Hi and welcome to Tracksider.com
This is a blog about my three passions: Motorsport, Photography and Music.
Tracksider.com features reviews, advice and opinion based around, but not exclusive to, these core topics. There'll be articles about what's going on in F1, WEC, MotoGP and the like. Advice on how to pick the right camera gear and improve your motorsport photography skills, and album and gig reviews from my favourite bands. I'll also throw in the odd movie or TV review, road car feature and pertinent tech reviews to keep things interesting!
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Whilst Formula 1 continues to experience troubles the World Endurance Championship increases in popularity year after year.
Round 1 at Silverstone attracted a sizeable and enthusiastic race-day crowd. But then what’s not to like? For the princely sum of £40 per person you get a weekend ticket with free parking, roving access to grandstands, access to both ELMS, Carrera Cup and WEC paddocks, a 4hr ELMS race on Saturday and the 6hr main WEC event on Sunday. I was also sent a free Sunday morning Pit-Walk Pass. If you want a similar level of access for Formula 1 be prepared to part with several hundred pounds per person.
I was lucky enough to attend the first round of the BTCC at Brands Hatch this weekend. The weather was mostly fine and Brands looked in rude health.
On the Saturday – during the Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying session – I found myself in the centre of druids hairpin, always a fun place to shoot from. I’d attached my cheap, lightweight EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS II zoom lens to the camera, for its more useful focal-length coverage, compared to my 200mm prime. Thus allowing me to have fun with subject framing at close quarters.
I was intending to use the session to play with different compositions and get my panning technique back on point, after the winter lay-off from motorsport.
Then the sun came out and provided some lovely light, so I got busy with the shutter button.
Gradually slowing the shutter speed for a more dramatic motion effect – I didn’t expect a huge amount from this session, as I was just experimenting – but when I loaded up the RAW files in the evening I was pleasantly surprised.
There is much discussion about wings in motorcycling at present.
Following the opening MotoGP round at Qatar – where we even saw a Moto3 Mahindra sprout aerodynamic winglets – the Grand Prix Commission has deemed that with immediate effect they will be banned from Moto2 and at the end of the current season in Moto3.
As for MotoGP; well, the manufacturers have to vote to ban them, and with many of the factories trying to develop them, this it is not likely.
Unless it can be proved to be a safety issue – in which case the governing body has to wait for an accident to happen, which they can then prove was related to the winglets – how crazy is that!
In part one we looked at the different types of camera and why a DSLR is the best choice for fast action/motorsport. I also spoke about how ended up with my kit.
This time around we’re going to have a closer look at the different options we have with lenses and cameras in the Canon range. Even though we are only talking about one manufacturer the options can still be overwhelming. So the best place to start is to ask yourself; what do I hope to achieve?
Early on I grew frustrated with the limitations of my camera phone and bridge camera. I wanted to achieve the types of pictures you saw in magazines, I wanted to be able to take pictures that I thought were good enough to hang in my house. If your aim is simply to document an occasional visit to a racetrack, then a superzoom/bridge camera, or hiring of a consumer DSLR camera and decent lens, would be the answer.
However, if you want to embrace motorsport photography as a hobby then carefully investing in your own equipment is ideal.
When starting out it is difficult to know if you will stick with a hobby and continue to have passion for it. It’s similar for sports you play – do you invest what is sometimes a scary amount of money upfront for good equipment? Or do you start off with more basic kit and see how you get on? We’ve all done this, you either end up with expensive kit gathering dust, or buy cheap stuff that breaks, or doesn’t perform properly – which you then have to replace.
If you are starting from scratch with no experience of shooting trackside it is very difficult to decide on what equipment you will need. You have no frame of reference to base your decisions upon. But it helps to ask yourself a few questions and look at other peoples work (both amateur & pro) to help you decide what sort of images you like and hope to emulate. This will then help you to make better decisions.
For instance; if you like narrow depth-of-field highly detailed shots that can fill the frame you will more than likely need a long focal length large aperture lens. This will be expensive and heavy, which will limit you getting around the track. But if you like the idea of setting up at one or two corners for the day on a mono pod or tripod then this route maybe for you.
Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. Multiple world champions one and all.
Have you ever noticed how those that hold a single world title carry themselves with a certain dignity? Nicky Hayden, Jenson Button, Damon Hill – all well respected, rounded individuals (well, apart from Kimi that is!).
But multiple world champions, no. They all tend to have a major character defect caused by one thing – ruthlessness. Lewis Hamilton, Mick Doohan, Ayrton Senna, Casey Stoner, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and the three MotoGP stars mentioned above. They will sacrifice everything to be the best. As demonstrated last season. The ego’s of the multiple champions were fully on display for all of us to behold. And it wasn’t pretty.
Before I go any further I will state the following to make quite clear my allegiances: Channel 5 in the UK began showing MotoGP on terrestrial TV in 2000. This happened to coincide with Valentino Rossi moving up to the top 500cc 2-stroke category. The conclusion of his ‘learn in the first year, win the championship the next approach’ in the junior categories extended on into the premier class. His demeanour and fun loving personality, post race stunts and boundless enthusiasm for motorcycle racing was fantastic to witness – fun and entertainment in motorsport, really?
