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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I recently went to Silverstone circuit to shoot a race to celebrate Bentley’s centenary for a magazine.I’m not really a race track photographer as I don’t have the long 400mm +lenses required to reach the action from the behind the barrier that can be up to 100m back from the tarmac on the F1 circuits.. However in a career of over 30 years I’ve had to adapt to get what is required.Fortunately the theme here was for portraits and atmosphere with a mere smattering of action…right up my street.
In a busy race day it’s important to remember that you have to work around the schedule of practise,qualifying,driver briefings and the race itself.Speed is of the essence.If you get hold of a subject you want to shoot, photograph them straight away and don’t make an appointment for later on as they undoubtedly won’t turn up…their priorities are on the race not you.
Be sure to shoot a variety of images ,atmosphere,action,detail,portraits in different locations to build a full portfolio of the event.The assembly area seen above is often a good place to catch up with drivers but be aware that they are often nervous before the race and may not want too chat.
Think about an opening image that might be a double page spread with enough space at the top for the art ed’ to drop in a title, a selection of action images from different places around the track as well as the incidental images that often lighten the feature up in a magazine.
For this feature we asked the organiser ,who knows the field best who, out of the 40 entrants, had the most interesting cars and stories which saved a lot of time.Make sure you have contact details for all the portraits you shoot, in case the writer forgot to ask .I always make sure I’ve got a pen and notebook with me for just this instance.
The most important action image you’ll take is always the start, either off the grid or at turn 1.This is because the cars will be grouped tightly together making for a more interesting image and much of the overtaking happens here.Pick on one car and pan it allowing the other elements to float in and out of the frame.Shutter speeds from 1/1250th down to 1/15th second will all offer up varying degrees of hit rates but with a long race you’ll have time to experiment with longer exposures.
To see the whole feature and read all about the incredible Bentley race at the Silverstone look out for the Bentley at 100 July 2019 issue of Classic and Sports car magazine
I’m still recovering from this year’s fantastic Goodwood Festival of Speed.The event has grown from a small gathering of motoring enthusiasts with their cars going up Lord March’s Sussex country home’s drive into the largest motoring event in the UK .
With a slow pan of 1/60th second the grandstands blur nicely making the awesome 1973 Porsche 917 stand out in this image.A faster shutter speed would make the busy background sharper and the car trickier to pick out. 70-300mm f5.6 1/60th second
I caught this grabbed image of the brand new Aston Martin Hybrid as it headed back from it’s run up the hill…I like the excited people in the shot and the dust kicking up behind the car. 70-300mm f5.6 1/250th second
The super cars very often light up their tyres on their way up the hill like this 2016 Camaro burning rubber. Don’t centre the car in the frame but leave more space in front to give the idea of it moving forward.70-300mm f5.6 1/500th second
This is one of my favourite views looking down the drive to the start line, here with the awesome 730bhp 1972 McLaren M8F driven by Andrew Newell.It’s a difficult shot as the car drives through the shadow and highlight from the trees above.Pre-shoot a few frames to work out the best balance of contrast.70-300mm f5.6 1/640th second
Another good place to catch all the action is the start line.Here the Renault Streamliner takes off at quite a sedate pace. 17-40mm f9 1/250th second
If you only have one place to shoot over the weekend this image of the car driving past Goodwood house is probably the shot to go for.Here the 1906 Grand Prix Renault is nicely framed in a medium speed panning shot.To make sure you don’t lose the focal point during your pan switch off auto focus and pre-focus on the point where the car will be when you want to shoot it. 70-300mm f8 1/25th second