The Free Lance-Star Photography Department shares the stories behind the photos.

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NASCAR: Seeing through the clutter

Montage of iPhone images created at The Heath Calhoun 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, May 1, 2010.

(photo's by Dave Ellis/The Free Lance-Star)

I’ve never been to a NASCAR race prior to photographing The Heath Calhoun 400 at the Richmond International Raceway last Saturday.

NASCAR presents a problem that some photogs might see as a blessing. While the race itself is a practice in visual monotony , the spectacle around it is an optical candy store. There’s so much to photograph. Almost too much and that’s the problem. It’s cluttered.

Sponsor art screams from every every car, driver and kiosk. Race crews run all about in a constant whirlwind of activity . Thousand of fans populate the area, all with interesting faces or doing interesting things. Content is not the problem, but getting a nicely composed frame without distracting elements is something altogether different.

In a visual sense, the experience is a bit overwhelming.

To help myself find a groove, I practiced a little k.i.s.s. (keep it simple stupid). So once in awhile, I let my pro cameras hang at my sides while I used my iPhone to focus on simple images that caught my eye. I then used a popular iPhone photography app called Best Camera to process and tone the images to give them a little punch.

None of my iPhone images made the next day’s paper and that’s fine. They weren’t meant for that. They were simple exercises to look at the spectacle around me in a more relaxed way. It was on-the-job therapy that allowed me to start photographically organizing the clutter around me.

Dave Ellis, director of photography