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|| News Item: Posted 2012-01-01

Love of racing pays off

By Nic Coury, Monterey County Weekly

Photo by Nic Coury

Photo by Nic Coury

American Ben Spies zips his Yamaha M1 around the Indy circuit during Friday's practice.
A few years ago, I found my favorite sport in the fast-paced, loud world of motorcycle racing.

It was my first year on the job, staffing at the Monterey County Weekly in my hometown and I was shooting anything and everything I could, which, in July, included the 2008 United States Moto Grand Prix World Championship race at the infamous Laguna Seca circuit (one of only two U.S. races in the 18-race schedule.) I had no clue what I was doing, but it was exciting. Standing in the photo pits at turn one and having bikes whizz by at 150mph with a rider clinging on is something I will never forget.

Fast-forward to this year.

I am obsessed with the two-wheel madness. One of my goals in 2011-my fourth consecutive year of shooting at Laguna - was to up my quality of work and find new ways to shoot the sport and hopefully have some interest from magazines in my photos and shoot racing at other locations.

On Saturday morning of the 2011 race, I was at turn number 5, shooting the last few laps of practice before afternoon qualifying. Riders were pulling wheelies for the fans and defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was coming around the corner, but he made a simple error and went flying, both he and his Yamaha M1 motorcycle became inverted for a split-second and I got the photo.

I saw the entire crash go down while looking through my Nikon D700. Cycle World and Sports Illustrated magazines both ran the photo, as well as a handful of magazines in Europe I have never heard of after I sold it to Gold & Goose photo agency.

Photo by Nic Coury

Photo by Nic Coury

My "infamous" Lorenzo crash photo from Laguna Seca.
A few weeks later was the other race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and I had been asked to go along with my good friend and MotoGP photog Andrew Wheeler, who makes some of the best images in the sport. I convinced my editor that the assignment would interest our readers and a plane ticket later, I was headed to Indiana. Andrew and I shared a hotel suite and he cooked (amazing dinners) the five nights of our trip. It was great talking shop and looking at photo together.

Indiana is quite a bit different from my oceanfront town on the West Coast, but it was fun. It's also quite hot back east...

The trip for me was an educational vacation.

I had a lot of vacation time accrued that I rarely used and I saw it as a good opportunity to get out of the area where I spent most of my life. That and I would be spending a few days at one of the most famous racetracks in the world shooting pictures of my favorite sport.

The Brickyard circuit is really a neat place. It's definitely got some history and it's full of iron, which brought many challenges. I have heard that a lot of photographers grumble about the lack of scenery compared to the flowing landscapes of the European tracks, but Indy is industrial and that's how you frame it. I had fun putting the giant, rusted fences into pictures and well-manicured, recently paved track also added to composing interesting pictures.

Photo by Nic Coury

Photo by Nic Coury

Italian superstar Valentino Rossi flys down the back straightaway at Indianapolis.
Shooting pictures at Indianapolis also helped remind myself something I try to always do in my picture-making and that is composing photos that cannot be made anywhere than where I am at a given time and place. I want photos to show off exactly where I am in order to tell the story of that day.
It was great working alongside many of the photographers in MotoGP whose work I admire and they work extremely hard to make great images and it really shows. The staff at the Speedway was top notch as well. Everyone was helpful and did their best to welcome me.

I hope to return next year to Indy and Cycle World also ran one of my paddock photos in their December 2011 issue.

(Nic Coury is a staff photographer with the Monterey County Weekly. You can see samples of his work on his Sports Shooter member page:

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