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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 02 Sep 2013 (Monday) 15:26
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Drag racing light setup?

1 post
Joined Dec 2012
Sep 02, 2013 15:26 |  #1

I am trying to figure out a better light setup for me to take better photos at night at the drag strip. Right now I am using one 580exII in ETTL on the camera.

See attached pictures below. I take pictures in high speed burst mode given some faster cars do wheelies. You can see I had to take three pictures rather quickly on this one. I am thinking I have to stay with a canon speedlites given I need quick recycling time?

I have a 5D Mark III. This was shot at F5.6 3200 ISO 1/200 shutter speed. The photos were at 95mm. I was using my Canon 24-105MM F4 Lense.

You can see the front bumper receives most of the light. I would like to have more light on right side of the car, but there is good 30 feet I am thinking in distance traveled by this car. Any suggestions? I am thinking I am at least 40 feet away if not little more. Please help. Thank you.

I am not sure if I should add a bare flash on the right side on light stand. I just hate how the bare flash hits the car. It being so hard light. People talk about using soft boxes and not umbrellas for cars, but not sure if a speedlite will work with that. Also any monolight I am thinking is not up to task to cycle quick enough?




2,643 posts
Gallery: 17 photos
Best ofs: 2
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Joined Mar 2008
Location: North Carolina
Sep 02, 2013 17:25 |  #2

Your photos would benefit from a couple of off camera lights. Two lights, positioned just over the barriers on each side of the track would help the car to stand out from the dark background. Monolights would be fine (they recycle nearly instantaneous at lower power settings) but you would need AC power or battery packs. Umbrellas or softboxes are not going to do any good at that distance. They will just be point source light, similar to what you're getting now. Diffusers will simply eat up power and be more likely to blow over in the wind.

If you are thinking about buying some additional lights, take a look at Cheetah lights. They offer the power of a monolight with the flexibility of a speed light. The battery packs last forever and you can control the lights output from the transmitter on your camera.

www.jimcolmanphotograp​ (external link)

Senior Member
439 posts
Gallery: 12 photos
Best ofs: 1
Likes: 36
Joined Apr 2011
Location: East Tenn
Sep 07, 2013 18:39 |  #3

Dang you're the lucky one. I couldn't use flash at the track, as it could confuse the driver and cost him/her to red light...geez, cry When it got dark, photos stopped for the most part.

Capture today, for everyone to enjoy tomorrow!:D
5D mkiii / 6D / 7D / (4) 600ex-rt, / Canon 135 F2 L /Canon 200 2.8L / Canon 24-105 4L / Canon 24-70 2.8 L / Canon 70-200 4 L / Canon 85 1.8 /Canon 50 1.8 STM / Canon ef-s 17-55 2.8 and plenty of smiles!:D

Greg ­ In ­ Ohio
59 posts
Joined Dec 2009
Location: East Columbus, Ohio
Sep 09, 2013 02:00 as a reply to  @ pictureman62's post |  #4

This is pretty funny, as I have thought about this before. National Trail Raceway is about 20 minutes to the East of me, and they do a lot of nighttime drags. Although it would be great to be able to experiment with different lighting options, I would think it would have to be done with some consideration. From a racers perspective, the last thing in the world I would want is a blinding flash to the eyes just as I launch on a 9.00 second pass. lol

At any rate, especially if you knew the driver, or they were aware of it beforehand and knew not to look to the left, right, or whatever, it would make for some really neat shots.

Sorry for ramblin', as I can't offer much advice, but had to respond. As for ideas, it seems jcolman has that handled. Very informative.

67 posts
Likes: 13
Joined Dec 2005
May 16, 2014 11:42 as a reply to  @ Greg In Ohio's post |  #5

If you trigger your shot after you see the car move you won't run the risk of a flash before green.

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Drag racing light setup?
FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
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