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New Years Double Header

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New Years Double Header

For the second year in a row I got the stupid idea to pull a double header on New Year’s Eve.  In 2008 it was the MDR Bud Light Dash and Rhys Millen’s truck backflip attempt at Red Bull New Year No Limits.   2009 would be very similar.  I started the day shooting the MDR Bud Light Dash again in Plaster City, CA and finished the day 200 miles away in Long Beach, CA for Travis Pastrana’s rally car jump into Rainbow Harbor at Red Bull New Year’s No Limits.

The day before the events I drove out to Plaster City and jumped on course to do some prerunning and scout my photo locations for the race the next day.  Shooting at Plaster City is a double edged sword.  There are many great photo locations and you can simply make a beeline across the desert to get between spots.  It’s also an open course for spectators and that means wherever you are that a spectator will either park or stand in your shot.  While frustrating its also part of the job that you have to deal with.

The day started for me at 6AM and getting on course I started on a small jump for lap one and shot all of the racers.  The approach to the jump was a long straight which gave me a nice wide shot as well.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/500th, ND Filter.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/400th, ND Filter.

Then the drivers hit the jump

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/500th, ND Filter.

After the jump there was a nice scenic shot with the mountains.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/400th, ND Filter.

From there I moved over to a small hill with a siltbed.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 24-70mm, f7.1, 1/400th.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 24-70mm, f6.3, 1/640th.

Next was a kicker jump as the course crossed a wash

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 24-70mm, f5, 1/400th.

By moving around the area I was able to get a few different looks on the same jump.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 24-70mm, f7.1, 1/500th.

My final spot was a nice jump where I got a great crash last year.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 70-200, f2.8, 1/800th, ND filter.

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Nikon D700, ISO200, 70-200, f2.8, 1/500th, ND filter.

With the drive ahead I left the Dash a bit early to head to Long Beach.  I checked into my room down the street then drove over to  the venue.  I had pre-purchased parking online from the city but after circling the block for 30 minutes I concluded that the lot did not exist.  Thanks Long Beach.

I did not know the shooting locations or the layout of the jump area, access to remotes and other factors so I brought everything but the kitchen sink so I would be prepared for anything.  Once I found the media tent and got checked in I went out to the venue to see where I wanted to shoot.

I immediately went to the launch ramp just to get a scope of what Pastrana was going to attempt.

View from the lip of the launch ramp.

View from the lip of the launch ramp.

Nikon D700, ISO1600, 14-24mm, f2.8, 1/250th.

The red line shows Pastrana’s path from Pine Ave and over the water.  The red box is the landing barge.  I know, I have mad paint skills.

map

See the area on Goggle Maps

I decided to shoot from the Island to the West of the barge.  My Coworker Andrew Webber would shoot from the East side.  After inspecting the ramp I thought it would be perfect to mount a remote and get an away shot of the car flying over the water.  Also if Pastrana came up short it would be a good angle of his car crashing into the landing ramp.  I wanted to do the same on the landing ramp.

I made the mistake of asking permission instead of forgiveness and was denied.  No remotes anywhere on either ramp or on the walls leading up to the ramp.  Crap.  Well this kind of shit happens, so move on.

The rally cars (yes there were two) were on display next to the media center and I went over to get some pre jump shots of them and some general feature stuff around the area.

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Nikon D700, ISO640, 16mmFE, f5.6, 1/320th.

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Nikon D700, ISO640, 16mmFE, f5.6, 1/320th.

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Nikon D700, ISO640, 16mmFE, f2.8, 1/250th.

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Nikon D700, ISO640, 16mmFE, f3.5, 1/320th.

I have always loved the jackstands used in rally racing.  So simple yet effective.

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Nikon D700, ISO640, 16mmFE, f2.8, 1/320th.

I went back to the launch ramp to get some more shots.  Since I had some time to kill I got a shot of myself as well.

Me!

Me on the lip of the launch ramp

Nikon D700, ISO1600, 14-24mm, f5, 1/250th, SB900.

