Shooting motorcycle race this weekend -- any tips?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by justinweiss, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. I've been invited to photograph the action at an amateur motorcycle track this weekend. I'll have photographer access to the track, so I won't have to sit in the stands with the spectators. I have never done this before; most of my photography is portraits and landscape work.
    For gear, I am bringing my D700, but since my longest lens is the Nikon 105mm VR Micro, I am thinking about renting a 300m VR f/2.8 with a 1.4x teleconverter. I wasn't planing on bringing a tripod or monopod, reasoning that I won't need them for fast action shots at high shutter speeds.
    Can any experienced motor sports shooters give me some advice on how to get the best pictures of this event? Thanks.
  2. Justin
    do not attempt to use that lens without a sturdy monopod it's even hard to carry all day without one. If you have carte blanche at the track find the corner with the most drama where the bikes are leaning over the most also try and stack the riders together bikes on there own lack excitement, lastly I think the shutter speed is key to the whole thing don't be tempted to freeze the action too much there must be some impression of movement in your pictures don't be afraid of panning with a slow shutter speed a monopod is crucial for this , I would mix up your shots for a good variety, don't sit in the same place all day.
  3. No doubt, bring that mono pod
    Watch the sun and you exposure, cars and bikes are shinny and it doesn't take much of a glare to mess up you shot
    Bikes are small and you may be surprised that you will be wishing you had an even longer lens, look for corners with good lean but where you can get another bike behind you subject to fill the frame... and without traffic the shots can start to look the same.
    Look how they exit corners, often when exiting into a strait they really pour on the power bringing the front wheel up and still crossed
    Panning from the inside is cool with bikes because you get a top view of the bike with the rider off and forward weighting the front wheel.
    RB7_8261.jpg photo - The SB Image photos at
    RB7_5369.jpg photo - The SB Image photos at
  4. Thanks, guys. Raymond, what do you mean by "panning from the inside"? Inside of what?
  5. Maybe I missed it but what kind of bike race?? Shooting a road course where bikes are going 120+ mph is way different than a motocross. If it's a statium event or tight dirt track you may not need the extra large lens. I went to Daytona a few years ago and just concentrated on a couple of corners and one straightaway and got good results with a 80-200 zoom. Panning with the bike is great for the blurred backdrop and sharp bike. It just takes a little trial and error to get the SS right. Don't be afraid to rip off a long string as they go by so you'll be able to pick out one or two good ones.
  6. It's a paved track, but on the small side, so speeds probably won't reach Moto GP levels. I'm going to go with the 300mm at first and if it's too long, I can switch to something else. But you know what they say... if your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough!
  7. When shooting bikes or cars at Laguna Seca (California race track), I felt that 200mm was a "normall" lens - able to get a couple cars in the frame, panning for side shots, etc., and a 400mm was my "tele" for those stacked head-on shots and isolated cars or bikes. I was using a F3HP.
    If I were to shoot there now, I would prefer a D300s with 70-200/2.8 and a second body with the 300/4. With a D700, I would think about that monopod with the 200-400/4 or the 70-200/2.8 with the 1.4 tc. Don't forget to carry a fast normal lens and a wide-zoom for pit and crowd shots. Also be aware when you're on the outside of corners, things can really fly around... But I would recommend walking the track constantly for different shots. Have fun.
  8. No doubt Ted! Never turn your back to oncoming traffic when standing on the outside. Particularly if you're past the apex! I've never tried using the 1.4tc on racing. Will it track and focus fast enough?? I'm guessing not with anything but the best 2.8's. I had an old 80-200 2.8 AF but not S and it was kinda slow with the 1.4tc but the tc was not nikon. It was a tamron.
  9. "Raymond, what do you mean by "panning from the inside"? Inside of what?"
    Pan from the inside of corner, you get nice motion and lean angle and you are closer to the action while still being safe.
  10. Great shot, the inside is more impressive with bikes than cars. Makes the lean and the knee on the track more dramatic. The drivers heads are also looking into the camera.

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