NHRA NASCAR IMSA PWC CCS MotoAmerica Stock PhotographerIn the world of motorsports photography a couple of things set certain photographers a cut above the rest. One of the first things you’ll notice about great racing photographers is that they have the uncanny ability to capture the defining moments in any speed contest. This is not serendipity at work here. It is opportunity and preparedness coming together at the same time. Take this shot for example. This is renowned NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force leaving the starting line during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series New England Nationals. This car will accelerate from zero to almost 340 MPH in under four seconds. These 10,000 HP nitro methane burning monsters leave the starting line so quickly that, as a photographer, you have less than one second to capture this image. The flames coming out of the exhaust pipes on the side of the car indicates that the car has "launched" (The green light has come on and the race has started). Less than 1 second later the camera will be past my camera. How soon the driver moves after the light turns green is known as their reaction time. It is measured in 1/1,000’s of a second and is often the deciding factor in whether one driver or the opponent wins the race. I like to think that in order to capture images such as this one I, as the photographer, must have an equal or better reaction time to capture images like this one. Capturing defining moments in motorsports is a matter of careful planning ahead of time. Before I head out to any racing venue I study track maps and watch broadcast and amateur videos of prior races at the track. I decide ahead of time where I need to position myself trackside to increase my chances of capturing those decisive moments in racing. Furthermore, I have thorough knowledge of the racing series I am covering. I know who the drivers and riders are. I know what teams they are affiliated with. I know who their team sponsors are. I also know where they stand in the series points race and know which drivers/riders are likely to perform well, which ones will be running a race with some reserved caution and which one’s will be riding/driving all out in an effort to improve their positions in the overall point standings in their racing series. Being a well prepared and knowledgeable photographer makes capturing the defining moments in motorsports all but routine.