I recently attended an NHRA Drag Racing event and was fortunate to be down on the Xmas tree with the cars as they staged and launched… I posted some happy snaps of the day on my website.
For those who have not been to a Drag Racing event before… these things are freakin’ loud… compared to just about anything. The photogs who stand down on the start line (where I was hanging out) either have to really like this sport, get paid really well,… or be stone cold deaf. My hat goes off to them as of all the car photography that I have done (NASCAR, Indy Cars, etc), this is one of the toughest in many aspects.
For the majority of car racing events, the cars literally go around in a closed loop (Rally being another where they usually don’t)… unless they tank it somewhere on the track they are always going to come back to you… and keep on coming back to you. So if you miss the shot, you will invariably get a few more chances at it.
Drag racing on the other hand is measured literally in parts of seconds…. and they don’t come back to you. Usually they make one run in a day (which lasts less than 5 seconds all up), and they go passed you in a nano-second… breathing fire and spitting what feels like acid on you.
Loud is a word that is pointless here. They are beyond loud, and I am amazed that people sit in the stands with no hearing protection at all. I had in ear-plugs, and heavy duty ear-muffs over the top and it was still loud. These engines produce around 8,000 horsepower (in comparison a NASCAR is 750Hp). And when your brain-box is about 15 feet from the exhaust pipe (as mine was), it adds a new dimension to what a bad hangover feels like. A dragster is around 150Db… hearing loss starts around 90Db, with permanent loss even with hearing protection starting at 140Db. A jet engine at 100 feet is 140Db.
The other hassle factor (depending on your point of view) is that these things literally ‘spit’ nitro on you when you are standing this close. The fuel is a mixture of around 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol. And if you haven’t been lucky enough to have this happen to you yet… it stings both your skin and your eyes.. and as a photog hanging onto some camera gear that costs as much as a car… you can literally see it corroding your gear in front of your eyes.
However… there are few things that illustrate such raw power as the energy wave literally hits you in the chest as they go passed. It is physical. You can feel it. And if you have a suspect sphincter muscle… where these photogs make their respective living… is not the place for you.