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FORUMS Photo Sharing & Visual Enjoyment Motorsports 
Thread started 05 Feb 2006 (Sunday) 04:45
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Best use of location and AF points for motorsport - 56K Warning!

 
KennyG
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Feb 05, 2006 04:45 |  #1

This post is not only general information, but for those interested in the Workshops.

These examples use Druids at Outlon Park to show how one corner on a race circuit can give you very different views by changing your location or altering your setup. I will go through each of the positions on the diagram and how to set up for them.

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The dotted line is the "racing line", but not all the drivers stick to it and cars tend to leave the black stuff just after position B or C. There is enough space behind these locations to retreat if things look too dangerous to hold your ground. There is no public access to the outside of this corner or Water Tower, so only accredited photographers can work here.

The first consideration is the direction of the sun during the day and I have indicated this on the drawing. As you can see points A,B and D are not suitable when it gets close to noon, so the best time for this corner is from early morning until about 11am, which usually coincides with qualifying on one-day race events. The direction of the sun at each shooting location is your first consideration when planning a working day at the circuit.

Position A - This gives you a view of the corner entry, first apex and a pan at the second apex. The Armco is about 4ft high with a double layer tyre wall in front. It is around 15ft from the track and slightly lower. The lens should be about 1ft to 2ft above the Armco or the grass/gravel between you and the track could mask the bottom of the wheels. An ideal focal length is 500mm, but 600mm is also very usable. Shorter focal lengths of around 200mm to 300mm are best for panning on the second apex. The background is clean with trees and a short section of the corner entry. A shutter speed of 1/320 or 1/400 for head-on or three quarter shots will work well and the focus point below the centre one should be selected to get the right framing.
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Position B - My favourite spot at this corner. You can use a number of locations 20ft either side of this one, depending on the type of racing. When the cars are well bunched move towards the apex and if they are well spaced out, move in the direction of the footbridge. You will most likely move a number of times during a race as the relative positions of the cars change. The Armco is quite low and the track less than 10ft away. The lens should be virtually resting on the Armco and the centre focus point in use. Focal lengths between 300mm and 600mm are workable and when the car is at point X the background shows the curve of the track plus any following cars. A shutter speed of 1/320 is the best choice for this location. This is also a good place for a pan shot using a focal length of around 130mm (a 70-200 lens is perfect) and the background is very clean.
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Position C - This can be a difficult postion to work as you can not easily see approaching cars and have very little time to take the shot. This is all about reading the race and having good hearing. You hear the car approach and have to catch it as it crests the brow at position Y. The result is a low angle shot and sometimes a a close shave for you and the driver if they overcook the exit. With a lot of experience you can get away with 1/320, but 1/400 will give you the best chance of a well framed sharp shot. Lodge corner requires a similar hear-frame-shoot approach.
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I want to divert here for a moment. I can't stress enough how important it is to use the appropriate focus point for the type of shot you are taking. For example, using a lower point has the effect of shifting the framing upwards, and point to the left or right moves the framing in the opposite direction to the chosen point. Why would you want to do this? In the first example below I wanted to make sure I had the track in the background, the top of the hill, a touch of sky and the following cars, so the bottom centre point was chosen. In the second shot a point to the left of centre was chosen (placed on the front licence plate) to avoid a marshals post on the left and to make sure the three quarter shot was correctly framed. In the thrid shot a low point was chosen to get more of the Lodge in the background. A bit of thought on selecting the best focus point for the ideal framing is time well spent.
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Position D - The Water Tower can give some interesting shots as you catch the cars climbing Clay Hill to go under the bridge. The two examples below show a long shot and a one taken closer to the bridge. The results are very different, yet they are taken only 15ft apart. Always experiment by moving your position, even a few feet can give a very different look. Both shots are taken with the lens just above the Armco barrier.

IMAGE: http://www.motorpix.co​.uk/train/pointd.jpg

IMAGE: http://www.motorpix.co​.uk/train/pointd2.jpg

Kerbs, use them for framing or defining your shot. The red and white kerbs at Oulton Park and Brands Hatch are perfect for bringing that something extra to the shot. You can emphasise the curve of a corner or draw the eye into the shot. The two examples below from Brands Hatch should give you an idea on how to use kerbs.

