I always feel welcomed when I visit southernmost parts of the United States. Great climate, kind and pleasant people, and a true sense of american culture. Texas, the “Lone Star State”, is the second largest in the USA. The enormous geographic area includes the Fort Worth counties, which transformed themselves from a sleepy cattle rearing territory, to a bustling metropolis representing the economic and cultural hub of North Texas.
Everything here is about scale and impact, and the Metroplex area is no exception. It’s one of only twelve American metropolitan areas that boast teams in each of the four major professional sports leagues; NFL, baseball, basketball and the National Hockey League.
And for 2018, the Lone Star State welcomes back the Red Bull Air Race to the Texas Motor Speedway for the third time, this time hosting the final season showdown. The speedway is one of the largest sports stadiums in America and, despite only opening its doors in 1997, has already garnered a reputation as ‘The Great American Speedway’. The 1.5-mile quad-oval superspeedway is famous for entertaining NASCAR fans from across the US. With the venue boasting a crowd capacity of 190,000, the Texas stop is a perfect showcase of the rich sporting culture the area boasts.
Another exciting season of the Red Bull Air Race came to an end at the Texas Motor Speedway. Czech pilot Martin Sonka took his maiden championship win in a dramatic finish. It was a fantastic season, and out of it came some iconic photos taken by me and my team at Limex images.
How do you capture the excitement of a 370 km/h motorsport in still images? Red Bull Air Race photographers are a special breed: a dedicated team with expertise built over years of shooting the three-dimensional action.
The most important part is planning carefully while staying flexible for whatever might come up. Even if we’ve been to the same stop many times, it’s always interesting, and we’re always trying to improve, like with the cameras we’ve been putting in the cockpits. That pilot’s perspective is something people can’t imagine.
Dressing in the morning, the photographers wear black or dark neutrals to avoid capturing their own reflections in photographs of shiny helmets and race planes. Getting from the hotel to the venue is the first challenge, with roughly 100kg of equipment among them. “Each of us usually brings two camera bodies, and we have a variety of lenses ranging from fisheye to 800mm – everybody typically brings five to eight lenses per event. The best is the longest one, the 800mm because you can get up close with the action even though the distances are really big. Plus we have flash heads for specific needs like portraits, the action cameras, remote controls, all kinds of accessories…”
At any given moment, one photographer will be shooting air-to-air from a helicopter while another is positioned on a boat, or very close to the racetrack if it is a ground location. Meanwhile, a third photographer is capturing the vibe in the hangars at the Race Airport, while the fourth is in public areas to get crowd shots, images of attending VIPs and more.
“We try to rotate through those positions every day, which is really helpful. Providing so many different eyes on the perspectives produces a variety of images, and we learn from each other,” Mitter remarks.