Renting Camera Gear

I know in my last post that I said I was done until after my trip this weekend, but after a package came today, I figured I had one more in me :)

I love to take pictures when on vacation, as most people do. I started shooting with DSLRs about 9 years ago when my daughter started in competitive cheer, but would say that even today, I’m an amateur photographer at best. While I used to lug my gear around any time we went on trips, I only really enjoy shooting with it under the right circumstances these days. Over the past few years, my interest in using the DSLR gear on vacations has waned, and while I do still take it with me, it serves as a backup camera to my point and shoot, which also happens to be my phone, currently a Nokia Lumia 1020 with the camera grip. While each has advantages and disadvantages, being able to carry such little weight when using a decent point and shoot is enough for me to leave the DSLR in the bag. Most of the time.

The main exception to my rule would be auto races, the one place I really enjoy shooting. Over the past few years, I’ve rented gear to haul to the following:

  • 2008 Grand Prix of Long Beach: Rented a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR to mount on my D80
  • 2010 Grand Prix of Long Beach: Rented a Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR to mount on my D80
  • 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Rented a Nikon D7000 + Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
  • 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Rented a Nikon D750 + Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
  • Oh, and I also rented a Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR to use with my D80 on a work trip to Yosemite in 2010.

The D750 and 70-200 arrived today, just in time for our departure tomorrow. I’ve used a couple of different services for this over the years, LensRentals.com and RentGlass.com, and have had nothing but good experiences with both of them. The majority of those listed above, however, have been with LensRentals. My main reason behind this is because they allow me to schedule well in advance what I want and when I need it, vs just waiting until a few days before the trip and hoping what I want is in stock. For this trip, I reserved the gear on the 7th for arrival today. I’ll keep it 4 days, and send it back in the packaging it arrived in on Monday on my way home, only needing to have some packing tape on hand since the return shipping label is included.

Both of the services do an outstanding job packaging their gear, which I would completely expect considering how much this equipment would cost to replace. Today’s box was no different:

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The main reason I’m willing to rent and lug heavy gear around with me is that it’s next to impossible to get a decent shot of a race car at speed using a P&S. Shooting a moving vehicle is a mix of stable panning, fast glass, perfect shot settings, and good location. The professionals generate some awesome images. Me, I’m just happy to get pictures to use as desktop backgrounds, to be honest. The other challenge will be the number of pictures I take. I leave it in burst mode the whole weekend, and usually max out the camera buffer when I’m shooting a passing car from the fence line, and am guessing I’ll easily come home with somewhere between 2500-3000 pictures to sort through this trip. Most of that will likely be throw away, too, but the ones that turn out good will occupy my computer screens for quite a while.

Back to the rental services. Honestly, I find this to be a great way not only to try new gear, but to avoid paying the price of buying something you may only use a couple of times. I’ve always received solid, perfectly working gear, and the few times I did have to contact either company’s support for something, they were always very friendly and helpful. For anyone who’s never used a camera rental service but isn’t interested in renting DSLR gear, most of them aren’t limited to that, some have point and shoot cameras and GoPro gear, too.

One last recommendation for anyone renting high-end gear: Get the insurance for anything you’re not willing to pay replacement cost on. On our 2010 trip to Long Beach, I dropped my camera while it had the 18-200 rental lens on it. As soon as it left my hands, my heart sank. I didn’t even want to pick it up. When I did, I could tell that the lens was a bit jacked up, as the focus ring was loose, and the lens itself wasn’t 100% secure on the mount. We were at the car getting ready to head to the hotel on day 2 (of 3) when it happened, so I wrapped it up and waited to asses it further until we got to the hotel. When we got back to the room, I went ahead and emailed RentGlass to let them know what happened and ask for next steps. Long story short, after we got home, I sent the lens back as scheduled and waited to find out how much the repair was going to cost. Fortunately, none of the glass was damaged, and Nikon’s price to repair was only $125. That was the one time I skipped insurance, and I was sure I was going to have to pay for a new lens, so I was pretty happy with that outcome. It was a lesson for sure, and is still the only time I’ve ever dropped a camera.

