“It’s still 2020!” – Kyle Busch (August 29, 2020)
That peculiar phrase will go down as my personal takeaway on this putrid year. I’ve been over 2020 since May and tried my hardest to carry own.
I wish I could tell you I’ve done several portrait photoshoots in the state of Washington and California, but all I got is racing and a few random scenic stuff.
Definitely not a problem since racing is one of the only things I have in life and would love to continue pursing a career beyond 2020, but I still want to step out of my comfort zone. I’m a guy that wants to tackle other types of photography to showcase my diversity.
I love telling stories where I know they’re looking at me and also show their personality at full song. Not easy with the pandemic and an extremely slim local support system, but I’m not going to give up that vision.
Genuine storytelling is why I’m enamored about doing photography as more than just an on-assignment, but a way of living.
As frustrating the year has been that’ll likely carry into a majority of 2021, I’m still content that I even have a list of 25 favorite photos from 2020.
That’s what I’m going to share right now and why those stood out over the rest I sporadically took.
Lost in the City of Angels
I had a brief chat with a dear friend of mine (who’s involved in the podcast industry) during my trip from Sacramento to Los Angeles where both of us hoped the sun will shine on a mostly cloudy late October Saturday. As you see from this picture, the sun did peak at the right time when I got to the city where I stayed for two nights. Sometimes, a story behind a shot is as important than the image itself. Why does my photo title say “lost?” I wanted to play with an Aces song called “Lost Angeles” because I felt personally lost throughout that particular month.
A Conflicting Situation
Nothing quite like a wrestling match where there’s a referee confrontation moment. During the Without A Cause (WAC) Championship match between Chris Bey (c) vs. Jeff Cobb, both distracted Kendall Marie. Storytelling at its finest! More so when the match is pretty damn good, which you can always expect out of Bey. That’s why promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and IMPACT Wrestling have featured him throughout the year.
Too Hot for the Public
Sorry folks, there’s some images you can’t see uncensored. There’s a rule during photo meetings where you can’t show exposed parts of a race car. Well, when something bizarre happens like Jeremy Clements during the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona, you can’t ignore it just as long as you blur the image for “playing it safe” purposes. I love this money shot because it’s just so odd seeing the hood gone and the roof hatch dangling around. The year before, Brad Keselowski retired from the race due to the damaged roof hatch. Clements carried on and wound up 28th.
Oh Look! An Open Wheeler!
I know I’ve trashed 2020 (Who hasn’t? Likely people who got engaged, married or had kids this year!), but at least I got some decent exposure of seeing modifieds at both New Smyrna and Kern County. I wanted to do this style of photography similar to how the top Formula One photographers do. The few style shots I took, I liked this one because you can still tell the number, but it’s focused on the driver. Exactly what I wanted to test out when there was some down time before the ARCA West hit the track. Hope I can improve and nail this style in 2021, ideally in the NTT IndyCar Series (fingers crossed).
Western Eastern Showcase
Unless I told you this is the ARCA Menards Series West, you wouldn’t known because both All American Speedway and Kern County Raceway Park (shown here) were owned by East regulars Taylor Gray (17) and Mason Diaz (25). Those two put on an amazing show with Gray scoring his maiden West victory in thrilling fashion. It’s a smaller photo because I cropped out the crap underneath for aesthetic purposes.
“Images Before Disaster” personified, but before the day that altered my life and career forever (thanks, Mother Nature!), I love this shot of the train pack at Daytona. Not a big fan of train racing, but if it creates for a neat wide shot and it’s the leader (Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.) leading the way. Then it’s not a problem by me! Too bad the clouds got darker and rain defined 2.16.20, a date that’ll live in absolute infamy.
Love At First Site
When you look at this shot, you’ll notice the box being in the way. However, I want you to note the young kid staring at Tristan Van Wieringen’s No. 30 Ford Fusion during ARCA East pre-race at New Smyrna Speedway. This is what it’s all about! Kids falling in love at the size of a simple race car. That’s the story of the photo because I’ll never forget my first time seeing a race car in person which was in Oregon (2003). Austin Cameron’s No. 16 NAPA Chevrolet (Winston West) was the car for those wondering.
