Chris Owens is the manager of photo operations at the Indianapolis motor speedway, home of the Indy 500. Today Chris talks about the logistics of how to cover such a large event.
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In This Episode You'll Learn:
How Chris got his start in photography
What an indy car photographer does and the job title of photography manager of the indianapolis motor speedway
What Chris shoots monday through friday when there is no race
How persistence paid off when trying to get hired as a race car photographer
How far in advance the photography team has to prepare for the Indianapolis 500
Logistically how to photography an event as large as the Indianapolis 500
How many photographers are on Chris’s staff and how they keep in contact
How to creatively photography race cars
How to add story elements in photos
How many pictures are taken of the Indianapolis 500
What happens to the photos once the race is over
The one piece of advice Chris would give to any new race car photographer
Did you enjoy this episode? Check out more recent interviews with other great guests!
Full Interview Transcription:
Disclaimer: The transcript was transcribed electronically and may contain errors that do not reflect accurately what the speaker said. Because of this, please do not quote this automated transcript.
Raymond Hatfield: 00:00:00 Welcome to the beginner photography podcast, where today we're talking about how to capture race cars barreling towards you at 230 miles an hour. So let's get into it.
Intro: 00:00:11 Welcome to the beginner photography podcast with Raymond Hatfield, the podcast dedicated to helping you grow your photography skills. Raymond interviews the world's top photographers in their field to ask questions that will get you taking better photos today. Now with you as always, husband, father, home brewer, La Dodger Fan, and Indianapolis wedding photographer Raymond Hatfield.
Raymond: 00:00:39 Welcome back to this interview of the beginner photography podcast. I am Raymond Hatfield and we have a great show lined up for you today, all about photographing Indy cars. Now, if you're not so much into motor sports, I think that you will still pick up a lot from this interview specifically about how much goes into getting the shot in such a high pressure environment. So be sure to stay tuned. But first I want to give a listener shout out this week to Tina sims who left a wonderful five star review in iTunes. Tina says, this podcast is a must. Listen. It is a photography life changer. I have an entire new way to approach my photographs when I am behind the camera. I am in charge now. The camera is not in charge. Keep it up please. Well, your wish is my command, Tina. I will keep it up and thank you so much for your review.
Raymond: 00:01:38 Reviews are truly the best way to help out the podcast. And if this is your first time listening to the beginning of photography podcast, go ahead and hit that subscribe button. It is free and every week you too can experience the same joy and excitement about photography as Tina. Thank you again, Tina. I have a personal story to share with you. Uh, back in 1988, right before I was born, my father bought a Pentax k 1000 film camera. Now, uh, he pissed he passed. He passed on many years ago and as I got older, uh, I didn't even know that he had this camera until I had went to film school. I came back for, I believe it was Thanksgiving and my mom pulled it out and said that she had found it in a closet and wanted me to have it. Cause obviously, uh, I was interested in photography and uh, and film at the time.
Raymond: 00:02:28 So she gave it to me and this camera was, it was really interesting. It was really cool because at the time I had a, I knew how to shoot manual. Uh, so I went out and I wasn't intimidated by the camera at all. Um, so I went out and I shot a few rolls of film and when I got the photos back, it was just so cool to see the process. Right. It was so cool to see the images, but I quickly learned that one, as they say, photography is much more expensive than digital, which it is. And for two, I didn't realize this at the time, but, um, the same settings on a digital camera don't exactly relate to a film camera because film, uh, interacts differently with light. Uh, each film stock is entirely different and therefore you don't always know exactly how the photo is going to turn out.
Raymond: 00:03:16 And I realized that a lot of my photos did not turn out, um, the way that I wanted them to. So, uh, while I saw that it was cool, it kind of felt more, uh, not like a gimmick that's wrong, but it kinda felt more like a, like a fun thing to do rather than a way to photograph the world as I saw it. So, uh, you know, I just had it and I'd shoot a few roles here and there throughout the year, but I really didn't spend too much time with it. I focused a lot more on digital, but, uh, one time I, then I believe I dropped it or it was in a bag and it got knocked around or something. And then the light meter inside did not work anymore. It stopped working and I was pretty upset. I tried to get the light meter fixed, but it ended up, uh, I was quoted, uh, more than the cost of a new k 1000 to fix it.
Raymond: 00:04:06 So I thought not worth it. So I just didn't, I didn't fix a light meter. And then for, for several years I didn't really shoot any film, um, until probably this last, uh, last maybe two years. I then started shooting film again, uh, since I feel like I can see light a whole lot better now than I, than I did back then. So I don't rely on that light meter as much. Um, but over the past two weeks I put out two rolls of film through the camera and shot, just kind of whatever I felt like shooting and I went to go get that film developed, uh, at our local, a camera store in Indianapolis called Roberts Camera. And shout out to Adam if you're listening right now. He's the, uh, he's the guy behind the camera. He's the guy behind the counter and uh, it was just awesome to chat with him for a little bit, but when I got the photos back, when I got the scans back of the, uh, developed film, I'll tell you what, I will tell you what man, there's something about photos, film photos.
Raymond: 00:05:08 I don't know if it's, I mean it's a combination of everything, but I can't exactly put my finger on it, but there's a richness of the colors. There's, there's a feel feel and there's really nothing quite like film when you shoot it. Right. So I'm kind of on this high of the excitement and, um, you know, looking back at this film, I've made it my mission this week to shoot more film, which means, uh, I am to save, uh, on developing costs. I'm going to have to buy some gear to develop my own film at home. And surprisingly, you're looking into it today. It's all much less than I expected. Uh, so I'm really excited to get going on that. And if you are in the beginner photography podcast, Facebook group, no doubt, you will be sure to get the updates on, uh, some new projects that I'm working on.
Raymond: 00:05:58 So super excited about that. All right, well let's get into this week's interview. This was a big one for me and I am completely in awe as you're here this whole time. Uh, speaking with Chris, uh, he is a, he was an open book and it was just great to see kind of behind the curtains of what it takes to really photograph an event like the Indianapolis 500. So if you're ready, hold on tight because it is about to get crazy. Chris Owens is the manager of photo operations at the Indianapolis Motor speedway home of the Indy 500 today. I'm excited to talk about the logistics of how to cover such a large event. So Chris, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Chris Owens: 00:06:41 Hey Raymond. Thanks for having me.
Raymond: 00:06:43 I am really excited to get into this, uh, episode. Obviously living here in Indianapolis. Um, uh, I've actually kind of a transplant to indi, uh, but growing up my family has been into racing, so I've always known of the Indy 500. So moving out here was really exciting. And this year actually after having been here for seven years, was my first time going to the 500. And it was quite as it did. It did, it did. But it was, it was an amazing spectacle, um, uh, to actually see in person and then to find out that you who have been following on Instagram for a long time for that reason. Um, to actually see you working was a really cool thing. But before we get into, like I said, the logistics of shooting an event like the 500, can you share with the listeners how you, uh, first got your start in photography?
Chris Owens: 00:07:33 Um, you know, that's, that's kind of a, there is really a few ways. It's kind of interesting. I more sometimes say that photography kind of found me, um, growing up as a kid, uh, with a lot of events and of course car races, which kind of explains where I am today. But, um, I was always gifted a disposable 35 millimeter camera when we'd go to those events. And, um, you know, I just was so, I was so passionate, so interested in like the Indiana Pacers and like, you know, NBA basketball on car racing and all that. Growing up it was really important to me to capture these events on this camera. And it wasn't, the camera was something I was asked for. It was just given to me. Um, so that was really great to be able to not forget, which is a lot of my relationship with photography.
