Waikaraka Park Photos and Write-up

“Free feel to take your camera but maybe it’d be good for you to take a night off” Those were thewords from Speedwaydowunder’s boss and captain of the ship the night before the meeting at Waikaraka.

While it was nice to have some pressure off, I didn’t consider for a second of leaving my camera behind. The fancy hunk of metal and glass loves Speedway just as much as I do and leaving it behind would have hindered my enjoyment of the evening. Not to mention receiving the cold shoulder from it when I got back home, covered in dust and giddy from a great evening

With all my gear packed and ready I set off with the SDU Team to Waikaraka Park for the John Webster Memorial. The bill for the night was packed with exciting classes and featured a Pole shuffle for every class except Midgets. It all added up to be an action-packed evening.

I’ve been living under a rock because this was my first visit to Waikaraka. I’ve known about it for years but have never had the pleasure of seeing the racing there. Oh what wasted years!

On our way to our seats I noticed how much the track differs from Western Springs. It’s much wider and longer than the ‘Springs and the mud looks different. The different mud turned out to be a great surface for all classes.

The Midgets and Sprints were hooking up really well, getting plenty of two wheel stands on exit from the corners and were simply flying around the track. It also provided some very clean racing, with hardly any accidents to mention all throughout the night. After the debacle at the ‘Springs last week, this must have been quite a relief for the Safety Crew and the back pockets of the racing teams.

Since this was my first visit I had yet to learn the tricks of shooting here. As you may know I can only shoot from the side lines outside the fence. This is a massive hindrance as not only does it mean I shoot from very far away but also got to dealwith the fence intruding on my photos.

While I have methods to avoid with this, I quickly noticed a bigger problem: the people on the in-field. I don’t know whether there were more of them than the other tracks I have shot at or simply their knack of positioning themselves in the worst possible place, all I know is they ruined a third or more of some amazing shots. They were everywhere!

From my position on the straight I had a very narrow window of where I could shoot without getting a safety man or official photographer in the frame. You will see this reflected in my set of photos of the event. I also found it very hard to get photos of multiple cars racing due to this exact problem.

With all this in account I did my best and adapted to the problem. I settled for concentrating on individual cars and tried to capture them in action. This proved to be a good tactic as I got the best shot of my Speedway Career. It showed the 1NZ Midget car of Michael Pickens exiting a corner during one of the heat races. Two wheels in the air, mid corner, the car looks like it’s twisting on it’s frame as it leaves the corner in high speed. Thanks to using a risky low shutter speed, the background blur makes for a very dramatic shot. This shot got shared to Speedwaydownunder’s Facebook page a few minutes later and so far it’s been seen by over 9,000 people. Such numbers seeing my photo blows my mind and I admit I feel a little bit proud.

As the evening got darker another problem showed it’s face. That being the lack of decent lighting at Waikaraka. All cameras are hungry for light and to get the best results you need plenty of it. Even with my level of gear, the lack of light ate into my results with vigour. I combated it with an even slower shutter but it only made shooting trickier and didn’t help too much. The photographers on the in-field had it easier because they were able to use flash to add light to their images, since I was so far away from the action I couldn’t use this tactic.

That being said, overall I’m very pleased with the results I managed to get despite the challenges. It proved to be a great learning experience and when I did get a clear shot, it made the reward even sweeter. The next time I am covering Waikaraka I am confident the results will be even better. I really enjoyed my time there and can’t wait to go back.

The racing on the whole was exciting to watch. Seeing Sprint cars competing in a Pole shuffle was great entertainment as it was a one on one dual of the drivers. You don’t get to see something like that during a usual meeting so it was a real treat to all spectators.

Big congratulations to all the drivers who won the John Webster Memorial in their respective classes, the racing was fierce that night and each win was well deserved.

I hope you enjoy the images I managed to get from the great evening, a full album will be up on my Facebook page at a later date.

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