Well, I’m off to finish packing since we’re off to Daytona in the morning! For now, here are a handful of my favorite shots taken with rental gear over the years:

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Our Favorite Port: Bermuda

Here we are at the end of my five part series, and we’re ending it with the trip that I started this blog with, Bermuda. We all agree this is our favorite to date, and it was a pretty easy choice. Since I’ve already talked about this port in-depth in my Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 posts back in June, I’ll do my best to bring new material to this entry.

When we were initially looking for a graduation cruise to take our daughter on, we were looking at Alaska. Jen and Bayley had never been there, and everyone who’s been on an Alaskan cruise seems to love them. After a bit of deceptive questioning to avoid letting Bayley in on the surprise, we came to realize that she’d prefer something tropical. My wife and I started the search over, quickly coming to the realization that we wanted to do something different from the normal Caribbean itineraries we’d been doing. We did consider cruises out of San Juan, since those go further south to ports we haven’t been, but most of those were out of our budget when adding airfare. That was when my wife brought up Bermuda. We’d talked about this in the past, but weren’t sure how we’d like a cruise where you basically park in one spot for three days. In researching it, she found it to be a favorite of a large percentage of those who posted reviews on Cruise Critic. Many people talked about how they’d been to Bermuda multiple times on cruises, which is something we really hadn’t seen with any other U.S. based itinerary. We were sold.

This itinerary started with two days at sea. On the morning of day 3, I got up early to watch the sunrise as we arrived in port. If you cruise to Bermuda, I highly recommend being up early and getting out on deck or a balcony to watch the sun come up as you pass around the island. The arrival provided some of the best views of the trip in my opinion, and as you can see, the Norwegian Breakaway beat us in to port:

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Getting back to the point of this post, this island is our favorite port of all time for a few reasons:

  1. The people were all incredibly warm and friendly, and you never felt unsafe. Wherever we went, people were always smiling, and willing to help you out with information or directions.
  2. The transportation system is second to none among ports we’ve stopped at. I talked about this in my previous posts, but when you first get off, there are transportation stands just off the ship where you can buy bus/ferry passes. If they can’t get you where you want to go, you probably don’t need to go there. We made use of the bus and ferry every day we were there. These are the same buses the rest of the island uses to get around, and the same ones kids take to and from school.
  3. A friend of mine at work is from Bermuda, and always talks fondly about the island (except maybe the cost of living :-) ). I’d heard about a few of the different landmarks on the island, like Somerset Bridge, so we made time to stop and see a couple of things most visitors aren’t aware of on his recommendation.
  4. There’s a ton of stuff to do. Even with 3 days in port, we still didn’t see everything we’d planned to. We definitely want to visit again and work on that list some more.

Number 2 above is a huge deal in my opinion. Going in, we had zero guided excursions planned, private or cruise sponsored, due to all we’d read about how good the transportation system was. When it was all said and done, we only took one guided tour, a last minute choice to take a jetski tour on our final morning there. As I mentioned in the Day 3 post in July, that tour was excellent and worth the extra money that was spent on it. Outside of that, everything else we did was on our own, utilizing the transportation system and our feet to get us where we wanted to go. It was nice to not be on a set schedule, not having to hurry to meet tour operators. We basically got off the ship whenever we want and headed out, and returned whenever we wanted.

This cruise also represented the first time we’d been parked in the same port for more than a few hours, which we all found pretty cool. On the first and second day in port, there was no stress about getting back to the ship before it left, since it wasn’t going anywhere. It was an awesome way to see Bermuda.

I think that about covers it. I highly recommend reading my three posts about our days on the island (linked in the first paragraph in this post) to get an idea of what we did. It’s been fun going over these five ports and reliving our time on these islands. My next posts will come some time next week and cover our upcoming trip to Daytona for the Rolex 24, a 24-hour sports car endurance race. In the meantime, here are a few more shots from Bermuda!