IMAGE: http://www.motorpix.co​.uk/train/kerbs.jpg

IMAGE: http://www.motorpix.co​.uk/train/kerb-2.jpg

Shutter speed. Forget all about one over focal length. That's a rough guide for static or very slow moving subjects. You want to show speed and movement in your shots, so the likes of 600mm at 1/320 is a perfectly normal setting, as would be 300mm at 1/125 for a pan shot. The rules to be applied are those for taking pictures of racing cars travelling at speed where you do not want to freeze the action. In simple terms, as slow as 1/80 for pans and never above 1/500, whatever the focal length.

ISO is used to help control the DOF of your shot in daylight and using ISO 400 in bright sunlight common, especially when shooting three quarter pans. It is used to balance the right shutter speed and aperture. In poor light the rules change and it is used as you would expect.

How do you handle exposure when some of the cars are using headlights? In simple terms - Manual mode and aim carefully. Move to a position where you can get the shot without the headlight pointing directly at the lens, usually a corner or bend in the track. Don't forget the effect this will have on the background and which focus point to use.

Seems like a lot to think about when all you are trying to do is take a picture of a fast moving race car. Through time it becomes second nature and the better you know the circuit the chances of being in the right place at the right time are higher.

I am trying to get you to think about locations, direction of the sun, backgrounds, focus points and how even slight changes in location can give you a very different look to your pictures. Experiment and remember one very important rule about motorsport photography - safety takes priority over everything else and you must follow any instructions given by the marshals.

Ken
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gmen
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Feb 05, 2006 05:02 |  #2

A very interesting read Kenny. I'm sure the budding motorsports togs here will find this info invaluable.

It is particularly interesting to read about your use of off-centre focus points to aid composition. It is an approach I adopt with a variety of other sports. For example, with boxing, I will work with a 'registered' off-centre AF point. This enables me to maintain good composition at all times. I will be switching between the points I use depending on which of the fighters I want to be in sharp focus and their relative positions.

Very interesting. I hope the plans and preparations for your workshops are going well.

---- Gavin


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LMP
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Feb 05, 2006 05:21 |  #3

Kenny, as per Gavin thats a great read and saved in my favourites! I'll certainly be reffering to it over the coming months more than once or twice.

Thanks for the time and effort in putting that together, much appreciated :)




  
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Alan ­ B
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Feb 05, 2006 05:44 as a reply to  @ LMP's post |  #4

Awesome write-up Kenny :cool:

I was addopting that method of following the sun last year for my motorsport shots(being behind me).It was funny cuz where ever i was the "pro's" were infront of me, so i was doing something right lol.

Very good tip about the focal points to help with the compisition :cool: (i will try that out).I was just using the centre one then(if needed)cropping to taste when home.

Thanks for the write up :D




  
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Cadwell
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Feb 05, 2006 06:49 |  #5

Ken, thanks for taking the time to write this up for all of us. I know how busy you are and I am sure that the motorsport photographers on here will find this most helpful.


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Se7enUK
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Feb 05, 2006 08:17 |  #6

translates well to the bikes as well.....


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Dave_G
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Feb 05, 2006 09:58 |  #7

I've never really thought about using different focus points but will definitely do so from now on. Thanks Ken!


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Jimages
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Feb 05, 2006 10:33 |  #8

Excellent.

Thankyou very much for that.

I'm relatively raw in my experience and knowledge, this has helped me think about something I haven't had at the forefront of my mind so far during the bulk of my practise. I'll try to put some of it good use next week, since I will be shooting the Jerez F1 testing, which happens to my first event of the year. One day, I'll manage to get into photography full time.


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andrewc
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Feb 05, 2006 13:07 |  #9

Great read :-) Thanks for taking the time to write it up.


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Swaffs
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Feb 05, 2006 14:02 |  #10

Fantastic write up, thanks for taking the time to write it.

I shall read it a few times I'm sure.

RIch Swaffs.


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Swaffs
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Feb 05, 2006 14:57 |  #11

Do I detect a book in the making, especially with the workshops etc?

you clearly have the skills/experience and writing ability.

Swaffs


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GSH
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Feb 05, 2006 15:24 |  #12

Thanks for that Ken, the time taken to put it together is much appreciated ;)

I rather suspect many of us will read that again & again. The use of different focus points is something i've seen yourself & others mention before and that explanation really helps.


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NordieBoy
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Feb 05, 2006 16:59 |  #13

Thanks Ken, another for the bookmarks :)


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PhotosGuy
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Feb 06, 2006 08:25 |  #14

Nice job, Ken!


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dod
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Feb 06, 2006 08:42 |  #15

great insight, thanks :)


sorry, I went to the dark side

  
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Best use of location and AF points for motorsport - 56K Warning!
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