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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Motorsports Talk
Thread started 25 Dec 2004 (Saturday) 11:59
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STICKY: Motorsports safety for photographers

forsaken's Avatar
1,953 posts
Joined Nov 2005
Auckland, New Zealand
Jan 10, 2007 19:37 |  #16

safety first. photography second when at the track.

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Cream of the Crop
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5,844 posts
Joined Oct 2005
Jan 23, 2007 17:15 as a reply to forsaken's post |  #17

If you're going to get close enough to the action to get a clean shot at a race track, you're going to expose yourself to danger. There are safer locations, but no place is perfectly safe.

I was at the now-O'Reilly Raceway Park in 1979 when a TV cameraman was killed during the U.S. Nationals drag races.

The cameraman was on a platform a couple of feet above track level and a hundred yards downstream of the finish line. Two top fuel cars were qualifying (they were going only 220 mph in those days) and one car had the rear wing break. That lifted the rear wheels off the ground, which let the engine freewheel, and the overspeeding engine blew the supercharger off the block. The torque from the overspeed also rolled the fueler, which slammed into the guardrail.

The poor cameraman followed his instincts and quickly panned the camera to follow the crashing car, which was still bouncing off the guardrail. He had the camera pointed downtrack and never saw the supercharger, which had flown over the guardrail, bounded through the grass, then struck the cameraman in the back and killed him.

Everyone in the control tower was watching the crashing top fuel car, and it was a few moments before we saw the cameraman on the ground after he had been thrown off the platform by the flying supercharger.

After that, every cameraman with that production company was assigned a spotter who was required to have a finger in the cameraman's belt loop, ready to yank him out of the way in case of trouble.

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Zilly's Avatar
5,086 posts
Joined Jul 2006
Jan 24, 2007 06:38 |  #18

wow thats way more then they get in the uk they only get given ear defenders but the close camera man is only at 8th mile marker the next one is a good 50ft from the track

on of the local togs was in the sutdown area when he had his leg broken by a blower disasembly he was some 250ft away from the action

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Kiddo's Avatar
2,243 posts
Joined Jan 2007
Apr 22, 2007 14:08 |  #19

Great tips here guys!!

I shot some pictures last year at the local track here. What I did was ask the owner of the track if I could shoot pictures from the towers int he middle of both turns. He had no problem with that and it worked out great for me!!! Got some great pictures of them coming into the turns and no one and one fencing was in my way!

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Wazza's Avatar
10,627 posts
Joined Nov 2004
Waitakere, New Zealand
Apr 24, 2007 15:05 |  #20

I've never felt so unsafe, as to last year standing near the guardrail as jet cars screamed past to a new NZ record. It was the only time I got blurry photos, and I sh@t myself, and pretty much through the camera out of my hand. :lol:

Good points from everyone. Standing is always best, and stand behind something solid.

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cosworth's Avatar
10,930 posts
Joined Jul 2005
Duncan, BC, Canada
Apr 24, 2007 15:26 |  #21

I shoot a fair amount of "grassroots" motorcycle racing. Green racers and green corner workers, peppered with seasoned vets. Bikes crash a lot and they flail.

Watch a race or two and get the ide of where these guys are crashing. Make a mental note to not stand there.

Some corner workers will be overzealous. Some will be downright nasty. Most are pretty happy you're there to cover the event. Get them on side as they can get you booted asap. Take a nice group shot of them in between green track times. They may even share some bottled water if you are nice. You'll forget water.

Now to mention something people here have experienced but haven't mentioned. Canada, not unlike the UK is not renowned for its blireting heat. That being said here in Canada I've sen heat stroke, sun stroke, dehydration and dangerously low blood sugars on tracks. Washrooms, food and water can sometimes be scarce. Couple that with zero shade for hours on end and you can have a perosn on the track who is disoriented, not making rational decisions etc. Keep your mind and body running as well as your gear. Then you won't make the one small mistake when you can't afford it.

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239 posts
Joined May 2005
Waterford, Michigan
Apr 27, 2007 07:14 |  #22

I shoot raod racing and have started shooting supermoto. One thing I have learned from being aound roadracing all my life is 2 things

Never turn your back to the track
Always run perpindicular to the car coming at you. Better yet if you can run along the barier so you are not in line with any flyin debris.

NEVER run away from the car in the direction it is traveling. Chances are you will not out run it.

Now with shooting motocross and supermoto, you are constantly exposed so I am curious to what others have for tips on this sport.

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Junior Member
28 posts
Joined May 2007
Arlington Texas
May 28, 2007 15:39 |  #23

Lots of good tips in here.
When shooting around the starting line at the drag strip remember that the track is sticky, pick up your feet when turning around or you just might hurt you knee.
Don't ask. :(

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ryant35's Avatar
4,338 posts
Joined May 2007
Cypress, CA
Jun 08, 2007 00:51 |  #24

Not that safe...

"After that red car, haul ass!! Be careful!" - Track marshal at the finish line right before I was even ready to cross the hot track. At least the drivers where pretty slow.

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Mostly Lurking
10 posts
Joined Aug 2007
Aug 10, 2007 08:33 |  #25

I've only done this a couple of times but always I have to say safety first. always be on guard. never sit down. a couple of seconds could mean the difference. neveer put your self in danger. after you figure that out. than keep on your toes for some really great pictures.

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dawei213's Avatar
377 posts
Joined Aug 2007
Philadelphia, PA
Aug 13, 2007 13:00 |  #26

Another tip:

When at an autocross event, you should always have a spotter. Reason being is sometimes there could be two vehicles on the course at any given time. While your eyes and lens are looking at one car, you cannot see where the other car is at.

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130 posts
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Outside Chicago someplace?
Aug 31, 2007 13:29 |  #27

dawei213 wrote in post #3719966 (external link)
Another tip:

When at an autocross event, you should always have a spotter. Reason being is sometimes there could be two vehicles on the course at any given time. While your eyes and lens are looking at one car, you cannot see where the other car is at.

I Highly second this point!
I started shooting Autocross events Early this year, and for most events the organizers for the event have a course spotter assigned just to watch over me while I shoot from within the course. Even when I an near the finish line and sitting just off to the side, I have a spotter watching me and keeping me from becoming roadkill! ;) :lol:

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163 posts
Joined Aug 2007
Oct 08, 2007 16:21 |  #28


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Oct 31, 2007 23:15 |  #29

Thanks for the info

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PhotosGuy's Avatar
71,036 posts
Gallery: 3 photos
Joined Feb 2004
Middle of Michigan
Nov 15, 2007 10:31 |  #30

Some other good general advice in here:
Advice needed for Rally shooting

Includes links to:
Motorsport Shooting Tips, Tutorials and Advice
Why do you guys use manual? AV makes more sense.

Some tips on panning in these threads:
drag racing tips
Panning Shots
Newbie question about cycling shots

Hard lesson learned(Slow-shutter panning with a long lens)

FrankC - 20D, RAW, Manual everything...
Classic Carz, Racing, Air Show, Flowers.
Find the light... A few Car Lighting Tips, and MOVE YOUR FEET!
Have you thought about making your own book? // Need an exposure crutch?
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Motorsports safety for photographers
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