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Our 2nd Favorite Port: Costa Rica

Costa Rica was the second stop on our 2011 Thanksgiving cruise on the Carnival Freedom. To date this is one of the best itineraries we’ve sailed due to what we felt was the perfect mix of port days and sea days, allowing us to relax and reflect between stops:

  • Leave Ft Lauderdale
  • Sea day
  • Cozumel
  • Sea day
  • Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
  • Colon, Panama
  • Sea day
  • Sea day
  • Arrive Ft Lauderdale

Puerto Limon, where the ship docked in Costa Rica, is very industrial and not much to look at. When you get off the ship, you’re directed into a small shopping area where the “approved” tours also meet. My wife had set up up with a private tour through Your Lucky Tour, a vendor who we had to meet just outside of the market. We’d seen a few people on a certain cruise board say that this area wasn’t that safe, and to keep an eye on your family as you walked through the market, but none of us ever felt it was unsafe as we walked through the shops and exited on to the street. We quickly found our guide Pablo, who was holding up a sign with our name on it, and headed for his cab.

Our tour was a bit up a mash-up of the ones they offer on their site, and would have us in the car driving around the area quite a bit. It was cloudy and somewhat misty most of the day, but even with that, we found Costa Rica to be a beautiful country. Pablo was an awesome guide, and gave us quite an education on the country, and each of the places we stopped. We did have one heart pounding moment, as we stopped at a checkpoint and had to hand our passports to a couple of men with M16s, but outside of that never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. In addition to a quick stop at a local stand to try some plantains, our tour took us to some pretty cool places:

Jaguar Rescue Center: Despite the name, they rescue far more than just jaguars, including various monkeys, sloths, baby possums, and a few more I’m sure I’m forgetting. While we got to see a couple of younger sloths, they understandably do not allow visitors to touch them, as they’re very fragile animals. The monkeys, however, love to interact with the visitors, and once you’re in there, at least one will find a home on you. When we were in the monkey house, one of them immediately hopped on to my shoulder and couldn’t’ stop playing with my head. Jen and Bayley had similar experiences, but their monkeys immediately curled up in their arms and fell asleep. In addition to the monkey enclosure, we had a guide who gave us a very thorough tour of the facility, showing us various animals along the way.

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Puerto Viejo: After the rescue center, we drove a short ways to Puerto Viejo to walk around and do some shopping. This is an awesome little town right on the water that’s home to some very warm and friendly people. We walked around for about 45min or so, and picked up some things in a few local shops. In the pic of the red car below, the guy standing next to it on his phone is our guide, Pablo.

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Parque Nacional Cahuita: The highlight of this stop was the hike to the beach. I don’t remember the exact length, but we were out there a while, and it was one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done. The trail was pretty lush, and along the way our guide stopped to point out several different animals: crabs, sloths, a raccoon, and some rather large iguanas (one circled in red in a pic below). Since the trail is near the beach, it’s all sand, and was well worth the walk. It would have been awesome to spend some time at the beach, but we’ll save that for another trip down there. Again, it was an absolutely stunning hike.

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Those stops pretty much covered the day. As mentioned, we also stopped at a small stand to try some local plantains, which I actually enjoyed. Surprising since I despise bananas. Anyway, after arriving back in the port area, we decided to walk around town and do some shopping. Despite the warnings on a specific cruise forums site, we never felt unsafe walking around, and everyone we encountered was friendly. Yet another stop we’d like to go back and spend more time at!

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Our 3rd Favorite Port: Aruba

We stopped in Aruba on Thanksgiving day 2013 while on the Carnival Breeze, and it was definitely an excellent way to spend Thanksgiving, as Aruba is an incredibly beautiful and scenic island. I love to be outside on the ship watching our arrival in to port, and the beauty of the island really made getting up early for that worth it. On this cruise we had an oceanview at the front of the spa deck, which gave us quick access to the “secret deck” at the front of the ship, so I popped right out to watch us dock in Aruba as soon as I saw we were close. In a word: Wow. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves

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For this stop, my wife had set us up with an all day tour through HF Tours, and we loved every minute of it. There were 5 of us on the tour, as my mom and step dad were on the cruise too, and we got a 5 hour tour in a 15 person van for $65/pp, which seemed very reasonable compared to past tours we’d done. To add to it, our guide was outstanding, one of the best we’ve ever had. The tour itself took us over a large portion of the island, including stops at the California Lighthouse, the Old Dutch Windmill, and Eagle Beach.

