NASCAR racers move fast. Camera shutters are fast enough to freeze the 200 mph action, but what do you do when you want a shot of the entire field of racers? Wide angle lenses create distortion known as convergence, and if you zoomed out enough to get the entire field, you're only utilizing a portion of your emulsion or imaging chips, resulting in a noisy, fuzzy image. Photographer Rick Graves has created a customized Hasselblad to solve this conundrum and has produced some of the most beautiful images of NASCAR we've seen.
The modified camera has been dubbed DistaCam, and uses a high-speed motor drive and a metal plate with a slit cut in it, sort of like a pinhole camera. There is math involved; the focal distance is calculated, the speed of the motor needs to be correlated to the speed of the cars on the track, and the aperture of the telephoto lens is worked out. Once the numbers are crunched, the camera is aimed at an inches-wide spot on the track and then prayers are offered to Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration in hopes that there'll be some good among the inevitable chaff. It's not often that everything happens just so and the cars come out perfect, instead of squished or stretched. Those perfect bits are stitched in Photoshop after the 66-inch long frames are scanned ten inches at a time and cleaned up. When all's said and done, the prints can be monstrous - as large as hundreds of feet long. Cool. It's like those trick aluminum floorjacks they use in the pits; a total hotrod.