Documenting it all.

In the early planning stages of my trip, I decided I was going to document this trip in the same way I did Montreal in 2007.  For his 60th birthday, I took my dad to Montreal for the F1 race.  We took mom’s Konica Minolta point-and-shoot and took several hundred photos and a couple of videos.  Considering the age of the camera and the whopping 4MP resolution, they actually came out looking pretty good.  Almost 4 years later, I look at the pics and I’m pretty pleased with the shots I got.

Here’s Hamilton just after he crossed the finish line winning his first race.

I wish the schmuck in front of me hadn’t raised his hand at that particular moment, oh well.

About 3 years ago, based on a strong to very-strong recommendation, I bought a FujiFilm point-and-shoot.  The camera was absolutely brilliant.  It’s highest resolution was 12MP, but I was told to cut it in half and go from there.  At 6MP, the pictures were incredibly detailed, crisp, noiseless, and brilliantly colored.  It had all the bells and whistles you could want on a camera.  Sport mode, night mode, portrait mode, nature mode.  You could play with the shutter speed, shoot in black and white…it did everything.  So I originally thought I’d get another one of those for the trip.  But the more I looked, the more I wanted something bigger/badder/faster/stronger.

While at the World Series in October with Jerry, we took his Canon digital SLR with his 300MM lens.  This was the first time I’d had a chance to play with one of these new DSLR camera and a lens of this caliber.  The pictures we took were great.  That 300MM lens allowed us in the 2nd deck to zoom in all the way and capture the greatness of Josh Hamilton patrolling center field.  The best picture we took was of Mitch Moreland just after he hit his home run in Game 3.  Jerry took several copies of that picture and got Moreland to autograph them.  I’ve got one proudly hanging on the wall at home.

After playing with Jerry’s Canon, I concluded point-and-shoot just isn’t going to give me what I want, so a digital SLR is the way to go.  I start doing a considerable amount of research on DSLR cameras.  I read various reviews online, talk with friends in the know, check out Amazon and Best Buy for buyer feedback.  I spent a couple of weeks just learning everything I could learn about these cameras.  After talking with Jerry, Emily, Jack, Meredith, consulting the magic 8 ball, and flipping a coin, I finally got an e-mail from Best Buy saying they were having a sale on select DSLR cameras.  I showed Jerry the features of this particular camera and asked his opinion.  His answer: go get it.

Done.  I bought the Nikon D3100.  And it’s bloody brilliant.  14MP, full 1080P videos shot in 10-minute clips, 3″ LCD with live-view capabilities, 6 preset modes, and tons of options in the manual modes.  The full owner’s manual is 3 inches thick!  On the lowest picture quality setting, and with my 32GB memory card, I can take 3,600+ pictures!  I haven’t found it yet, but I’m pretty sure there’s a feature where I can tell it what time and it’ll make my coffee for me in the morning.

I’ve been playing with it most nights just to get the feel for it.  I’ve added a quick release mount and a mono-pod to help steady the camera.  I’ve taken tons of shots of head and tail-lights from cars streaming up and down Preston.  I’ll be adding a 55-300MM lens in the near future for those up close and personal shots.

Last weekend was the 59th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring.  An endurance race the manufacturers use as a warm up to Le Mans.  While watching the race, all I could do was wonder what shots I’ll be able to capture from the Dunlop Chicane as well as Indianapolis and Arnage corners.  Well, last week, Jalopnik had a picture that expertly captured the look and feel of Sebring.

The post goes on to thank “Old Boone” for his picture of the race winning Oreca Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and provides a link to his Flickr account.  I head over there and the shots he took are exactly what I want take in France in 73 days.  He took some impressive shots with his Nikon D7000 – a professional version of my camera.  In his “About Me” section, he talks about wanting to get his ALMS press pass so he can get even better shots.  He even invites visitors to drop him a note.  So I do just that.

I write him telling him how I found his photos and ask a few questions.  Much to my surprise he responds within an hour!  He provides some incredibly valuable information ranging from battery life to camera settings to lens info and how to properly use it all to capture “the” shot.  A 300 page manual is one thing, three paragraphs from an experienced photographer is something else entirely.  I learned more from Old Boone than the official manual and two how-to books.  It’s feedback like this from people like Old Boone that will make this trip much more successful than if I tried to get this done by myself.

To see some of Old Boone’s fine work at Sebring, go here.

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