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Windmill Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While those stops were all cool, our target for this tour were really the following landmarks:

Philip’s Animal Garden: While all three of us enjoy animals, my daughter is definitely what I’d categorize as an animal lover. Her goal in life is to work with animals, as she wants to train animals for TV and movies after she graduates from college. She also has her cat at college with her, has an Instagram account for him, and as you can see in those pictures, he’s quite active with her on campus. Back on topic, Philip’s was the first long stop we had. Our guide dropped us off right at the gate, and after paying the entrance fee, had a guide come up and walk us around, talking about the history of the facility, and telling us about all of the animals they had. If I recall, we spent about 45 minutes there and enjoyed it from start to finish. Very beautiful facility that’s growing, and doing good work, as they take in and house all kinds of animals that people decide they no longer want. Well worth the stop.

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Casibari Rock Formation: This was a pretty cool stop, allowing us to climb up to the top of the rock formation, where we had a great view of the island. Not much to say about this, as it’s a giant rock formation, but it’s a cool place to stop. If you go, be sure to climb the rock, it’s worth the effort. If you look carefully in the picture of my daughter and I, just above her head, you’ll see the two cruise ships in port that day.

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Donkey Sanctuary Aruba: You read that right, we visited a donkey sanctuary. Did I mention my daughter is an animal lover :)? The road leading up to the sanctuary is a bit small and rocky to the point that we weren’t sure the van would make it, and pulling up we really had no idea what to expect from the facility. Walking in, I was amazed at how many donkeys there were, they were everywhere! There really isn’t anything else to the stop, but it’s exactly as advertised, and run by some very friendly people. We spent some time there feeding the donkeys and listening to them talk about the facility. It was definitely an interesting stop.

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Natural Bridge: This is one of the most well known landmarks in Aruba, and was very cool to see in person. Unfortunately the bridge itself collapsed several years ago, but it’s still a great area of the island with spectacular views, and it’s a great place to walk out on the rocks, watch the waves come in, and clear your head. Almost cathartic.

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I know I said this earlier, but we really enjoyed this tour, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend HF Tours to anyone going to Aruba. I’d have loved to spent some time in the water at Eagle Beach, but that’s for another trip, as Aruba easily made our shortlist of places we want to spend more time. Even after such a long tour, we had plenty of time to stop and do some shopping in the area around the port before boarding, so here are some shots of that shopping area, along with a couple from the ship as we were pulling out of port.

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Our 4th Favorite Port: Roatan

It’s hard for me to rate this as low as 4th, as Roatan is one of my absolute favorite places. If I had my way, we’d be living down there by now :). I know there are various challenges in the area from time to time due to the political and economic climate in Honduras, but I fell in love with the place the first time we visited. For purposes of this post, I’ll be focusing on the first of two stops we’ve made in Roatan. On that trip in March of 2006, we came in on the Norwegian Jewel and docked at an older location near Coxen Hole, a dock that I don’t think is in use anymore. This was one of the first cruise stops where we didn’t use a cruise sponsored excursion, and as far as I’m concerned, it was one of the best stops to date.

