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From Mom-arrazi to Paparazzi?

Patrick Dempsey at Rolex Daytona Practice

Yes, the hottie in the firesuit is none other than Grey’s Anatomy’s Dr McDreamy – Patrick Dempsey. He races Rolex cars for fun. He stood 5 feet away from me in a bleacher along the track at Daytona last weekend when we went down to watch Rolex practice. Fortunately I had no idea he was there until he’d walked a bit away and someone else pointed him out, because if I had seen him right next to me I’d probably have dropped dead on the spot – and then no more Scrapbook Update (and no McDreamy pics) for all of you!

At some point in our lives most of us find ourselves in a situation where we look around us and can’t believe who we are seeing. For us it happened because we decided to go to the track and take pictures of cars to let me play with my new camera. We thought we’d be confined to the grandstands on the outside of the track. We didn’t realize until we got there that we’d literally be allowed to walk around inside the garage area while the teams worked – giving us access to take pictures of and get autographs from some big racing stars (although we just took pictures).

One thing I definitely learned walking around that garage was that at an event like that it pays to think like a paparazzi and walk around with your camera out and ready: lens cap off (use a lens hood and UV filter to protect your camera), your camera on auto (or some pretty generic settings on it for the light conditions), and set to burst shooting mode (which I was using mostly anyway on this occasion to shoot the moving cars). I snagged several pictures this way I would have otherwise missed because I was ready to shoot at a second’s notice.

Focal length is a tough call because you want to be ready for anything – a person close-up or far away. I spent most of my time with my 75-300 zoom on my camera and fortunately it was wide enough for the close-ups I encountered so I didn’t have to change lenses fast or try to back up.

Another tip, that I discovered by happy accident while snapping away: if a celebrity is posing for pictures with people, you can get on the other side of them from where people are standing and shoot a profile shot of them. I got a decent picture of Juan Pablo Montoya, who was popping in and out of his trailer to pose with one or two people at a time, this way, without having to wait for him or be in the picture myself. The lady he is actually posing with is hidden behind him.

juan-pablo-montoya-at-rolex-daytona-practice

Of course, paparazzi are famous for their thick skins when it comes to harassing (and taking abuse from) their targets. If your skin isn’t so thick, or you are shy, I found a long lens let me take photos with some level of discretion – or at least without being in the person’s face although they might have been aware they were being photographed if they looked around. I used my 75-300mm fully extended to 300mm to snap photos of several drivers from a distance, even though I could have walked right up to them and stood beside them.

If you find yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime celebrity snapshot opportunity like we did, be prepared to take advantage of it – and don’t be afraid to!

Scrapbook Update Extra: If you’d like to see more  of my McDreamy snaps, along with better pictures I was able to grab of Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti, Pablo Montoya and others (car pictures to be added soon – editing takes a long time when you have to weed the good ones out of 700 originals you took), you can check out my Flickr album from the Rolex practice.

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