The Art Of Darkness

I used to be afraid of the dark when I was a young boy, but now I prefer the dark, especially when photographing cars. There is no better way to have the ultimate control over light and the way it enters your camera. That is why I love endurance races. I can take my time and chase the light at my own pace.

Race day started pretty normally. After shooting the start I moved down a few corners to snap some photos as I had not seen all of the cars in the race yet.

I began to make my way back to the media center to dump my cards, but I made sure to stop along at some nice shooting locations along the way.

It was fairly hot so I was just wearing a T-shirt. It seemed like the locals as well as the official photographers praised the hot weather. All I wanted was some rain! I rarely ever get to shoot photos in the rain.

I should be more careful for what I wish for, as the rain clouds started to move in.

It was still dry, but soon there was a nice even cloud cover.

By the time I reached Eau Rouge, I had a feeling I wouldn’t have dry socks for much longer.

As I stepped foot on the base of the famous corner the skies opened up and it started to pour down.

Within minutes I was ankle-deep in water. A large puddle gathered on the track completely covering the candy stripes.

I felt like I was in high school again waiting for the bus, as oblivious drivers splashed water all over me. Except this time I was armed with light-capturing devices.

It rained so hard that it looked like the race track was covered in snow.

I figured this would be a great opportunity to get some cool rain shots,so I went right back to were I started my day.

Around this time is when the number one and two WRT Audi R8s were battling it out for first and third places. The rain was slowing everyone down, but the battles were getting very intense.

The rain let up a bit which allowed me to move the rest of the way, as I had got stuck on the straight-away.

Finally, I arrived at the corner I started at: Les Combes. Except this time it was not so bright and sunny. Just the way I like it.

It is just so incredibly cool how big of a rooster tail these guys kick up going down the straight-away.

The mist of rain-water seemed to linger around forever as the non-stop stream of racecars come through.

Soon the number one Audi driven by Stéphane Ortelli was leading the race.

It was still too early to tell what the outcome would be, but it is a good sign if your team is in first place.

The rain let up a bit more and the drivers started to push it.

Check out that awesome pressure wave on the nose of this McLaren MP4-12C.

As night fell I had more and more energy as I was looking forward to capturing what little light was available.

Spa Francorchamps has this mystical beauty, partly due to a constant mist of moisture in the air. I’m talking real beauty, not some plastic bag getting blown around in the wind.

Around this time is when the crazies come out. Joyful race fans fueled by alcohol is always a fun sight.

This is also around the time when photographers bust out the flashes. I caught this photo right when that guy was shooting. Thanks Mr Flashman!

I do prefer shooting with available light, which in this case were the headlights on the cars following my subject.

And then of course there are the long exposures. I guess some guys just want to enjoy the sights and sounds of race cars at 3am in the morning alone.

I don’t blame that guy. Everything is so isolated at night and all you can really see are these awesome machines flying by.

The track started to dry at this point, so I decided to make the hike back to the media center as I was sure everyone was wondering if I drowned in the downpour.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Spa Francorchamps is the most visually appealing track I’ve ever been to. It also draws in a very enthusiastic crowd of motorsports fans. Everything from the atmosphere to the on-track action is amazing.

Larry Chen

larry@dev.speedhunters.com

More stories from the 24 hours of Spa on Speedhunters

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61 comments
Aram
Aram

HI Larry, great shots!!

 

I actually made a "random" picture of the internet my desktop for the first time! ( The one with car lights behind the trees exposing the rays.)

Brilliant picture that captures Spa very well. :-)

 

Did you know that the area that Spa is located was actually part of the famous Battle of the bulge in the 2nd world war?

Some heavy fighting went on there and still much evidence in found the area, including a German King tiger tank in a nearby village.

 

Did you also know the 'L eau Rouge is actually only the bottom part of that famous corner (the top part beeing Raidillon) and named after the small river that runs underneath it?

The ground on the riverbeds is red of color, from which the name comes, 'L eau = water -- Rouge = red.

 

Maybe some little facts you didn't know that makes a special track even more special. :-)

 

Kind regards,

 

Aram.

