When photographing in bright/harsh light....

Discussion in 'Sports' started by f1-fanatic, Jul 22, 2004.

  1. I am new to photography and although I am short on experience, I am
    very eager to grow and get better at my new craft. Some of you might
    know from my postings that I have a passion for motorsport and in
    having said so, I have questions regarding shooting a subject (F1 car
    in my case) when the sunlight is bright and harsh. I recently
    traveled to the Canadian Grand Prix and shot a lot of photos over my
    4 day stint but noticed that the areas on the cars which were painted
    white were really blown out and overexposed where as the others areas
    (probably due to the darkness of the tarmac) were greatly
    underexposed. I was told by a few friends not to employ a polarizer
    because I would loose at least 2 stops.... but the lighting was so
    blazing at times I did anyway and the photos were horrible. The thing
    is in order to capture and convey the sense of speed I would slow
    down my shutter speed and pan with the cars but I found myself
    closing my aperature down so much that the images in my opinion
    suffered because I was unable to isolate my subject. Any
    suggestions?? When photographing football or baseball do you find
    you experience similar problems? Any help or suggestions would be
    greatly appreciated. Link to photos on this subject:
    http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=414105
     
  2. This may not be of much help, but I am also using the 10D, and have suffered from blown out whites, especially helmets. I don't know if you shoot RAW, but that is all I am doing now. Everything I have read on the net, and in books tells you to exspose for the highlights because if they are blown out, there is no data there that can be rescued. I have been dialing in up to -1 stop (no polarizer) and getting nice looking helmets, but very dark cars. I have been using the shadow/highlights adjustment in PSCS to fix this however. I am far from an expert doing this. I have only had my 10D since April.
    There is an excellent article here on how to use this tool.
    http://www.naturescapes.net/062004/gd0604.htm
    Here is an example. The first shot is pretty much how it came out of the camera, with a little sharpening. The 2nd is after more sharpening, boosting the saturation, and using the shadow/highlight tool.
    Tim Adams
     
  3. Here is the 2nd shot.
     
  4. First let me say thank you because it definitely helps. I am very new and am very interested in getting better. Secondly let me say that your example is a very beautiful photograph. -N
     
  5. Awesome photos Tim!
     
  6. As a Nikon user I can't add anything on exposure with Canon products, Tim is a better reference for that, as would be Witty Maruszewska, another Canon shooter.

    I'm curious about a couple things in your question. First, you mentioned that you were stopping down the aperture and your images suffered because you couldn't isolate the subject. From your description it sounds like your panning technique is correct. Can you give us a link to an image you think suffers from this problem and some details on ISO setting, aperture and shutter?

    Second, I'm curious about your polarizer experiences. A polarizer and/or a neutral density filter are pretty common for approach shots where you want short depth of field to isolate the car, but a slow enough shutter speed to have motion visible in the wheels. As above, a link and some details would help.

    As for Tím's great shot, a discussion of why some people can afford expensive vintage racer cars, but can't seem to come up with the cash for a helmet paint job will have to wait for another discussion thread. ;-)
     
