A few nights ago I took a quick trip to South Sound Speedway with my son and my father for a boy’s night out. The goal was two-fold: have a great time with the guys and create some compelling racing images.
The grandstands are set up quite a ways back from the track, so creating clean images of the race cars was actually pretty tough. Because the fence obscured the track on the near side, I knew I’d need to capture the cars as they passed the advertising banners on the far side of the track. Rather than try to crop out the banners, I decided to include them in the image for better overall color.
I wanted my shots to convey motion, so I deliberately chose a longer shutter speed of 1/30 second to 1/50 second. Since I was using my 70-200mm f/2.8 with a 1.4x teleconverter, I expected quite a few blurry shots as I panned with the cars. I set the camera for continuous frame rate and fired off a series of 5 shots each time the cars passed in front of the advertising signs. By the time the night was over, I had rattled off over 1,000 pictures, but less than half or 1/3 of them were sharp enough to use. The rest were a blurry mess because of the long shutter speed.
The most difficult part of getting shots like these is learning to pan with the motion. If your move your camera at a faster or slower angular rate than the cars, then you’ll get pronounced blur in the cars. If you move at exactly the same rate as the cars, then they will appear sharp while the background will appear blurry. As long as something on the car is sharp, then you’ve done your job well. Even if you have multiple cars in the scene, as long as one of the cars is sharp, then the photo is going to work.