Track season has arrived! I enjoy photographing at the race track, especially motorcycles. I plan to try some additional genres of motorsport this year but motorcycle road racing will be the priority. I was happy for the opportunity to be the official track photographer for Motorcycle Xcitement track days early this week.
I have studied the work of many motorsport photographers over the past couple of years. Back when I rode on the track myself I was never really happy with the photos that were made available. Now that I am creating the photos myself I’m learning that it’s more difficult than I had anticipated to capture the images I envision while at the same time ensuring that I capture every rider.
In my mind’s eye, I see the kind of photos that are published in racing magazines from top level international racing like MotoGP. Every track day rider sees themselves looking just like Valentino Rossi or Mark Marquez on the track. Of course, it takes a lot of skill and practice to even get close to that level of riding. The photographers who are capturing those magazine images have put in a similar amount of practice to build their skills, as well. So I will put in my practice trying to make track day riders look like MotoGP riders in pictures.
I have equipment that exceeds my abilities, so I have no limitations there. My shortcomings are in my head. I need to develop better vision regarding where to position myself to get the best shots. There are physical limitations on where I am permitted to shoot from, and there are safety considerations, too. Not only my safety, but if I become distracting to the riders their safety is at risk, as well. I just need to get more creative if I’m going to produce photos that riders will want to show and share.
This week I experimented with tilting the camera and panning. I did a lot of panning last season but since I was not a designated track photographer, there was no pressure to get shots of every rider. I experimented with a lot of shutter speeds last season and produced a lot of garbage. I got a few good shots, but a 1-in-10 “keeper” rate won’t work for a track day where everyone expects to see eight or ten or twenty good shots of themselves. Successfully panning at low shutter speeds with a big lens requires lots of practice. This week I mostly kept my shutter speed above 1/100″, with most shots being in the 1/400″ or faster range.
Whether or not anyone else agrees that I got good shots, I did have fun and came home with photos that I like. I’ve also started experimenting with Photoshop and some of the NIK Collection plugins. I want to create some interesting variations for printing. My goal is to have a large print of at least one of my photos hanging in every rider’s home or office.
Feel free to critique the photos included here. I’d be particularly interested in comments on those last two “gimmick-y” shots. Cool? Completely overdone? Let me know.