Shooting Motor Racing (even through a fence!)
It is becoming rare to find a racing circuit with an uninterrupted view of the track. Due to health and safety concerns catch fencing has been erected almost all around the circuits, including this one – Brands Hatch in Kent, England. A former Grand Prix circuit it is no longer used as the run off areas are too small for a formula 1 car.
Interesting the lap record is held by Nigel Mansel in a Williams Honda in 1986 – yes 1986!
Now it is home to events such as the British Touring Car Championship, the Porsche Cup and various historic races.
These shots were taken with the Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 LIS – both mk1 and mk2 on a Canon 5dmklll to try out at Brands. As you can see from picture 2 if you set the lens up incorrectly you can get lots of pictures of fences!
The right way to setup your camera/lens…
Av Mode set f5.6 and the focus range on the lens to be 3m- infinity.I set an ISO to get the shutter speed in excess of 1/500 often 1/1000th or faster
The AF mode is set to “track objects ignoring obstacles” – which stops the AF attempting to focus on the fence, or marshalls etc.
I usually overexpose a little to move the histogram to the right.
At 400mm the fence is blurred to invisibility, but as I zoomed out to 100 the fence became visible again. I should point out that this only works if you are really close to the fence – inches, not feet!
Normally for motor sport I’d set the camera to Shutter speed priority, decide on the shutter speed based on the lens and speed of the action. However in this circumstance, if the aperture stops down to f8 – the fence becomes visible, hence I want to fix the aperture.
Shooing through the fence reduces contrast – but this can be compensated for afterwards.
I was able to capture the images of the cars coming up the hill. The heat haze and difference in sharpness between those in focus cars at the front and those behind contributes strongly to making the images work.
The images of the Porsche 911 were shot just over a fence – from a distance – standing as tall as possible. Alain Menu in the VW and Colin Tarkington in the BMW were both shot from Grandstand seats.
Unfortunately the way motor racing circuits are being designed now, it is becoming increasingly important to have a press pass, or be in a grandstand to get a good view.