Shooting the New SRT Viper TA at Laguna Seca Raceway

I was recently commissioned by SRT (Part of the Chrysler Group) to photograph their new Viper TA track car at Laguna Seca Raceway in California. The pictures were to be taken in this location to celebrate their successful attempt to regain the production car lap record at the circuit. Obviously action was important - This car is all about performance. The main shot (above) was taken mid way through the famous 'corkscrew' section of Laguna Seca - A location that presented some unusual difficulties due to its extreme downhill angle. With no time to set up a rig shot I had to resort to the traditional tracking shot. That is; we would place the Viper behind my minivan and then we would travel at the same speed over the same 'racing line' with me hanging out the back taking photos.
Yes, that's right - The mega-horsepower Viper would follow my soccer-mum minivan.
SRT selected a driver for my minivan (someone familiar with the circuit) and off we went. Now, there are different forces placed on an occupant depending on how one is seated in the minivan. The driver is seated and belted-in and subject to little displacement in corners. However the photographer (me) lying in the back tends to roll about like the unsupported baggage he really is. Of course this is made worse by the angle of the corner and the speed one is traveling at. The corkscrew is steeply downhill and fast - And, the racing line involves traveling over the raised inner curb. A bumpy ride to say the least!
On our first pass through the corkscrew I just remember being pushed downwards by the 'G' forces and then rattled by the curbs stepped surface. The camera was bashing my face and I was in danger of having 'Canon' stamped permanently on my forehead. And, no more than 3 feet behind me, was a bright orange Viper ready to gobble me up if I slipped.
It took a while to get my positioning right and great discipline from the respective drivers but, eventually we were able to work out a line which would allow me to get the shot I needed and at a 1/60th of a second shutter speed to emphasize the 'speed-blur'. I would liked to have used a 1/15th of a second or less but it was just impossible to absorb the shake at any slower shutter speed in these circumstances. Even using the excellent stabilizer in Canon's wide-angle zoom lens - Which normally gives two extra 'stops'.
Anyway - I think the final photo turned out to be our 'money shot' and gives a new perspective on Laguna Seca's famous 'corkscrew'.
I include two other (rather easier to accomplish) images below.



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