Photographing Motor Racing (F1)

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  • Nick Staff 7 Jul 2011 11:00:59 618 posts
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    Hello clever photo people

    We're going to the Formula 1 this weekend. My other half has all the kit to snap theoretically great photos. D90, 300mm f/4 plus 1.4x teleconverter (670mm equivalent on DX!?), Monopod.

    Any tips for best places to shoot from?

    Any ideas for configuration set-up for best results, e.g. slow shutter & pan or static with fast shutter, continuous AF? I understand centre-point AF is usually recommended?

    Any decent tutorials or books, I did a search but didn't find much.

    Anything else to consider?

    Thanking you!

    Nick



  • Nick Staff 7 Jul 2011 11:03:21 618 posts
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    I should say, I'm not even the photographer, the wifelet is. She's got a great eye for pictures but has virtually no technical sense whatsoever, so I usually have to set up the camera for her!
  • Youthist 7 Jul 2011 11:11:31 10,027 posts
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    UID 6.

    \bows head out of respect

    Sorry nothing of value to add Nick - except that bow of respect....

    Think of how stupid the average person is, and realise half of them are stupider than that

  • Nick Staff 7 Jul 2011 11:13:54 618 posts
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    Oh, well, thanks! I'm still sore that I'm not UID 1 :)

  • AaronTurner 7 Jul 2011 11:16:30 7,785 posts
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    I would have thought the fastest possible shutter speed. There's normally an image stabilisation mode specifically for horizontally moving targets, I've never tried it out but it might be worth looking at?
  • henro_ben 7 Jul 2011 11:34:11 2,220 posts
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    As always, google to the rescue!

    Shooting Motor Racing
    Sports Photography
    More motorsports photography...
    Racing photography

    They all seem pretty straightforward & some useful advice. Sounds like you've got the right gear, you just need to find a good corner and get snapping!
  • monkman76 7 Jul 2011 11:37:47 4,744 posts
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    Never tried it myself, but those in the know tend to say that if you use too high a shutter speed, the car just looks like it's parked - even the wheels look completely stationary. Shame to lose all sense of the speed of F1. Unless of course you happen to catch a collision / someone taking to the air :-D

    Usually a good shutter speed for panning is 1/30 to 1/60 - but maybe you'd need to go a bit faster for F1 cars, I don't know. Wouldn't go above 1/100 I'd say, though obviously trial and error is always good!

    Panning itself is quite an art. Especially with a long lens like that, the very best tip I think I can give is use a monopod. Much much easier to pan smoothly with that. -- Oh you've got one. Yeah definitely use that!

    I'd use continuous AF, and either CL or CH - i.e. fire bursts.

    Aaron is right that IS / VR would be useful, unfortunately that lens doesn't have it :-/
    Other than that I'd say it's the perfect lens though, short of the exotics that cost thousands :-)

    But yeah, trial and error on both panning technique and shutter speed - I'd start at 1/60 and see how that looks.

    JEALOUS
  • monkman76 7 Jul 2011 11:45:48 4,744 posts
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    PS. Attach the monopod to the lens not the camera, if possible. Apologies if this is obvious..
  • AaronTurner 7 Jul 2011 12:01:11 7,785 posts
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    I just wanted to sound knowledgeable and useful in the off chance he would have a spare ticket and need a professional to come along with him.

    :(
  • monkman76 7 Jul 2011 12:09:29 4,744 posts
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    To be fair unless you get the pan right, using a fast shutter speed will give you the best chance of a sharp shot.

    Try both!
  • ram 7 Jul 2011 12:18:20 3,483 posts
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    Don't use a monopod for panning, too restrictive. You need to pan before shot and carry on panning after shoot to get a smooth action. It's impossible to guess shutter speed, too many factors but remember its the background you want blurry and the car reasonably sharp. And as f1 cars are rather nifty you will need a relatively fast shutter. You will have to pan fast as well to keep up with car. Sideways on is a must as well.
  • monkman76 7 Jul 2011 12:56:05 4,744 posts
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    Fair enough, as I say never tried it myself so I bow to ram's knowledge. Wouldn't using a monpod allow a very smooth swing around a fixed pivot point though? Otherwise unwanted up-down motion (at 670mm equivalent remember, wouldn't need much movement!) could blur the car even if you pan at the right speed?
  • Deleted user 7 July 2011 14:05:42
    What lens is that, hopefully one with quick internal focusing if you want to follow cars and the like.

