Datsun 240Z action

Photographing features for magazines uses a wide variety of photography styles but the hardest type is definitely action so I thought it a good idea to outline a few of the most commonly used shots and explained how they were taken. The subject I’ve chosen is one of greatest Japanese sports coupes, the Datsun 240Z.

Cornering with the Datsun 240Z


In the shot above the car is cornering hard and the idea is to capture an image to demonstrate the handling characteristics .This is best done by watching the car come around a tight open corner and looking for the point when it no longer is coming towards you but starts to travel across the frame, a front 3/4 view . Shoot from a low position using a telephoto lens of about 200-300mm should keep you at a safe distance but be sure to check that your Autofocus is on ,set to Servo, so that it will follow the car around the corner keeping it sharp throughout. Shutter speeds from 1/350th – 1/640th second depending on the speed of the subject.If you too fast on the shutter you’ll freeze the tyres and the car can look parked on the corner.

Datsun 240Z panning


Panning is one of the oldest and most diverse action shots you can use when shooting a car. You’ll find panning images from 100 years ago which is remarkable considering the ungainly and clunky equipment of the day.
You can shoot a profile, front 3/4 ,rear 3/4, wide angle, telephoto, zoom pan…the list is always being updated as snappers discovers new ways to photograph cars. The original and the best though has too be a profile pan, side on, this flattens the perspective giving the truest interpretation of the shape and is the most straightforward to master. Look for a road that is open on one side with bushes, trees or a fields close on the other side that will offer up a good amount of blur. Start shooting using a telephoto lens of about 200mm at 1/125th second, Autofocus set to Servo, keeping the car in the frame as it passes in front of you from about 20-30metres away swinging your hips in a smooth even arc. Check for sharpness on the screen blowing up the image to be certain and then slow your shutter speeds down to 1/60th and then try 1/30th second to really get some serious blur on your image. Practice makes perfect so don’t be disillusioned if you don’t get sharp images straight away…keep at it.

Cockpit in the 240Z

In Car Action

Another great action image to include in your portfolio is a cockpit shot.You can hand hold the camera and pop a bit of flash into the frame to fill in the shadows, shooting from the back seat with the road snaking away looks good….Or you could get a window clip mount as in the shot above.This fits onto the lowered window with a wide angle lens and uses a super slow shutter speed of about 1/2-1/15th second.Engine off, the car is pushed or rolled down a gentle hill at walking pace to give a highly effective action image.

Car to Car the Datsun 240Z


There are lots of other action images you can shoot if you have the time and you’ll find more in the ‘How to Photograph Cars’ book but the other type you often see on the covers of the top car magazine is a tracking or Car to Car shot. This is taken using a standard or wide angle lens from the back of a hatchback from an overtaking position to depict the car traveling along the road. You’ll need a two good drivers to drive the camera car and the subject car , a quiet or private road and a shutter speed of between 1/125th-1/30th second…the slower shutter speed you use the more blur you will get in the background but the lower your hit rate will be as it’s hard to hand hold on a bumpy road.Safety is a priority here so make sure you obey the rules of the road and don’t break the law.

Next post will be about how to choose the right camera bag and backpack and I’ll be testing a Tamrac Anvil 23. intro2020 #tamracphoto #camerabackpack

Porsche 911 cornering

I was recently on a magazine shoot with this stunning restored 1973 Porsche 911 Targa in the home counties around London.It’s often difficult to find decent driving roads to shoot the necessary action shots required for a full feature shoot in the South East so it was a great to find this open corner on a common just a few miles from the owner’s home.

This sequence shows how the car progresses through the corner.I use my Canon EOS 5DSR set to high speed motor-drive mode for cornering but only shoot in short bursts of 4-6 frames as the files are large and buffering occurs. The shot above shows the approach to the corner which was a full 90 degree bend.

The idea of a cornering shot if to show the handling capabilities of the car and the critical point where this is best demonstrated is when the car changes direction from coming towards you in the frame to crossing the viewfinder. The frame above with this head on view is not quite there.

Without panning you’ll need a shutter speed of 1/500th second or more to freeze the car.The faster the speed of the car the faster you’ll need to set your shutter speed, up to about 1/1250th second when the car will be frozen and look like it’s parked on the corner if you are not careful.This was a fairly slow corner so I shot it at 1/640th second which at 200ASA on a cloudy day gave me an aperture of F5.6 on my 70-300mm lens. The frame above here is nearly there.

You will need a good driver to get the best out of a cornering shot. We didn’t want tail hanging out …loss of grip doesn’t show handling and the road wasn’t suitable here. Ideally you’ll want to get a low perspective and be able to see all four wheels. The shot above is usable but improving…..

Porsche corner-1
Porsche corner final

…to this frame which shows the front inner wheel almost lifting and a 3/4 view of the car pin sharp with with the tyres blurred.

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