Chris Owens: 00:08:20 I think what also interested that, and me growing up was just, I didn't want to forget some of these special moments. So, you know, between that and then actually early childhood, the strangest thing, I was actually gifted, um, as well as like a toy. I'm talking like four or five years old, this old like German camera. My grandfather brought back, I guess, like my parents didn't want to mess with it or wasn't important to them or whatever, but this was literally in my toy box. So I can remember like walking around and like marking things up with this camera and, uh, and literally saying the words, you know, make it work, make it work. I knew it did something. I knew it wasn't just you walk around with this. So I think that like, it was really embedded with me at a young age. And then, um, as a senior in high school, you know, I, we finally, actually as a junior in high school, um, they offered a photography class, uh, at school. And I instantly knew whenever I heard and you know, saw that was on the list, I was like, yes, I will be very interested in this. Um, because I had already, you know, been shooting all these things with my disposable 35 millimeter. And also, um, even like buying them with allowance, which is kind of weird for a kid to do, you know, there's all this
Raymond: 00:09:34 I did the same thing, man.
Chris Owens: 00:09:37 Yeah. And I remember I actually have even these 35 millimeter negs where I'd set toys up in the yard and moved them. They would shoot, like tried to make a flip book. Of course I had like no tripod and the, they were out of focus, everything. So I looked horrible. But, um, you know, that photography class I'd always been, I wouldn't, being so young, I wouldn't say a photographer, but I had an interest in new of photography. So, you know, once I got going in that, um, things just really took off. I had a great photography teacher, Lenny buyer, Walter and high school, and he was just super supportive of my, um, just me being overzealous for photography, which, um, it gets quite a bit stranger from there. So after taking that class and you know, being a senior in high school and making these like life decisions of like, what am I going to go to school for, what am I going to do? Well, as I'm kind of going through those moments in life, ,
Chris Owens: 00:10:37 you know, I kind of started to venture towards media, which is kind of, you know, obviously in the same realm, but radio and, um, then with the day you graduate from my high school, they give you a letter okay. That you don't remember because you write it to yourself when you're in fourth grade. All right. So I opened this letter and I'm like, this is the coolest thing ever. What is, you know, fourth grade me gonna have to talk about, well, there's questions
Raymond: 00:11:06 and you don't remember this at all.
Chris Owens: 00:11:08 I mean, now I do, I do now. But when you're a senior in high school, you don't remember, you didn't remember that was waiting on you. Does that make sense? Until you get it and you go, Oh yeah, we did this years ago. So you know, there's some pre drafted questions that teachers make up for you and to have you answer, well mine was, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Chris Owens: 00:11:31 Don't ask me why. Some reason on this day I write a ESPN or sports illustrated photographer. It gave me chills. It shook me. I was like, this is weird cause I'm really right in my life. I'm really interested in the photography. And then that's when I think I even realized that at that age of 18, like this is something that's Kinda been with me for awhile. Um, so, you know, from there I got to school and um, started doing the radio and the media thing and I was like, no, I'm a photographer because all I was doing in my free time was right around and taking pictures. So from there, you know, I just kinda started to pursue my passion for photography. I've always photographed my friends. Um, and just snapshots are my favorite. I know that sounds awful cause everybody's trying to be an artist and they're trying to get all these trade of images and I am too. Um, but I find that I get a lot of those by just messing around, taking snapshots.
Raymond: 00:12:29 Yeah. Yeah. I get that. That's, that's an incredible story. So at what point did it go from, you know, graduating high school, you're now working in radio and then deciding that you wanted to be a photographer to finally working at, well, okay, let me rephrase this question before we actually get into how you started working at the, at the Indianapolis Motor speedway. Can you tell me first what your job title entails
Chris Owens: 00:12:56 at the speedway? Yes. Yes. Okay. So I'm the manager of photography, uh, for the Indianapolis Motor speedway and indycar series. And that has a lot of responsibilities and a lot more responsibilities than the fun part, which is shooting. Um, there's some days I feel like I'm lucky to get out there and shoot, but, um, I have an incredible staff, um, that, that helps with that. So I guess, sorry to back up. Um, to answer your question, just to, to say a little bit about what would I do there, I guess as the manager of photography, um, so that would involve like selecting all photographers who, uh, for my staff, for the Indy and IMS staff that go to all indycar races, um, picking their travel dates, um, you know, making sure they get hotels, all that kind of stuff. Um, coordinating shoots, uh, you know, booking shoots for our studio days where we do our like wipe drought backdrop, media portraits.
Chris Owens: 00:13:58 Um, I shoot day to day, whatever pops up. And most of what my job is is popups. So that will be like, um, you know, So and So from the Indiana Pacers is dropping by and they are going to take a tour of the museum and go for a pace car ride and all that. I'm your guy, I'm there. So when you see the picture on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or the still at the beginning of the youtube video, um, you know, that's something that me or my staff, um, shot. Um, yeah, from there it was just cool. Yeah,
Raymond: 00:14:34 I think, I think that sounds like a dream job for a lot of people. You know, a lot of people loved the creativity of photography, but maybe they're, they don't want to venture into the business side of things. And I think the idea of, of working, uh, under a company or something to still be able to create what it is that they want to, um, just sounds amazing and myself included. I think this sounds very cool. So,
Chris Owens: 00:15:01 and that's, yeah, it is, but I'll, I will say as a photographer is, is huge adjustment for me to go from being a staff photographer and having people, you know, being just being a shooter know, that's a lot different. That's, I could handle that. And I, and I, I did handle that and I love that. And I love being, obviously in a manager role too. It just means a lot more emails. I can't a lot more meetings and planning and really when it's event on a time that you are, um, that you're out shooting, doing what you love, that's actually a moment you are getting behind on planning. Tomorrow's, you know, of front row photo shoe and it comes down to little things like making sure there's chairs there, making sure there's a flag of the nationality of the Poll Sitter. I was, I was running around the offices at any atlas motor speedway up 5:00 AM frantic the day of the front row shoot looking for Simon Pagenaud's, French flag and then we have, it just, it's, there's, there's a lot of things people don't understand yeah. About that. And um, if you want a role like this, you know, obviously starting as a beginner in photography, but if you want to grow into a role, um, like something like this, they do exist. I'm proof of it. But you just have to know that shooting becomes the last thing. Sometimes you're far too busy taking pictures to even go take pictures, if that makes any sense at all. Taking pictures that are required parts of the job.
Raymond: 00:16:36 Yeah. Yeah. So thank you for sharing that. That is, that's a great insight into, into your position. Can you tell me now how, how this job became available for you, how you found out about it and how you pursued it?
Chris Owens: 00:16:51 Well, um, you know, I first basically my first introduction to the Indianapolis Motor speedway was like 2004, I think I was 14 or 15, a youth group, um, at school with, you know, I wasn't a part of, but I was really into car racing and drag racing and all that as a kid. So living in Indiana, you know what this Indy 500 thing, right? Like you were talking about earlier. Um, I'm just like, you know what, I need to check mark off my motor sports adventure list. I want to go with these people. So I'm like, yeah, I get, I'll go, I'll go. We went, um, you know, they send us there. We supposed to flip burgers like in a, uh, one of the concession stands for the youth group or whatever. They said somebody needs to take a break first. I was so jack up about the place, I'll take a break first.
Chris Owens: 00:17:42 You guys work, I'll come and shift. You know, I left with a few friends. We never came back the whole day. They were, they were pissed. The bus was waiting on us, like it was full. All the kids were mad. We left like an hour late because we were over like try to seek victory circle. So you know that, that really watching those cars, anybody that's been to a professional car race or especially the Indy 500 seeing those cars come past you for the first time, you'll never forget. It's incredible. And um, you know, at the same time I have pictures from that day cause I might disposable, you know, so I, these wheels were turning far before I knew. Um, so you know, from there kept going to the race and as I got as a senior in high school, like we were talking about may is when you graduate and may's during the 500.
Chris Owens: 00:18:30 I'm thinking about it. I remember sitting in turn three with my camera going, there is a person who works here, this is their job to take these photos. I couldn't never have this job because someone has it, but I can have a job like this. One day I remember telling myself that and inside I turned three and um, you know, from there ended up transferring, um, really to be closer to Indianapolis, the city and the track. I've always loved the track, transferred to Indianapolis to go to a art school here and you know, just started knocking on the door out there at the track. Um, started showing up. I showed up twice there and the manager of photography, that time, director of photography, he wasn't there. Um, but I was given a phone number and an email address started sending to that, started sending that wasn't hearing anything back.
