I attended the NG Road Racing event, Round 14, at Thruxton Motorsport Centre 8th October 2016. As an accredited photographer I was able to gain access to areas for ensuring good pictures. The day was action packed with twenty races involving, practice, qualifying and the final races for several championships.
Arriving early, about 08.00, after signing on and obtain my 'photo bib' I looked round the paddocks where the riders were in various stages of readiness and took a few photos. Practice was about to start and the roads leading to the track were filling up with riders. After several minutes the air was filled with the noise of the bikes as they raced over the start/finish line after exiting the three bends at Club in front of the public grandstands. With so much going on you need a plan to make sure you cover enough locations to get different aspects of the riders around the track. If you are there to photograph each and every rider on track during the day, good planning is essential.
Dave Hampton on his Ducati 899 Panigale
A good clean shot of the rider
My approach to photographing motor cycle racing is to observe the riders at various locations and study the line the riders take as they come round the bends and what position on the track they take. You should now have a good idea of what to expect when you start shooting. Also, if you are not familiar with the track, you know what lenses you will use to capture that special picture. I have a number of images in my mind of what I want to come away with at the end of the day, so I try to get myself into a position where I can achieve that. Taking single pictures of the riders is ok, and essential if 'record shots' are required, however, I try to get several riders in one shot and if possible each rider in a different position to give the shot a 'WOW' factor. For this type of shot you need several riders bunched up as they enter, or leave a bend. The 'In line' shot is one I particularly like. Timing and position is essential, plus a bit of luck if the riders line up for you.
James Harrington on his Yamaha R6 leads the pack.
The above picture was taken before the start/finish line as the riders accelerate past the grandstand.
To obtain that sense of speed it is necessary to capture a sense of motion in the picture. When riders are coming towards you a fast shutter speed is essential to freeze the action. How high the shutter speed? Well, that depends upon the speed of the motor cycle, your location and lens used. This can be calculated and to give you an idea, if the rider is coming at you straight on at 100 mph (133 ft/sec) or 41 m/sec approx. You need a shutter speed in excess of 1/1000th second to freeze the action. This assessment becomes instinctive and you don't need to do a sum each time you shoot in these situations. For the panning shot, to install a sense of action, this is generally taken with the subject at 90 degrees to the camera. It is a simple shot, but one of the hardest to master and requires lots of practice before you can achieve success. Shutter speeds range from 1/30th to 1/250th second for most situations, however, it depends upon the distance from the camera to the subject, focal length of the lens and the speed of the subject, multiple combinations to understand. It is essential to lock onto the subject and try to keep the focus square on the same point all the way through your panning. Find a hard edge or transfer on the motor cycle and lock onto it. The picture below is an example of panning with a shutter speed of 1/60th and 200 mm focal length lens.
Ade Walbridge on his Aprilla RSV4 RF
The background is blurred and the wheels seem to be detached as the spokes are blurred with the low shutter speed
Adam Grosch on his Yamaha R6
One of my favourite pictures showing a sense of urgency and action.
Gary Stevens No. 211 on his BMW S1000 RR
The above shot taken after the start of the race showing the back of the riders in tight formation sweeping round the bend at Campbell.
Peter Wilson (227) on his Suzuki GSXR 1000 K5
The above picture of Peter Wilson shows tremendous concentration which is always good to catch 'the eyes'.
Roo Cotton with his Yamaha R1 in the Paddock
Pictures in the Paddock area show the background activities.
My camera bodies are two Nikon D4s with my Nikkor 500f4 afs VR lens, plus Nikkor 300f2.8 afs VR lens and the occasional shot with my Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 afs MkII.
This was one of the best organised events I have attended and all credit must go to NG Road Racing for good organisation. Running twenty races, including the couple of incidents where the ambulance was required, was the way all events should be run.
My thanks go to Trevor Swettenham, BARC Press Officer for accreditation on the day.
To see more pictures of the day click here where you will be directed to the gallery with my images.
Enjoy the pictures.