Since its inception in 1994, RACER's "In Focus" studio photo shoots have aimed to bring some of the world's greatest racecars to "life" as part of our recognition that the cars are as much a part of racing's story as the drivers. The vision and artistry of photographer Rick Graves has been key to achieving that goal through the years, and for the latest issue of the magazine – appropriately, the "Great Cars Issue" – Graves has expanded his canvas a little further by shooting a racecar fresh from the racetrack.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's HPD ARX-03a went under Rick's lights and lenses fresh from the winner's circle at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, complete with all the dirt, insect casualties, grease and other detritus from six hours of endurance racing. And that made the resulting shoot all the more rewarding for him.
"It's something that we'd kicked around for years, but it was exciting to actually have a chance to do it and see the after-battle, uncleaned view of it," Graves says. "I was looking for views that would show interesting patterns of the grease and dirt.
"What I found to be fascinating when I was at Le Mans last year, right after they pulled the Audi into the winner's circle you could see aero effects on the bodywork, the wind, based on the dirt, you could actually see the lines. So, that was exciting to be able to see how the aero was working – it's almost like being able to see the air. So I was trying to find angles and compositions that would show how the air was flowing over the car."
Exhaust residue visible on overhead and rear views of the HPD also served to raise the energy level of the shoot, taking it beyond a purely museum-quality representation to depicting the car as an active competitor.
"Trying to find compositions again that would maximize the look and feature the discoloration over the car of the exhaust flow became one of the neatest features of being able to shoot it right after the race," Graves agrees. "To see the burn of the exhaust across the bodywork as well."
Although he's had the opportunity to shoot a wide variety of racing machinery in his "In Focus" work, Graves admits he finds sports prototypes like the HPD and open-wheel cars to be ideal subjects.
"Prototype cars and Indy cars are probably my favorite because they have so many changing surfaces," he explains. "It's the reverse of conventional car photography, where you have most of the surfaces go uninterrupted from the nose to the tail. So what's really fun, especially with that Muscle Milk car, in that rear view where you're looking straight down the back of the car, you see all the undulations and there's almost an infinite number of movements of shape. And, to me, the more the shape moves around, the more I can do with lighting to call attention to those shapes."
You can see for yourself the full details of what Rick does with all those shapes – which is preserved for posterity on RACER's rich 80lb paper stock – by clicking here to subscribe at a special discount rate.
For more details of what you'll find in August's Great Cars issue, click here.
• A number of archival prints from Rick Graves' "In Focus" photo shoots are now available on both paper and canvas (the canvas will be wrapped on stretcher bars and strung ready to hang). Each print is hand signed and numbered by Rick Graves and comes complete with a certificate of authenticity. Order online at rickgravesprints.com or call 1-888-613-0074.