The 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona Through Camden Thrasher’s Unique Eye
Photography by Camden Thrasher
I’ve wanted to get Camden Thrasher involved with Front Street for years now, as his ability to capture distinctive and unique scenes of auto races above and beyond that of traditional media is truly special. Few other professionals have mastered the craft as elegantly and effortlessly as he has. Seriously, I’ve shot events with him, and he is tranquil no matter the surroundings. However, one particular aspect of his work which I especially enjoy is his approach to night photography.
He uses a unique slow shutter speed method that has been perfected over many exposures; this method creates breathtaking images that leave the viewer wondering just how he did it. In fact, we had a debate here at the Front Street office just a few weeks ago regarding one of his previously published images that required a text message conversation and explanation of his methods for us to truly understand the process.
Rolex 24 at Daytona History
Just so you can say you learned something from reading this article, I’ll share some history. This was the 57th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The endurance race begins at 2:40 pm on Saturday, continues through the night, and ends at 2:40 pm on Sunday. Winning this 24-hour torture test ranks among top honors for the elite drivers of the world. In fact, two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso won the race this year with Wayne Taylor Racing even though he still has not had luck finishing many other full race distances. In a showing similar to the vehicles he has piloted for the past few years, the race itself was a DNF this year.
A torrential downpour that lasted several hours concluded the race with a red flag, as race officials displayed the ceasefire after numerous attempts from the drivers to endure the onslaught of inclement weather. With carnage ever-increasing, and no expiry of the storm in sight, the race was finally ended with cars already soundless in pit lane.
While the conditions might have made the racing timid, it produced brilliant scenes.
What is a slow shutter speed?
Without getting too technical, one main setting of a camera is called the shutter speed. It enables the sensor (or film) inside to record the scene shown through the lens for a specific time. This setting is measured in fractions of a second. A “slow shutter speed” is a relative term, but it generally refers to a speed slower than 1/100th of a second. The assigned shutter speed of disposable cameras, remember them?
In other words, have you ever tried to take a picture of your friends outside a restaurant at dinnertime and someone’s face is smeared in the image? That’s because the shutter speed was slow. For most, this typically becomes an issue when recording clear images in low light scenarios. Camden, however, revels in showcasing the beauty of slow shutter speeds and dark scenes.
Many objects ordinarily considered obstacles surrounding the racetrack, are instead transformed to help frame the elusive subjects. By using them, he creates picturesque scenes of alluring motion which vividly display the movement of racing cars. He sinks his camera’s shutter speeds into the surreal range of 1/3 of a second, distorting the information of light into a dreamlike representation of the scene, while maintaining a smooth and crisp exposure of the car.
It’s a method that may not accurately depict events of the race upon its completion. It does, however, generate art meant to remain relevant, and surpass the longevity of its rather topical counterpart.
Prior to the event, I had asked Camden if he was interested in contributing abstract imagery to us. With his delivery now published for all to see, I must say I’m ecstatic with the results. I can’t wait to publish more of his work from another race in the future.