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Need Urgent Advice/Tips on shooting Car Racing at American Le Mans on 7/6

Flying Tiger , Jul 05, 2007; 12:31 p.m.

Hi,

This will be my 3rd experience shooting car racing. The first one was not successful and the 2nd one was with mixed results. I feel frustrated.

Are there any websites discussing about techniques for shooting car racing?

Would you share your techniques and experience shooting car racing? I'm going after capturing race cars in motion (i.e. the race car is frozen in frame with the background blurred - panned, giving a sense of the car in motion with a fast speed).

I tried to pan while tracing the car but not sure what shutter speed (and/or apeture combo) to use for the shooting. This time I'm shooting at the American Le Mans at Lime Rock Park.

FYI, the track is not large (1.53 mile circuit) with one straigline portion and the Le Mans car can reach a speed up to 190-200 mph in straightlines technically. I use the following gears:

Canon EOS 3 film camera 70-200/4L 300/4L IS 1.4X extender 28-70/2.8L

Here are my questions:

1. What's the range of shutter speeds I should use to capture cars in motion at curves & straightline?

2. How to frame the picture? - use longer lens to capture a bigger image of the car or use a wider lens to make the car a smaller proportion in the whole frame so that the blurred background can be shown?

3. Where to position myself around the race track? At the curve or straightlines (I've to be pretty close to the track on the side of straightline; I doubt I would be able to capture anything because the Le Mans cars go very very fast in straightline while I don't much distance between my camera and the car)?

4. Which lens is most useful to capture the pictures I mentioned above?

5. How to pace my panning motion? Fast, steady, or slow?

Thank you for your advice and education in advance.

Regards Richard

Responses

Ellis Vener , Jul 05, 2007; 02:52 p.m.

Number 1 is I'd switch to digital -- specifically the EOS 1D mark 3. I've shot ALMS at a bigger track the one near Monterey with an EOS 1D mark 2. Even if you have to rent it, do it. You need to shoot a lot to get even a few keepers, and film and processign will eat you up

Forget the teleconverter: anything that slows down focusing is bad. Using a 400mm f/4L DO lens with no converter on with the car coming towards me on a straight section, I'd be tracking focus on a cars nose and consistently the tail would just be what came out sharp --and that was at 8fps. So then I tried prefocusing and the results were consistently no better, tho' if you do this a lot no doubt you'll develop better senses and reflexes.

Scout the location and pick your spot(s). When doing this pay a lot of attention to what the background is and how that works as a part of the composition. Also think about what the light is doign and where it will be coming from later in the day. Once you got a background you're happy with then you can pay attention to the cars.

Practice panning, and here a tripod with a good head really helps. if for no other reason than your arms and back don't get tired holding up the camera and lens. The 80-200mm f/4 yielded excellent results for me.

Lens choice: variety of views is good: it what you want to get is a matter of intent and no one else knows your mind.

Do more watching than shooting during the first laps, you'll get a sense of the race's flow.

Take plenty of water with you.

Steve Vanslow , Jul 05, 2007; 07:15 p.m.

I like a shutter of 1/30 to 1/90 sec. for panning. Shutter priority. Turn off auto focus and pre-focus on the spot were the car will be when you click the shutter. I also like a front 3/4 view of the car where you see some of the front and some of the side of the car. I don't like shots of the backs of cars. Find a place were there is no fence between you and the car. Track level were you can see some space under the car is nice but sometimes a little elevation also works. Start out with a wider view with lots of background and "move" in closer as you get a feel for the speed. When panning, hold elbows in close, spread your feet apart, and turn at the waist. Have fun Steve.


Attachment: john force.jpg

Steve Vanslow , Jul 05, 2007; 07:29 p.m.

At Laguna Seca, ALMS sometimes runs into the night. Any chance of night racing at Lime Rock? Steve


night racing

Dan Schwartz , Jul 05, 2007; 10:39 p.m.

Hi Binyuan!

Here's a fundamental question that you need to ask yourself: Are you:

[A] A photographer who happens to be covering a race; or

[B] A race fan who also happens to be photographing?

Much about racing photography revolves around which of the two ways you approach your trip to Lime Rock, i.e. do you know *how* to follow the race action in each of the four ALMS classes? Can you glimpse at a car and immediately know who the driver is?

.OR.

