Wow, what a great race weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This was my first time photographing anything like this and it was sure fun. This weekend sure gave many race fans activities to do, including autograph opportunities, a Fan Village, and a Ferris wheel just to name a few. It also gave photographers a ton of photo opportunities. Luckily for me, I had media credentials and a photo vest to give me just about an all-access photo pass to help me document the story of the event.

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Photographing the Grand Prix is about working safe, pacing yourself, and gear. Safety, because we get to go places that most spectators don’t have access too. Fans are often behind a fence, that is 6 feet or more from the concrete wall that has its own fence which is designed to retain a car leaving the track. This separate fence protects fans because in case of an accident, flying debris won’t make it this far. Photographers have access to the concrete wall, but don’t let that wall fool you because the wall is designed to give when impacted.

As our safety is just as important, we are required to attend photo meetings to find out the rules of the track. We photographers have to play it safe. With the all-access pass, if not careful you could wind up seriously injured, or worst. This is the most dangerous activity I will probably ever photograph and because this is a street track, the temporary concrete walls are not the same as you find at Indianapolis. That means if we are photographing in fence gaps called photo holes and a car impacts it – bad things can happen. There were also some locations when you had to sneak between the concrete wall and another barrier to make it through – I wouldn’t want to be there during a collision. Also – never turn your back on a hot track when going to the next photo hole. This is also Florida, and while it’s spring, the sun can sure get to you – wear lots of sunscreen and drink lots of water and pace yourself.

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A photographer takes photos through a photo hole

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Photo gear, camera knowledge and high shutter speeds is what it takes to capture race cars going by at 100 mph. We photographers love gear or toys as what we call it,  can get a little “jealous” when the guy besides you pulls out a 400mm f/2.8 lens, and that is only on one camera body. What did I bring to the races, 2 Nikon D7000, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 17-50mm f/2.8 and the ultra creative 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye lens.

What else did I have? Ear protection, those cars are loud, ear protection is a must and sunscreen, also a changed of clothes. As a little exclusive to the readers of my blog – I ripped my pants while getting down in a shooting position. Luckily for me, I was close by to the media center where I had my clothing and a huge camera bag to block the clothing malfunction.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg featured not only IndyCars and the Mazda Road to Indy series, but also Stadium Super Trucks – where Baha meets Motorcross, and Pirelli World Challenge that featured 49 cars from 22 different brands with a estimated worth of over 30 million. I really enjoyed this series – check out some of the photos below.

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IndyCar racing wouldn’t be complete without a fan experience. While the drivers were coming from the garage to the pit, fan would often call out to the drivers to have them come by and autograph.

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Tony Kanaan, Target Chip Genassi racing stops to sign autographs

 

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Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing

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Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing

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Mario Andretti arrives at the track

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Firehawk fires a T-Shirts cannon before Sunday’s race. The image below was

captured with a fisheye lens

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Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing car get’s worked on during a warmup session

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Busy pit during a qualifying race

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Pre-Race Action

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Fans wait to see the start of the race

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Fisheye lens

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Part of the fan experience was a Indy Fan Tweet up @IndyFansTweetUp

This was arranged by twitter and fans came by and gained some new followers

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This group of spokesmodels are for last year’s winner James Hinchcliffe, United Fiber & Data – you can follow them at @UFD_Racing

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The 2nd race series that was at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was the Stadium Super Trucks. On Saturday, Florida provided the race fans some severe weather. So much so that the officials ordered the grandstands evacuated and the races were postponed for 3 hours. The Pirelli World Challenge Saturday’s race was cancelled, but the Super Trucks took on the streets during the rain.

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After Saturday’s race the Super Trucks winners came by the media center for Q & As. They described the track as being the wettest they ever raced on, but lots of fun!   As rain and photography equipment does not pair very well, I elected not to capture this race as I knew they were racing on Sunday. Here are some of the photos from Sunday’s race.

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2013 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner, James Hinchcliffe @Hinchtown, attends the plaque ceremony.  Below Mayor Rick Kriseman and

Tim Ramsberger, President, Grand Prix of St. Petersburg pose for a photo op.

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Drivers Start your engines. Let the race begin!

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Turn 3

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Will Power, wins the race – Final Lap turn 10 !!!

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The winners of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg take the podium

Will Power – 1st

Ryan Hunter-Reay – 2nd

Helio Castroneves – 3rd

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D.T. Minich, Executive Director, Visit St. Pete Clearwater and Helio Castroneves

 

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Ryan Hunter-Reay and St. Pete Mayor Mayor Rick Kriseman

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Will Power – media interviews inside the Mahaffey Theater

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