 

jinchen
jinchen

Larry, I am just so proud of you!

Tazbert
Tazbert

Larry, fabulous work. And nice to get a viewpoint of the race from someone like yourself. That opening shot is just stunning. I like shooting with available light myself, but suffice to say I've never quite got anything like you have here! Haha! :)

 

Top stuff!

 

 

SteveHaubourdyn
SteveHaubourdyn

Pure ART guys i know the track and i know how hard it is to get a good shot!!

Respect for your pics!!

BIGDAVEHAS30INDOORCATS
BIGDAVEHAS30INDOORCATS

This is an amazing report. I think Larry does best when hes set free to roam an event and do as he pleases. Great stuff!

CherylTay
CherylTay

Hello on behalf of the fans from Formula Drift Asia! Thank you for being an inspiration to the sport with your wonderful work:) Hope to see you at one of the FD Asia events, soon. 

Bohan
Bohan

rain is definitely my favorite. good stuff

Nelson Ayra
Nelson Ayra

These pictures just took everything to a new level!

 

For people like me that are new to motorsports photography and are still learning, who are some photographers that you look up to and some that everyone should recognize because of their style (for example Garry Winogrand for street photography)?

 

StigTvergrov
StigTvergrov

Larry, I envy and salute you at the same time. You are so amazingly talented with the camera, and you are giving me both dreams and nightmares about becoming as good as you! I can only hope that I will someday be at half of your level! Thanks for a good read, amazing pictures and something to strive for :)

Baljit Singh
Baljit Singh

Wow Larry. These are some beautiful captures! Lovely tones and epic shadow play.. By far some of my favourite shots. It's these kind of shots I want to see more off. Photos with atmosphere and depth. Like your actually there.

bmw325_num99
bmw325_num99

Wow, simply amazing pictures throughout.  Excellent job.  Wish I could have been there!

sys
sys

Yep, these are some amazing shots.  Love the orange/black MP4-12C side shot w/ the flame + aero mist going over the hood.  Amazing!  Makes me want to get out to a race and shoot!

mdmachado2
mdmachado2

...... I dont know what to say. The best sequence of photos I've ever seen. What camera are you using? and what lens are you using for the longer shots? I too would love to learn your secrets.

Tony
Tony

Awesome photography!!

ding0tr0n
ding0tr0n

qualifying had me thinking this might be a rare, dry 24 hrs of spa.  but no of course not how silly of me.

weasel
weasel

I sure hope Speedhunters pays you well for this talent, Larry.

TJ Keon
TJ Keon

Larry that's one of the most captivating shots i've seen from you yet!  AMAZING

Gvk
Gvk

Amazing photos!

MontyTotten
MontyTotten

 @Larry Chen Your captures seriously have me itching with anticipation for Petit Le Mans this year as it is the ALMS/road racing event closest to me geographically and in my heart. I've been going for years now. In 2009 I woke up for the event in a tent outside 10a&b on my air mattress just  like any other year except due the torrential downpour in the early morning hours, it was floating in about a foot of water. For the first time in Petit history, the race, four hours after it started, was stopped of account monsoon like weather, of which I spend the entirety attempting to pack Georgia wet clay cladded coolers, pop-up tent, tent, coleman chairs and lanterns back into a borrowed Mini Cooper S, which inevitably got stuck the second I let the clutch out in reverse to back onto the access road to leave the track. I have a total of zero pictures of my own to show for being there, (the only ones taken were of me soaking wet in my boxers and covered in mud from falling down attempting to pull the waterlogged tent up the hill to the car, by a friend), none of the cars, none of their fiery exhausts and no red hot calipers as I had captured in previous and subsequent years. However, it was one of the most memorable trips to Road Atlanta I've ever made, even though it was the most infuriating at the time. I guess the whole moral of the story is, never let wet socks, and muddy boxers in my case, deter you from attending an endurance race with a less than ideal forecast. That and always keep your electronics on the high side of the tent. Otherwise my Canon T1i and MacBook Pro would have been toast. And don't bring a Mini, ever. Love the American Beauty reference by the way. 

