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Old May 26, 2009, 9:46 AM   #1
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Default Looking for advice -> Auto Racing Photography

I'm planning a trip to Watkins Glen in September for the US Vintage Grand Prix and I'm looking to get some pointers on shooting auto racing. First off, here is a list of the equipment that I will have for shooting. I'm an amateur hobbyist where it comes to photography, I'm still really learning the basics and getting better as I do more photography. I am using a Pentax K20D and these are the lenses that I primarily use: Sigma 24-135mm f2.8-4.5, Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6, and Kiron 70-210mm f4 (manual). I'd also like to point out that I've never been to the race track at Watkins Glen either. So, not only looking for some advice on the best shooting techniques but also if anyone has experience at the Glen, the best places to shoot. Although I'm sure if I follow the pro that's sure to be there I will probably find the best spots. I've tried my hand at a few panning shots while at the go-karting track with the family and they turned out well IMO but I'm still in need of the practice, but any advice is appreciated. Obviously go-carts don't move as fast as race cars. Here are a couple of the panning shots I took of the go-karting for comments and critique.



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Old May 27, 2009, 4:08 AM   #2
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You are off to a good start as you've been able to get a little motion blur in these shots.

The key is to get the feeling of movement in a shot of a moving car, the minimum is to have the wheel rotation and then going on from there is to get the background blurred due to the motion.

I always shoot motorsport in Tv Mode so I'm controlling the shutter speed as this is the key point to getting the blur. The slower the shutter the more blur. Just make sure that the shutter speed isn't set so that the camera doesn't have an available aperture that will stop you getting a proper exposure. I usually go for a setting that is giving about f8-11 so play with your ISO to get this. If you are finding that the ISO is getting high for the quality you want then don't worry about going for a slightly wider aperture.

Anyway, we can look at details more later if you want but I would suggest playing and seeing how you get on.

The slower the subject the slower you want the shutter speed to get the same sort of blur as a fast vehicle.

Here is a shot just off of the start line of an event so I was only using 1/60s.



Here is a shot at 1/160s. It is a pretty old one as I started shooting for sale and to get more keepers I was more conservative in what I did so not such a good example of capturing the motion.



As you can see adding some tilt to the camera can create a more interesting shot.

Now one of our members, TG, does a lot more motorsport shooting that I do and he does go for the more extreme with some amazing results. Check out this thread Motorsport to get an idea of some of the great motion you can capture while keeping your subject sharp.

The key thing is to pan smoothly, choose a point on the subject and keep that in the same part of the frame otherwise you will not get it frozen with the background blurred.

Oh, just thought, other camera settings. If your AF is fast enough and tracks well enough then use AF Continuous, if not then choose a spot on the track where you want the shot to be. Also use Continuous Drive to take a few photos of the same section, I usually find my 2nd shot is sharper than the first when doing panning.

I would practise some more on moving subjects (bikes, cars etc etc) just to get the feel and you can try out different settings. Post some more shots when you have so we can get you are strong in time for the event.

Enjoy!!
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Old May 27, 2009, 6:50 AM   #3
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Mark, thank you for the advice. I am going to the Rochester ESL Air and Water Show on Sunday so I will test out your advice there and hopefully I can come back here with a good series of pictures to post on here and hone my skills up before September.
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Old May 27, 2009, 7:09 AM   #4
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You're welcome.

Shooting an airshow is different, although anything where you are panning is good practise. When shooting jets it won't matter how fast the shutter speed is so you can go high and freeze the action. With a helicopter or propeller aircraft you need to bring the shutter speed down to get some movement in the blades. I've gone as low as 1/125s which gives a great blur but as generally you are using long lenses it can be hard to get the rest of the subject sharp.

So jets I would use Av so you can have enough dof and get the lens to a sharp setting, if there is enough light then f8 can be good. Remember we are not worried about creating a shallow dof as you only have the sky so that is easy. For prop/heli then use Tv and control the shutter speed, again aim for about f8-f11 with the ISO so you have a good sharpness.

Here is the 1/125s shot.
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Old May 27, 2009, 8:15 AM   #5
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You're welcome.

Shooting an airshow is different, although anything where you are panning is good practise. When shooting jets it won't matter how fast the shutter speed is so you can go high and freeze the action. With a helicopter or propeller aircraft you need to bring the shutter speed down to get some movement in the blades. I've gone as low as 1/125s which gives a great blur but as generally you are using long lenses it can be hard to get the rest of the subject sharp.

So jets I would use Av so you can have enough dof and get the lens to a sharp setting, if there is enough light then f8 can be good. Remember we are not worried about creating a shallow dof as you only have the sky so that is easy. For prop/heli then use Tv and control the shutter speed, again aim for about f8-f11 with the ISO so you have a good sharpness.

