bits & pieces of the weekend) to sort, select, crop, frame, tag, post and chronologically order… half of those photographs into four separate albums on Facebook. And yes, I narrowed them down significantly from the roughly 3,000 shots that I had to sort through! These albums are on my public page and contain photos from the first 3 races as well as the first Indy 500 practice day and shots from the Rev Indy Charity Event that took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Grand Prix of Indy weekend, and which I was lucky enough to be a part of as a member of their Social Crew.

I just couldn’t let these photos sit since they are ready, and therefore, I want to share them with you now! I will be continually working on photographs from 500 qualifying, the 500 itself and the weekend at Belle Isle to share with you very soon (hopefully later this week, depending how quickly I can get them ready to post!).

One thing I do want to do is share with you my favorite photograph from each album and the reasoning behind it. The way a photographer sees the world can be different than the way those without a lens do – not better, not worse – just differently. I still consider myself an amateur photographer. I don’t have a fancy camera or a long lens, heck those things actually intimidate me! My photos are taken with a smartphone, a tablet or my $250 Samsung camera (which for me was quite an investment!) I haven’t had any formal training and in relation to racing, I don’t have one of those vests that the absolutely incredible photographers have! So honestly, sometimes I think I don’t have the right to call myself a photographer. But then I start snapping, and I’m just in my own world. My friends don’t always get it – they think I’m silly to tote a camera everywhere… document so much of my day, my trips… but I’m capturing life with that lens. I’m capturing moments that ten, twenty years down the road are going to spark a laugh or a memory and story that I would have otherwise forgotten. They are going to hopefully bring insight, smiles, happiness and a feeling of inclusion to those who were not there to share those moments with me or perhaps give a different perspective to those that were right next to me when it happened… but didn’t see it from my vantage point.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

I took this photo at 8:53 AM EST on Saturday, March 29th, 2014. I was walking though the paddock as the Verizon IndyCar Series cars were getting lined up to head to the pits for morning practice. The way the light was shining into the garage made me stop and take it in. I was snapping this shot before I even realized I had the camera in my hand.

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It was one of those shots that I thought was really cool but once I had it uploaded on to my computer I just remember staring at it like… whoa… I took that? Same kind of thing would happen to me when I went back and read my college thesis’ and term papers. I feel like those are the things that you have a “gift” for – they are so organic. As you are creating it, it doesn’t feel special or extraordinary but then when you step back it’s kind of like stepping outside yourself and allowing yourself to accept that some kind of art or creativity came out of your own head.

That is not always easy to accept (nor is it always easy for others to accept that about you) – sometimes allowing yourself to admit that you might have a “knack” for something, consequently puts stress on you and you lose that will to create because you start worrying too much about the outcome or measuring up to the last thing.

I learned to stop putting that pressure on myself when I started writing this column on a weekly basis. I just started writing each week, stayed true to who I was & how I viewed things and remembered to voice my opinion while still keeping others in mind – being conscious not to be hurtful, cruel, or overly biased. What good am I at what I do if I am offending people on the way? That’s not the way to go about life, so why would I do it in a profession? Sometimes these things are impossible to avoid – people don’t get your sense of humor, people read too much into what you’re saying or don’t know your sarcastic wit yet, or sometimes people simply don’t want to see you succeed. The reasons behind that last one are numerous and more than likely endless, but for me personally, I’ve never understood a mentality where you wish harm or misguidance upon another person, so I just do my best to hope the best for those individuals and not allow them to affect me. I can’t let that negativity affect who I am, how I operate or how I treat others – otherwise I am no better than those that condemn me.

Oh my… we’ve certainly found ourselves on a tangent. And by we, of course I mean me. And I’ve just brought you along for the ride since you’ve been nice enough to read my work. Sorry about that, moving on…

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

This photo was captured in Winner’s Circle on Sunday, April 27th, 2014 at 6:36 PM EST.  The winner that day was Verizon IndyCar Series driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay. In the shot you see his wife Beccy with their son, Ryden.

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Ryden has become quite a known personality at the track – and this was before the infamous “baby firesuit” at the Yard of Bricks on Indy 500 weekend – he has a bubbling personality and this toddler loves to show off his belly button, particularly when he has an audience. As you can tell by Beccy’s reaction, Ryden’s adorable antics keep them laughing all day long. Ryan referred to himself as “…an All-American boy…” when he won the Indianapolis 500 this season, and that feeling of pride extends throughout his entire family. I am glad that they are on the IndyCar branch of the racing family tree, and I know I am not alone in that sentiment.

Inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis

The purpose of art is to evoke. When you see a photo, experience a form of art, listen to a song… you should feel something. Most prefer for that emotion to be positive, and many times that is what they are… but not all the time. This photo was one of those kind of moments for me. It evokes fear but in the same breath, relief. For me, being close to the series as many of you who are reading this are, it also evokes pride and respect. We feel fear for the driver that was in this car when the accident occurred, we feel relief knowing that he walked away uninjured, we feel pride in the fact that we support a series that has come so far in technological advancements that these drivers are kept safe even in such frightening circumstances and we feel respect for those engineers that have developed a racecar that can so seamlessly cut through the air, maneuver through a field of dozens like it and do so flawlessly… but when something goes wrong due to mechanical or human error, that same racecar protects the driver and goes into it’s own kind of “survival” mode, falling apart and giving away in all the right places, leaving the driver relatively unharmed and able to race another day.

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This photo was shot on Saturday, May 10th, 2014 at 4:05 PM EST. This is the car of Sebastian Saavedra, the polesitter for the Grand Prix that afternoon. The race had a standing start and his car stalled at the green. He was hit by 2-3 other cars in full acceleration at the time, who were unaware of his stalled status on the grid. Thankfully, everyone involved was able to walk away, escaping any significant injuries but understandably sore the following day.

As a journalist, it’s my job to cover all angles of racing – most of the time, thankfully, it’s the adrenaline-rushing and fun aspects that take the forefront of my coverage, but I wouldn’t consider my work well-rounded or fair if I didn’t include the parts of racing that aren’t so pretty. The reality of any sport is that the athlete can be injured. My paycheck-job is in the field of Sports Medicine, so I know the truth of this all too well. You have my word that as a journalist, while I want to always give the full view of the sport, I would never photograph a wrecked car that ended up with an injured driver. And if I did happen to take that shot, I certainly would not make it public. If you doubt my seriousness, you should read one of my first articles on this site and it’s follow up article, where I contacted a UK news station in regards to the footage used in one of their broadcasts. They heard me, they heard all of you, and we made a necessary change occur. All I can tell you is that I love this series and I love these drivers and everyone around them like family, so I protect them like family as well and would never exploit them. There is a fine line between adequate media coverage and exploitation and I aim to always be on the respectful side of that line.

Indianapolis 500 Practice – Day 1

This was a first for me, being in attendance at the first practice of the season for the Indianapolis 500. I hope to do this again or at least attend a few practice days for the 500 each season – the atmosphere at the track seemed slightly more laid back and the constant track action throughout the day was a real treat. Drivers took turns with their time on the track and while no moment in May is legitimately “casual”, the smaller crowds and slightly less frantic tension in the air was a nice contrast to the raceday, just hours prior. I captured this image on Sunday, May 11th, 2014 at 12:48 PM EST. Townsend Bell was preparing to take the track in an IndyCar for the first time since he competed at the 500 in 2013. Bell’s livery was the envy of many and the attention-getter of many more. The Robert Graham design-inspired matte black finish and jewel-toned paint-splotched accent trim was as stunning in the pits as it was at 200+ mph roaring around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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This shot kept sticking out to me because of all the layers in the composition. From his piercing eyes focused on the track in front of him, to the colors and textures in all the multiple elements captured in frame, this shot just grabs my attention and holds it.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I love photography – had I not been looking at this particular moment, I would not have captured THIS moment. He could have closed his visor the next second, a pit crew member could have walked around to inspect the car causing me to lose my line of focus, or he could have peeled out of the pit box leaving me with nothing but a dust cloud to snap. Photography is all about being in the moment and seizing it. No time for hesitation. IndyCar is a sport of microseconds, and the way we as photographers (amateur or professional) capture it… well, that happens in a flash.

The full photo albums can be accessed by liking my public page on Facebook: Shay Hazen – MTAF and clicking on photos or scrolling through the timeline to find the albums. You can also click on the race weekend headings throughout this article to take you directly to that race’s album. As always, please feel free to tweet feedback to me on Twitter or post it to my wall on Facebook!