Photographing AMA Pro Superbike Racers
for OMRRA Round 6
Over the last couple of years I’ve been studying the different facets of fear.
Fear is one of the most basic human survival skills we possess and is meant to keep us from physical pain or potential danger. We use this emotion daily to make realistic and intelligent actions to stay healthy, alive, and remain a strong survivor of the human race. Sometimes we encounter a situation and struggle to overcome the body’s natural reaction to flee from a fearful future happening, this reaction results more as anxiety preventing us from accomplishing an actual obtainable goal.
In “After Earth” Will Smith says: “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”
Think about that while reading on.
My first introduction to Superbike racing was to be thrown on the back of a Suzuki GSX-R1000 with Michael Jordan Motorsports racer Danny Eslick at Pacific Raceways. It was not on my bucket list to ever try such a thing, my instinct to survive is pretty strong, but I’m definitely grateful to have experienced the incredible power of gravity and the distinct feeling of healthy fear. It’s simply freedom, fun, and exhilarating. Then you hit 130 mph and the front wheel goes up. Were the breaks activated on that long turn? Breathing stops. The throttle revs up and you go faster coming out of a turn. You feel like you’re going to fly off. Focusing on the scenery becomes as dizzying as looking at a Jackson Pollock painting, and dear god you want the bike to stop but the ride to continue on. It’s insane.
Those who do this for a living, are totally balls-out crazy. And absolutely brilliant. You see, they have mastered their fear.
Over the year, I’ve been following and documenting Special Projects Group’s (SPG) customized production model Ducati Seattle SPG 1199S Panigale. With an engine built by Mike Castro and specialized electronics by Jon Schiereck, they gave the first test ride to World Superbike and AMA Superbike Champion Scott Russell for the Ducati Seattle – Seattle100 back in July. The second test rider was Stefano Mesa who won the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association (OMRRA) Round 5 back in August.
After the test rounds, SPG felt it was ready for AMA Pro Superbike Racer and World Superbike Rider, Jake Holden, to ride and get the lap record at Portland International Raceway. So in September, with #59 attached to the orange-red Ducati, the team drove from Seattle to Portland for the OMRRA Round 6. Along with fresh treads from Pirelli tires and suspension advice from Barry Wressell of GP Suspension and KFG Racing, electronics specialist Jon Schiereck made sure the bike had a new chassis set-up, custom tuning, and cutting-edge electronics with remapped ECU.
The second day I was there to witness the races first-hand. That means there was a lot of waiting around in the pits, then an urgency to Go! Go! Go! as Jake’s race class was being called over the announcement speaker. There were multiple times throughout the day where it was raining and the threat of lightening storms paused the race. The electricity and tension was palpable as it was uncertain if they should race on the slick track. Danger is always present when racing, which means the element of fear is present, but the wet pavement presents the challenge to change the balances of one’s bravery.
Eyes focused, Jake headed over to the superbike, put his helmet on and rode out to the track. He laps the screaming bike by the pits ahead of the rest of the pack. He was so far ahead that each time he’d pass in front of the crowd he would do a different wheelie or fun trick for us. We all roared with laughter and cheered as he crossed the finish line.
Jake Holden broke the track record with a lap time of 1:06.202 and on day two won the Formula Ultra and Open Superbike races. He made it look easy and taught me something: have fun with your fear.
Left to right: electronics specialist Jon Schiereck, suspension adviser Barry Wressell and Superbike racer Jake Holden.
In the Pit
New slicks from Pirelli tires.
Outtakes: fun from my Instagram feed
You can always see where I am, who I’m photographing and get sneak peeks from my sets over at my Instagram feed.
Photography details for this shoot are below.
To see all the equipment I use on set, visit my GEAR LIST PAGE.
Big huge shout out of thanks to my friend Raul Gonzalez for helping me scout the track, set up all the gear, and keep the umbrellas from flying away in the wind! You totally rock, Dude! (p.s. that wasn’t lightening, it was my flash!)
Camera: Nikon D700
Westcott 43 inch Apollo Orb Speedlite Kit 2340
Nikon SB-800 Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Paul C. Buff White Lightning X3200
Paul C. Buff 86″ Silver PLM™ parabolic umbrella
HONDA EU1000i Inverter Generator, 900W
Bags used on set:
Think Tank Photo Airport Security V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag
Think Tank Photo Airport 4-Slight
Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 Shoulder Bag (Blue Slate) Think Tank Photo Travel Pouch—Large
Think Tank Photo AA Battery Holder
Camera Straps used on set:
BlackRapid Floral Woman’s Strap (RS-W1F) (Black)
3 Legged Thing “EDDIE” Carbon Fiber Tripod System with AirHed 2 Ballhead
Nice Industries Glow Blower Nasty Clamp