  7. Here is a link to a photo where I used a polarizer... look at the colors.

    http://www.photo.net/photo/2472474
     
  8. Here is one without the polarizer. Note the colors are much better.

    http://www.photo.net/photo/2454733
     
  9. I think you have two distinct questions, exposure and conveying a sense of speed. I'll use film-based (k64) examples here from my days shooting F1 for Road & Track and Grand Prix International, and with scans of tearsheets (these scans are old and not the best but so what). With digital you need to use the histogram as your guide, and practice your exposures until you get them dialed-in to your liking. Just because a photo has some blown-out highlights doesn't mean the pic is no good. This shot of Gilles Villeneuve from Long Beach is slightly backlit and has some blown-out areas, but the harsh lighting actually adds to the pic in my opinion (hiding the stickers and highlighting the lip of the rims) Villeneuve . Harsh light is better than lack of sun as you can use slow film or the lowest ISO on your camera. Rolf Stommelen at Riverside in typical desert sunshine Rolf . Even people Colin Chapman . I can't say whether your Canon needs some underexposure or not to protect the highlights, but my Nikon D1H needs about minus 1-stop in camera, which I then bring back to proper exposure in Nikon Capture (shooting raw of course). Test, test and test some more as cost isn't a factor. No need to go to a track to test, use the traffic in front of where you live or other city/highway traffic. A car's a car. Conveying a sense of speed can be done many ways -- pans, pan-zooms and filters for example. A slow shutter-speed (say 1/125th) is part of the game, but to isolate the car better from the background you need to pan when the car is going fast, which usually is not in a corner. And panning through something adds a nice touch Keke in Canada or Le Mans . Zooming when you pan adds another element to convey motion Alan Jones and Renault . All the preceding shots had small apertures but something else separating the subject from the background. When all else fails, get weird. I took this shot of Pironi , which then was published as journalism by a fine art-director as published , and bagged this for R&T and me BSS 1983 . Don't forget that cars and drivers are only part of the story. A view of where a race happens was almost always published like the overall shot in Detroit with the streakers, Le Mans or Austria . Remember that you can't tell what you're doing right or wrong unless you are consistent in what you do.
     
  10. Jay.....It's nice to (sort of) meet you. As a reader of R&T during the period you worked for them a lot of the shots you presented above are like seeing old friends. It's great to have you here and have the benefit of your experience and expertise.
     
  11. Norman....I'd have to agree that there's a marked difference between the two shots, but it may not be the fault of the polarizer. The example with the polarizer looks underexposed and it appears the sun was in front of you, rather than behind, so you would've lost most detail in the rear of the car with or without the polarizer. On the second, without polarizer, shot the illumination is much more even. The problem may not be a matter of the filter, but the angle of the sun from where you were shooting. I'd agree with Jay's statement above that "Just because a photo has some blown-out highlights doesn't mean the pic is no good." It does bother me when I have a blown out highlight, like on a white helmet, against a light background. Also, do you recall the ISO, f-stop and shutter speeds for these shots?
     
  12. Thanks for the kind words Fred. It was a "golden-age" for F1 photography with R&T back then. With digital (at least D1H) it's the old underexpose rule to prevent those white/white nightmares. My biggest problem with digital is the lack of low ISO so you can use 1/30th in bright sunlight to do proper zooms. I finally had to get a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter to get down to the SSS zone. Norm's pics show he's thinking about what he's doing, but I can tell from his zoom that the SS isn't slow enough, and I'd bet it's a twin-ring zoom which I feel can never equal the zooming speed (for better spray) of a one-touch zoom. I also believe that manual-focus and manual-exposure are necessary for creative control. Also two cars in a pic are much more interesting than one with front or rear shots as it adds depth.
     
  13. If you can ever find this book (actually a museum exhibit catalog), "Passion and Precision: The Photographer and Grand Prix Racing 1894-1984," kill for it Cover . Only about 400 were printed back in 1984. It contains outstanding photos covering those years, and contains interviews with the photographers about their work Forward . Here's R&T's art-director Bill Motta's interview as a PDF Bill Motta . No interview with me, but then I had the cover and pics inside.
     
  14. Are you shooting in AV? Try shooting in manual. I shoot most sports with an ambient meter in manual mode, you'll get more consistant results and you don't have to worry about your in-camera meter throwing your exsposure into a place that will blow out your highlights. If you don't have a light meter, try metering on a patch of grass. It will be a little under, but if you're shooting RAW, that's not so bad. Also, you might actually try stopping down a little farther(if you can). It takes more practice and better technique, but you can learn to pan in the 1/10th range. It also helps if you can be a little closer to your subject. But if it's high noon in the south, you'll definitely want a ND filter. It won't mess with things like a polarizer. However, the ND isn't going to make the light any less harsh. As Jay said, you kind of have to work with it. Sometimes a harsh backlight can work pretty well. If you still have trouble isolating your subject from the background, then try to use the background to help the image. An intersting angle can work with the background. Sometimes a wash of sky or greenery or even crowd can work.
    008xHF-18906684.jpg
     
  15. All I can say is thanks for jumping in and lending your experience! I grew up reading R&T as a kid going to bed every night dreaming about being behind the wheel of an F1 car and your photos gave me the visual content to get the feel of F1 without the television coverage which we are afforded today. In a small way I guess it also fueled (no pun intended) my passion to shoot motorsport so THANK YOU!
     