Chris Owens: 00:19:22 And really all I wanted to do was try to build a portfolio and um, be a fanboy. At the same time. You have pictures of my favorite race cars and race car drivers and um, you know, after doing that long enough and sending those emails, um, just being persistent, just keep going like, you know, monthly sending an email, hey, hey, hey, just because I knew I only had one shot, so, um, if they don't respond, you know, you, you, you keep going. And I would tell that to any photographer, um, that wants a position. Sometimes people, they're not ignoring you or it's something they don't like you, they're just busy. And I feel horrible because it happens to me sometimes people are like, I sent you an email on may whatever, or a random April weekend when I'm in Long Beach shooting the Long Beach Grand Prix. And I'm like, I got 40 emails that day and I was doing another shooting as well, you know.
Chris Owens: 00:20:20 So, um, to finish up on that though, how I got there, eventually I, I was working, selling cameras and I always kept, uh, uh, at a retail store and I always kept a portfolio book on the table. Right. Um, because, uh, as a photography shoot, you'd be promoting yourself and showing your best work. And I always wanted, you know, to keep that they're hoping maybe I could land a job from that in photography one day. Um, right person solid said, these are great race car pictures. Um, I should show these with my friend who was the director of photography at the speed. I was like, yes, you should because I've been trying to do that, um, for a year, you know. Um, and so, you know, she did, she was, you know, I was lucky enough that that person came into my life that day and did that and sent that email.
Chris Owens: 00:21:10 Um, I don't know if you know, he owed her a favor or what, but he responded that day, said, I looked at your pictures on your flicker. I love them. They're the kind of thing we're looking for. Um, because at this time, you know, photography and especially photography is kind of transferring on ditch film to digital. There's still some guys that were, they weren't shooting film, but they were fresh to digital cameras. And this, um, you know, in 2007 maybe they'd been under 10 years shooting digital. So, um, you know, from there I got in just as a volunteer, I would, you know, take time off work unpaid just to go out there and try to shoot every day, you know, scrimping and saving.
Raymond: 00:21:52 So at that point, at that, okay. Actually I got two followup questions for you. One of them you talked about, um, being persistent and following up and keep sending those emails. Is there as somebody now who's in that position who is continually getting emails, is there, um, a fine line between being persistent and, and being pushy, trying to follow up and I know that's something that a lot,
Chris Owens: 00:22:19 well, you know, I'm not sure and I'll tell you why. Um, for me, I like to be, if someone is trying to offer me something that maybe sounds great and is great, but at that point in time I can't use, or maybe, you know, my credential allotment is up, I'm not allowed to add more people or things like that. Um, you know, where I can't shoot something for them that they need shot. For me, it's just important to, to tell the, tell them quickly and be fair and be transparent. Clearance. Say, hey look, thanks for reaching out. I can't do that for you right now. So I think that's also up to whoever you are trying to be persistent towards. If they aren't answering you or they're not giving you clear answers, I me personally, that's my personality. I would say, you know, hit them up, keep returning on your, on your thoughts until they tell you until they are, we can get them to say yes or they decide they do need what you have to offer or they just say, hey look, I'm sorry we can't do that right now. I've had people do that to me and um, I think that I would say, yeah, be, you know, you don't, I don't know what you want to send somebody an email every day saying, hey, I'd love to shoot for your product. Or Hey, I would love to be on shoot for your, um, team company brand. But, um, you know, yeah, I would say do until you get a yes or no. Right,
Raymond: 00:23:46 right, right. Okay. I gotcha. That's, that's a great answer. So this is what you did. You finally got the opportunity to show up and volunteer your time. Was this just a, were you following somebody or was it, hey, here's your credentials. You can just walk around and shoot whatever you want.
Chris Owens: 00:24:05 I gotta be honest with you. I had no idea what I was doing at first. I couldn't believe they brought me on. I've looked back at some of the pictures I sent as a portfolio. They were like, a lot of her were like out of focus. She know. So like, I think that they acknowledged that they needed new blood. They needed, you know, they needed to keep rotating and getting new photographers from new styles. But, um, at first I really didn't get a lot of attention paid to me and I contribute that. Um, I actually think that that really helped because it was literally like, I mean, I was 19 years old. Um, you know, they were like, yeah, man, I, here's your credential. Don't go over the pit wall, don't get hit by a car, you know, things like that, which is easy to do.
Chris Owens: 00:24:51 You, you know, you, it's easy to stay out of the way. But um, it was kind of those things. So stay on the way and come back with some neat pictures. I did it. I mean I, I had, I was hardly coming in and sitting down. I was just out shooting all day, popping whatever I thought looked at me, you know, taking, trying to get a unique perspective really without even knowing I was, because they had all been doing it so long. A lot of them were doing it the same way. So, um, yeah, I really contribute being, not having assignments at first, my first year or two, not having assignments, not having anything. I was responsible for allowing me to go out and kind of make great pictures. I hope that answered your question. I know I already forgot what your question
Raymond: 00:25:37 it was when you first started, did you, did you have assignments or were you kinda off given free reign and uh, you did answer that. You did answer that. So, um, okay, so let's, let's transition a little bit because now you, you're in this position, so let's talk about the 500. The 500 Indianapolis 500 is arguably the, probably the most high profile event that you guys should at the speedway. Is that, is that about right?
Chris Owens: 00:26:03 I mean, without a doubt it's, it's one of your larger single day sporting events or claimed to be the largest single day sporting event in the world. So definitely the biggest thing we got,
Raymond: 00:26:15 I said I did not know that. That's interesting.
Chris Owens: 00:26:17 Yeah. I mean there's, there's events that bring in more people and festivals and things like that, but it might be over a weekend or a week or like the Olympics, you know, more people that's kind of going, but for, you know, for like an eight hour day, it's the time. It's the most people. It's the biggest single largest sporting single day sporting event in the world on, it's right here in Indiana, right here in speedway
Raymond: 00:26:41 every single year. So for an event, like that, how far out does preparation start for the 500 for you?
Chris Owens: 00:26:51 So, you know, that's, that is also interesting. Um, because for us it can be almost a full year effort. And, and why that is is because when you think about what would make sense as yet a few months before we should really start ramping up and you know, transferring our lenses and our computers and you know, loading in and all this stuff. Um, and you know, starting to think about shots from our creative standpoint in marketing, which puts they do earlier in the year, but us sitting down as a team and starting to talk about it, you'd think about us doing that a few months before. But the reality is a few months before, we're already working a car race in Saint Petersburg, Florida, the street race, uh, the ground praise St Petersburg or the Long Beach Grand Pre, uh, we're in Birmingham, Alabama, the, you know, we have a schedule list goes on. So, um, if working on the Indycar side, that is, the indycar series is a championship. Just like any other sport that you know, but they travel from event to event instead of playing team to team, it's event to event trying to win. So yeah, I mean a few weeks before the 500, I'm in another city shooting a car race so that, that makes it very difficult. You're doing a lot of your planning on, um, you know, Wednesday, Thursday or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday because Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday you're often in another city, um, staff to make quick, quick decisions and how you just have a lot of long hours and that's something you have to be committed to, to have a job of photography
Raymond: 00:28:20 of course. And I think if it's something that you like, tried to pursue, that makes it probably a little bit easier to do though those long days rather than just kind of taking a job because it was the only thing available.
Chris Owens: 00:28:32 100%. Um, I truthfully am lucky enough to say I work very hard, but I really, we've all had jobs and we all have jobs and we work. I, I haven't really worked in a long time. You know what I'm saying? Because of what you just said. When you do what you love, um, it doesn't feel you said it yourself best. It doesn't feel as much like work and, um, it's, it's fun for me all the time to when I met, you know, a party or with friends or meeting New People. I have a lot of pride in getting to say what I do when they say, well, what are you? And it's, that's a great feeling in life to be able to do that. But to hear somebody say, well, what do you do? And just go, I'm a race car photographer and just watch them, watch them just be like, what? This person is an accountant and there's nothing wrong with that. Or this person, you know, does heating and cooling, what do you do? I take race for a post. Well, what do you do? Like that's it. That's how I get a paycheck from that. It's incredible. It's incredible.