Are you a camera jock who shoots all sorts of events, and happened to score press credentials?

[If you are in the Rare Category of both knowing racing inside & out .AND. are a professional photographer, you wouldn't be posting your question... You would already be a track photographer!]

In any case, be sure to capture the paddock and pit lane, shooting candids along the way. Try especially to catch a driver expressing himself with his hands, as he explains to another driver or his engineer how the car is behaving.

Lastly, although renting a dSLR would be helpful, my suggestion is to just shoot color neg film and have NO prints made, i.e. "soup only." If you are not on a deadline, this is the way to go, as it will cut down on your costs.

++++++

By the way, I looked at your Bryce Canyon pix, so I can assume you shoot medium format: Bring it along for the paddock shots!

IN fact, one of the biggest bargains is Fuji outlab services at Wal-Mart: I just took a handful of 220 rolls of NPH 400 shot at 6x4.5 (32 exposures per roll) and had them soup and make one set of 3 inch prints.

Are you sitting down?

The cost to develop a roll of 220 and make 32 3x5 prints is...

Drumroll please...

$2.76 per roll!

+++++++++++++++++

Enjoy the event, and relax: The action will come to you.

Dan Goldman , Jul 07, 2007; 11:15 p.m.

With F1 cars, i believe i got away with 1/125 or 1/250, using a 200mm lens. My brother has done amazing pans of steam engines as low as 1/25 or so, with a WA lens. I second the suggestion for digital, sports shots do not lend themselves to film as you generally have to shoot a lot to get something. I shot 200 photos in the 30mins i was there (went to the racetrack after finishing up racing sailboats...), and i only got 3 acceptable shots, only one of which i bothered to post to my portfolio. You have to shoot a lot, especially when you are inexperienced.

Raymond Bradlau , Jul 26, 2007; 12:07 a.m.

This will be my 3rd experience shooting car racing. The first one was not successful and the 2nd one was with mixed results. I feel frustrated.

Absolutely no reason to feel frustrated, you are just starting you should be exited!

Are there any websites discussing about techniques for shooting car racing?

http://www.sportsshooter.com/ is the only one I can think of (Other than this site)

Would you share your techniques and experience shooting car racing? I'm going after capturing race cars in motion (i.e. the race car is frozen in frame with the background blurred - panned, giving a sense of the car in motion with a fast speed).

I tried to pan while tracing the car but not sure what shutter speed (and/or apeture combo) to use for the shooting. This time I'm shooting at the American Le Mans at Lime Rock Park.

FYI, the track is not large (1.53 mile circuit) with one straigline portion and the Le Mans car can reach a speed up to 190-200 mph in straightlines technically. I use the following gears:

Canon EOS 3 film camera 70-200/4L 300/4L IS 1.4X extender 28-70/2.8L

Here are my questions:

1. What's the range of shutter speeds I should use to capture cars in motion at curves & straightline?

Depends 100% on the angle and speed of the car, I have shot champ cars at 1/300th and everything other than the car is a blur, and some bigger muscle cars at 1/30th is just enough

[img]http://www.pbase.com/ray645/image/81147637/medium.jpg[/img] [img]http://www.pbase.com/ray645/image/80709995/medium.jpg[/img]

2. How to frame the picture? - use longer lens to capture a bigger image of the car or use a wider lens to make the car a smaller proportion in the whole frame so that the blurred background can be shown?

For me almost always the longer the lenses the better, its much more simple to get a good composition with fewer elements, I am not saying normal and wide lenses are not great but for the most part long (in your face) seems to be the safest bet.

[img]http://www.pbase.com/ray645/image/81436512/medium.jpg[/img]

3. Where to position myself around the race track? At the curve or straightlines (I've to be pretty close to the track on the side of straightline; I doubt I would be able to capture anything because the Le Mans cars go very very fast in straightline while I don't much distance between my camera and the car)?

your lenses are not that long so the best (if not only) SAFE option will most likely be INSIDE a corner with a car coming in at an angle to you, the strait can work as well but I like to get either crowds, banners or guardrail in the back ground to show its a race track and not a road, also the color of crowds and banners shows the motion blur where sky, woods, and plane open track will not.

