Eldora Speedway – Rossburg, OH

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Eldora Speedway – Rossburg, OH, originally uploaded by capwell.

For the last three years, my father (who lives in Bethlehem) and yours truly (who does not) have met up in a field just north of Rossburg, Ohio for the 4 Crown Nationals, a weekend of dirt track racing held annually each fall at the short track of all short tracks, Eldora Speedway.

My father and I have shared racing the way most stereotypical dads and their sons might share fishing, or going to baseball games (though we have done plenty of that, almost exclusively at Shea Stadium, may it rest in peace). Every year from when I was nine to when I was twenty-three, we’d drive to Montreal for the Formula One race held there each June (or, Juin, if you want to be all French about it). This was something of an excuse to walk around the coolest city in the world, buy a lot of CDs with the incredibly weak (at the time) Canadian dollar, eat multiple meals at Ben’s (another place that has since been torn down and relegated only to the memories of my ever-crystalizing “youth”) and hang out with each other. Though, some of the greatest moments of my racing-loving life have happened in the hairpin of Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve, in particular Nigel Mansell’s final-lap breakdown and my hero, Nelson Piquet, taking the improbable/hilariously awesome victory in 1991 (this is seriously one of the top five moments of my entire life, I thought my head was going to explode I was so excited. And to see it in person – amazing!). You don’t realize things at the time very often, but looking back, those are some of the best days of my childhood – I can look back on these weekends, once a year right after school let out, and chart the course of my adolescence, for both better and worse. That’s a very specific window to have into your life as a youngster, and one that I’m more grateful to have as I get older. Though of course, at the time, nothing makes you feel like more of a grown-up than swearing without worrying about getting in trouble, staying up late and watching foreign-language television, and always being able to order dessert, no matter what the meal. Funny what sticks out to you when you’re a kid.

But at the center of this was always the fact that we both really, really love auto racing. My dad was brought up with Wide World of Sports, watching black-and-white footage of his heroes driving on tracks all over Europe, seeing tape-delayed Indy 500s, watching Daytona when it was still run on the beach, that sort of thing. And because of this, I was brought up watching live broadcasts on ESPN of F1 races, back when the WWL was half-financial news, and if you woke up early enough (a live afternoon race in western Europe means seven or eight AM here – ask anyone I’ve ever forced to watch one of these races with me, they can tell you), you could see them switch from stock reports to Bob Varsha’s lead-in for some race in an obscure locale that you knew you’d be the only one able to identify on a map at school on Monday. Seriously, who else in a fourth grade classroom can tell you where Spa-Fancorchamps is, but the one goofy racing fan?

And so this shared love affair/obsession continues today. Every year since I’ve moved to Indiana, I’ve gone to the 500, and almost every year, my dad has come out for it, too. In ’06, he came out for the two-night doubleheader at Terre Haute (best two sprint car races I’ve ever seen, with Daron Clayton taking both feature wins in heroic, albeit insane fashion), and now, since 2007, we’ve met up in Ohio for the 4 Crown. Two nights of camping, getting filthy dirty, and spending time doing nothing but talking about the things we love, it’s something I look forward to unlike most anything else in my year. Plus, the racing isn’t bad at all.

College Mall

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This is the College Mall in Bloomington tonight, out of focus, in the rain. I shot this on my Polaroid Colorpack II, on 669. Only three more exposures left of that, and then it’s Fuji FP-100c. Hope it’s as good.

My love affair with 4×5

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I somewhat lucked into my large format rig – my boss at the camera store had his Crown Graphic in the basement, and when the store closed about a year and a half ago, he basically gave it to me. I had only really puttered around with 4×5 once before, using my school’s Toyo view camera, to very… unspectacular (yes, we’ll go with that adjective) results. But so this huge, confusing machine was handed to me, with no instructions, or helpful tips (The Worst Co-worker In The World had to show me how to open the thing up, for heck’s sake – talk about embarrassing) so off I went. After a few false starts, some really terrible double exposure tragedies, and a lot of black frames, I started to find my way with this camera, and much happiness ensued.

This photo was taken inside the First Methodist Church in Gary, IN earlier this spring. Alex Lang and I were in the Chicago area for a conference, and having been here a number of times, I knew it had to be on the itinerary. Gary is something of an urban exploration mecca, with the church (site of a recent filming of the upcoming “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie), a bunch of burnt down/falling houses, an abandoned post office, and plenty of urban decay to keep semi-adventurous folks like me happily climbing around rubble and snapping pictures.

This was the first time I had taken the 4×5 into the church, and it was surprisingly easy to maneuver. A graphic camera lends itself to a portability other large format cameras do not, as it’s basically a fold-out bed where the lens rests, and a ground glass that flips open for focusing any lens other than the 135 it originally came with. The lens I used for this particular photograph was my trusty Fujinon 90mm SW, the f/8 model, which according to the internet, is the vastly inferior model and is not to be trusted with any even remotely important pictures. Having worked in a camera store for four years, I have heard about plenty of internet lens reviews, none of which have interfered with the taking, and in many cases, the sale, of many of my pictures. The only complaint I have about this lens would be when I forget to take the darkslide out of the film holder and end up missing a shot, in which case I will whine loudly to anyone around at the terrible aspects of this lens. What’s that they say about the poor craftsman?

This photo was shot on Fomapan 100, and printed on Kodak 11×14 fiber paper, the semi-matte stuff that doesn’t seem to yield any actual blacks. Still, not bad, right?

Wedding – Coplay, PA

>I’m in the midst of getting my wedding photography website set up and ready to go, and so of course I’ve been sorting through what has quickly become four summers’ worth of wedding work. In a folder inside a folder, I came across this image, which is from my FIRST wedding shoot, ever. I’d done a few assists and small ceremony kinds of things, but this was the first *real* all-day thing that I was in charge of. Needless to say, it was a bumpy ride, as anyone’s first wedding is bound to be, complete with a late limo, rain/no rain/rain/sun, questionable make-up decisions, angry women calling me “Joe” all day, and finally, the reception in a fire hall behind the old Laneco in Coplay. It was a long, strange day, but we got through it ok. I think this shot sums the whole thing up nicely.