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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

In the Photographer Zone

By Ron Dilley

Ron was in the Zone when he got this photo of Tony Schumacher in late 2000. Photo by Ron Dilley
Ron was in the Zone when he got this photo of Tony Schumacher in late 2000.
Photo by Ron Dilley

You've read those 'in the zone' stories. Morgan has a great one at www.motorsportsunderground.com. (That'll be $6 for the plug, James!)

Anyway, you can get in the zone at the fence also. For example this pic here. Busy as I was talking with my fencemates from Rochester, NY, I didn't bother with the view of the burnout from 753' down track. Plus all previous photographs from this session were shot at the same on track location with plenty of back light from a blazing sun, so no camera adjustments would be necessary. 

Until a cold chill creeped up my spine hinting the sun took an Olympic high dive behind a massive cloud front. Due to the cloud cover, I now needed to remove the 100 ASA film from the Minolta and replace it with 400 ASA, make a few minor adjustments and turn my cap around. A Clint Eastwood sideward glance with a slight squint of the eyes revealed Schumacher just staged! T minus 3.2 seconds and counting... 

Give or take a quarter of a second, here is where time pert near stood still. With the resolve, determination, and the multi-functioning skill level of the High Plains Drifter, I got kinda busy leaving one eye pointed to the starting line in hopes that mental telepathy would give me an extra 1.3 seconds to locate a mini-cigar and make a long swipe with the wood match up the fence post just for effects.

With the camera back open and the 100 ASA roll about to fall out, the driver opposite Tony staged. Deftly snagging another roll from the holster, thumb flipping off the lid while depositing the roll into my palm and in one smooth motion the continuity of the action ceased when noticing the retrieved film was 200 ASA. Breathe in... exhale slowly, yea, we'll get this shot yet.

Rick Steward obviously wasn't aware of my predicament since he unceremoniously flipped the switch. The dragsters lurched forward in silence as I calmly handled the task of exploring that dang pouch for a roll of 400 ASA. Come on fingers, there are three rolls of unused 400 ASA and six other rolls. The next roll uncapped revealed it didn't have a film leader... Shoe still hooked up at 60'. Closing my eyes as I thrust my hand back into the zippered opening of the bulging pouch, using my fingers to weight an unused roll I counted on the force to produce. Schumacher on record run at 178'. Confident of the canister my fingers grasped, this cap was launched over the fence as the film roll propelled upwards; Army digger at 259'; the film leader was snagged in mid flight and the roll slammed into the camera back with the heel of my hand, the leader locked in position and the film advance lever cranked twice as the camera back was about to snap in place I noticed without surprise '400 ASA.'

One quick glance placed Shoe at the 330' clocks with the Goodyears on the rise. A few adjustments to go! Depressing a small black button to change from 100 to 400. Check! Camera on? Check! Army Hummer hauling butt at 477'. Shutter speed changed to 1/500th of a second. Check! Schumacher is passing the first cone at half-track!! F-Stop... just move it the opposite of where it's at, time is a wee bit short. Setting the zoom on 150 mm as the camera rose to my eye, I had about 57' left to perfect the pan. Cool!! Tony glanced over, waved and musta sensed something amiss so he shut off the Army Hummer just as I clicked (later Tony stated he wanted to allow me an extra 1/2500ths of a second to achieve a better shot). But, I was in the zone, dude! I could've bagged a dove with a slingshot at 72 paces. Ahhhhhhhh, shot is blurred... wasted... 

Despondent, I dejectedly snatched my pack of Marlboro Lights and absent-mindedly lit the filter. %$#&! So now that I had entered another zone, I also went ahead and kicked over my drink. 



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