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Arenacross - jumps, whoops, crashes, and fun

Since I started shooting sports more seriously, I've come to realize that motocross of any type is one of my favorite things to shoot.  Racing is cool.  Jumps are cool.  Extreme jumps are way cool.  Crashes aren't cool, but can be interesting to see.  So when I saw Arenacross was coming to Denver, I had to get in on that.

Interesting shoot.  Really really fun shoot, but super interesting.  Arenacross is kind of like supercross racing, but in a much smaller venue, with lots of jumps, sharp turns, and whoops.  So it's very very tight quarters, and low light, which made it an interesting shoot.  

Between the course edges and the wall was basically the width of 1 person. The flaggers looked super uncomfortable standing there, there was no way I was standing there, so the course edges were out.

There really was no unused space where a shooter could stand anywhere on the track.  Bah.

I could stand by the start, but then I'd miss all the stuff at the back of the track.  That's where all the good stuff is.

So where did I go?  I actually got creative and found several shooting places.

  • Underneath or at the front of the freestyle ramp which was only set up for intermission. 
  • On top of the freestyle landing (called The Ant Hill since it was so big). A little difficult to get up top, and the flat spot on top was pretty small, so I sat down so I didn't accidentally take a step back and fall off.
  • There was a section of the track that only the pros used, so if I was very aware of what heat was going on, I could stand there...carefully.  
  • The pro landing ramp when the pros weren't going. They had a big jump and a decent sized landing ramp, so I hung out with the flagger on top there.

Here's a quick shot I took of the track from behind the start, with a few of the areas highlighted.

Now the big question - was it fun? HECK YEAH!!  Not just the pro events either, all of the events. Seeing the little kids race on the 50cc's, the freestyle motocross during intermission, and the quads were cool as well.

Shooting a National Motocross Race

While it's fun to cover your local sports teams, and I definitely still get giddy about doing that, I was able to shoot this past weekend at Thunder Valley Motocross where the AMA National Motocross Championship was being held.

Start of the 250 class Moto #1

This was a different kind of event, because I actually was invited to a pre-race media event which took place two days before. Three riders (Andrew Short, Mike Alessi, Killy Rusk) were present, and were available for interviews, photos, and then action photos as they rode around the track for 15 minutes.  I got to speak to Andrew and Killy, but didn't have time to talk to Mike, and ask them several questions.  However since I'm an action sports person, my favorite part was having the run of the track (along with only 4 other photographers/TV people), and getting the photos.  Without a doubt, this was my favorite photo of not only the media event, but also of anything I got during the actual race.  It's Mike Alessi rounding the first turn after the start.

As part of that media event, I was able to write a pre-race article for the Denver Examiner.

The race happened two days later, and while the day started at 8am, the actual races didn't begin until 12:30pm.  I arrived at the media tent about 10:30 (thankfully I had picked up my credentials and media vest the night before), and was happy to run into Matthew Jonas, whom I had met at the sports workshop the month before.

Musts for shooting motocross:

  • Earplugs
  • Water so you don't have to run back to the media tent all the time
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

I had forgotten my earplugs (of course), but was able to borrow an extra pair from someone.  It was hot out, but not as hot as it could've been.  However when you're carrying two camera bodies (each with a lens) and standing out in the hot sun, you get hot very very quick.  Kudos to my new Black Rapid RS DR-1 Double Strap.  It was so insanely easy for me to have my 50d with a 24-70, and my 7d with a 70-200 accessible at all times.  Granted at the end of the day, the double strap started getting heavy, but considering last time I shot motocross I only brought one body with me and changed lenses a lot, this was much more convenient.  

Dean Wilson (15) in front of Blake Baggett (57). Baggett would win both 250 motos.

I didn't shoot all six races, I have to be honest.  I shot both 450 motos, entire first moto of 250, and about half of the second, and none of the women's. It wasn't that I didn't want to - I fully planned to go back to the media tent to cool off and then get back out there and shoot them, but I got sidetracked by other things, so unfortunately didn't get a chance.  I had a grand total of 1910 photos once I downloaded everything.  While I flagged about 36, I ultimately uploaded 15.

A big thanks to Brandon, the media coordinator for the event, for keeping us updated with qualifying rosters, and putting together the awesome final statistics packages for each moto.  It made writing a summary much easier.

After all the races, I was able to attend the press conference, which enabled me to get some quotes for my raceday Examiner article.

With all that said, and having been at Thunder Valley from about 10:30-7, I still really enjoy motocross racing, and so far it's been one of my favorite events to shoot.