Alright, so I started a new blog
for my Indy 500 coverage for The News-Sentinel. The intention was that I would post photos online live from the track mixed with tidbits of news and other content. Well, that was until I got to IMS and had troubles connecting to the Media Center's Wi-Fi connection.
It was not a good start to the day. If that wasn't enough, I was denied "Over the Wall" access by the track because of security officials' efforts to pare down the number of people allowed onto pit road. On Friday, Danica Patrick hit another driver's pit crew member, who was apparently in street clothes and not actually working, causing multiple injuries to his head and neck. Security blamed extreme pedestrian congestion on pit road, so they clamped down for Saturday.
There are always a lot of people with no business on pit road wandering around, but the best thing to do is eliminate working photographers' access. We pose the real safety threat in every situation - Sarcasm intended. In any case, there were several photographers allowed on pit road, some whom I'd never seen there before. I figured it was time to plead my case.
I talked to the director of the speedway's photo staff, and luckily, he allowed me access. Without it, I was stuck behind countless fans taking pictures with their camera phones for the first round of qualifying. It is nearly impossible to cover Pole Day without this type of access. A photographer could get some pictures with just pit access, but odds of getting "the" shot" are nonexistent.
Tensions remained high, though. At one point, I dropped down to my knees to shoot a low angle photo and I was told by the head of security I couldn't kneel. I'd never heard that rule before, but I complied. After I stood up, said security person pointed me out to the photo director who shouted that I had been given a warning and the next one would result in my expulsion. I was close to the wall and behind two other people. Needless to say, I was beside myself.
Most everyone at the track kneels down to take photos, including IMS official photographers. I figure they should know if a rule exists, considering some of them have covered the race for more years than I've been alive. I went over to apologize to both individuals and explain that I had no idea such a rule existed. Then I was told I was carrying too many cameras (3), as I stood beside two other photographers who each had three cameras.
I was also told I waited in one spot for too long. I was there less than 5 minutes waiting to shoot a photo of Tony Kanaan leaving his stall. Normally, if I'd tried to move along I would have been yelled at for stepping in the way of the car. It was absolutely a no-win situation, and my explanation did nothing to diffuse it, so I cut my losses and moved along. There was not going to be any slack given on this day.This photo is one example of an image shot from the low angle approach I tried to use when I was reprimanded.
Once it was all over, I got what I needed. The trick to this job is there are ALWAYS going to be issues to overcome, it's just a matter of whether or not you get the pictures. Editors don't want to hear about access restriction, dead batteries, or any other issues that pop up. They have to justify the expense of sending a photographer when there are numerous Associated Press photographers and other wires service shooters there. The fact is I work for an afternoon newspaper in a two-paper town so I absolutely must come back with different, but equally impactful images than the AP from an event. Our morning counterparts get the first crack at wire service photos, so I work extra hard to get different images for our newspaper(hence the kneeling down episode listed above).
I regularly compete against teams of four and five shooters that have better access than I do in most cases, but I'm told I continually get the photos we need that the AP doesn't move. That alone makes my editor want to keep sending me to events despite his bosses' grumblings.
Finally, I made it to the hotel and tried to start uploading content to the new blog
when I found out the high speed internet connection there is only marginally faster than dial up. On top of that, Wordpress had been down for a ridiculously long time. So, I wrote to this blog. I'll have some photos up over there soon, so check it out when you get a chance.