What I Did on my Summer Vacation

I kept trying to find a way to break in my new WordPress-enabled site here at JCCC with some profound and inspired article. …those who know me already realize that was a doomed project from the start. Instead, I thought it might be appropriate to begin with the classic “summer vacation” paper, so here goes.

What did I do during my summer break? I took pictures. Lots and LOTS of pictures! A colleague of mine here at JCCC, Nancy Holcroft-Benson, got me started on a project to take and share at least one photo every day for the entire year. So far I’ve only missed three days since starting on Jan 14th. During the Spring semester, most of my pics were of various landscapes and macro shots from around the house. You know, sunsets, flowers, dogs looking silly, type of stuff. The real fun began the day after Graduation.

Immediately after graduation, my wife and I drove to St. Louis, picked up a long-time friend of mine, and kept heading east to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where I was afforded the opportunity by OpenPaddock.net to shoot the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race as a genuine working photographer with full access to the track, garages, and pits! Its hard to get better access, and as a life-long motorsports junkie, especially when it comes to open-wheel racing, I was in hog heaven. Needless to say, most of my PicPerDay postings were of racers and their racing machines.

Marco Andretti in the North Chute between Turns 3 and 4.
Josef Newgarden celebrates his victory in the Firestone Indy Lights race on Carburetion Day.

After getting home from Indianapolis, there wasn’t much time before we were on the road again as we headed out to yet another race, this time to the historic Milwaukee Mile. While some very dodgy stuff went down in the Firestone Indy Lights race at Milwaukee, it was still a great time and we LOVED exploring the town of Milwaukee. …alright stop laughing! It really is a pretty cool town, especially down by the lake front. We would definitely go back, but it’s not sounding like IndyCar will be. Sad, that, as the racing action there was incredible!

Dario Franchitti leads the field back to the green flag during a restart at the Milwaukee Mile

After a couple of weeks rest from the Milwaukee Mile, back into the car we piled, this time inviting our teenage niece to join us, and headed off to the Iowa Speedway. This was her first top-tier race, and her first time seeing the IndyCars in person or on TV. After seeing J.R. Hildebrand talking on stage at the IndyCar Fan Village, then seeing the cars on the track, she was completely hooked. We’ve created a monster! What was special about the Iowa event was that it was a Saturday night race. Those machines just look magnificent under the lights. Again, having a photo pass was awesome. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to get one of the critical moments of qualifying, an impromptu drivers’ meeting for the KV Racing Technologies team. Tony Kaanan (right) had noticed a change in the track and quickly relayed the information Takuma Sato (center) who took full advantage of the new data and put his car on pole for the race.

Tony Kaanan brings his teammates up to speed (hehe, get it? up to.. ..ok yeah) on how the track had changed since practice.

Following the Iowa race, I finally got to rest some and my photos became more domestic in nature. I also took the opportunity of being home to try out some night sky imaging. I live quite a ways outside of town and have pretty dark skies. Because of that, I was able to get some images of the Milky Way, something that you’ll never see here in Johnson County. I was also able to get a better star trails image than I had previously. I also had fun taking photos of fireworks at our annual Blow-Stuff-Up party. Yes, I used the G-rated name rather than our more often used name for our party.

Star trails seen over my neighbor's corn field.
An aerial bomb at our annual Independence Day celebration.

Intent on one last motorsports fling before the end of the summer, we ventured east to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to watch the American LeMans Series and the IZOD IndyCar Series make their way up and down the hilly and twisty Mid-Ohio circuit. One of the nice things about working a road circuit as opposed to an oval is that I was able to work much closer to my wife. At an oval, she was often up in the grandstands while I was down in the pits. At Mid-Ohio her and my dad were able to set up their lawn chairs right across the fence from the network of corners I was working, The Esses for those who are familiar with the circuit. I even got the opportunity to sit down with them and enjoy being a regular fan during some of the support races. One of the cool things about the IndyCars sharing the weekend with ALMS is that we got to see many different and very exotic and cool cars in addition to the IndyCars. One of my favs is the Ford GT. Its just looks cool, and sounds cool!

The Roberson Racing Ford GT cresting Turn 5 in the Esses at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

So that was it. Vacation over. I’m very happy for the beginning of the semester as it represents an opportunity for me to take a break from my vacation! That said, what a vacation it was. I’ve never had better access to motorsports than I have this past summer. It was great fun, but I worked hard to be as professional in my actions as the series regulars and to seek out their advice and wisdom. I’m glad that I don’t have to do motorsports photography for a living, however. When your rent relies on your getting the good shots and having them up on a server ASAP, it creates a LOT of stress. I’m quite content to work through the small-time operation at OpenPaddock.net where we’re not as concerned with immediate dissemination as a larger outlet would be.

This was a long-winded post, I know. Believe my, my fingers know! While future posts will likely involve more talk about astronomy, motorsports, and photography, hopefully they won’t be as lengthy.

3 thoughts on “What I Did on my Summer Vacation”

  1. Well you have greatly utilized this summer and may god give you the opportunity to do better than last time. Which speedway is this? We are enjoying NASCAR series over here. Thanks for share?

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