Raymond: 00:29:39 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I, I had the, I had the fortune of, uh, of, of I believe it was two years ago now, photographing when, uh, when red bull came, uh, to, uh, the, where was it? Just I guess whatever.
Chris Owens: 00:29:55 Were they racing motorcycles?
Raymond: 00:29:57 No, no, no, no. It was their, their, their like world rally cross that they were doing, they'd had like a rad across series and I had the fortune to be able to go and like shoot that. And it was, it was an incredibly taxing day. You know, like you said, you're on your feet all day. Uh, you got to the racism very that long. It's a bunch of different legs, you know, so you got to really be prepared. And preparation was, was a huge thing that I had to learn to, to, uh, to expect right. To look forward to there. Um, and I can't imagine, but at the end of the day, my feet were sore. I was sweaty cause it was like 200 degrees that day. And it was, I didn't even do anything with the photos cause it was just, it was just so like enjoyable for me that at the end of the day I felt, you know, I felt fulfilled. So, so you're absolutely right. You're absolutely right.
Chris Owens: 00:30:45 She did. That's where a lot of my work starts is whenever you're done I then am like you have to sit down and crank out cause you're working for the media as well.
Raymond: 00:30:56 Yeah. Yeah. No, I definitely want to get into what happens after we, uh, after we photograph the images. But um, real quick, I want to go back again to kind of kind of the prep side of, um, of the 8,500. So how many photographers are, are, are under you?
Chris Owens: 00:31:16 So I'm currently, I have somewhere between 15 and 20 photographers and that kind of can adjust. Yeah.
Raymond: 00:31:25 Staff, photographers,
Chris Owens: 00:31:26 they are staff photographers. And you might ask why would it take that many? Um, yeah, I mean you are, a lot of people think that what I'm doing, so how about this and going out and taking the pictures of the race cars. That's the easiest part. That's what everybody wants to do. That is like this much of what is needed for my job. Because you know, whenever you're shooting for a company, and this might, this is, this might be interesting to anyone who's interested in any kind of event photography or shooting something they're passionate about. You know, I'm, what I'm doing is sometimes, sometimes what I'm responsible for may be like, Hey, um, we need pictures of a, a, a beer sponsor is having a party in a pavilion tent during qualifying someone. I need someone to go over there and take a picture of their, their event or what's going on.
Chris Owens: 00:32:26 Well, qualifying check presentation type thing is going on. You know what I mean? So obviously someone has to cover that cause it's the racing. That's why we have jobs and we're there. But at the same time there's something else going on. And then while that's going on there may, um, who knows, it'd be something that's important to the marketing department, some poster autographed poster giveaway that's going on at the same time. Because, you know, at these events, there's things going on for different demographics of people at different times. So, um, you know, and we have requests throughout the whole company. Someone from facilities may say to me, hey, we need a picture of every branded garbage can because that brand paid a lot of money to have their name stapled on every garbage can. You didn't think about stuff like that. You know what I mean?
Chris Owens: 00:33:15 All this is going on. Why on a Friday practice session, while, you know there's a lot going on, it takes a lot of people. And I'm like, at this point, uh, I have myself, I love race car photography. I have so many, you know, photographers on my staff who are so talented at race photography. Um, what's really important to us is, um, our staff, the most valuable right now are the staff that can go out and take a picture of a, um, hospitality event after hours, guests doing track labs, things like that. So those are, those are the kinds of things that are less, you know, glorious about the job. That's, um, you know, people here sometimes they're like, oh yeah, well I'm up at, or you know, you're out shooting race cars and having a good time and doing all this stuff. It's like, I'm also there at 7:00 AM with, um, guests have a sponsor while they take a two seater ride along pace car labs.
Chris Owens: 00:34:13 You know what I mean? That's not as cool as being in victory circle for the indie 500, but it's part of the job. And, um, I got where I am by paying my dues, volunteering and doing those things, you know, and that, and that's how I'd say part of how I got the call for the job, um, was because there was a time where I, I left Indianapolis, I moved to Fort Wayne, um, to be home for about six months. The speedway would still call me. They thought I lived in Minneapolis and they'd say, hey, on a Wednesday, they'd be like, Hey, can you come take pictures of these people doing pace lap rides on a Wednesday in October? Tomorrow? I'd be like, yeah, I drive two hours. You know, just to go down, just to stay in good graces and to show them that I was committed to them. And that's kind of dedication. You have to have. 'Em
Raymond: 00:35:03 and you said how many years it took you to do that to, to, to kind of get the attention.
Chris Owens: 00:35:11 I've been about three years of doing that until, um, you know, they got to the point where the director of photography had retired and they kind of started looking around for, um, I guess lack of a better term, a new and young perspective. And um, they called and asked me if I'd come in and talk about it and I lost my mind the coolest day of my life at that point. It was pretty awesome.
Raymond: 00:35:39 Yeah, no, I can imagine. I can imagine. That is so awesome. That is an awesome story. Um, for, for those, for those who have never been, who are, who have never had the, uh, uh, the, the ability to go to the Indianapolis Motor speedway. It is, it's huge. Uh, so I did a little research and within the walls of the ims you could fit a, it's like the Roman coliseum, all of Churchill downs where they have the Kentucky Derby, all of Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is the Rosebowl stadium, which is the second largest college football stadium, the Taj Mahal, the White House and the entire Vatican City. Oh. And dodger stadium. All of this can fit within the walls of the ims. It is massive. So on race day for the 500, there's no way that you could possibly shoot everything. How do you decide what gets covered and what doesn't?
Chris Owens: 00:36:39 Yes. Um, also to follow up on your saying how big it is, sometimes it will be pouring rain in turn three and we will be on the front stretch and they'll call a yellow flag for safety. And we're like, what's, what's wrong? It's a sunny day over here. It's that big. I'm not kidding. That's not a joke. And I'll be like, there's rain in three and then you look in, there's like a cloud over there. But, um, yeah, I guess how do I, your question is how do you choose what to do? How do you get it all? How can you attempt to get it all? You can't, it's too big too and too big of an event and too many things going on. First off. That's why obviously we're working on a staff, but, um, you know, like you said, it's about preparation. Um, there's not a whole lot of time to prepare during, um, an event like this because I'll be shooting the day before a couple of days before the 500 or even the day before the 500.
Chris Owens: 00:37:31 I have events to shoot. And sometimes it's not leaving there till nine at 10 at night done with your product, with your photos, editing and all that. So, you know, you're not gonna stay there longer and you can, I have, but to, to plan things, you've gotta do a lot of this earlier in the month. And a lot of what it comes down to is, um, seeing what other photographers have done, saying, Ooh, this is great, but they, that's a nice photo that somebody took it a 500, they kind of missed this. I would've done it this way to put this in. Um, so basically, you know, lack of a better term, I don't want to say stealing other people's images, but all, you know, all creative, all creative thoughts and images that they've all already been made. The only thing you can do is elaborate and make yours and make a different way what kind of others have done.
Chris Owens: 00:38:28 And sometimes in the process you make something that you never, um, you never, you've never, and that is new and fresh. And to me that's the best advice. I'm oil and being creative, uh, and doing something new. But for me, um, really doing that image investigation from what I've shot from what others have shot in years past, how do we make it better? Um, cold day in the winter when there's not as much going on, going somewhere in a facility that you have an idea for of a co where a car would look on track or where the fans are going to be. I've done that a dozen times where I'm up in the stands with a camera in February, you know, and I'm having cold snowy that that might work. I have to wait till people get here. I have to wait till there's cars on the track.
