- Motor Sport Photography
- Sports Photography: How to Capture Action and Emotion
- Complete Digital Photography
- Remote Exposure: A Guide to Hiking and Climbing Photography
- Ski & Snow Country: The Golden Years of Skiing in the West
- Lines: The Snowboard Photography of Sean Sullivan
Digital photography and the fast action of automobile and motorcycle racing seem to be a perfect match. Most digital cameras, compacts as well as DSLRs, have auto-exposure and auto-focus features, so you can concentrate on composing an exciting action shot; and racing will provide you with all the action you can shoot. Some of the tips and techniques in this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article are common to many kinds of sports photography or any action to be captured in digital photos, while others are essential to know to bring home great motorsports pictures.
Motorsports is one of the most popular spectator sports in North America. There’s also great interest throughout many parts of the world, especially Grand Prix/Formula One racing. Because most motorsports events are low-cost entertainment, it is more than just a race for fans. People come to spend the weekend, often camping or parking their RVs in a designated infield area. They don’t just watch the race; they live it, breathe it, and even sleep with it! What this means is that there are many more photography opportunities for you than just the actual race.
If possible, attend the practice runs and qualifying trials during the days before race day. You are likely to be admitted to the pit and garage areas, where you can take pictures of the drivers and the various preparatory activities: cars in the shop, cars being pushed to the start lane, cars entering the pits after a run, etc. At some races, you may have to buy a special pass to gain access to the pit area. Try to take advantage of this opportunity because you won’t be admitted to the pit area on race day, without accredited press credentials and a press pass.
Motorsports events are part of a circuit. Everyone—drivers, mechanics, owners, race officials, families and the media—travel from one race location to another, not unlike a circus. All these people also contribute to all the activity in the pits on qualifying days. If you’re able to attend more than one race in a season, then you’ll probably start to recognize the wives of the drivers and other people involved in the management of the teams and the races. You’ll want to capture their interactions in your pictures, especially if you’re a big race fan.
Equipment tip: When you do gain access to the pit area during qualifying, it may be better to shoot with a compact camera than a bulky DSLR and lens. You’ll be less of a distraction and can move closer to your subject(s), which is a primary rule of good digital photography.
Spend time with the spectators. Motorsports fans are loyal and often show it in somewhat strange and crazy ways. They are part of the show and panorama of a race that you certainly want to record.
Equipment tip: For the same reasons you would use it in the pits, a compact, or point-or-shoot, camera well work fine photographing spectators. If you have a DSLR, then you might want to use it with a 28–105mm zoom lens. You’ll have a wide-angle focal length for close-ups and a bit of telephoto, so you can capture spectators’ reactions without being noticed.
Equipment tip: If it is a bright sunny day, then use fill flash for all your motorsports photography of people, so you can eliminate any deep shadows on their faces or if they are standing in shadows.
Part 1 of this PhotographyTalk.com article ends with an important safety tip. If you plan to gain access to the pit area during practice runs and qualifying races, then dress appropriately. The pro photographers who cover these events recommend that you wear long sleeves, long pants and closed shoes, so your skin is protected and you can move quickly, if necessary.