  16. Thank you for the help. Sorry I showed photos from two very different vantage points. I will have to find and post another (if I still have one) from that perspective without the polarizer in place for comparison. Although I think I deleted the bulk of them because they were IMHO lousy. With regards to the settings used for each capture, I post all of these in custom fields I made under the details tab for each photo with the idea that it can help others and in this case help others see where I might be able to improve my process.
     
  17. Thank you for the advice and great examples I really appreciate it. Also I have to ask a very novice question. I think a ND filter is used to cut light without altering color but I have never used one nor know what to get. Can you help me out here? I see everyone mentioning it but have no experience with them.
     
  18. Jay, you mention zooming while panning. I have no experience with trying this but really like the effect. Would you be kind enough to explain the technique so I could practice it a bit? ie. Do you zoom in or out from your subject, shutter speed, is a tripod or mono necessary? What aperature settings in general would you recomend... ? etc. The example I have was done in Photoshop but I really would like to try to learn this if at all possible in camera myself. Thanks
     
  19. I'd agree about the ISO problem with digital. I purchased a Nikon D70 in April and, while I love most things about it, the fact that the lowest ISO setting is 200 is bothersome and will require an investment in ND filters. While I have had some success with wide and close panning shots with the D70, lately I've begun to reach for my F100 loaded with Fuji Velvia once I get my safety shots.

    On manual focus and manual metering I use both at the moment for some of my work, though I'm in need of an upgrade to my meter as it doesn't do incident readings. The manual focus was not completely a matter of choice as I have a 300mm and a 500mm mirror lens that are both manual focus. Neither one couples to the meter on the D70, so I resort to the Sunny 16 rule and check the results of a test shot on the screen of the D70. Yes, I know the 500mm mirror is not as sharp as glass optics, but it fits my current budget and there's always the Unsharp Mask in Photoshop. ;-)
     
  20. Thanks for the book suggestion and I'd love to have a copy. It does seem like it'll be a hard title to find, though. I looked through the foreword and recognized several of the names (Alexander, Biro, the Cahier's, Klemantaski and Schlegelmilch) as well as your own. Lately I've been looking at Bernard Cahier's work from the 50s and 60s and went to the BRIC event at Road America with some notes on angles and compositions to try. I didn't achieve what I wanted to, but I've got a few more races this year to work on them.
     
  21. You're welcome, and sorry I didn't notice that you had all the information I was asking for in the Details page of your shots. Now I've gone back and looked at a few of them and I think E.J.'s suggestion about neutral density (ND) filters would help. It would allow you to shoot at the same or slightly slower shutter speeds, but more wide open to blur the background. On your Ralph Schumacher - Lockup shot an ND filter with a 1 f stop filter factor would mean that shot could?ve been done at f5.6 at 1/350th, or roughly f4 at 1/200th; same or better motion in the wheels and more blur to the background. B&H Photo has a good explanation of ND filters on their site and you can find one at
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=7961&is=REG
     
  22. Nice shots and good advice on the angles and backgrounds. I visited your web site and I'm curious: where and when were the Porsche and Audi R8 shots done?
     
