Photographing Niki Lauda at Watkins Glen – 1972

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Whenever I see something that challenges me, I take it on.”—Niki Lauda

The 1972 United States Grand Prix was held on October 8, 1972 at the Grand Prix race course in Watkins Glen, New York and I was there. Jackie Stewart, having just lost his World Champion’s crown to Emerson Fittipaldi, dominated the entire weekend with pole, fastest lap and win completing a sweep of the North American races. It was the twenty-second victory of the Scot’s career and his fourth in 1972.

How I made this shot: My photograph of Niki Lauda (above) who did not even finish the event, was originally shot on Ektachrome color slide film with a Nikon F camera; lens and exposure unrecorded. To make the photograph I used an old technique for photographing cars and other stuff in motion called panning.

You can always stake out a location around the track and use a fast shutter speed to stop the car—dead—on the track but that makes it look as if it were parked, not doing 150mph. Instead, use the race’s practice time to practice your panning technique: Keep both eyes open so you can see the car coming and frame the car before snapping the shutter. Follow the car until it’s where you want in the viewfinder, tripping the shutter as you continuously pan the camera. Don’t stop moving the camera after you click the shutter! Follow through maintaining a smooth motion so the camera isn’t jerked at the end of the exposure and the effect is ruined.

The above photograph was scanned by ScanMyPhotos who offers a wonderfully seamless process for digitizing all of images that have been laying dormant for many years and helps bring them back to life.


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