Best camera? The one in your hand: Instagramming at NASCAR, le Tour

October 29, 2012 | By Chris Graythen | Behind The Lens, Photography, Photojournalism, Sport

They say the best camera is the one that’s always with you.  The camera on my iPhone 4s isn’t as good as my DLSR, and doesn’t give me the same level of control, but sometimes that’s the fun and the challenge of it.   There are times when I’m out at events, the day is done, and my DSLR is put away for the day, but as a photographer I still see pictures everywhere.

Take this picture of a race fan from Talladega Superspeedway. I wasn’t shooting that day, we didn’t have a film runner, so I took that duty and stepped back from shooting and just picked up memory cards and helped edit the photos.  While I was coming through the stands, my photographer that was stationed outside of Turn 2 introduced me to a man with a name unfit to print on the Getty Images blog (kid you not)… let’s just say it rhymed with Smitty.



TALLADEGA, AL – OCTOBER 06: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using the iPhone 4s with Instagram) A NASCAR race fan attends the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series fred’s 250 Powered By Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway on October 6, 2012 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As I was walking through the stands, rhymes-with-Smitty introduced me to his dad, the gentleman in the photo.  I didn’t have  a proper camera on me, but this guy was too good to pass up.  The hat, the beard, cigar, and the flag, it all worked so well.   I took a quick photo with my iPhone, and as I was heading back into the media center I worked it up on Instagram.  It was just a quick picture, two seconds, I said thanks and left, and ended up with something unique.  Running it through Instagram allowed me to really give it a look and feel that I could not editorially achieve, although the square format forced me to cut out a patch on his other shoulder that says “these are my church clothes.”

Sometimes the challenge is working within the limitations of the phone.   It is literally point and shoot, with no control.   I went to the final day of the Tour de France as a fan, not to cover the event.  I’ve been a cycling fan for a long time, and it was a lifelong dream to be in Paris for the final day,  to watch history with the first British winner in Bradley Wiggins.  I took one camera with a wide-angle lens, and my iPhone.

Bradley Wiggins-Mark Cavendish-Le Tour de France 2012 - Stage Twenty-Chris Graythen-Getty Images-154895557

PARIS, FRANCE – JULY 22: (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created using the iPhone 4s with Instagram) Bradley Wiggins of SKY Procycling leads team mate Mark Cavendish on the Champs-Elysees during the twentieth and final stage of the 2012 Tour de France, from Rambouillet to the Champs-Elysees on July 22, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

I didn’t have any access, I actually had to sit on the curb of the Champs Elysees  for about 3 hours to reserve my spot and watch the cyclists go by.  They made several passes and I alternated with my camera and my iPhone, getting the photo of Bradley Wiggins, the Tour winner, and his teammate Mark Cavendish, the World Champion.  It was a single shot, no motordrive.  It was fun being in the crowd, and taking in the whole experience, and being able to share it instantly with my friends and family an ocean away.

The iPhone won’t replace the real cameras I use to do my job.  However, being able to take these photos that would generally never make the final editorial edit and run them through Instagram keeps me engaged, looking, ready to share my view of the world.  Initially it was to only about 200 or so people:  friends, family and co-workers. Then I was added as an Instagram “Suggested User” and my follower count jumped to 18,700+ in two weeks.  It has been a lot of fun, getting comments in several different languages and interacting with all types of people.

Editor’s note: Chris Graythen is a longtime Getty Images photographer who is known for his coverage of all types of sports and news in addition to NASCAR. He recently was named an Instagram suggested user (@chgphoto), along with Getty images photographers Justin Sullivan (@sullyfoto) and Chip Somodevilla (@somophoto). On Instagram? Go ahead and follow them all.

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  • Guy Butler Photography

    Im a huge believer of this fact! Sometimes you just don’t have access to my DSLR to hand… but now with the improvements and advances in smart phone camera technology. My trusty little 4S’s camera is always in my pocket and have captured some wonderful shots from it.

  • Guy Butler Photography

    That being said! You just have to know its limitations but like it says above… sometimes thats half the challenge.

  • Guy Butler Photography

    For example. :)