This image is from the Hot Rod Reunion which is held annually at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green Kentucky. Every year this event attracts nostalgic hot rodders from around the US for a weekend of vintage style drag racing and a hot rod car show. The theme of the event is centered around the early days of the sport and brings out many old race cars from the 50s and 60s when drag racing was still done with grass roots cars and drivers. During that era most dragsters and drag cars were built by hot rodders in their own backyard garages. Those early racers would design and build the chassis then search the wrecking yards for engines to power them. The engines would be hopped up using limited tooling and speed parts that were sourced from small speed shops across the country. There were no major sponsors or multi-million dollar budgets like the current drag racers have; for the most part it was just the money the team could scrape up from their day jobs and local sponsors. There were very few large purses and about all those early racers took home after a day of competition was a cheap trophy and bragging rights for being the fastest car there.
This particular dragster is reminiscent of that era though it is unique in that it has twin engines. During that era the benchmark for high performance engines was to squeeze one horsepower per cubic inch from an engine. An example would be the Chevrolet Corvette V-8 which had a displacement of 283 cubic inches and in race tune that engine was capable of making 270 horsepower. One way to build a car with more power was to put two engines in it and effectively double the horsepower. The car in this photo is using twin engines in an effort to get the most power they can for a small price. The down side of that much power was that the tires of that time were not capable of getting the power to the track and instead spun for long distances from the start line. This car shows that effect as it powers down the racetrack spinning it’s tires and billowing smoke after getting the green light.
I captured this image in the middle of the day which as all photographers know is some of the harshest light to shoot in. By using Topaz Adjust I was able to enhance the detail and color in the scene and produce an acceptable image. I made this image a couple of years ago when I was first getting into using plug-ins such as Topaz Adjust and it reflects the state of HDR photography at that time. I, like many other photographers, was pretty heavy handed with the color saturation and sharpening that the plug-ins created but at the same time I was enjoying the results as they were so much richer than anything I had done before. Since those early days I have started to move into a more realistic style of HDR processing that, while still creating rich color and detail, is more in line with how the scene appears in real life.
This composition relies on the standard rule of thirds as well as strong diagonal lines that sweep from left to right. The position of the car heading out of the frame reinforces the billowing cloud of tire smoke and the sense of movement it conveys while the perspective of the spectator bleachers creates depth as the viewer’s eyes move into the background.