Chris Owens: 00:39:16 But um, you know, preparation, just being, being prepared, thinking ahead. Um, throughout the year, keeping notes, I like to kind of keep a next year's 500 note on my computer. I recommend anybody who shoots an event, um, or shoots a regular reoccurring event. Does that do it? When it's fresh, you kind of jot down and then by the time you get ready to investigate it, if you can remember what your notes mean, you can, you know, you might be able to make something neat, um, from it. Uh, also, you know, my rule of thumb is to start really the, this might sound silly to you, but kind of planning equipment, even the the day before. I know it's a stretch, but um, you know, even like, you know, before I go out and do something, I used to have an issue a lot where I'd get up to a point like, uh, I forgot the polarizer I forgot this, I forgot that you really have to almost make yourself a shot list, which is a personal shot lists.
Chris Owens: 00:40:17 Obviously we have one for all our photographers, but one for you, what do you want to achieve and what equipment are you going to have to take with you? I've been known to make a small on my phone. All the men make basically a small list of I need to get this equipment for the day. And that's, that's how you don't forget it because it's crazy running in and out the door shooting assignment needs to be uploaded quick. You walk back out the door and you go, I forgot what I was going to bring with me. Um, yeah, hopefully that's some good guy by some preparation, but it's for showing, you know, it's very high paced doing the racing. It just, it's crazy because there's so many items on a, on a daily shot list and
Raymond: 00:40:52 yeah. So there you go. You mentioned the shot list. I kind of want to know a little bit more about this. You talked, does each photographer have their own like region of the, of the uh, speedway that they have to cover and then things within that or is it all free rain free
Chris Owens: 00:41:12 reign and it's kind of all over the place. And back to, you know, when you first asked me some of the responsibilities in my job, this is one of the hardest days of the year. The day before the 500. I have a handful of things I shoot in the morning. And then from there I just, I kind of shut off because I have to make, I don't even know how many items it's, it's well over a hundred item shot list. Okay. And that is things from credentials has, uh, assignments that they, for me, they want things shot for their next year's ticket, something earlier their ticket or their lanyard. Um, you know, every facility like back to facilities, they throw the garbage cans, all this, all that stuff I was talking about. That is all on this race state shot. So I have, it's like making a puzzle that nothing fits and, but you have a knife so you're able to like trying to bend all the pieces and make it flat.
Chris Owens: 00:42:08 That's kind of like what making the Indy 500 race day shot list is. And I mean there's everything on this from who's responsible for shooting the dead center car coming in at victory circle, you know, and who's going to get these milk shots all the way down to um, yeah. Who's going to take the trashcan photos? So m I s and that literally takes me an eight hour day. That takes me a full day to put everything that everyone that works in our company that has an image request that they need on to one document, piece of paper. Um, you know, it's like triple padlocked and a briefcase, so I don't lose it. Um, it's very, it's, it's, um,
Raymond: 00:42:49 it's obviously important right to the speedway too.
Chris Owens: 00:42:52 And a lot of people that are just going out and taking pictures, man. You know, and, and this is kind of where, you know, people who do want to start something at photography have to decide, is that your kind of workflow? Do you want to work like that? You know?
Raymond: 00:43:08 Yeah, of course. And it was you who, uh, d do you play in yourself in the, uh, in the great shots? Cause you, if I remember right from a post that you put on Instagram, you were the one who photographed a willpower last year, uh, drinking the milk that eventually went on the, uh, everybody's tickets. Is that right?
Chris Owens: 00:43:25 I mean, that's kind of the perk, right? I've got a couple things that I kind of planned.
Raymond: 00:43:29 I think that would be filmed in my house.
Chris Owens: 00:43:33 Yeah. So I normally take obviously being the track photographer, the series photographer, any card I normally do the dead center low. Um, you know, car coming in the celebration of the winter and what always, what's really though is great is I have our staff photographers peppered all throughout that grandstand, um, to get the winter and they get better stuff than I do. They get great shots, they get incredible stuff. Um, yeah. I mean really just having an amazing staff of guys is what, um, that's what makes me look good. Those guys are awesome and then I get to do the things that I want to do as well because of them and, and wouldn't be able to do it without them. And that we just have grown so much there. We're getting a really good man.
Raymond: 00:44:22 Good. That's awesome to hear. I mean, every photo that I, that I see comes out as just like, it's not, it's not, you know, the old NASCAR photos that saw growing up in my, in my uncle's garage, like this is new photography. It's fun stuff. And that kind of brings me into my next question, which is obviously when you're shooting film, it costs a lot of money, or at least it costs money. When you take a lot of photos, it costs a lot of money. Uh, so having the ability to shoot digital, you kind of have this freedom to be able to, to, to play around, to add more context to your photos. And ultimately what we're trying to do with the photos simply just tell a story within a single frame. So I would imagine that a photo of a car going, you know, 230 miles an hour around the track can only tell so much. How do you incorporate more story into your images?
Chris Owens: 00:45:15 You know, that is, that is interesting and it's kind of evolved for me. Um, over time there was a point in time where for me just getting the image, the car in the frame and getting it's sharp, like I was like, hell yeah, turn that. You know what I mean? Um, but as time goes on, I've kind of explored myself, um, with different, um, you know, different techniques of doing that. Um, what I like to do, you know, the last few years ago, what was really big to me was I wanted to start showing more of the race tracks, so where a lot of people are doing what I said, they're just zooming in with a zoom lens or getting shot at the car still. Um, to tell its story. I was kinda trying to do more of these big sky shots, car small at the bottom, big sky, and incorporate some motion, slow shutter speed photography.
Chris Owens: 00:46:11 Um, which is another thing obviously to look into. But, um, you know, showing motion in the images anyway you can, um, showing a little more of the venue. That's kind of what's, what's important anymore. Um, employed to me. Uh, and, and then from there, just getting, you don't always have to shoot the car from the back or from the front. Sometimes you can shoot the car from the back, you know what I mean? Um, any angle, any that's any photographer, any race car photographer who's, who's truly invested, these guys, they're like cockroaches. These guys are crawling all over everything. They're there up at the street courses. We're up in the buildings looking down where, you know, we're, you know, you're laying on the ground and shooting through a crack, through a separation in the wall. Your, um, and it's really, that's an important thing to tell beginning photographers is um, that's what makes a good photographer.
Chris Owens: 00:47:08 A lot of photographers are going to these predesignated photo holes that are, you know, a safe bet. You know, you're going to get a photo from it for credentialed photographers. But some of your true, your best images are from somewhere different because think about it, everybody's going to that same hole. So if you're doing something, someone else isn't, whether your images is good or not, there's no comparison. Another one doesn't exist. Yours is the best because it's the only one that exists. Now, if you and I go to both shoot out of the photo hole, you might beat me, right? You might get a better shot because we shot the same picture.
Raymond: 00:47:44 Oh 1000%. Yeah.
Chris Owens: 00:47:46 So I would tell photographers, um, the best way I can find to make myself useful, and I've always thought this and I still try to stick with this, is how many, how many photographers can I turn myself into an issue? So I want to be the guy standing here getting the main shot, right. Cause that's the shot and that's the safety net. And that's what we need. That's what we're all here for. All right, I'm shooting, I'm shooting. I got it, I got it, I got it, I'm done. Let them stay there. And you go around now you go, as long as you're not in their shot, move around and get something different, you know, or if it's something that's not overly important to you or you're not overly invested, but you want a nice photo of, if you see all the photographers are standing over there, you go somewhere different because now you have a one of a kind new different perspective that doesn't exist in the world except for yours because no one was there. But, right. But you pick somewhere new, go somewhere new, go somewhere different.
Raymond: 00:48:41 That is that, that's a great tip. I think just kind of in life, you know, if you just replace the word shot with decision, you know, that's like solid life advice. Right. You should put that on.
Chris Owens: 00:48:53 Maybe I ought to have a job done. Some kidding.
Raymond: 00:48:57 Yeah. Um, yeah, I think, thank you for sharing that. I think, I think a lot of people are going to get a lot of value out of, out of, out of that statement right there. It is something that I don't think is taught as, as practical as that, you know, as clear as that we're told to get different shots. But there were some real concrete examples there including laying on the concrete. So yeah.
Chris Owens: 00:49:18 If it say go for it.
