Pick Up Sticks

I am going on ten years. October would have been my anniversary, but I have had a lot of time to reflect lately. Reflect, re-edit, and rethink what the last ten years of being a motorsports photographer have been like. Doing anything for a decade says something, I guess I must like it. It is strange to think how some of those dominoes falling with what seemed like insignificance have paved the path that I now walk.

The very first inkling was a book. Olympic Portraits by Annie Leibovitz changed the game for me. Seeing a body of work bringing beauty out of sport inspired me greatly. The pages of Sports Illustrated were dynamic, yes, but the same shot on the football field, basketball court, and baseball diamonds became somewhat forgettable next to Leibovitz’s elegant photojournalism. It became less about the sport and more about the people.

Right around that time, I signed up for my first photography class at the local art center. Armed with my dad’s old Canon AV-1, it was the beginning. My first four or five photography classes remained in the darkroom and I learned to see like many of the ‘traditional’ photographers before me. The anxiety of not knowing how the shot will come out and the smell of fixer on my fingers became normal. It was only when my mom bought me a digital camera for Christmas did things take a turn again.
Nikon D3000 in hand and a wobbly zoom lens empowered me to shoot at the local dirt tracks that my dad was racing. Rarely did I photograph the cars because the people were far more interesting to me. Most ignored me for the strange kid trying to be covert in the shadows, but some asked for the photos for their sponsors or own promotion. That attention made me feel like I had a place there.

Midway through high school, my family went to an IndyCar race at Homestead Miami Speedway. It instantly changed everything. Camera in hand, the colors and sleekness of the chassis were unlike anything I had photographed before. At speed, these cars were an incredibly difficult but exhilarating new challenge, especially during the night race. I decided then that was where I was meant to be.

A season or two later my dad got us press passes for an established Northern Californian racing magazine and we set out to cover the IndyCar season finale at Fontana. Entering the media center, those in charge deemed that I looked too young to be an accredited member of the press and we were stripped of our additional access. The weekend consisted of me sneaking into the pit lane and pre-grid to shoot the pictures we needed for the article. I have no regrets. The following seasons I became a regular contributor and shot my first Indy 500 for the same magazine.

Six years ago, I found a home here in Roddin and Racing NW and it has been a good fit. Where other editors and magazines I have shot for along the way have been restrictive, here I have been lucky enough to shoot whatever it is that interests me.

By sheer luck and years of diligent preparation, I met the right person at the right time. He hired me to NBC Sports and I fell into my dream job- traveling the country to cover the IndyCar series.

I can thank both of my parents, had my mom not given me that Nikon for Christmas, or had dad not instilled this passion for racing in me, then my life would look very different right now. I can also credit two very inspiring and supportive art mentors that pushed my boundaries. Between my past cameras and my current Canon 70D, I have shot hundreds of thousands of photos. A large swatch of that have been racing-oriented, but I have learned a great deal from studying other types of portraiture and landscape documentation. Concert photography interests me greatly and shooting for local arts and culture magazines have been a tactful way to stay sharp in the offseason.

Make no mistake, I have sacrificed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for this endeavor. To this day I am one of the few regular photographers on the circuit under the age of thirty and fewer still, a woman. The way I look has solicited comments and unknowing assumptions about my skill and my commitment. They will never know how much work I have put in to overcome those barriers and refine my craft, but I do this for myself and because I love it. It is where I feel like I belong.

From getting lost in the backwoods of Portland International Raceway to meeting Lady Gaga on the Yard of Bricks at IMS, these ten years have been a colorful blur of opportunities and I can’t be more appreciative. Each event that has built my experience lays atop the last like a jumbled pile. I can try to pull out one defining moment at a time but it is useless because they are stacked haphazardly. In the end, these ten years can be a mess of scattered memories, but I see it as a pile of Pick Up Sticks.

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