4. Which lens is most useful to capture the pictures I mentioned above?

I use 400mm on a DSLR, you would need 600 for the same angle of view, a couple times I wished I had less reach, many many times more! find and inside where you can get close, shooting the lead car in mid corner (after its braked and before it hit the gas) you can often get the second car entering at a higher speed (as its braking) the goal is the get the lead car sharp and the second car a blur

5. How to pace my panning motion? Fast, steady, or slow?

The faster the cars the more simple it is to pan (well you correct the strait is a bit much sometime) but a fast car shooting the inside of a 60mph+ corner is pretty smooth just start tracking it in and when it fills the frame shoot, make sure to follow through, often people jerk and stop moving as the click, really they stop BEFORE they shoot and that just wont work, smooth swings are what you are after and one full wheel rotation is really all you need (yes super long pans are pretty cool but you may need to shoot many of the same shot to get one you love)

[img]http://www.pbase.com/ray645/image/63243401/medium.jpg[/img]

I think the biggest thing is get there VERY VERY early and come back late, the light in the middle of the day stinks :)

[img]http://www.pbase.com/ray645/image/68813851/medium.jpg[/img]

Thank you for your advice and education in advance.

have a blast and be safe Ray

Fabio Astolpho , Jul 29, 2007; 06:57 a.m.

Though the race is already behind us, I'd like to share my experience at the original Le Mans (which happened on June 16-17), for those who may need the same kind of advice in the future.

First, I took an 80-400mm, f4.5-5.6, with monopod (this last one is a must-have, especially if you think of panning). My camera, btw, is a Nikon D50, which has a nice grip and yet is not too bulky and heavy, if you consider the size and weight of the lens I took.

For first timers on car race shooting, I recommend some exercising by a highway, where you can practice some panning, before you go out to the actual race. You'll be able to fine tune shutter speed and focus.

Speed- On your question about speed, it depends a lot. I have pictures at 1/25, 1/50, 1/125, 1/250, just so you have an idea. It all depended on where exactly I was (closer to curves, in the middle of the straight line etc).

Framing- As far as framing was concerned, one thing that helped me was to set the focus at a specific point of the track at, say, 2 o'clock for me, and whenever a car was approaching, I would follow it since 11 o'clock and when it reached 2 o'clock, I would shoot. Autofocus in such situation just won't do. Sharpness, in general, was challenging.

Needless to say that exposure would also be set to that specific point.

My pictures ranged mostly from 80mm to 200mm, depending on how far I was from the track and how much background I wanted to have (I see that was also one of your concerns). Having enough blurred background for the sake of contrast is crucial.

I have some close-ups of the pit stops where I used 400mm (the max. of my lens).

Lenses with a maximum reach of 200mm would have limited me a bit, so having taken a 400mm lens proved to be great. A 300 mm would have been a minimum, I think. And you can find some very cheap options, like the 70-300mm G series (Nikon), which is also very lightweight, though quality is not the best.

General- One difficulty I had was with the fence around the track. Depending on the speed of the panning and on how close the car was to the fence, I could see the fence in my photos. Depending on that combination, though, it wasn't really a problem. But keep that in mind. You may see yourself in the same situation depending on the track and on how high in the audience you are.

It rained a lot in Le Mans this year, especially on the second day. Having a proper lens sleeve (or a makeshift sleeve with a plastic bag), would have made a huge difference, as I had to hold my umbrella and the camera, aside from shooting of course.

I positioned myself in different spots, in order to have different perspectives of the race. I'm glad I did not buy the most expensive tickets with seats, as I moved around a lot.

This link takes you to the pictures I've taken. http://picasaweb.google.com.br/fsastolpho/24hLeMansJune16172007

Hope this helps.

Fabio Astolpho

Thomas Knowles , Aug 02, 2007; 03:34 a.m.

Thanks for this

helped me a lot. I recently attempted to photograph the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) at Donington Park, and it did not just rain but pour - through my umbrella! But more importantly from two rolls of film, of each approx 17/24 exps wereof cars on track I must have got somewhere in the region of half a dozen photos properly in focus and generally acceptable. The fences at this track are a real hindrance, they go all the way round with very little ground high enough to shoot over, ironically the best shot I got was not a pan, but a shot of a marshal waving the yellow flag with cars somewhat blurred as they zoomed by (this is in my portfolio). Anyway, thanks for your advice it will help me next time.


Attachment: Photo19_17.jpg

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