The Lighthouse on the island

The Lighthouse on the island

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, ISO1600, f2.8, 1/250th.

Crowds fill the island.

Crowds fill the island.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, ISO1600, f2.8, 1/250th.

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Nikon D700, 24-70mm, ISO1600, f2.8, 1/250th.

I also managed to catch Travis as he was walking to inspect the ramp.

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Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO1600, f5, 1/250th, SB900.

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Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO1600, f4.5, 1/250th, SB900.

I went back to the media area to transmit some pregame photos.  I then grabbed the rest of my gear and walked out to Shoreline Aquatic Park on the island to setup for the main event.

The crowds were huge in anticipation of the jump.

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Nikon D700, ISO3200, 14-24mm, f2.8, 1/250th.

I happened to make that shot as the ESPN Jib camera was flying over head.  This is a bad picture of my TV.

Me on ESPN

Me on ESPN

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I would be shooting the jump handheld a 70-200 with my 400 at the ready for when Travis got out of his car after the jump.  I also setup a second camera on a tripod in front of me with a 24-70 and a Pocket wizard remote so I could string them together later for a nice composite shot of the jump.

Travis was scheduled to do several warmup runs down the ramp but after a single run he went for it.  .  He hammered the throttle to unleash 400 horsepower, accelerating to 93mph in fourth gear and launched himself into the night sky and across Rainbow Harbor in front of more than 20,000 spectators.

After flying over 220 feet of water Travis hit the landing ramp on the barge front first, applied the brakes and shortly after slid the car sideways and into the water barrier and catch fence at the end of the short barge with a violent impact.  He immediately climbed from the car and jogged to the top of the landing ramp, 40 feet above the water, celebrating with fist pumps and screams of joy.  In the midst of the celebration he looked over the edge of the ramp at the water with a mischievous grin.  Travis backed up several feet and capped off the new world record jump in style with a backflip off of the ramp, landing in the water.  Rescue workers fished him out of the drink and onto a waiting boat for interviews with ESPN.

His official distance was 269 feet shattering Ken Block’s previous record of 171 feet.  “I was really nervous all day long, but when I got in the car I felt really calm,” said Pastrana. “It was definitely a lot more fun than any of my practice runs, and when I landed, man did that retaining wall come up fast! I’m just happy the car and I didn’t end up in the drink. What a way to head into 2010!”

A note on the composite shot.  I shot it at 7fps but should have slowed it down to 5 or 6.  At 7 the buffer ran out just as Travis landed so I missed the last frame and a bit more spacing between the car in frame would be cool.  But when you have one chance to nail it with no practice you take what you get.

composite

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, ISO5000, f3.5, 1/640th.  14 frames.

A single frame from the remote camera.

A single frame from the remote camera.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, ISO5000, f3.5, 1/640th.

Travis launches across the water.

Travis launches across the water.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

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Nikon D700, 70-200mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

As soon as he landed the jump he ran up the landing ramp and I grabbed the 400 to get some tighter shots of Travis celebrating.

Travis celebrates after landing.

Travis celebrates after landing.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

Here I love the rim light on his gloves.

Here I love the rim light on his gloves.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

About this time I saw him eyeing the water and knew he was going to put on a show.  Luck was with me since I was on the right side of the ramp to shoot his backflip into the water.

Travis gets a running start before backflipping off the ramp.

Travis gets a running start before backflipping off the ramp.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/800th.

Travis celebrated again after getting out of the water.

Travis celebrates after being pulled out of the water.

Travis celebrates after being pulled out of the water.

Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/640th.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/400th.

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Nikon D700, 400mm, ISO3200, f2.8, 1/320th.

I quickly walked back to the media room with all my gear to transmit some photos.  Once done around 11PM I emerged onto the streets to see the party going full swing but I was beat after a long day and two events.  I went back to the hotel, drank a beer, and promptly passed out.

The next day the landing shot ran in USA Today.

espn1

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