  23. Fred, never ever, ever never apologize for using a mirror lens. My Villeneuve shot and the Rolf Stommelen shots are both with the Nikkor 500mm Reflex version one, and it does the job just fine. There's always the mirror bashers, and I've been bashed for thirty years by those who don't make the effort to live with it's limitations. In the digital age it's even more useful as the high ISOs with dig make fast shutter-speeds easy for a mirror lens, although at 750mm FOV on the D1H it's almost too much lens. But if you're not using the Nikkor Reflex, you should get one. This shot is from the beginning of a roll hence the light-leak, but it's still a sharp Reflex Peter Gregg CSL example. I really only have scanning test shots available so forgive the flaws. You won't find Passion and Precision probably, although one used seller on Amazon says they have a mint copy for sixty bucks. Ford paid for the catalog so it's high-quality, larger-format, paper. I have ten copies as the museum tore a corner of one of my 20x24 full-frame prints and eased my pain that way (the tear was under the frame anyway so who cared). Now I have scanned into PDFs all the relevant interviews and overviews, and if you'd like a CDR clone of the PDFs let me know. That includes Cahier and his son Paul. You might not recognize Jeff Zwart's name, but just about every car commercial on TV is shot by Jeff, and he's probably the most sucessful car photographer in the US these days. Stills are beneath him nowadays. Phil Hill would drive the sports-car races before the GPs, and then take snaps during the GP, so really more of historic value by including him in the book. E.J., nice, sharp, clean shots. I can study shots like yours for hours. Too bad TV sucks if you want to study the vehicles. I normally look at a race once on TV, but I'll look at the same stills for decades. I answer Norm's zoom question in another thread in this forum. Now since it's 3:32am and I'm dead, I'll let Rainer Schlegelmilch show you what I look liked on the job (from his book "Formula 1 Fascination"). I'm the blond-haired guy in the blue t-shirt with the girl's hand on my shoulder in the first frame: I'm the only one who didn't get the shot .
     
  24. Thanks, and it's good to know someone else out there has used one for racing shots. I do have the Nikkor Reflex, which I picked up on eBay and was one of my better purchases. The 750mm effective focal length on the D70 doesn?t bother me and I've been experimenting lately with ways to use that extreme visual compression. In the attached photo is one of those experiments, albeit a rather dark one, to use that compression to express close competition. And I have a copy of Rainer Schlegelmilch's "Formula 1 Fascination" and have seen that series of shots. I can understand that you might have been too, umm, stunned to lift your camera at that moment. ;-)
    008yFk-18931284.jpg
     
  25. Fred, I wasn't too stunned to shoot. I brought the girl (Tracy) and planned the whole thing so a French photo buddy of mine (Pat Behar) could earn a little extra dough selling a pic to Grand Prix International. I effectively started the whole sports "Show us your . . . " craze that's lasted to this day. That was from the 1980 Long Beach GP about one minute before the formation lap. I took Tracy out into the middle of the track at the first-turn (a hairpin), waved my arms to the crowd, got behind her (and I have a perfect shot of me doing this published in a French rag, France Routier) and took her top off. The crowd and the fifty or so photogs at the outside of the turn went nuts (including Rainer). Machine-gunning motordrives, and my French bud was prepared and sold his shot to GPI. I didn't know any other members of the press before the incident, but from then on everyone was my buddy because they all made money off of the incident. You really wouldn't have believed how happy and relaxed the race
     
  26. You really wouldn't
    have believed how happy and relaxed the race was after this for the
    photogs as they all knew they had a good sale. I actually had radio
    credentials, not photo, as I broadcast the race with KNAC in Long Beach
    for twenty years, and since the access was the same and I could do my
    live reporting from the corners, it worked-out great. To this day many
    people comment on the incident when they see me again, including Bill
    Motta. I'm still friends with Tracy and she still looks good -- but
    where she got her credential is a story yet to be told.
     
  27. 750mm is limiting for general use, and for me 600 is about the max that can work in most areas, although I normally use a 500 with film and a 300 2.8 w/TC14 with dig. Is that a crop or full-frame, jpg-source or raw-source? I'm curious if that was from the vintage race as I think it's a March-BMW F2 car from about '75 (March 742/752), no?
     
  28. Jay, that's a great story I can understand you're increased popularity after arranging that event and I'm sure Pat Behar swore lifelong fealty to you afterwards, but I'm afraid I can't tell anyone you?re the originator of "Show us your?" My dear mother and two sisters instilled in me at an early age the need to treat women with respect and deference and if I don't I'm going to get a series of dope slaps from all three of them, so I'll just keep that bit of knowledge to myself. ;-)

    I've done an Internet search and managed to find a few used booksellers with copies of "Passion and Precision" in stock for $40-$45. I?ll check with them further tomorrow, but if none of them work out I may take advantage of your kind offer for the PDF files.