Raymond: 00:49:20 How, how does, uh, camera gear work in a, in a position like this? Is this a job where you bring your own camera gear or is gear provided?
Chris Owens: 00:49:30 Well, um, you know, it's kind of a mix of things. So, um, for, you know, obviously for my staff, um, we have a great partnership, um, you know, with Canon cameras where they let us try out and loan, um, loan us equipment to try out. We own our own, uh, you know, equipment for the company to staff and our photographers have their own equipment. But, um, with the backing of a, uh, cannon professional services, which travels to a lot of sporting events and events in general and, and car races, um, you know, those guys are awesome. They, uh, they, they provide a lot of, uh, unique equipment for us to try and, uh, then if we, you know, like that, and that's something obviously to purchase, um, down the road. So Canon is, uh, is pretty awesome stuff. It's a great equipment for the, uh, you know, for action in sports. It's always been known for that myself. I've shot an icon in the past and that stuff was great. Um, but you just, you really can't, you can't beat the cannon professional services as a professional photographer, um, and their equipment and their people.
Raymond: 00:50:39 So, so I'm going to kind of branch off here. Let's say that you have an idea for an image in your head and it's going to require something like a, something separate, super specialized, uh, either tilt shift or like a 800 Mil Lens and you don't have it. Um, is that something that you would reach out to Canon and say, hey, we want to try the shot. Can you ship something out?
Chris Owens: 00:51:04 You know, that is, I'm not sure what that, I'm not sure how that relationship worked for, um, you know, for, for, um, for all photographers. I know on site at a lot of events that's an option. Um, but yeah, for, for my staff, um, yeah, if that's something canon has available, um, yeah, that's something that they could help out with.
Raymond: 00:51:26 Very cool. Very cool.
Chris Owens: 00:51:27 And then they do that. Like if you're at a, if you know, let's say you were shooting, yeah, I don't know, some kind of sporting event and come canon professional services. They're in your credential photographer. You can go to their booth and you know, and talk to them. They'll clean your lenses, they'll clean your camera bodies, they'll let you borrow lens for the day if you want to try something new. So for photographer credential, that events that CPS canon professional services is at, um, yeah, they'll hook you up and they'll, they'll do it with a smile. They'll clean your camera. Hell of a deal.
Raymond: 00:51:59 Yeah. So for, um, for an event like the 500, which is really a once a year event for your staff photographers, do you, how much do you stress getting the safe shot versus getting that crazy equipment and doing something that's never seen?
Chris Owens: 00:52:17 Oh man, that's, so we need it all. We need it all. You know, the, I think most photographers in what I do and what an in in event photography in general, maybe this, I would imagine this is most photographers, that's the first thing you do. You get your safe shot, you know, you get your sharp still well exposed, you get those out of the way and then you play. And I tried to do that with everything I go do. So if I need to document the way the crowd looked from the stage, I want a picture of a crowd, I just go wide pop it. I normally carry two cameras so I'll go wide high shutter. So it's nice and still in sharp opposite. Then if I want to do something, if I have another creative lens with me or I want to do a zoom, you know in or show some depth, then I play from there.
Chris Owens: 00:53:05 But um, I think that's probably, you know, I do that with my on the side. I do concert photography and I do that with that too. I think that safe you, you really as a photographer, I mean everybody wants the flashy, the banger shot, the amazing picture. You really got to cover your bases first cause that's how you have clients, that's how you keep clients. So, um, you know, get your staple, get your, get your stuff out of the way that you know is required and then play because at the end of the day, this stuff they're probably gonna use is going to be all your creative stuff anyway. But if you don't get the still sharp documentation shot than what they hired you for, you know, it's a tortured game. This whole photography thing, it's a lot of fun, but it's um, you're constantly in your head bouncing back to not wanting to do what you're doing and wanting to do it a different way. You're just being torn. You know?
Raymond: 00:53:58 I haven't thought about it like that. That's a, that's very true though. That's very true. Yeah. They'll always be mad if you don't get the safe shot. Never be mad if you get a more creative shot.
Chris Owens: 00:54:08 Right.
Raymond: 00:54:11 Um, so, uh, okay, so, so we go, we know what needs to be covered the day of the 500. We know who's going where, what shots they need to get the equipment that they need to use as well. Winners, you know, the winner wins. You Go, you photograph the milk, you photograph the kiss of the bricks, you come back. And how many photos would you say that you have at the end of the day? A, of the 500. Do you happen to know from this year's numbers? I mean, is it thousands?
Chris Owens: 00:54:39 Yes, yes, yes. I would guess that it's in the years past. Um, you know, I would say probably I would for some reason the number like four or 5,000 sticks out to me. That might be crazy. But um, you just from the five photography, yes, just from me, but um, at the same time I have learned and having more responsibilities and more assignments and understanding of what will and won't work in photography and have to track that number for me has gone down a little. I recommend for anybody who's a new shooter, shoot a ton cause you have more things to choose from. But, and especially if you have time and none another job following up, you know, me, after shooting the 500 on Sunday, I then have an assignment and the next morning at like 8:00 AM with the winner. So I've learned over the years if I take 5,100 photos as 5,000 pictures I have to look at and I have to spend five seconds with making a decision whether I'm going to use it, whether I'm going to scrap it. So to think about that too, you know. Um, yeah, so I, um, I want to say like this year is probably quite a bit less. Probably half of that probably took a couple of thousand photos on race day. Tons of them are from victory circle. Whenever, you know, when the winter gets out of the car from there, I'm not going to lie to you. It's, you know, the still that you see that's the one, it's not some creative genius. It is a one picked out of 300 from a, you know, so, um,
Raymond: 00:56:16 again, you got to get that safe shot.
Chris Owens: 00:56:18 Yeah, you got it. I couldn't wait though for the one second, for the decisive moment. But I know, no,
Raymond: 00:56:25 you still have a job to do and there's a lot on the line, so I get it. So you mentioned earlier that your job kind of starts at the end of the race, right? Because now you have all of these photos. So what happens to the images after race day?
Chris Owens: 00:56:40 So the last couple of years, the way we've done it is, you know, kind of stand there. I'll wait. I'll get that reaction shot from the winter. And then once that shot, once those shots are done, the winter goes out to the yard of bricks and does their, um, kissing of the bricks and some other traditional shots at the speedway. Um, at that point I then literally sprint like I run into the media center, throw the card in because at that point, you know that that moment's already five minutes ago. And that's, that's what the racing world is. Uh, you know, in sports world is waiting for. So, um, I have been somewhat to fill in for me and do some of the other sponsor commitment photos with the winter. Um, you know, and then from there you're just, you're there all night, you're there until, you know, if the race gets over and I don't even know, cause I never have time to look at the clock.
Chris Owens: 00:57:36 Three, four, whatever it is. I'll be there till nine 30 or 10. And then eventually you just, you call it quits, you go, you get tired and go, I have, this is what I'm going to have. These are the images I'm going to have from this event, you know, bundle them up, ready to turn them into our internal archive. And I put them on our, um, our media page where media goes to get images, um, you know, after our events. And of course some of them are more important than others. So I'm throwing some of those up while I'm trying to finish the rest. I mean, it's a juggle and it's a constant brain assessment of what's the use of this image? How important is it? Who needs it? Can they wait a day? Does it need to be shown to the world now? Um, you're just firing on all cylinders mentally and physically for an entire day of the 8,500.
Chris Owens: 00:58:23 Um, and you know, when you're out shooting, sometimes you're waiting on a shot. You see this awesome shot, the one you want the shot and you go, I can wait your two more minutes for this because there's so many other things going on. So for me, it's just an entire day of celebrating your victories and like not, you know, walking away from your losses. And, um, and then having a plan before the day starts, before the month starts of on race day, I want to go to this spot and get this shit. I want to shot, I want to do this shot this way, I want to do this shot this way. Um, and having them in mind and not spending too much time anywhere, just bouncing.