We were on this cruise with the staff of the dental office where my wife worked. Over the years, we did a few cruises with that group, and always had a blast with them. For this trip, my wife was doing research on the ports, and came across a post on one of the cruise boards where someone who had recently visited was mentioning an orphanage they’d stopped to visit (Greenfield Children’s Home), and how they could use some athletic equipment if anyone was headed that way. She brought that up with my daughter and I as an option for our visit to the island, and we were sold. The post mentioned a local we could hire to drive us around, show us the island, and take us to the orphanage. My wife went ahead and set that up, including contacting the orphanage to set up the visit, and ensure that athletic equipment was really what they needed the most. In addition to the items we bought, my daughter organized a donation drive at her school to help get even more equipment to deliver to the kids. It’s been a while, but if I recall we had at least 4 over sized duffel bags full of various sports gear to haul with us on the flight down and on the boat, but it all worked out fine and we got it all on board the ship without issue. When we got off the ship in Roatan, we simply put the bags through the scanner for an additional security check, and once that was done, we were on our way. NCL had definitely seen cruisers do this before, and never questioned the purpose of the gear.

Our guide/driver met us at the port and loaded up all of the stuff we’d brought into her van. She also had a surprise for us, a hand carved jewelry box for my daughter, as that stop fell on her 10th birthday. After getting everything loaded, she took us on a driving tour of the area, through the local town, and driving around the countryside, giving us the rundown on the area along the way. The local kids were in school that day, as we saw several of them walking around in their school uniforms with smiles on their faces. The area was a mix of poorer sections interspersed with a few large waterfront homes outside of town, and even a couple of resort/condo communities under development at the time.

After the tour our guide drove us to the orphanage, where we were greeted by the staff on hand that day. Upon arrival, we took all of the gear inside and gave it to the kids, and they immediately dug in to see what we’d brought. Everyone, the kids included, were very warm and welcoming. While we hung out with the kids, the staff gave us a tour of the facilities and the history of the organization, which is headquartered only a couple of hours from where we live. Here are a few shots from our time with them:

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I don’t recall how long we were at the orphanage, but it was easily the best part of my day and the highlight of the cruise. I rarely talk about where I donate my time/money, and this is probably the first time I’ve talked about this stop outside of discussions among our family, but those kids and that group left a lasting impact on me, and I’ll never forget our time with them. Huge thank you to the staff for making time to let us come by for a visit that day.

Even with everything we’d already done that day we did have some extra time after visiting the orphanage, so our guide took us to Paradise beach for a couple of hours so we could spend a little time relaxing before we headed back to the boat. There weren’t many people there, and when you combine that with the crystal clear water, it made the stop that much better.

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After a little food, swimming and relaxation, our guide took us back to the ship. This is definitely one of the most memorable stops in my eyes, and shows that you can still give back to a local community, even if you’re only in town for a day.

Our 5th Favorite Port: Grand Cayman

Getting back to the main topic of the blog, I figured I’d do a few posts on our favorite ports to date. Starting things off at #5 is Grand Cayman, specifically on our Thanksgiving cruise in 2012 on the Carnival Legend, which was the second time we’d stopped here. I have to admit, one aspect of this stop would have kept it out of my top 5 if it were solely up to me, and that’s the dock area itself. I’m not a huge fan of tender ports, but I get that they’re a necessary evil. What makes this one particularly annoying for me is how small and crowded the dock area is, which is really my only complaint about this port. Outside of the dock area, the area around the port is clean and the locals have always been friendly to us.

On this visit, my wife had booked us on a non-cruise line excursion directly through Tours Cayman. The specific tour we were booked on was a combo tour of the turtle farm, followed by a trip out to Stingray City. We’d also done the stingray swim on our last visit to Grand Cayman in 2006, but that one was a cruise-sponsored excursion that was pretty well crowded. This time around, we were with a much smaller group, and with only two ships in port, had a much better experience.

Cayman Turtle Farm: The facility was larger than we expected, and offered interaction with and viewing of a variety of turtles. The turtle interaction areas were interesting, and my daughter definitely enjoyed being able to handle the small turtles. They do have rules around handling them, with the primary one being that you should always hold the turtles over the water, not over the concrete. There were usually one or two staff members around to remind people of that, but occasionally you’d see kids (and sometimes adults) breaking that rule for the sake of a picture or two. Seriously people, it’s a pretty easy rule to follow. Outside of the turtles, there’s a variety of other sea life to see, as their site shows. In addition to all of that, they have a lagoon-style area that you can snorkel in. They’ll let you check out snorkel hear, sans fins, to go out and explore the lagoon. I’m glad we didn’t have to pay for the gear, because it wouldn’t have been worth it for me as there really wasn’t much to see, and not having fins made it a very long swim around the entire lagoon. The kids I encountered along the way seemed to be having a blast, though. All in all a good stop on our tour.

