(and how it came to be)
This is a story of our indoctrination into the world of dirt track photography, specifically outlaw kart photography. We were asked to write our story and so I though it might be fun. I hope you enjoy it.
Yalonda and I retired in California in the spring of 2012. I had worked for a county law enforcement agency for the better part of 27 years. We had come out to visit Yalonda’s sister (and other relatives) who live in Durant, OK. We loved the area and believed God was leading us to retire here. Our son (Zachary) was graduating from H.S. and was looking to go to college and so we visited Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
We moved here during the summer of 2012 and soon after I began to develop an interest in photography. I had enjoyed it as a hobby as I loved to take photos of various assignments from work, and travel. I loved to be able to capture those moments with co-workers, family, and friends. I enjoyed being able to go back and look at these photos and remember the great moments they represented. I enrolled in an on-line photography school, The New York Institute of Photography, and began to learn a great deal more about photography, and what it takes to make great photos.
I continued work on my photography lessons, which mainly consisted of taking scenic photos. I met with Gregg Engle, one of Yalonda’s cousins, one day and he introduced me to Outlaw Karting. I had never heard of “outlaw karts”. I had seen some outlaw sprint cars before (which I thought were very cool!) but not an outlaw kart. Gregg showed me the kart that his son Wesley drove. I thought it was one of the coolest things and I couldn’t wait to see him race in it! I also thought I would like to get some photos of him racing and see how they could come out.
The first race we attended was the Sooner Nationals in March of 2013. We were amazed by the karts and drivers we saw there! We couldn’t believe how young some of the kids were that were driving those karts. Gregg was able to gain me access to the track and I took several photos of Wesley, and the other drivers. It was a lot of fun and the races were really cool! I went back and looked at the photos I had taken and actually had a few that I thought were OK, but I wanted to do much better, and began asking about when and where were the next races!
On March 23, we went to the Short Track Shootout at a little raceway in Rhome, TX. It was called KAM Kartway. Gregg was able to get me access to the track to take photos. He told me he knew the owners of the track, and that they were pretty good people so they granted me the access. I remember it was cold and wet, but we had a ball! Well, I know I did. Yalonda was sitting in the bleachers and it was pretty cold, but I think she knew that I was really doing something I enjoyed. There were a ton of karts at the track, and there was some great racing! Again, we were amazed at the little guys that were able to race these karts! We also noticed that this truly seemed to be a family sport.
I went back and reviewed the photos I took and found that I had taken a few pretty good shots, one of which is still one of my favorites today!
It is this photo of Trevor McIntire coming out of turn two. The “open” (or 500cc) class was at the track for these races and man do they put on a show!
So much power, but for a photographer, it is a great opportunity to capture the essence of what outlaw karting is all about. Speed and control….go fast and hang on to it! Again, we had a lot of fun, and met some great people. We also had the opportunity to meet with one of the owners of the track, a lady by the name of Kelley Engstrom. She was so nice and gracious to us. She also informed me that they did have a track photographer but she had moved away. Kelley asked me if I would be interested in being her track photographer for the upcoming season of racing. I initially thought it would be a GREAT opportunity, but wasn’t sure how often we could get to the track, since it was just about a two hour drive for us, and they had races almost every week!
We came back to KAM Kartway on April 6th and I took several photos of the races. We began meeting several more people, families, etc. We also began to receive several requests for photos we had taken. We went home and we reviewed several of the photos of that race. One particular photo stood out so I printed out an 8×10 and thought the family might be interested in it. It was this photo of Sammy “Ace” Davis that I took and happened to catch a couple of his fans (family) in the background. I would like to say that this was intentional, but it wasn’t. This was purely accidental, but I liked the result.
On April 19th, we followed the Engles to the Cactus Speedway in Tyler, TX for the Outlaw Invitational. WOW, what a race track. I was amazed at the number of karts that were there, and how far away people were coming from to race there. We saw some really nice karts, and some REALLY nice rigs to haul them in. I was fortunate enough there to gain access to the track to take photos. There was another photographer there (Dutch) who was their local track photographer. He had some nice equipment he was shooting with, while I was using my little ‘ole canon Rebel (but I had a nice zoom lens!). There was some great racing at this track as it seemed to be larger, and had some steep banking. Again the 500s put on a show but all were fun to watch.
I had brought the photo I printed out of Sammy from the previous race at KAM. I didn’t know the Davis family at that time, but I approached them when I saw them in the pits at these races (Sammy won his division of course). I showed them the photo I had of Sammy at KAM. Eddi went back and told Jeff about the photo. He came over and bought the photo from me. This was the first photo I sold. I was very excited, and Jeff was very gracious. I have this photo hanging on our wall at home.
We went back to KAM for the races on April 27th. We brought with us some photos we had taken from the last races and thought we would set up a table to see if anyone was interested in them. They were. I believe we sold just about all that we brought. It was great to see that others were interested in what we were doing. I began trying to figure out how we could get our photos posted so that people could view them. We were able to create a website and began posting our photos within a couple of days of the races. We were able to take orders and print out the photos and bring them to the track. As we were gaining support from the KAM family, we began getting to know a lot of the great people and making a lot of new friends.
As the racing season continued along, my interest in dirt track photography continued to grow. I took advantage of an opportunity to shoot some races at Lawton Speedway when I became aware that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart would be there to race his outlaw sprint car. We went to the races and I was granted access to the track. It was AWESOME!. These cars had so much horsepower, and as I positioned myself inside of turn 1, I could feel the power of those machines in my chest as they flew past me! Made me a little nervous in the beginning, but I had a blast, and got some pretty good shots of Tony.
As the 2013 season continued, we were able to make just about all of the races at KAM Kartway. During this season, we have met some really great people, and some great families. We have also made some great contacts and have had more opportunities to venture out and take photos at other tracks. We have been able to upgrade some of our equipment (computer, software, etc.) and I have learned a tone about EDITING (and the time it takes). We also improved our website and came up with the CRPics name (Yalonda’s idea). We have also been able to attend the first two races from the “Winter Series” that has been put on by promoter Todd Hrncirik. That guy is awesome, and I greatly appreciate him. So far we have shot at the Texas Nationals and the Santa Shootout. We looked forward to the Lone Star Nationals in February, then in March, back to the Sooner Nationals in Ardmore where it all began.
2013 was an amazing year for us. What has started out as just a hobby has turned into a great journey for us in which we have made new friends, met some great people and have enjoyed great support along the way. It truly brings us great joy when we present a photo to someone when we know we have been able to capture a “special” moment for them.
Thank you so much Kelley Engstrom for asking me to be your track photographer. I hope that I have done you well, and look forward to the next season, and chapter at KAM Kartway.
Craig & Yalonda Rennie
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Thank you for your story! I thoroughly enjoyed it and gave me great joy to post it here on KAMkartway.com.