Every once in a while I begin to put together a post and I realize that I really don’t have anything to say. My usual answer to that dilemma is to go ahead and publish a post anyway. So here we go.
These first three pictures are well-traveled as they have been around for a while. I believe I got 7 or 8 shots of these scuffling Bald Eagles, but I have generally showed only four of them. One image seems to be temporarily misplaced so here are the remaining three. It was a great day that brought me many cool shots.
Today’s Bald Eagle shots are of course action shots, so please indulge me while I once again take a walk into my photographic past.
I was an auto racing photographer on a regular basis from 1971-1988. I was also a photographer of almost every other subject. In 1988 I allowed my love of nature to take over, and decided that would be my primary focus of my photography, in both the pleasure and business sense. That did not mean that I no longer liked auto racing or racing photography. I continued to photograph races for publications and even had a few very busy years in the 1990s. In the late 1990s early 2000s I would to send my racing buddies to my nature photography website. Now racing photographers are a hard as#ed bunch. The language is bad, and at times they seem callus to the dangers of death and injury that existed in that sport. That is until something happened, when they would become the most giving group I ever knew. When these hardened shooters would visit my website full of birds and flowers, they were always supportive, complimentary and genuinely interested in both my photo techniques, and my subjects.
Finally in 2003 I decided to cut my racing photography out completely so I severed my ties to racing publications. That meant no press credentials and no access to where I need to be for photography. Racing is a competitive sport just like pro football, baseball, etc. and there are places where you simply can’t allow the general public, that photographers do need to be.
My absence from race tracks lasted until the next racing season. I built a car racing website, and created and printed my own press credentials. I did about three races a year through 2007 and finally gave it up completely. All of those last races were local at The Milwaukee Mile, Slinger Speedway, Hales Corners Speedway (their final event ever) Wilmot Speedway (one last race for me) Lake Geneva Raceway and Sun Prairie. At my peak during the busy earlier years I at times photographed 30 events in a season and have made pictures at over 40 different race tracks in 9 states.
The first three images below were all made during the 2000s digital era. 99% of everything I did from 1971-2001 is gone now. Lost, ruined and thrown away. I photographed very few crashes in the 2000s and that was okay with me. Those final years were not about crashes or even photography, it was about saying goodbye to a lot of good friends. The pictures that I share today are not the best of my racing photography. They are about either the tracks or the drivers in the photo. Photography (then) for publication meant you had to make good quality, but very straight forward images. The Indy Car close up picture is about as creative as they wanted. Just the same most of us kept a file of our more creative stuff, even though those images rarely saw the light of day. I did just over half of my photography at paved ovals. I love that kind of racing but dirt ovals with their sideways action and chunks of dirt flying and road courses with their left and right turns, hills and S curves etc. is where the creative juices flowed.
This first photo is (I believe) Mike Conn in a dirt late model at the final event ever held at Hales Corners Speedway.
This picture is a high-speed close-up of the late Dan Weldon at the Milwaukee Mile. Dan was a British driver and was fatally injured in las Vegas at the final Indy Car race of the 2011 season. Racing has become so much safer in my lifetime that it barely remains the same sport. Dan’s death was one of the very few to happen at major tracks in the last decade. I was going to races with my father when I was 3 years old and I cannot remember all of the deaths I have seen in that time. I have photographed two drivers dying and I refused (always did) to release photos of the actual crash when it resulted in death or permanent injuries. When I see a race on TV today it is much easier to watch. I am eternally grateful that car racing is no longer a death sport. Just the same while I am ashamed to admit it, when the danger was diminished, racing lost something for me.
The five photos below were made at Slinger Speedway. I first shot at Slinger at the age of 19 in 1971. My last race there was in 2003. In 1971/1972 I lived either in Slinger or near-by Hartford. Slinger was first a dirt track with weekly racing of open wheel modified stock cars. It became a high banked asphalt stock car track and I always enjoyed shooting there regardless of the surface or what kind of cars raced there.
I truly need to explain the b&w images you see below. They were copied with my digital camera. I found those prints stuck (literally) in the back of an old magazine. They were cracked, yellow, water stained and so on. My digital copies after some software work could still not make a quality, highly viewable image, so I am showing them small and with more flaws than I would normally show. They are historic in nature and that is why I am sharing them.
2003 or 2004 at the spring twin 75s.
During the one of the 1990s Miller Nationals. The late and very famous Dale Earnhardt Sr. #8 and Johnny Ziegler #93.
Same race. NASCAR star Ernie Irvin #4 and Scott Hansen #53.
Auto racers do something that is unique in the sports world. Remember these guys make tens of millions of dollars per year. Can you picture Aaron Rodgers having the day off and showing up to play quarterback with the semi pro team in your town? How about Ryan Braun agreeing to play baseball at the single A baseball team 30 miles away because he loves the game? Millionaire racers have in the past and still do, show up at the little track down the street, and compete to win. Wisconsin’s Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch are just a few millionaires who do this every year.
These were taken in 1971 or 1972.
The great dirt modified ace, and car builder Billy Johnson. Take note of the open face crash helmet. Billy’s driving suit is a tee-shirt. All this in a pretty dangerous car, with a 1959 Cadillac station wagon for an ambulance.
Wally Jors after winning the modified feature.
I covered races sanctioned by NASCAR, USAC (sprint, stock car, Indy Car, midget, Silvercrown and more) , ARCA, World of Outlaws, Sports Car Club of America, IRL (Indy Cars), CART (Indy Cars), Badger Midgets (small cars not “little people”), ASA, Artgo, All Star Sprints and on and on.
From Bristol Tennessee to Indianapolis, and from Knoxville Iowa to Winchester Indiana it was a wild trip.
I was the track photographer at Englewood Speedway in Colorado and shot pretty regular at Wilmot Speedway in Wisconsin for over 10 years. I also shot weekly for a short while at the Wisconsin Dells Motor Speedway. Badger Midgets (not the wild animal or small people) at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 2007 was my final race.
This list is just the names of some of the publications that I carried press credentials for over the years.
National Speed Sport News
Midwest Racing News
The Checkered Flag Racing News
Stock Car Racing Magazine
Open Wheel magazine,
Auto Racing Magazine
Hawkeye Racing News
Speedway Photo…..this was my own web publication
Many event promoters, making photos for programs that describe the event you are at, and other publicity photos.
I appreciate your indulgence. We all have memories that separate us from the world we live in today. Thankfully I made pictures of many of those times. Always treasure your past, it is a part of who you are today.
As is often the case when I don’t have much to say, I seem to have said a lot. Back to my love affair with nature next time