Night time dirt track racing

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by stephanie_walker|1, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. I have a Nikon D40, I do photography at a dirt track. The track is not well lit and some of my pictures are coming out
    very dark. What kind of flash do I need to help with it? I'm anywhere between 5 ft to 50 ft from the cars. Thank you for
    your help.
  2. I shot the same type racing back in my film days using ISO 400 film and a 80-200 F2.8 lens with a Nikon SB24 flash. This setup was more than adequate. With the D40 the SB800 should do a fine job. What setup are you using now Stephanie? Are you sure the underexposed photos are not due to something like a very light background like a white wall? Could you post an uncorrected photo?
  3. Well the only flash I have is the built in flash as of now. I would like to get something better to make it brighter. There is no wall behind it it is a fence with people sitting there. And at the other end I have brown dirt. The lighting there is really bad. Yes I will try to get a photo on here give me a min. Thank you for your help.
  4. I'm sorry I didn't answer your first question. During the day I'm using the auto sport button and at night I switch it to the children button. Sorry still learning it all.
  5. Yeah, the problem is the onboard flash, not any good past 10-15 feet. The SB800 (now SB900) is expensive but if you plan on doing this kind of shooting it's just about a requirement.
  6. What ISO and film speed did the camera choose ? It looks like the shutter was rather slow. What lens are you using ?
  7. Here is what I find that works well for me when shooting sprints of a 1/3 mile Dirt Track Kings Speed Way. I shoot with a f/stop of 1/250 at a shutter speed of 1/250 with 800 ISO using a SB-800 flash. The flash is set for TTL. I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR. With fresh batteries I can pop off 3 frames at 5fps with a D2X. My exposure is extremely consistent. This the same basic technique I used in my F5 (film) days.
  8. BTW Stephanie, I look at the Meta tag info I look at you were shooting at f/4.2 at 1/60 sec at ISO 1600 with exposure
    set to auto. when shoot moving objects like cars at a slow shutter speed like 1/60 of a second you need to do a panning

    When photographing a moving subject, the panning technique is achieved by keeping the subject in the same position of
    the frame for the duration of the exposure.

    The length of the exposure must be long enough to allow the background to blur due to the movement of the camera as
    you follow the subject in the viewfinder.
    The exact length of exposure required will depend on the speed at which the subject is moving, the focal length of the
    lens you are using and the distance from the subject and background. An F1 car speeding along a straight might allow
    you to achieve a blurred background at 1/250th of a second, while you might need to go as slow as 1/60th to achieve the
    same amount of blur for a picture of a running man.

    The faster shutter speed allowed by fast moving subjects are easier to capture in a smoothly panned shot. With slower
    moving subjects, the risk is that the panning motion will be jerky, and it is also harder to keep the subject in the same
    position of the frame for the longer period of time.

    One more thing to do is keep a focus point on the car so your af will stay locked on target.
  9. Thank you for all yalls help. I'm still learning all the terms used in this. Still learning everything the camera can do also. Tonight I have to shoot again and I will have what I already have now. Hopefully by the next race I can get the new lens and flash. Right now I have the D40 with 18-55mm lens and the flash on the camera. Yes I keep the car in focal point. I will send you a diffrent pic that I have taken. I changed the camera to manual. Do I need to change that. Or leave it on an auto button?
  10. I cant quite afford the one lens but would the 55-200mm f4-5.6g af-s dx nikkor zoom be okay with the 800 flash?
  11. mjt


    hi Stephanie . . .

    Ralph provided some great advice. However, I would like to provide a slightly different
    perspective and I will use Ralph's sample photo to prove my point. It all has to do with
    shutter speed. (BTW Ralph, you wrote, "I shoot with a f/stop of 1/250 ..." :)

    The first thing that jumps at me is the chroma noise. But that's the fault of the D2x,
    because they dont handle ISO's from (including) 800 and up.