Raymond: 00:59:00 Yeah. I would imagine that for every shot that you do get, there's gotta be at least one or 10 more shots that you don't get that you,
Chris Owens: 00:59:06 every year that I was a part of, I was there for, I'm just like, oh, it's okay, but it's not that cool, you know?
Raymond: 00:59:11 Right, right, right. So, okay. So, so just to clarify, when you run back to the media center and then you said that you're there all night, you're going through those photos, you're selecting of the, uh, the images that are, that are going to go out, right?
Chris Owens: 00:59:25 Yup. Correct. Correct.
Raymond: 00:59:27 So when, when you're doing that, about how many images would you say go into the, uh, go into the, I believe you said the archive of the,
Chris Owens: 00:59:39 yeah. You know, for the day, I probably contribute, I would say under four, around maybe 400, 300
Raymond: 00:59:50 and that's between all the, the photographers?
Chris Owens: 00:59:54 No, that's my cell for the day. Yes. Those are just mine. And others, you know, they have, they might do the same or are more. Um, I, I don't, my big thing is I don't, I was told, you know, from my photography teacher young and I stuck with this, that a photographer only shows their best work. I don't find benefit in turning in a ton of images. Um, a lot of times I just find for clients that, that gets them confused on what to pick. You're putting creative decisions in their hands. They, they didn't, they paid you to make those decisions. You pick the best one, you give them that. And it never fails. As a photographer, I've heard this everywhere and it happens to me daily. The photo you liked the least, that's the one they're gonna use every time. Every damn time. So the boat don't give them to, you know, you don't want to give them too much.
Chris Owens: 01:00:46 You want to give them what's good. Um, so yeah, I, that's the way I do it. Probably race day is between three, I'm guessing it's under 400, probably 300. Um, but, but we're doing, we're not doing any 500, but we're doing events and practice and qualification, time trials, all that kind of stuff. And in a road course race at the beginning of the month, we're doing that every day in May. So I mean by the end of the month, like I am in tune with this camera on one with this camera. Two years ago I got a little like rough, almost patch, like callous on the tip of my nose from hitting a camera, gets my face for a thousand pictures a day or whatever. Like I'm sorry to, to fight. Yeah, I ramble. What was your question? I'm sorry.
Raymond: 01:01:41 Uh, I mean really that was it. I was really trying to figure out how many images get added to the archive, so that makes sense. That makes sense. You know, really delivering the best work is, is still part of your job. You know, it's not, it's not just taking the photos, but it's delivering the best photos. I would imagine that having to, uh, deliver photos quick for the rest of the world too, to see that there's next to no editing being done to the image itself. Right.
Chris Owens: 01:02:12 We're, you're just, we're moving quick. I'm moving quick, man. I'm getting him in there. And um, you, if it's a slow day, not a race day, I have time where I play with them and I, you know, I do a little manipulation. Um, I just, I don't, I don't do super heavy manipulation. Part of that is because I'm trying to make editorial images that are used, you know, and in magazines and on web stories and really the world is lightened up. Believe it or not. I mean, not your big publications, but for standard editorial news, they'll use an image that's a doctored a little bit, um, or as we like to call it cooked, because sometimes, sometimes you see somebody over at, it's an image, it's, their colors are messed up. It's a little crispy, too much clarity. They cooked it.
Raymond: 01:03:01 That's not who won the race.
Chris Owens: 01:03:05 We work in a coal mine, there's charcoal all over this guy.
Raymond: 01:03:09 So, uh, having, having, uh, captured all of these images and then, you know, submitting them, um, you're essentially not a freelance photographer. Are you allowed to use these images for your own personal use?
Chris Owens: 01:03:24 Yeah, so, you know, I, I'll use them on my website portfolio, which makes sense. That's as a photographer, that's how I make my, would make my living moving forward if I weren't to be with the speedway, would be showing what I'm capable of. I'm also, you know, social media. It's today, you know, that promotes the brand that promotes, um, the speedway and [inaudible] speedway in indycar series and all that. So, you know, obviously anything that you see that I post, it's always in a positive light. I don't have anything bad to say about the series of cars that the drivers, it's all just promotion of Indycar and I'm showing the way I see the world in car racing. So yeah, it's, I'm able to do that. Um, I don't, my images, I don't, I'm, they're not for sale. I can't sell them prince of them, you know, cause tactically when you work for a company, you know, or a client like this, they own their likeness and the, and um, that's what they're paying me for. So they're not my images to sell. But um,
Raymond: 01:04:25 trying to share that. I think now I could be totally wrong here, but for awhile I was really trying to get pizzas on the podcast who was Barack Obama's a photographer in the White House. Uh, it never came to fruition but I remember reading and doing my research somewhere that he doesn't own those. Like he can't use those photos for anything. And the question that I wanted to ask was cause like apparently those photos are government property and obviously he has a very popular Instagram account where he posts photos that he took. And I guess the way around it, again I could be totally wrong, is that he has to get those photos off of flicker and then post them almost like with a link because again, like he's not allowed to use any of these photos. I could be totally wrong. This could be totally made up, but I guess I was just trying to get more of an idea of,
Chris Owens: 01:05:14 I would believe it. Um, because, you know, I recently, um, had conversations with someone about the current White House photographer and how they had some images of themselves and just, I guess an interesting thing of how they were going to acquire those images to use them. And it sounded like it was, um, a process. It was a me, maybe it couldn't be done or process. And I've heard this kind of thing about military, um, photography as well that I, I don't know that you're really even technically allowed to keep those images you take for the military and government. I don't know how those images exist in the world and how those people get their hands on them. And maybe it's just literally they're stealing them. They're backing them up. That's what I would do. I don't know. You know?
Raymond: 01:05:56 All right. Yeah, I guess, again, I guess I just wanted some sort of insight as to, cause I've never had to deal with this as a sense of like photography,
Chris Owens: 01:06:04 you know, it really, it's basically, um, yeah that you own certain, you know, companies will do, we'll do it that way and it makes sense. It's, you know, you're, they're paying you, it's their property. You're creating the property, you're creating the creative, uh, you're creating their creative likeness and that's what they pay you for. So yeah, I, I don't, um, own those images. I would actually, I'd have to look into that. I mean, I'm sure there's a photo lawyer out there somewhere that could tell you, uh, how many years, you know, those copyrights last,
Raymond: 01:06:37 I think it's a hundred. Again, I could be wrong, but, okay,
Chris Owens: 01:06:39 man, I'm not going to live that long. That's disappointing.
Raymond: 01:06:42 Yeah, I think, I think that's what it is for a, for music, for music to become royalty free. I think it's a hundred years, so, and a hundred years we're going to have some really interesting youtube videos for sure. But yeah. So we're kind of winding down here. I've got a few last questions for Ya. Uh, you've, you've been super gracious with your time. Um, I, I want to know what is something that you think most people don't realize about shooting an event? Like the, like the Indianapolis 500.
Chris Owens: 01:07:09 Hmm, that's a great question. Um, you know, I think the thing I, that I find a lot with photographers is I'm probably this slow generic, but it on the racing side of it, catching the cars, you know, people see these awesome images that, um, my teammates and myself make. And I think a photographer, a good photographer, like a good photographer thinks I can go out there and do that. Some of it you can, but some of it's like, I'm not really great at and I've been working at it for years. So you have an example. Um, you know, I would say more of the, the, the blurry stuff to creative pans. You see, if you see these cool pictures of race cars and um, you know, there's Buller everywhere in these neat colors coming off the side of the wall or because a fence is in the way or whatever, you know, a good photographer can go out and get that stuff and you, and they still would come back with a big, big blurry messages.
Chris Owens: 01:08:17 It's a very, very thin line between making it blurry photo creative and a blurry photo, a scullery bad photo. So I would say that I find, and I, I say that because I've known a couple of photographers who have literally, um, done that. We've had come out and said, hey, you know, I want to try to help you for the day or whatever. And they kind of come back saying like, hey, that's way harder than I thought it was. Um, just because like I said, the fine line between a blurry creative photo and a, a blurry, blurry, bad crummy photo. It's a fine line. I'm trying to find it. I'm close to it. I don't know right where it is, but I can always tell which side of it on one. So, um, I would say that I think people, like you mentioned earlier, don't realize, um, sometimes the hours put in on and the commitment involved too.