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Stingray City: Again, this is one we’d done on a previous stop, but this experience was much, much better. We were on a charter boat carrying ~20 people plus a couple of outstanding guides. When we arrived at the sandbar, we all got into our snorkel hear and hopped in the water, and got plenty of time to swim around with the stingrays. Our guides were very active in the water as well, ensuring that anyone who wanted to be close up to the rays got that chance. They were also taking pictures with their own waterproof gear, which I was thankful for. Yes, it cost us a little (not sure of the exact price, but it was very reasonable, if I recall). I had my GoPro with me to get some video and pics of the rays, but shortly after getting in, I realized the case was filling up with water. Turns out, the seal had failed. I’d used it fine a day or so before, so not sure what happened this time around. Basically left me with a cheap point and shoot in an AquaPac, so we definitely bought the pics the guides took of us.

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After the tour ended, they took us back to the dock and dropped us off, and we walked around the shops for a bit before heading back to the ship. Not being a fan of long lines, we went back and hour early, as tender lines can get pretty long the closer you get to departure time. All in all we had a good day, and wouldn’t hesitate to book a tour with Tours Cayman again, they were great all day long!

Looking Back at a Weekend of Racing – Part 2

(Continuing from Part 1)

On Saturday morning we got up around 5am, checked out of the hotel, and headed to the track. After stopping for a quick bite to eat, we arrived shortly before the gates
opened to find a bit of a chaotic scene. The DIS parking staff apparently hadn’t been given much in the way of instruction on what the various parking passes meant, so those of us holding guaranteed infield passes were held up for a bit while everything got straightened out. No biggie, after a 45-60min delay we were driving through the tunnel towards the infield!

Once parked, we headed in to the fan zone (next to the garages) to see what was going on. There was a 5k going on out on track that we managed to catch the end of, and once it ended we walked around up and down pit lane, and even walked out on the front stretch of the track, stopping to take some pictures at some cool spots along the way.

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We walked around out there until they kicked us off the track, and then headed in to the garage area. Crews were already hard at work preparing the cars, so we walked around checking out all the activity. I find it fascinating to watch a crew disassembling/reassembling major pieces of a race car, so I get locked on that pretty easily. At some point (likely at Bayley’s urging), we finally moved on to check out other areas of the infield. I don’t recall everything we did, but we hit the large infield ferris wheel and swing once during the day before the race started, and then once late at night while the race was in full swing. Honestly, both of them provide some of the coolest views at the track, especially at night during the race. They also had a fireworks show over the wheel at 11pm during the race, awesome stuff!

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One of the big events we wanted to hit was the autograph session, as we both really enjoy meeting the drivers. Travis Pastrana was co-driving Michael Waltrip’s Ferrari, and with Bayley being a huge fan of his, we waited in that line first. We got over there 45min early and ended up second in line, but by the time things started moving, he had one of the longest lines there, second only to Patrick Dempsey’s, if I recall. Travis was really friendly, and Bayley couldn’t have been happier to get her picture with him. After we finished with his line and the tables that followed, we headed over to where I wanted to be, in Flying Lizard’s line. I’d bought a team flag the day before, but completely forgot to bring it with me to the autograph session. With no time to run back to our car and get it, I just went through and got autographs on the cards they provided. In the session shots below, be sure to check out the ones from the Sahlen’s table (last two pics). That little girl was awesome, sitting there signing autographs like she’d been doing it for years!

