My Steady Introduction to the Art of Track Photography - ZX6R Forum
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post #1 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 06:55 PM Thread Starter
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My Steady Introduction to the Art of Track Photography

This last weekend I had a pretty awesome opportunity to help out some friends at our local track day organization with some track photography. The usual track photographer wasn't on site for this event so they needed some help capturing some photos for the riders. I posted myself at turns 1 and 2 at Buttonwillow Raceway and spent the entire morning taking pics. It was pretty cool. I figured, for those of you who are also fellow photo geeks, I'd share a few shots and throw out some technical specs.

All of the shots were taken with my Nikon D3100 with just a basic old 55-300mm Nikon DX zoom lens. Yeah, my gear is nothin' fancy but I think she did alright all things considered.

These shots are all un-edited with the exception of some cropping.



It was a partly cloudy day so I found myself constantly fluctuating between a 1/2000 shutter speed and a 1/3000 (those ones came out a little underexposed).



Some of you might know this guy:





The dude on the red Ducati ran himself wide in the turn and decided that he would try to push his bike across the track and get back to the pits. I found the timing of this shot funny as he stopped to rest just as another rider came flying by behind him on the entry point to turn 1





For some reason, I uploaded them up to Photobucket and now they look a little fuzzier on my screen. I'm not sure if it downgraded the quality but oh well.

I decided to tinker with the autofocus settings. The pics from turn 1 were a little more challenging as I had to follow the riders through the corner while making sure the camera maintained a decent focal point while set to continuous autofocus. All in all I'd say it was a success for a practice run. Especially considering these are the originals and I haven't had to make any adjustments.

I have to say that there is really something cool to being a rider and a photographer. The guy who is usually out there picks some weird places to post and I always thought that these were two of the best places to capture some good lean angles. It was also really cool to watch the riders improve as their sessions went on. The guy on the blue ZX improved phenomenally in a short period of time.

The best part is that I also earned myself some free track time.

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post #2 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:00 PM
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Yeah, photobucket will drop the resolution drastically! You need to find a site that will post them in their full resolution. Good shots MoM!

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post #3 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:02 PM
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The thing with the track photographers is that they do this so much that they don't seek new, creative places. They just do minimal to get paid real quick. It doesn't help that people steal photos a lot of times. Best bet is to take a friend that is decent with a camera.

The D3100 is a solid body for a hobbyist that knows what they are doing. What kind of 55-300, Nikkor or third party? Play with some shutter speeds between 1/250-1/1000 and pan for some really awesome stuff.

And free track time is always awesome. I wish we could get those perks here. Your coast is a lot more receptive to grassroot motorsport it seems.

Oh, and Flickr or smugmug.

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post #4 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:04 PM Thread Starter
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A few more:

This shot wasn't the best but I just loved the "excitebike" in the background wheelieing over the crest




This guy rode through the dust right after another guy crashed in front of him:


Focus!:
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post #5 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah, next time I'm going to play more with a slower shutter speed and increased F-stop. I want to try and capture the blur of the background for a better perspective of speed. I have smugmug and will get them posted up there. I'll link it here when I'm done.

And the lens is a Nikkor. I've been quite impressed with it's ability so far.

Here is a link to the Smugmug gallery: http://theapexdream.smugmug.com/Othe...1389930_QzBDZt

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Last edited by MistressOfMayhem; 08-22-2013 at 07:15 PM. Reason: Because I said so
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post #6 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:22 PM
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Shoot in RAW and grab lightroom or photoshop to touch up as needed. You can get things pretty damn close straight out of the camera though.

They look good!

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post #7 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks! Yeah, I have Photoshop. I wanted to see how close I could get them without editing.

I will probably go back and do some editing just for fun.

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post #8 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:35 PM
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post #9 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 07:55 PM
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I think all those pics look really good, im not a reliable art critic though.

I hope your new gig is taking you to SOW next weekend.
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post #10 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 08:02 PM Thread Starter
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SOW as in THIS weekend?

Shhit I had no idea! My freebie day is going to be out at Buttonwillow on Labor Day.

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post #11 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 08:07 PM
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Nice pics MoM. Good eye. Keep up the the great work.
Your photos are fine. Don't bash yourself. You take fantastic pictures.
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post #12 of 40 Old 08-22-2013, 08:36 PM
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Can I make what I think are a few constructive tips?

1) The subjects are a little dark, meaning that I can't make out much detail especially in the first couple of shots. There are a couple of ways to address this:

a) Choose a different time of the day to be at that particular position. You can see from the shadows that you're shooting towards the sun. I would guess that the exposure setting is on "average" instead of spot, so the camera is trying to do the best it can to get average lighting, so the sky is too bright, and the subject is too dark.
b) Find the control that gives you center weighted exposure and try that.
c) Another way is to go full manual on the exposure and shutter speed and check your screen after a couple of shots and adjust accordingly.
d) if you have Photoshop or something equivalent, you can fill in the shadows which will reduce the contrast (not usually good) but will let you regain some definition in the darkest areas.

2) If you're trying to sell photos, then closer is always better. People buying these types of photos want to be able to identify themselves so zooming or cropping will usually get you more interest/buying. For a publication, showing relative motion or more interesting composition is good, but when selling to inidividuals you want be up close and personal.

Here are two pictures I bought from a pro at Sonoma Raceway that illustrate those points - on the first one he's zoomed right into my grill and the sun is at his back so there's lots of crisp detail. If you look close you'll even see a shimmering of heat just above the blue/yellow curbing - I think it looks pretty cool. In the 2nd again he's up close and the sun is almost straight up (you can see the shadow under the bike) so there's not any significant back lighting. He's also captured the curb painting in the reflection of my visor (creates an interesting view, and undoubtedly learned long ago by the photographer as a good spot to get this shot)

Hope you find the comments useful - they're meant to be constructive so hope you take 'em that way!

good luck - practice makes perfect.....
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post #13 of 40 Old 08-23-2013, 05:48 AM
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Some of you might know this guy:



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post #14 of 40 Old 08-23-2013, 07:55 AM
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Nice pics MoM!
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post #15 of 40 Old 08-23-2013, 08:28 AM
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Nice pics for your first time! Shooting at a track is so much fun, I haven't done bikes but want to. You should try some panning shots to capture the motion!

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