    That dark and disappointing shot is from last week's Brian Redman International Challenge at Road America. The two cars pictured are part of the Historic Grand Prix race, which attracted a field of 30 F1 cars dating from 1970 to 1983. That particular March 741, Cosworth powered, of course, is a regular at the vintage races at Road America.

    I cropped that shot from its JPG 3000 x 2000 pixel size out of the camera to a 2700 x 1650 TIFF, so it's not a small portion of a much larger image. It was, of course, shrunk down to 800 x 489 for attachment to my response on PN. It's too dark because of a cloudbank that rolled through and I couldn't find the right shutter speed quick enough. That frame filling, "don?t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes" thing is something I've been experimenting with lately since seeing a Bernard Cahier shot from the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix of the chaos of the first lap as seen from the hairpin. I?m not sure where these experiments will lead or whether they?ll be successful, but I'm curious to see the results I get.

    Besides the 500 Nikkor Reflex I'm also using the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 AFS, with or without a Tamron 1.4 tele-extender, a 28-105mm f3.5-4.5, an 85mm f1.8 and a 20mm f2.8, all Nikons. The 70-200 is a great lense with wonderful bokeh, but it has to be used up close to eliminate distracting backgrounds. Until I can afford a 300 f2.8 I'll either have to make do or try rentals.
     
  29. Jay, that's a great story I can understand you're increased popularity after arranging that event and I'm sure Pat Behar swore lifelong fealty to you afterwards, but I'm afraid I can't tell anyone you're the originator of "Show us your?" My dear mother and two sisters instilled in me at an early age the need to treat women with respect and deference and if I don't I'm going to get a series of dope slaps from all three of them, so I'll just keep that bit of knowledge to myself. ;-)

    I've done an Internet search and managed to find a few used booksellers with copies of "Passion and Precision" in stock for $40-$45. I'll check with them further tomorrow, but if none of them work out I may take advantage of your kind offer for the PDF files.

    That dark and disappointing shot is from last week's Brian Redman International Challenge at Road America. The two cars pictured are part of the Historic Grand Prix race, which attracted a field of 30 F1 cars dating from 1970 to 1983. That particular March 741, Cosworth powered, of course, is a regular at the vintage races at Road America.

    I cropped that shot from its JPG 3000 x 2000 pixel size out of the camera to a 2700 x 1650 TIFF, so it's not a small portion of a much larger image. It was, of course, shrunk down to 800 x 489 for attachment to my response on PN. It's too dark because of a cloudbank that rolled through and I couldn't find the right shutter speed quick enough. That frame filling, "don?t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes" thing is something I've been experimenting with lately since seeing a Bernard Cahier shot from the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix of the chaos of the first lap as seen from the hairpin. I?m not sure where these experiments will lead or whether they?ll be successful, but I'm curious to see the results I get.

    Besides the 500 Nikkor Reflex I'm also using the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 AFS, with or without a Tamron 1.4 tele-extender, a 28-105mm f3.5-4.5, an 85mm f1.8 and a 20mm f2.8, all Nikons. The 70-200 is a great lense with wonderful bokeh, but it has to be used up close to eliminate distracting backgrounds. Until I can afford a 300 f2.8 I'll either have to make do or try rentals.
     
  30. OOOPS!...Sorry about posting that last response twice. I was trying to correct a punctuation problem where PN turns an apostophe in Microsoft word into a question mark. Sorry about that.
     