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After the autograph session, we walked around a bit more, got some food, then headed to the fenceline at the exit of the turn 3 horseshoe to get set for the start of the race. I’d come equipped with two Nikons, a D7000 and D80, and handed the D80 off to Bayley so she could try her hand at shooting moving race cars. I had a 70-200 F/2.8 VR mounted to the D7000, and was ready to get some race shots. The start itself was fairly clean, and I got plenty of pictures in the time we spent at that spot. I think we stayed there for around 45min or so, then headed out to check out other areas of the track.

02 03 45 Battle2 Battling R8 Vette Viper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the course of the next 24 hours we did a lot of walking, but we did take time to relax in my car, too. We’d rented a scanner, so throughout the race one of us was usually listening in on various teams to see how things were progressing. I’d brought some food and drinks in a large cooler so we weren’t stuck eating the track food the entire time. I’d also come armed with a bunch of energy drinks to keep us awake. Not sure Bayley ever had any of the Monster, but she was a trooper anyway. During the night we were mostly out walking around the track, but admittedly did take a couple of quick naps. I think I got a total of 45min of sleep in the middle of the night, with Bayley getting just over an hour’s worth. Through it all, we hit just about every spot on the track getting plenty of pics along the way. Around 5am I headed over to the fence line near the entrance to turn 3 to see if I could get one of the more iconic shots: A car flying by with the large ferris wheel in the background. I got a couple that I liked, including one showing the glowing front brakes on the #03 Patron 458 just before sunrise.

01 03 Bimmer Porsche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the night, several cars ended up in the garage for various issues, including one of the two Dempsey Racing Mazdas due to a wreck shortly after 9:00pm. We’d been in the garage area an hour or so earlier, and there weren’t many fans there, but once a Dempsey car was brought in, it seemed like every fan left at the track headed to get a look, as shown in one of the shots below that was taken as they were bringing it in on the flatbed. We also walked the backside of the pits a few times at night, as it’s pretty cool to watch the crews at work. In the shot below taken from behind the fence, the driver in yellow standing there with his helmet on is Patrick Dempsey, waiting for the #40 RX-8 to pit so he can get out there for his night stint

DempseyCar R8 TRG

Dempsey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the sun came up over speedway turns 3 & 4 on Sunday morning, we hung out in our chairs by my car giving our feet some much needed rest.

Morning Morning2

 

 

 

 

At that point we had about 8 hours left in the race, and spent the day doing more of the same, wandering around watching the race from various places, checking out the garages and pits, etc. While it was a long couple of days, we made it to the end, as we saw the #60 Daytona Prototype of Michael Shank Racing cross the line for the overall victory, with the #44 997 GT3 of Magnus Racing taking the GT class win. Shortly afterwards we packed up and headed to our hotel to check in and clean up. After being awake for the better part of 36 hours, the idea of trying to drive straight home didn’t seem very appealing, so I’d reserved another room at the same Super 8 we’d stayed at on Thursday and Friday so we could get a full night’s sleep before heading back to Charlotte.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is definitely one any race fan should attend, and if you do, be sure to stay for the entire race. I was surprised at how many of the cars parked around us left after it got dark. If the crews can stay up all night, the fans can too. There are a handful of ways to do the full 24 hours:

  • The way we did, just camping out in the car. There were several people around us who made fires to keep warm and cook food, etc. Take a fully stocked cooler in, and you won’t have to spend a ton of money at the concession stands.
  • Get tickets for the actual campground area. These were sold out quickly, otherwise I’d have done the same vs camping in the car. Looked like lots of partying going on in the tent area!
  • Rent an RV and park it in the infield for the weekend. This provided the best of both worlds from what I could tell, a comfy place to rest and cook food while still being at the track the entire time.

All in all it was a great time, and we’re really hoping to do it again this year as part of the Audi Motorsport Experience, with me driving my black 2009 TT Roadster down. These tickets supposedly go pretty fast, so I’ll be online when it opens Thursday evening hoping to scoop a couple of them up!

If anyone’s interested in seeing all of our pictures from the 2012 race, feel free to browse the gallery!