Night at the Races

Posted August 5th, 2014 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

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.

track pano

Panorama of the South Sound Speedway. Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8. Shots processed in Lightroom 5.6 and then stitched together in Photoshop CC 2014.

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.

race cars

Race cars at 1/30 sec and f/5.6. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.4x TC.

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.

Street stock class at sunset

Street stock class racers at sunset. 1/15 sec at f/5.6. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1.4x TC.

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.

car crash

Car crashes are always a part of auto racing. Here’s a crash at turn one, just after the start of the race. I composed the shot to include the sunset and then relied on the D800’s excellent dynamic range to pull out details in the highlights and shadows.

Car racing at sunset.

For this pic, the sun was filtering through the trees and the infield was filled with haze and smoke from all the racing. The original image looked like a sepia-toned picture, so I took the shot and fully converted it to sepia tone in Lightroom 5.6. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1.4x TC, 1/40 sec at f/6.3.

racing in the USA

One more shot with the American flag for good measure.

 

 

 

 

 



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