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Sun, 07 Jan 2018, 19:02 PM

Creatures of the Night Part IV
By Steve Reyes
Photo copyright 2018 Steve Reyes

Here is the final segment of "Creatures of the Night". This part features a different array of drag racer's doin' it after dark. Quite a few of the photos featured are "flame shots" taken with the camera mounted on a tri-pod. To get the best "flame shots" took skill and a lot of luck. The skill would be figuring out the starting line light sources and how they light up your subject. The luck portion was hoping that the car you're shooting stages first, taking a deep breath, shutting out the roar of the engines and pushing the shutter all at the right time.

If I was shooting color slide film there was no room for error, the exposure had to be right on. There were no do-overs or fixing an under-exposed or over-exposed slide, it was just junk. It was not like today's hand-held computers (a.k.a. digital cameras). Those things do everything but wipe your nose. Also, these time exposure photographs pleased many a promoter by showing the size of the crowd and all those signs that featured sponsors of the race track.

The flame shot time exposure is a lost art. With the different way that nitro burning engines are set up in this modern era there are no real flames present when the cars stage, so no cool flames to shoot. Like many other things in drag racing, it's just another lost part of drag racing that is gone forever.

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Yes, the lower-class racers looked just as cool with a combination of film speed,
f-stop, shutter speed and length of lens. Fred Badburg's A/SR was caught
charging off the Lions drag strip starting line in 1972.

Elmer Snyder blasted off from the Fremont, California, starting line in 1967.
This was black and white film shot at 1600 a.s.a. with just the starting line lights.
In 1972, it was controlled chaos on film at Lions Drag strip. Bob Noice exploded
from the starting line with the Brissette and Noice Avengers top fuel dragster.
The shot was taken with color slide film rated at 640 a.s.a., with a long lens,
slow shutter speed and one-third power on the strobe.

We were at the 1969 Grand Prix of Drag Racing at Irwindale, California, when top fuel
winner Carl Olson took his turn down the quarter-mile. Carl was piloting Jack Ewell's
AA/FD with huge flames belching from the Ewell 426 Hemi. Nothing like a top fuel
flame shot Irwindale.

Both of these are from 1973: the California Charger top fuel dragster with Jake Johnston
driving at OCIR; then at Englishtown, New Jersey, we found Vic Brown in the Creitz and Dill
top fuel dragster. Jake's photo was a simple pan shot with available light, of course.
The Creitz and Dill flame shot was planned to show the crowd at the Summernationals.
It was a tough exposure but it came out okay.

Another pair of time exposures to show the crowd and "feeling of the moment" were
John Wiebe vs. James Warren at Lions Last Drag race in 1972 and Don Prudhomme with
his Feather top fuel dragster at the 1973 PDA race. Different light sources produced
great affects and brought out the crowd and feel of the race.

Some cockpit action from Walt Rhoades driving the Safeway Sandblasting top fuel dragster
at Lions in 1972 is illustrated in this artsy photo. Back engine fuel cars gave me a different
type of action shot to capture on film at night.

Jet cars have to be some of the most difficult cars to photograph at night. Yes, they
are cars that have their very own bright light source coming out of their tail pipe.
Both of these photos were just playing around with film and the light from the
engine tail pipe. The jet funny cars of Roger Gustin came out okay but I really like
the whole effect of Scott Hammack's Smoke and Thunder jet dragster at night.

Doug Rose and his Green Mamba jet dragster looked very cool in available light
form the OCIR tower roof; no flash, just the light from the engine.

Late Saturday night at Dallas, Texas, in 1971 and Don Garlits staged his then new rear
engine dragster. Garlits was going for low ET and wanted to upstage Kansas John Wiebe
who just set low ET for the meet. With the crowd on its feet, Garlits blasted down the
Dallas quarter-mile for low ET honors. This photo just has a great feel to it.

Bob Bommarito was captured piloting the Bommarito, McKinney and Kalb top fuel
dragster at Irwindale, California, in 1973. This photo was shot with available light.

This would be considered a very radical pan photo of James Warren at OCIR.
Why this style of photo? Because a lot of times, magazine art directors liked an
"artsy" two-page spread to drop other photos into for wild coverage of a certain event.
When shooting at the races, I had to always keep in mind what an art director may
like or want. You could have taken the coolest photo ever but if it doesn't fit the
format of the magazine, the art director would reject it. I learned this very early in my career.

Having fun with funny cars at night, Tom McEwen and his Hot Wheels Duster staged at Tulsa,
Oklahoma, in 1972. It was a nice available light exposure from a tri-pod. The Dunn and Reath
Satellite pan shot at OCIR turned the starting line crew into "ghosts".

Wheel standers can be very colorful at night. With sparks flying, Jack Ermantrout put
his Hemi-Under-Glass through its paces down the 1320.

NHRA: 10 Most Recent Entries [ top ]

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Apr 22- HOUSTON - Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Championship Points
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Apr 22- HOUSTON - Sunday Wrap Up
Apr 22- HOUSTON - Summary of Eliminations in Top Fuel
Apr 22- HOUSTON - Summary of Eliminations in Funny Car
Apr 22- HOUSTON - Summary of Eliminations in Pro Stock
Apr 22- HOUSTON - Summary of Eliminations in Pro Modified
Apr 22- HOUSTON - Summary of Eliminations in Top Fuel Harley

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