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Motorsport Photography For Beginners – Part 2: Cameras & Lenses

Tracksider logo 600x200In 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.

WEC Toyota TS040 Hybrid shot with Canon 550D and 200mm F2.8 L Lens at F2.8, 1/2000
WEC Toyota TS040 Hybrid shot with Canon 550D and 200mm F2.8 L Lens at F2.8, 1/2000
F1 Martini Brabham BT44 shot with Canon 550D and 200mm F2.8 L lens at F2.8, 1/4000
F1 Martini Brabham BT44 shot with Canon 550D and 200mm F2.8 L lens at F2.8, 1/4000

Continue reading Motorsport Photography For Beginners – Part 2: Cameras & Lenses

Motorsport Photography For Beginners – Part 1

Tracksider logo 600x200

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…

Taken with Canon 550D, EF200mm F2.8 L lens on Kenko 2x Extender. ISO400 F7.1
Taken with Canon 550D, EF200mm F2.8 L lens on Kenko 2x Extender. ISO400 F7.1

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