Here is the 1/125s shot.
Gotcha. This airshow isn't a really large show but there will be mostly jets (Snowbirds, F15E, F18, A10 Thunderbolt) I don't see any helicopters on the list. I do see a couple of prop driven planes though (Suikoi 26 and Tim Webber's Geico aircraft). So I have a lot of information to take with me about shooting various situations. I appreciate the advice and I'll post some pictures once I get back to check them out afterwards. Hopefully I will have some good shots to post up.
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Old May 27, 2009, 2:02 PM   #6
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Make sure that you get the A10, this is one of my all time fave aircraft so would really love to see that.

I'm going to add one more thing to check out for aircraft. Often the bright sky is going to 'confuse' the camera as it sets exposure for the sky and then the aircraft is too dark. You might want to put in some exposure compensation in which will help. Try about +2/3 or +1 but again have a play and if possible find something before this weekend, not sure if you get many aircraft near where you are.

I will try to end the advice there before your head explodes.
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Old May 27, 2009, 3:34 PM   #7
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Make sure that you get the A10, this is one of my all time fave aircraft so would really love to see that.

I'm going to add one more thing to check out for aircraft. Often the bright sky is going to 'confuse' the camera as it sets exposure for the sky and then the aircraft is too dark. You might want to put in some exposure compensation in which will help. Try about +2/3 or +1 but again have a play and if possible find something before this weekend, not sure if you get many aircraft near where you are.

I will try to end the advice there before your head explodes.
Hehe, I think I'm good with the advice. The Pentax cameras tend to underexpose a lot and even on bright days shooting a lot of stuff I tend to set it to +1/3 or 2/3 to compensate for that and it usually works out. I don't get a lot of aircraft where I am, the planes do fly over as they land and take off from the airport but more of a wide circling before landing so they are still a little high up to get a good shot. I will see what I can do with other objects in the sky to try and figure out the best setting before hand.
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Old May 27, 2009, 7:06 PM   #8
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Oh another bit of advice come to mind (it must be some inspiration from still being awake at 1am).

When you are panning don't zoom. Set your focal length before you take the series of shots. Also framing quite tight will help make a stronger image, let's take your two at the top, the 2nd works better for this reason. There are times when a bit wider helps if you have a couple of cars battling but apart from that generally space is not helpful.
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Old May 29, 2009, 11:43 AM   #9
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Mike,

Got your private message and replied. Not sure if it was sent as did not show up in sent items.

Anyway here is what I wrote plus some extra (Mark has already touched on a few things I will mention).


Sorry I have not replied to you message earlier (not around here that often anymore). Read your post and here are a few tips that might help you out.

Straight pans are fairly straight forward, Start by shooting at higher shutter speeds and work your way down as you get more comfortable. Use continues focus mode if shooting with AF (I use a single focus point like to pick what I am focusing on). Pick the car up early to let the AF settle, use a smooth motion and follow at the same speed as the car. Press the shutter button smoothly and follow through with your panning motion. If using manual focus pick a point where you are going to take the shot.



1/100 f13 at 210mm ISO 50




1/15s f/10.0 at 135.0mm, iso 100



For cars coming straight at the camera use higher shutter speeds, If you use too slow shutter speed the car will be blurred due to it travelling directly at the camera.





1/500s f/9.0 at 560.0mm iso400



Like pans a lot (car moving diagonally, across and towards you) especially with slower shutter speeds, look great when you get the front of the car sharp and the back blured. I use a single focus point kept on the front of the subject.

Pic below: motion blur effect is even greater with car in the background as it is travelling in the opposite direction to my panning motion



1/40s f/18.0 at 400.0mm, iso 100



I find motorcycles more difficult to shoot as they are smaller, often have to use longer lenses to fill the frame when shooting from public areas (I am shooting with my 400mm with and without 1.4x TC for panning shots with bikes where I wound be using my 70-200mm or 300mm lens for cars). They are a lot faster accelerating out of corners (harder to track smoothly)and difficult to get the rider sharp with slow shutter speeds because they are moving around on the bike e.g. going around corners.

Pic below: slow shutter speed long lens, bikesharp, rider bodysharp, helmet a bit blurred because of rider head movement.



1/80s f/11.0 at 560.0mm iso50


For most of my motorsport shooting I use shutter prioriy mode (started using manual mode lately if the light is consistent) and control my aperture with ISO settings and a ND filter on sunny days when trying to keep my shutter speed down. Do use aperture priority when shooting through wire fences so I am shooting wide open to minimise mesh showing up in fence.

Pic below shot through wire fence, wide open (f8 with 560mm lens)



1/250s f/8.0 at 560.0mm iso400



Tom.

Last edited by TG; Mar 27, 2011 at 4:59 PM. Reason: add picture to post (1st shot), fix spelling
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Old May 29, 2009, 1:11 PM   #10
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Tom, great advice and I appreciate it very much. I like that last shot, I dunno, maybe it's because I'm partial to F1 racing. Is that Heidfeld or Kubica? That is a nice effect you achieved with the 3rd shot, I like it. You and Mark have given me a lot to digest and try and work on until I go to the race in Sept. I appreciate it very much.

Upon further inspection (checking the helmet pain scheme) it looks like it's Heidfeld.

Last edited by MadMikeSS; May 29, 2009 at 3:29 PM.
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