Lost With My Feelings
Over the past month, my feelings for someone and other stuff like my career and personal wellbeing has kicked into high gear. I just needed time to get away from the house and spend a Friday evening at Mulkiteo. It made for a great opportunity to shoot the calm waves on a chilly “Black Friday.” I left that day calmer, but sometimes I do feel lost with my own thoughts as Bret Musburger once said back in 1986.
Bill McAnally Racing has built an empire out West for over two decades and with drivers such as Jesse Love and Gracie Trotter, the future is promising. Love went on to win the ARCA West championship this year at the tender age of 15. Trotter became the first female to win an ARCA sanctioned race at the Las Vegas Bullring in September. What I enjoy about this shot is two teammates duking it out for valuable track position. Cars are the main focus, not the background which I’ve improved drastically this year.
Florida Man During Golden Hour
I don’t know why I love this picture of some random Florida Man chilling in the stands during ARCA East qualifying. It’s just him watching cars at the Florida short track and with the time of day being golden hour, there wasn’t any hesitance and shot this image. Sometimes, life can be lonely, you know?
Full Moon Experience
Last year, I bought a lens that could go up to 600mm. One, to get greater close-ups and in sports, it’s wise to have a wider lens. Two, see how far I can go to shoot a full moon. Four times this year, I took time to shoot the moon. Some were perfect and others weren’t ideal. This one you can see all the amazing details. There’s a little trick I’ll share here, if it’s a RAW file, zoom the image a bit to get greater details. It’s what I did here. Maybe someday, I’ll search for lens that go beyond 600mm, but not right now due to financial reasons.
A Quarantined Day of Independence
My heart wished was in Seattle this 4th of July because I love going there to see the hot and cold Mariners in action (likely losing because #LuisLuck). That wasn’t the case in 2020 because of the pandemic, so all I had going is shoot photos on my balcony. I love shooting fireworks and the goal was to get something fresh when my career was hitting rock bottom at the time. You can see I was far away based on the plants on the right, but this one had a grater story for that reason. Helps that it was red fireworks too because it’s my favorite color.
The Man of the Hour
A new tradition I’ve done this year was don’t call it a wrap until the winning ARCA West car leaves the track. Blaine Perkins won the race at Evergreen Speedway and felt like capturing him driving the No. 6 Sunrise Ford back to the pits. It led to an amazing background shot of the car being at center with the stands empty, symbolizing that once the party ends, it’s on to the next one. Out of the three West winning cars I shot, this one is my favorite.
From the few times I’ve seen Jesse Love around the paddock, he’s usually a cool, calm and collective kid. Jamming to his music and laser focused on being himself. That in mind, it’s rare seeing him at a different light. During the closing minutes of qualifying at Kern County, you can see a smile from Love while having a conversation with one of his crew members. There was more smiles later as he ended up starting first in that race.
Gracie Trotter may be the real deal among the female racers in North America. She’s aggressive when it’s necessary, but also keeps her driving style respectable. It led to a race win at the LVMS Bullring where she led 95 of 150 laps, the most in ARCA history. Time will tell how far the 18-year-old from Denver, North Carolina (NOT COLORADO) and after having an interview with her a few days after her Bullring victory, sky’s the limit.
The Busch Crash
The entire second half of the 42nd Busch Clash was a total shit show. This was evident when Ryan Blaney became one of many competitors who were involved in a crash. Once he made it to the pits, I took a shot where the sunshine was so vibrant and with the No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang being bright yellow, it created such an amazing reflection. While Blaney’s day reared its ugly head, my day was bright because chaos creates amazing pictures.
Eyes Towards Recognition
Australian-born Bridget Burgess is one of three females that competed in ARCA West on a regular basis, driving a much older generation car. I took this shot of the Utah resident moments before qualifying at Kern County. Super focused on the task at hand, which is what I wanted to capture here. Probably one of my better close-up driver shots so far. Not every day I get a shot like this since I’m not hired by a photo agency nor have clients, something I really want to change next year to earn some profit.
Pro Wrestling’s Ultimate Finesser
As I’ve alluded at an earlier photo, Chris Bey is a natural in the ring. It’s neat seeing a wrestler on the rise towards super stardom and certainly hope when crowds are allowed back to attend shows in Everett, we can see at least one more Without A Cause classic out of Bey. The stern look along with the WAC Championship belt personifies the things I enjoy about the sport, how some carries themselves in and out of the ring. Also, as a bit of an organized freak, perfect headroom makes this shot so special. By the way, the background isn’t black and white. It looks like it is, but it’s not!
Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
Similar to both Trotter and Burgess’ photos, Perkins was another case of trying to make my work stand out more. I love candid photography because you get an even better illustration of the driver’s personality. ARCA is more easier if you ask me. It’s more open when there’s not assigned photographers via the sanctioning body or agency where they get right-of-ways on close-up shots like this one from Evergreen. Perkins went on to win that event which marked his second West victory of 2020. The next day, he won again at Douglas County in Oregon.
Central’s Center of Attention
Let me tell you something about my brother! Okay, I’m not going to here because it’ll require a lot of writing. But what I will tell you is that I took several graduation photos of him when we finished packing his stuff in June. Graduating with a film degree at Central Washington University, he wanted photos taken and while , this one was my favorite out of the bunch. he still owes me $100 It allowed me to capture creative angles where he was doing a graduation leap. Wasn’t easy, but at least I did a serviceable job. If you ask me, what’s easier? Shooting a family member or other people that isn’t part of the bloodline? Obviously, others – duh!
Legendary Career Drawing to A Close
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson completed his final season as a full-time stock car racer last month at Phoenix. Before he called it a NASCAR career, this shot of the 83-time Cup winner was taken during Daytona 500 Media Day and honestly, I didn’t thought much of the image. That changed once a colleague of mine asked for photos and I sent him this one. He loved it and felt it was magazine levels of good. Thus, this simple shot became an all-time favorite photo. Hope to have more shots of JJ as he’ll make the jump to the NTT IndyCar Series, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The Day Before
When a photo has a special meaning despite being “just another photo,” it stands out on a personal level. Ryan Newman was focused on having a strong run where a shot at a second Daytona 500 victory was possible. Mother Nature postponed the conclusion of the race to the next day, where his life changed forever. Don’t think I need to tell you what happened to “The Rocket Man” on the last lap, but grateful he’s with us today thanks to the testament of the cars and safety devices.
The Perfect Shot
I really wanted to put this photo as my No. 1 shot of 2020, but you must have a backstory for things to make sense in the grand scheme of things. My personal favorite shot was taken in Roseville where Gio Scelzi (16) licked the stamp and send it towards the bottom. Taylor Gray (17) was leading, but coming to the white flag, Scelzi was there and the two battled door-to-door until Gray’s tire went down and spun second slater. Scelzi went on to score his only West win of the season. Say what you want about the series, but moments like Roseville is why it’s important covering the competition out West. Reminded me of the night Hailie Deegan won at Meridian, Idaho in 2018, a last minute trip makes for wild nights that I’ll certainly never forget.
The emotions were clear because Gio Scelzi has fought hard to put himself in a spot to win in ARCA West. Just never had that opportunity until Roseville. I even said to myself, “Scelzi may have something!” He sure did as indicated on the previous photo. I love how focused Scelzi’s face was because shooting victory lane isn’t always easy. The water bath made it so enriching! Scelzi won’t be running in ARCA next year as he’ll concentrate on making his name in dirt/sprint car competition.
There’s one valid reason why this particular candid shot is No. 1 over the two Gio Scelzi photos – BONDAGE! Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was waiting to see if his qualifying run was strong enough to lock up pole position for the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin came by to chat with Stenhouse and laughs were made because the soon-to-be three-time Daytona 500 champion knew Stenhouse got the pole. That was a surprise by many as it was his first year with JTG Daugherty Racing. With the Hendrick engines, Stenhouse impressed with that pole run because the past few years, it’s been a Hendrick Motorsports stranglehold. Technically, that’s still true, but another team with Hendrick’s engines was fast this time around. Gotta love human interactions!
Three years into my professional media career, the drive of wanting to succeed continues to blossom.
There’s been monstrous roadblocks along the way, but I’m still here.
2021 must be better and I know it has to be, but everyone else feel that way. I hope come next December, I can provide even more mesmerizing shots.
That’s why any amount of support is vital to make it further in my career. Those who are still with me, always know I’m forever grateful. It will get better.
Until we meet again, doubt me if you insist, prove me wrong if I give consent.