    Also, how much light does the teleconverter steal? If it's more than one stop, the AF may have problems with focus accuracy even in full daylight. For instance, Nikon does not recommend using their pro 2x TC with lenses slower than f/2.8 for that reason.

    I've used the "pre focus" technique a few times when shooting from fixed positions: you focus on the ground where the car will pass then you can do experiments with panning along with the car and the like without worring about focusing. AF set to Single obviously.

    Pros sometimes separate the AF button from the shutter release. I have tried this on my battery grip meaning once I've focused with the middle finger button I can focus (!) on taking the shots at the right time with the shutter button without risking re-focusing or even worse, focus hunt.
  • Spin_Dr_Wolf 7 Jul 2011 14:29:46 6,170 posts
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    I've not done any F1 photography but have shot at a few BTCC races before. I don't really think you need a monopod, especially not if you're not using the teleconverter which as valli said might well not be an advantage. Although given it's Silverstone and F1, you will probably need it for the extra length.

    The key in my experience is playing with the shutter speed to get a touch of motion visible on the wheels, and the exact speed you need will vary depending which bit of the track you are shooting and therefore the speed of the cars as they go through.

    If you want to try some panning i suspect F1 will be fucking hard to get right on the straight ! So you might well be better off trying to get some on either a corner approach, or through it (focus is harder when they actually start turning). But i tend to do panning shots with continual AF on, and both eyes open which seems very weird to start but i found it helps when you hit the shutter and the viewfinder goes dark.
    Choose somewhere to do it and for the first few cars through just focus on swinging the camera at the right speed, but not through the viewfinder do it with the camera a bit lower until you can keep the lens under the car when looking over the top of the camera, then try shooting a couple and closely check tyres and background to see if the shutterspeed should go up or down.
  • Ginger 7 Jul 2011 14:42:04 6,871 posts
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    monkman76 wrote:
    Fair enough, as I say never tried it myself so I bow to ram's knowledge. Wouldn't using a monpod allow a very smooth swing around a fixed pivot point though? Otherwise unwanted up-down motion (at 670mm equivalent remember, wouldn't need much movement!) could blur the car even if you pan at the right speed?
    Are you just going for race day or practice as well? Use the practice sessions to, well, practice panning so if you're lucky enough to see some overtaking you stand a better chance of getting a good shot.

    London open taekwondo champion

  • Nick Staff 7 Jul 2011 14:53:01 618 posts
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    Guys, this is great stuff, thanks so much.

    We're there all 3 days so plenty of time to practice and review what is going on as well as try different vantage points.

    For the race itself we're at Becketts which is obviously a high-speed corner.

    Lens is Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D IF-ED and the TC-IIE steals a stop, so that's f/5.6 by my calculations. So I am hoping it should be able to focus OK assuming the light is decent, at least Nikon claims this is a compatible combo.

    We'll play with the various suggestions and see how we get on. I will post some pictures so you can see :)





  • secombe 7 Jul 2011 18:42:40 1,332 posts
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    Silverstone is evil for photography and will be even more so this weekend as loads of good spots will be off limits. Here are my shots from 2009 with a D90 and 300mm + 1.4tc...

    GP 2009

    The developments around the circuit have removed most of those angles, but if you're willing to shoot through fences you should still get some reasonable shots.

    Through a fence for head on shots around 1/250 (in Shutter Priority) should be fine, if you want to try some panning from up in the grandstands try 1/160 or thereabouts. Bin the monopod and certainly don't use VR (a future tip, I know the 300 doesn't have it), even in pannng mode it's very offputting.

    My best advice though? Leave the camera at home and enjoy the weekend. Go and shoot BTCC or something at any other circuit for a fun day of motorsport photography. I'm leaving my big kit at home and only taking my Olympus Pen for the 3 days to record the experience rather than the track action.