KiwiMotoring
KiwiMotoring

The photo above this comment is unbelievable (and is now my desktop):"By the time I reached Eau Rouge, I had a feeling I wouldn’t have dry socks for much longer."What are the lines flowing upwards in the 2nd to last image?  

R3d Baron
R3d Baron

Beautiful photos Larry.  The first shot in the post is incredible.

yanesnyawai
yanesnyawai

Fantastic! Nuffsaid. Now I get the point of using high-end camera.

Bradders
Bradders

Great photos. I know the McLarens are pretty fast, but I didn't realise they went trans-sonic ;) Lol. That's no pressure wave, it's just the spray being picked up by the air flow over the car.

DasWauto
DasWauto

Fantastic pictures. They bring back fond memories and make me long to be at Spa again. I went to the F1 race last year and it is a magical place to be. So beautiful and an amazing track. 

 

It pales in comparison to the Speedhunters shots but here is a picture I took (from behind the fence with a mediocre point and shoot) during qualifying last year: http://i.imgur.com/uWI9Q.jpg

Nikhil_P
Nikhil_P

awesome stuff!! love your pictures Larry!!

 

is there a chance that we can have a button on the bottom of all the desktops that would save all the desktops in that particular post, rather than saving each individual one...?! Just a thought...! Thanks anyways!

zz
zz

I really think you guys should do posts on how to photography cars in various ways, such as night, day, angles and composition, how you meter and lesnes you use, although to say its all about discovering how to do this on your own, I think posts like that would be awesome still!.As a photography, and one who does not have a racetrack anywhere close by, these photos are jaw dropping, especially the second photo with the Ferraris!  

AlexanderEvensen
AlexanderEvensen

Fantastic photographs as usual :) Several went into my rotation folder for desktop backgrounds :) Great work!

EricSeanDelaney
EricSeanDelaney

Damn. Every rain picture is amazing, and that tree shot with the rays. Wow.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @Nelson Ayra The weird thing is I don't look up to any motorsports photographers. I mostly look up to news photographers. The guys who work for Reuters and AP. The guys who put their life on the line for the shot. What I am doing is nothing compared to those embedded war photographers.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @StigTvergrov Thanks for the kind words. All of you Speedhunters out there should just have fun with it and not worry about how your photos come out. Just know that you took it and had fun hunting for that speed.

 

Honestly that is all I do, being soaked on the side of a race track with all my camera gear just makes me the happiest person in the world.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @Baljit Singh Awesome, glad you liked them. I will try to do more artsy fartsy stuff.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

Your telling me, I was soaked to my underwear.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @Bradders I am pretty sure I heard a sonic boom as I was shooting that photo.

MikeChen121
MikeChen121

 @DasWauto Hey bud, that's actually a pretty cool picture. With better focus on your subject and colour correction it'd be a very nice desktop indeed. 

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

That is a great idea. Hopefully I can do something like that this race season.

StigTvergrov
StigTvergrov

 @Larry Chen

 I can totally agree on that, Larry. I once was at the old Rudskogen track in Norway, in a downpour I have never since seen the likes of, shooting some GT Racing. The race got canceled after a while, but it was so fun while it lasted. Such a shame that we don't have night races here, because it looks like tons of fun. I don't mean to spam, but it would be an honor if you'd take a quick look at my stuff on my facebook page :)facebook.com/tvergrovphotography

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @MontyTotten Amazing story. It sucks that the only photos you have are ones of you with dookie on your boxers.

DasWauto
DasWauto

 @MikeChen121 Thanks. Apart from the image quality I though it was a pretty good shot too. Before the next F1 race I attend I will get myself a DSLR and some practice. I don't aspire to be a serious photographer but definitely wouldn't mind coming away with some nice shots from a trip like that. 

Larry Chen
Larry Chen moderator

 @StigTvergrov You got some nice ones in there. Just keep shooting, bring your camera everywhere if you have to. Hunting speed can be done anywhere.


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