A Night at Milan Dragway
Last week I had a chance to head out to Milan Dragway in Michigan to check out some Wednesday night TnT action, and decided to shoot a few pics well I was there. Anyone who knows me, knows that building/tuning/racing cars & bikes is one of my biggest passions in life for the past decade or more. So naturally getting some free time to go watch, let alone shoot some drag racing last week was an awesome day...
For this trip I packed my normal basic travel kit which includes 1 camera body, a few lenses, a mono-pod, a few small flashes, and various grip supplies. In the end I ended up shooting this entire day with just a Canon 40D body, a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 lens, and a standard mono-pod. Gear wise I kept it simple, but for motorsports events not unlike most action sports events, my preferred setup is the previous mentioned setup plus a second body with my Sigma 17-70mm 2.8 wide angle lens for shots around the pits and to capture some of the detail shots.
Most tracks I have been to have fairly strict rules and locations on where you can and can't shoot from. On top of notoriously deceiving bad lighting, endless obstructions, and less than scenic backdrops. Add to this you're trying to capture fast-moving vehicles, at a reasonable distance, in typically low light conditions and you have a recipe for disaster.
As much as I hate to admit it this is definitely one of those times where investing more money into better gear really pays off. Fast lenses like f2.8 or faster are a must, high ISO performance will be necessary, and a quality focusing system will make or break your shots. My personal travel gear setup is less than ideal for this kind of work and probably the bare minimum you'd want to try to get away with, but it is still more than capable in most situations.
I feel finding new and creative shots is sometimes difficult at motorsport & sporting events alike. As there typically captured quite often, and most venues as mentioned above have very limited places you can shoot from, as well the extremely unpredictable nature of the action itself, and the inability to change many variables in the scene around you. I try to include other things of interest into my motorsports shots to give them something more than the average snapshots typically found at such events.
In this series I tried to mix up a few different angles and looks, shooting some in portrait & others in landscape that i normal wouldn't and also mixing up some different edit styles in post production. I shot some of the standard commercial shots, and also tried to mix in some of action around the scene to give a feeling of being there. Anyone who's been around any kind of sporting event can attest to the difference of being there as opposed to just watching it on tv, or in a picture.
One of the best things I find about shooting Motorsports is the people involved. Over the past 10+ years or so of racing and shooting I have never met anyone who wasn't willing to let me shoot their rides, tell me all about them & themselves, and interested in getting some of the images for their own collection. There is definitely times when some caution is needed as to be expected with any sport where emotions run high when things are going badly, but all in all I don't think you can find a more photographically open group of enthusiasts.
Between online forums, cars clubs, websites, and magazines there is always a steady source of places to submit your motorsport photos for whatever your end goal may be. Most people have put hundreds if not thousands of hours and $$$ into their cars & bikes and seldomly get quality photos of them enjoying them. Even better for some, motorsports photos are one of the easiest markets to get into cause the demand is already there and the ratio of people wanting quality photos to those shooting them is favorable for the photographer.
One last thing to note, and is something I have struggled with in the past with most of my photography is remembering to enjoy yourself and put the camera down sometimes. Capturing the perfect images is great, but sometimes just enjoying whats going on around you isn't too bad either... ha.