  • Whatsfor 8 Jul 2011 13:01:18 2,189 posts
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    Search for "Flickr Paul Genge" on Google. He's effectively the guy in charge of DSLR cameras for Sony and is a big F1 fan.

    Look at some of his F1 sets and take a note of the exif details...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulgenge/2918518626/in/set-72157607782574472/
  • Spin_Dr_Wolf 8 Jul 2011 13:25:00 6,170 posts
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    secombe wrote:
    The developments around the circuit have removed most of those angles, but if you're willing to shoot through fences you should still get some reasonable shots.
    Never be afraid of fences, they get virtually blurred out anyway the further they are from the car.
  • Nick Staff 12 Jul 2011 12:20:59 618 posts
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    Thanks for all the tips guys!

    For a first stab at motorsport photography I think we did OK.

    Here are the shots from the weekend

    http://www.hannaheno.com/Cars/Formula-1-Silverstone/17955730_mwqKMX#1375089577_R7QNtLP

    The seats we had for race day at Becketts were excellent with a clear view of the track and enough space to do some panning. We also went to Woodcote which was alright and the International Pits Straight which was a bit dull.

    The suggestion to dump the monopod was a good one, there wasn't really enough space to use it in the stands and carrying it around was a hassle.

    Had good results at both 300mm and 420mm (+ DX magnification) with it being easier at 300mm to frame shots.

    Most shots were taken at 1/1000 f4 - f5.6 with the panning shots not going much slower than 1/320. The 300mm f/4 Nikon lens is very nice.

    Cheers!


  • Salaman 12 Jul 2011 12:28:05 19,271 posts
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    Some good shots. Like the rainy ones (qualifying?)
    Black and white doesn't work as well. It's nicer to see the cars in all their shiny colourful glory.
    Like the ones where you get two cars in one shot and the red bull with the rear tyre blown out/off.

  • henro_ben 12 Jul 2011 12:38:27 2,220 posts
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    Nick wrote:
    Thanks for all the tips guys!

    For a first stab at motorsport photography I think we did OK.

    Here are the shots from the weekend

    http://www.hannaheno.com/Cars/Formula-1-Silverstone/17955730_mwqKMX#1375089577_R7QNtLP


    The rainy ones work very well, give a nice sense of movement and speed to the shots.

    The colour shots do seem to have a noticeable yellow colour cast to them though, did you do some post processing on these or are they straight from the camera?
  • monkman76 12 Jul 2011 12:38:54 4,744 posts
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    Cracking stuff! Heh, my advice was almost 100% bad :-/

    Like the misty wet ones, atmospheric.

    Sadly that's a Toro Rosso with the tyre blown, not one of the Red Bulls :-)
    edit - @Salaman
  • Salaman 12 Jul 2011 14:19:41 19,271 posts
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    Ah right ... I just saw Red Bull plastered on the side and leapt to conclusions.

    /F1 n00b
  • Nick Staff 12 Jul 2011 14:39:44 618 posts
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    Thanks for comments :)

    Hannah puts her photos through Lightroom and uses some preset which gives everything that rather yellow look. She likes it. But it does look rather extreme to me.

    (It looks absolutely terrible printed out as she found when she tried to do it to some wedding photos.)

    Yeah, the crowd were desperate for Vettel and Webber to come together on the last few laps to give Hamilton a podium but alas it wasn't to be. That shot is of Buemi.


  • AaronTurner 12 Jul 2011 14:41:51 7,785 posts
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    I like the idea of the yellow tint but it's slightly too much for my eyes too. Some nice photos though.
  • Nth 12 Jul 2011 15:09:42 3,121 posts
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    Pah! I made a much better job of it when I went to the test in 2008 :D

    Masterclass
  • Nick Staff 12 Jul 2011 15:11:17 618 posts
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    Haha!
  • AaronTurner 12 Jul 2011 15:12:58 7,785 posts
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    Strange, that page seems to trigger the anti-aliasing on my card :/
  • Salaman 12 Jul 2011 15:39:44 19,271 posts
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    Nth wrote:
    Pah! I made a much better job of it when I went to the test in 2008 :D

    Masterclass

    lol. Well done!
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