Chris Owens: 01:09:10 Event like, like the 500 or, or any big event, you know, a horse race or anything like that you have to cover of being there at four or 5:00 AM before all the people flood in and the traffic is too full and you get stuck out on the highway, you know, stuff like that. Standing like you had mentioned, standing on your feet the entire day, staying alert, um, not getting bored, not losing focus. Um, and you know, every time you go to take a shot, just realizing that whatever obstacles or resistance you have inside you that's telling you, I'm too tired. I need a break. Um, this, I'll be fine with what I got already. Um, things like that. That's just resistance. And that's keeping you from having great portfolio images and it's keeping you from your next paycheck and your [inaudible] or even extending your hobby or one day creating your career in photography resistance. Just that's what people don't realize. There's a little, you know, there's a lot of resistance in and what I do get tired, get sore, get hungry, get bored. You know, you gotta it's a, there's a lot. Um, it's really gotta stay, you gotta stay on it for lack of a better.
Raymond: 01:10:30 So my last question for you was going to be, if you showed up tomorrow and you had a new assistant, which obviously you would know about because you would be the one in charge of finding them, but let's say you showed up for work tomorrow and there was a brand new assistant there for you, what is the one piece of advice that you would give them? But would it be that, would it be persistence?
Chris Owens: 01:10:48 I would, I would say yeah. You know, don't, to, to not raise, not resist. Whenever something great comes to you or when you get tired or whenever you start losing focus. I would also tell them I'm the greatest way, you know, to be at the top of this is, um, to be there, to be present, to volunteer, to raise your hand, to be the one to get up and go do something when it's needed by another photographer. I'm being helpful. I know that's so generic, but I feel that that was the way I got, you know, to the point where I'm at, you know, who can go shoot the sponsor event and the tent me did. I want to know. I know I hated it. I didn't want to do it, but I guess I just figured out that if you're helpful by being helpful is um,
Raymond: 01:11:41 okay.
Chris Owens: 01:11:41 The way is, it is a great reason for people to use you, you know, as generic as that sounds. Um, you got to, you got to pay your dues and photography. You have to, and I know a lot of photographers, you hear them say things like, oh, I've never worked for free, blah, blah, blah. If I wouldn't have worked for free, I would never be doing what I'm doing because I had no, I had no portfolio. You're not the greatest when you first start with your brand new digital camera. You have to have a reason to be good. And I'm the best I would tell this person is also to shoot, shoot, shoot. Because the, the way I feel that I got to be a good photographer is by always volunteering and doing all this stuff. So I'm always the ones shooting while everybody's sitting around.
Chris Owens: 01:12:25 So, you know, and I just, you figure things out. There's no school, there's no, there's nothing that can really, there's some small things that can help you, but nothing can teach you to be a better photographer. Nothing and no one than yourself by just going out and shooting and figuring it out. So I would say a lot of shooting, find what your interests are, you know, volunteer for if you're new, if you're literally, I mean, if you're a photographer, I'd get it. But if you're a new photographer, maybe you're not ready to be taking money from clients and people. But if you are working with people who are taking money from clients and our, I'm working professionals, you, you're getting to watch what they do, you're getting to learn from them and one day you're going to be in their shoes. It's not gonna be next month.
Chris Owens: 01:13:10 It's not going to be next year. It's not going to be the following. But you never know. You may few years, five years down the road, you might go, wow, I've been shooting a couple events or a couple of portrait sessions, volunteering for years. I got this. Now I know, I know all of the trials and tribulations of it. I've seen the problems, I've seen the pros, the cons, and I know how to get through it and get over it. Um, that's kind of what I feel about myself. You know, I've, I've learned a lot in what I've done from, from others and I can take that to do whatever I ended up doing eventually, you know, whether it's your shooting car racing forever or doing anything else. So, um, I would just say, shoot, you've got to shoot a lot and you got to volunteer to shoot.
Raymond: 01:13:58 It all comes back to persistence. Yeah. That's incredible. That was, that was like a roadmap for, no pun intended, but that was like a roadmap to, to like getting where you want to get to. Like from the beginning. That was wonderful.
Raymond: 01:14:13 Yeah.
Chris Owens: 01:14:13 You just got to pay your dues. Yeah. Try things out, get your, get your friend, go take pictures, your friends, go do portraits of your friends. Go and ask a wedding photographer if you can tag along there, your images are a bonus, you know, you won't get in the way.
Raymond: 01:14:25 Right, right. Yeah. I've, I've told people the exact same thing. If you're just getting started, why not shoot for free. And I think that that, that gets lost. So I'm glad. I'm glad that you shared that. Thank you Chris. I, oh my gosh, I've kept you for so long and I apologize again. You've been so gracious with your time and sharing the seemingly everything that there was to ask about shooting. Um, before I let you go, can you let the listeners know where they can find, uh, some of your work and follow you online?
Chris Owens: 01:14:58 Sure, absolutely. Um, so my personal webpage is, uh, Chris Alan's photography.com. It's that easy. Uh, Chris Owens, photography.com and on there, um, you see everything from car racing, highlights to, um, street photography, which is kind of my, you know, that's my other passion other than shooting car racing is just street art. It's a lot of that on there. I do stories from music festivals or from concerts or from car races on the blog section on there. So, um, that's something that gets updated pretty often, uh, or something new rolling on there. I'm also on Instagram is where I'm most active, and that one is also super simple. It's just my name at Chris Owens. So that one, uh, lucky enough to have that handle. That's an easy one. Um, then from there, obviously if you're interested in, you know, solely car racing photography, indycar.com, which is the sanctioning body that hosts all their cars that race in any 500. Um, so indycar.com is a great gallery from uh, me and even more great creative stuff from all of uh, my teammates, all the awesome indycar photographers who inspire me and, and hopefully I inspire them to, so there's, there's great stuff from all of us on there.
Raymond: 01:16:15 Awesome. I know that there's going to be a lot of listeners checking out your work and, uh, just interested in something new. You know what I mean? It's all about hearing new, fresh perspectives. And this is something that I have never done in the podcast is Kinda talk about the logistics of a singular event like this. And I learned a ton. So again from me and from the listener. I thank you so much for, for coming on, Chris.
Chris Owens: 01:16:37 Yeah, thanks Raymond. Thanks for having me.
Raymond: 01:16:40 Oh, I will tell you what my biggest takeaway from this interview with Chris was just simply how much pressure he must feel, how much pressure is on, to not only cover an event this size. I mean, you heard how big the Indianapolis Motor speedway is. It is massive. So, not only to cover an event of this size, but manage a team of so many other photographers to cover the event as well. And, and actually how much of the photography side is not glamorous, not being in the winner's circle, you know, not capturing that, that iconic note shot, not capturing those national news worthy moments, but things like trash cans, it's all linked and it is all important. And that is what I got a lot out of this interview with Chris and it reminded me that sometimes when I'm in a wedding, um, and I asked myself, I'm wondering why am I, why am I photographing the table settings?
Raymond: 01:17:44 Who cares what a plate and some silverware and uh, you know, dinner glass, like who cares what this stuff looks like? These photos don't go in the album. These photos, you know, don't get printed. Nobody hangs this photo on their wall. And I asked, why am I shooting this? But thinking about this interview with Chris, you realize it's all connected. It is all connected. And those photos, while you know they will be important to somebody and if not now, they will for sure be important to somebody in the future. So Chris, if you're listening, thank you so much for coming on. I had a blast speaking with you and I look forward to, uh, catching up here soon as well. So that is it for this week. Um, this week's interview here on the beginner photography podcast. Until next week, I want you to get out, keep shooting, focus on yourself and stay safe. All right, love y'all.
Outtro: 01:18:41 If you enjoy today's podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes or your favorite podcast player and continue the conversation with Raymond and other listeners of the podcast by joining the beginner photography podcast Facebook group today. Thank you. We'll see you again next week.