  31. Err, regarding the "show us your..." we had an incident at Rockingham the other week like that! One of the cars we have is sponsored by a lap-dancing club and of course some of the girls are there to do the grid and promotions etc. Of course, something like that was going to be inevitable - but I had a laugh (being female) getting lots of shots of the photogs getting shots of the girls. Ended up with some good wind-up material. Anyway, going back to the original question - sometimes harsh light can help a shot or give it a particular look, but it can be frustrating if that's not what you want or are really having genuine problems. Part of it stems from the fact that racing cars have very reflective surfaces due to the nature of the paint finish, and if you, as I shoot stock cars (yep, we've got something similar to NASCAR in the UK) you've also got the polymer windscreens / windows as well. One thing that I find really helps is a good deep lens hood (have a nice one on my 100-400) as it cuts out on a lot of stray light and flare - I always shoot with a hood even in dull conditions and irrespective of the lens. Hoods are great for protecting ends of lenses from knocks - inevitable when working down on the fenceline. And I don't use filters... Another thing that is important is to get the metering right. With digital you do have the problem of not enough dynamic range on the sensor, so you sometimes do have to compromise on shadow detail and blown highlights. What I tend to do in situations where this is likely to happen is to use my handheld meter to get a reading off a mid-grey surface for the shutter speed or aperture that I want to use and then input that reading into the camera via full manual metering mode. It isn't a perfect solution, but I find it is the best compromise - with my CF4 set for 1/3 stops, I can fine tweak that to get what I want if the situation warrents it. I will lose some shadow detail this way, but I also don't blow out the highlights. In pit and paddock situations, fill flash helps here too, as you then don't have to cope with the heavy shadows, but where you can't use flash, you have to sometimes resign yourself for either over or under-exposing some parts of the image - as shown in the attached example. I was shooting a driver signing autographs from inside a dark-ish garage on a really bright sunny day (was lunchtime), using fill flash in manual exposure mode to bring out the detail in the faces of the people in the queue. As you can see, the sky is totally blown out, but I really don't think it matters as I got the shot I wanted.
    008ycr-18941484.jpg
     
  32. I picked up a 0.6 ND filter today. A 0.6 means the loss of 2 f-stops which on the Nikon D70 will be equivalent to the speeds I'm used to shooting with Fuji Velvia 50. I'll let you know what I learn after this weekend's CART race at Road America.
     
  33. I used a B&W 0.6 neutral density filter for the first time at last weekend's Champ Car race at Road America. On the Nikon D70 with its minimum ISO of 200, the 2 stop filter factor of the ND 0.6 meant that shots done wide open at f2.8 had shutter speeds of between 1/250th and 1/1000th, depending on lighting conditions and angle, or about 1/4th of what they would be without the filter. The lower shutter speeds allowed considerably more motion blur to occur in wheels without loss of sharpness in the car itself, which is exactly the effect I wanted. There are downsides to these filters, of course, as it makes manual focusing more difficult through a dimmer viewfinder and on partly cloudy days a passing cloud can block enough light to cause the shutter speed to become too low. The darkening of the viewfinder is a particular concern on the Nikon D70 which has a small finder, especially in comparison to my F100. I also found that ND filters are not appropriate for panning shots, as the filter factor will cause a larger aperture to be used in shutter priority mode, thus reducing some of the background blur. Despite the downsides I think they are quite useful and I will be purchasing a few more ND filters of various density factors to have broader control of the shutter speed range.
     
  34. Thank yo uso much... I really appreciate your help. Do you have any examples up yet?

    -Norman
     
  35. I've posted a shot of Bruno Junqueira that demonstrates why I don't think an ND filter is really appropriate for panning shots:

    http://www.photo.net/photo/2619965

    The shot still works pretty well, but had I removed the ND filter I might've been able to stop down to f22 for the same or lower shutter speed and gotten more motion blur in the background.

    After this test I'll be purchasing an ND filter for my 500mm lens, which I use mostly for head-on or slight angle shots, and I'll let you know how it works.
     
  36. I've just posted an image on photo.net that will hopefully illustrate some of the value of a neutral density filter. It's a panning shot from the inside of Turn 5 at Road America as a Porsche locks its front wheels under braking. As the details of the image note, this is 1/160th of a second at f8. At the same aperture and without the ND filter the shutter speed would have been 1/640th of a second and I would've lost the wheel spin evident in the rear wheel. You can see the image at:

    http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?topic_id=1481&msg_id=009IPw&photo_id=2644947&photo_sel_index=0
     

Share This Page