Singular Moments: An Essay
The beauty of photography is, I believe, the fact that a photo can only capture one singular moment in time. That moment, by the time the shutter has closed and opened again, has passed. While something similar may happen again, a pose, a smile, a family portrait, never again will the exact thing that happened in that original photo occur. Racing, like everything, is made up of these singular moments. Since I was a child, racing and photography have been tightly intertwined. Trips to camp meant looking at photos in an old copy of NASCAR Illustrated, this particular copy featured a story about the 1992 All-Star race. The image of Davey Allison’s car against the wall in a shower of sparks was etched into my memory. Of course, the further back in racing history we venture, the more dependent the racing of the time was on photography for capturing moments, as is the case with everything.
The first time I ever took a picture of a racecar with a camera that was not my phone was at Road America in 2017. It was the weekend that IndyCar was racing there, which meant between the IndyCar series, the Road to Indy ladder series, and other various support categories, cars of some kind would be on track near constantly. By this point in my life, I had had my Nikon (D3200) camera for about three years. It was a camera I had purchased with money from my high school graduation party, it was my first DSLR. To this day, it is the only camera I have used to shoot at racetracks, aside from the occasional photo on my phone. I still haven’t updated my lens from the one that came with it. But to me that doesn’t matter too much, as long as I can still get the shot I need. Most of the time, I get it. Anyway, back to Road America. My best friend Sam and I made our way to the track for three days of racing at the track that weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There were a few races we sat and watched, primarily from turn five. If you’re ever at Road America, turn five is a prime location to watch from. We watched the Mazda MX-5 series run the first of their two races for the weekend as sheer fans. My camera remained firmly placed in its case. The race itself (below) was an absolute barnburner. At Road America, the MX-5’s race like they are at Talladega or Daytona. With long straights and high speeds, the draft is key. Had I been thinking, I would have taken some shots of that race. After the checkered flag had dropped on the MX-5 race, we began to wander around the track and found ourselves in the carousel, it is here I first whipped out my camera. The first picture of a racecar is what you see below.
We wandered some more, heading back to turn five. The whole time I was trying to take pictures. It was fun trying to learn how to capture the essence of speed in a picture. After several tries and several failures, I started to get the settings right. In a way, getting the settings right on a camera to capture something is the same as crews trying to get the setup right on the car for their driver. Below are some of the best pictures I took that weekend between practice sessions, qualifying sessions, and races.
The next time I would have my camera in my hands at a racetrack was last summer with the advent of the Rose Racing Report. If I was going to write about racing, I should probably have pictures to accompany my words, right? As I documented in my One Night at Norway Speedway essay, the first night with the camera at a track did not go too well. You can only do so much with dead batteries. After that, I made sure I had a charged battery in my camera, two extra fully charged batteries, and a charger, in my bag.
Throughout the course of summer 2019, I captured countless singular moments through the lens of my camera. Moments of bliss, moments of anger, moments of pain, and moments of all three of those things mixed (see above). I have even captured moments I wish could have lasted forever.
You might be wondering to yourself why it is photography that holds a special place in my heart over video. After three years of video work for NMU Sports broadcasts and several years of general photography, give me the still camera every time. Don’t get me wrong, I love video work and everything about it, but it lacks in one vital department. The singular moment. While video gives us the chance to see several singular moments in succession to relive a race or anything else captured on video, it doesn’t stop to let you take in those moments. Unless you hit pause. If you do that, then you are looking at a frame, which is just a picture. A singular moment. Photos can tell so much by saying so little. There is no explanation needed, they just are what they are, and show what they show. They grab your eyes, and grab your heart, and bring you back to one singular moment.
By Todd Rose
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