    The second thing that jumps at me, which is actually more important than my first
    observation, is that the shutter speed is too fast. When it comes to shooting both
    motorcycle and automobile (and truck) racing, one of the most important attributes
    you want to portray in the final image is the feeling of m-o-v-e-m-e-n-t. If you look
    at Ralph's example again, you will see he's used a shutter speed fast enough to
    stop the spinning of the wheels. To my eyes, it looks as if he shot these two racers
    standing still.

    As Ralph mentioned, panning is a great technique. Keep the shutter speed slow
    enough to portray movement, but fast enough to capture the subject without blur.
    Every shot that my clients choose to pay for, considering my racing photos, are
    the shots that portray movement.

    Let's talk about blur for a moment. One thing that will assist you is to use a
    monopod - a monopod, because it has one leg, will allow you freedom of
    movement, but helps tremendously with respect to keeping your camera
    steady. I'm confident, Stephanie, that your first sample is blurry because of
    camera (or hand) shake, not necessarily that you didnt have the focus set
    on the subjects. I do think that the cars are in the correct depth of field,
    but if you look closely, there is ghosting on all the objects in the photo,
    which all points to camera shake.

    A monopod will help tremendously to keep the camera still. I use one at
    all sporting events, be it football or motocross racing or ... ad nauseam.
    Your second sample shot has a lot of potential. It was shot at a shutter
    speed of 1/30. I probably would have doubled the shutter speed and,
    as you did, using the panning technique. Again, the issue with the
    second shot is camera shake. The only other thing I would have done
    with the second shot concerns framing - the car's rear end is too close
    to the right edge of the frame. You could probably crop this image
    and it still be "usable". But you have the idea correct - with forward
    moving objects (such as a race car), you want some empty space
    in front of it.

    I'd like to touch on one other thing - lens choice. You mentioned that you
    cant yet afford your next lens, but I find, to be successful, for night time
    shots, is to have a fast lens. What is a "fast lens"? It's one that has a
    wide maximum aperture. A lens rated at f2.8 is faster than a lens rated
    at f4.0. Think about how your eye works - as you go from a well-lit
    room to one that is darker, the iris of your eye opens up to allow more
    light to enter into your eye. The same is true of a lens' aperture blades.
    A smaller f/stop number means the aperture blades of the lens (think
    iris of the eye) open up more. If you can get a faster lens, then you
    can use a lower ISO and more appropriate shutter speed.
  12. Stephanie Walker, if you are shooting with SB-800 with your set up manually at f/4 at 1/250 - 1/500 at IS0 800. The other way to shoot this is set your camera to shutter priority with a shutter speed of 1/250-1/500 with an ISO 800. Your camera system has so little weight, I would not bother with a monopod. The other tip I would suggest shooting the cars as they head into turn one or turn four this will give you a nice 3/4 view and a nice grouping during the early laps. I also recommend keeping both eyes open because these corners can be a hotspot for cars banging into each other so cars will try to cut through the infield. I preffer to shoot RAW over JPEG because the greater exposure latitude, which will comes in handy pulling details out of your shadows and blacks. mj t, I have to correct you slightly, the shutter speed had nothing to do with freezing the wheels. It was the flash. Most dirt tracks have poor ambient lighting. So one tends to shoot flash because it is the most effective means of a quality capture. The side effect is that it freezes the action. If the field is well lit like a stadium for supercross, or for the NFL (my experience), then yes you can capture the motion blur of a pan. If you look at the example you will see blurring of the wheels and background with panning even at 1/250 while there was ambient light, but when the sunsets the flash freezes the action.
  13. mjt


    > mj t, I have to correct you slightly, the shutter speed had nothing to do with freezing the wheels. It was the flash.

    Thanks for the clarification, Ralph - I completely overlooked the use of flash.