These are my favourite Live Albums, the ones that I listen to regularly, that I connect with. Certainly not a definitive collection of ‘Greatest Live Albums EVAH’. More a collection that brightens my day and hopefully contains one or two that are new to you, inspiring you to investigate ‘em further. Also, they’re not ranked, ‘cos I like ‘em all!
Pearl Jam – Live At Benaroya Hall (2004)
Ahhh, yeah…. full disclosure; I’ve been a mega fan of Pearl Jam ever since I first heard Ten in my teenage years. Their back catalogue overflows with live material, mainly because they decided to release every gig they play as an official bootleg. However, Live At Benaroya Hall was released by their record company as a full 2 CD release.
As it’s 2004 it doesn’t contain their latest material. But it does contain the classics, some rarities and some covers. All played pretty much acoustically. Beautifully recorded and rare for a live album – the audience actually adds to the ambience. But the greatest thing about it is it’s warts ’n all; the mistakes are left in and talked about, the in-between ramblings from Eddie, the interplay between band members.
If I feel like some Pearl Jam but can’t decided which album, this is a no-brainer for instant gratification. A corker. On headphones or a good hi-fi you feel like you are there.
Highlights for me are, erm, all of it! But especially “Man Of The Hour” written for Tim Burton’s Big Fish movie, the Ten epic “Black” and Victoria Williams cover and set staple “Crazy Mary”.
If you enjoy this but want the band fully electrified try the Live At The Gorge boxset (7 CD’s!). For more acoustic awesomeness look for their Unplugged session (it also came as a bonus DVD with the Ten Redux release). Continue reading Live Albums: My Top Picks→
Ah, back again. This time seated on the opposite side of the circle to the previous evening. The ushers offering to upgrade circle ticket holders to the stalls below – if they so wish – due to spare seating. I am in possession of a row 1 ticket for the circle, enabling me a birds eye view of the stage. I opt to stick with my lot. All the while thinking how foolish the general public are, for missing the opportunity to witness one of the best British artists around today.
The stage appears set for a support act. Indeed, they take the stage. It doesn’t take long to realise that the front man is comedy actor Matt Berry, of The Mighty Boosh, I.T. Crowd and Toast of London fame. I’d recognise that baritone bluster anywhere, “Fossil!”. And what a nice surprise he and his band are. I was completely unaware of his musical prowess, but they are a talented bunch that take in folk, funk, jazz, prog and a few other genres that i’m not sure have been fully identified yet. They dripped fun and enthusiasm, it was a shame they couldn’t have a little more stage time.
An earlier interlude than the previous evening allows the roadies to do their work. Preparing the stage, including a quick vacuum with a Henry, to ready the stage for the inevitable bare feet. The lights dim, the lighting engineer receiving rapturous applause for his fine work with the fader. Craig Blundell ambles on and gets comfortable at his kit. The initial hits of ‘No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun’ strike out into the hall. We know where this is going. Sure enough, Nick is on next. The familiar concert opening bassline locking in with the established drum pattern. One by one the rest of the band take their places and lock in. Mr Wilson arrives accompanied by expectant applause, the band launches into the number with commitment.
Standing trackside with exotic machinery passing by at ludicrous speeds, camera in hand sniping shots of your heroes as they display the skills that made them famous – Motorsport Photography, what’s not to love huh?
If you’ve visited any sort of racetrack you will surely have tried to take some pictures as Lewis Hamilton, Valentino Rossi or the like as they speed by. You probably tried with your camera/smart phone right? Unimpressed with your results – tiny blurred subjects, criss-crossed with chainlink fence – the following year you buy a better camera; probably something like a superzoom bridge camera? With a good zoom range you’re feeling confident you’ll get some cracking shots this time. But the fences still cause you problems and the camera doesn’t focus fast enough to follow the racers.
You experiment with pre-focusing on a section of track and then take the shot as your subject passes, you try panning with your subject. You start to end up with a handful of ok shots, but hundreds to throw away. At this point you’ll either lose interest or invest in a proper DSLR camera. Then you’ll find you have to invest even more than the camera cost in lenses if you want decent results…
Many have followed this, or a similar path, including myself. The above loosely describes my story. Starting out with my camera phone at MotoGP in Donington 2007. Ending up at the present day with a Canon DSLR and large aperture prime lens. With this series of articles I want to help budding Motorsport Photographers avoid the pitfalls of choosing the right equipment first time, while also showing you don’t have to invest quite as much money in the equipment, as some say you should, to get acceptable results. I am going to address Equipment, Techniques, Settings, Race Tracks and more in these ramblings. Strap-in, this could take some time…! Continue reading Motorsport Photography For Beginners – Part 1→
Motorsport, Photography and Music – opinion, advice and reviews