    I never use flash, which is why it slipped my mind. I never use flash for a couple of reasons:

    (1) As mentioned, it freezes the action, plus it tends to "artificialize" the photo. In other
    words, it tends to make a photo, known to be taken at nighttime, to appear to be
    "artificially at day". (I use multiple D3's, so the use of flash is non-existent).

    (2) As a rule, flash is not allowed at most sporting events, and even more important,
    it's incredibly disruptive to the players/racers/participants/etc. If I were on the field
    or in a car or on a motorcycle (I do road race motorcycles, so I understand), I do not
    want a flash potentially blinding me or taking my attention away.

    Anyway, each to their own [photographic] style.

    Stephanie - I would suggest borrowing, if you can, an SB800, and see how things
    turn out. As I mentioned earlier, a faster lens would be great (I never use flash,
    even at night events). I still recommend the use of a monopod - for the price, they
    offer a lot in the end image.
  14. The SB600 is considerably cheaper than the 800...
  15. mj t, I shoot the D3 now myself. I have shot off road events like the Parker 400. With the D3 I hardly touch a flash today
    except for studio or flashfill. Again we are talking a D40 with a consumer lens not a D3 with a 70-200 f/2.8 VR. We are also
    talking Dirt track. This is more the norm than exception. Just cover the World of the Outlaws. I am not a big fan of flash but
    if it is a choice between an under exposed blurry Sprint vs a "artificialize" the photo, most publications I know will go with
    the "artificialize" the photo. As for flash being a distraction to the players/racers/participants/etc it might be a psychological. I have never seen a car on a dirt track flip or crash because of flash. I have shot NBA and College
    Basketball where flash is used. Usually white lightnings with 1600 watts. No player that I have ever seen has run into a
    basket because of being blinded. I do agree with you if flash can be avoided it should be avoided.
  16. I would also rather not use a flash, but in my case I have no choice for what equipment I have as of now. Ralph the pictures you have taken look really good. Thank you all for the advice. I know I really need a flash of some sort and would love a new lens but I have to work up towards that. Do I have to buy the Nikon flash and lens or are there diffrent ones I can get? If so which ones would be compatible to the D40?
  17. Hello all. I'm new to the forum. I'm a writer for FlatOut Magazine and i'm purchasing a new Nikon D60 this week, so that I can do my own track photography. This thread is great information and I appreciate it. I'm an amateur photographer and looking to get better!
    I've noticed that most of the pros at the track have a reflector about the size of a frisbee attached to their flash. Do you know where I can purchase one of these?
    Jimmy Jones - Writer
    FlatOut Magazine
  18. You are looking at Norman A400B with 8" telephoto sports Reflector.
    I knew a lot of track photographers using that system. The bad thing there is no TTL so you have lots of power but poor control.
    If I were you I would look at an SB800 or SB900 for they have ttl and should work fine my photos above were using an sb800. If still have the ned for power then look at these TTL flashes from Quantum.
  19. Hi guys, I found this forum looking for info on shooting dirt racing. For you guys who are set up with local tracks, how do you approach a track for photography services and how do you charge? I shot a few of my cousins car a few weeks ago and he said they were WAY better than the "official" track photographer and that I should pursue doing more of them. Any advice would be appreciated.
  20. sorry, double post
  21. Oh, and by the way, this past Sat night they wouldn't let me in the infield with my camera unless I was from a "major racing publication". I have a press pass from a local weekly paper I shoot HS football for. The shot above was at a Thursday night practice session
  22. This is one great post, I hope to put to use some of the tips this summer. I shoot with Canon equipment and I do not have a L2.8 lens yet but do have a canon 70-200 L4 "L" series lens. (non IS) Thanks
  23. Here is a shot made with an out dated and very used Canon Digital Rebel XT and a cheap 100 - 300 f4.5 - 5.6 using the Speedlight 580EX flash. Not much background blur, but got it slow enough to get blur from the wheels turning... It can be done with, as one put it... "consumer equipment"... You don't need an $8000 camera body.

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