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  • Writer's pictureNick Cody

Motorsport Photography: Starting Somewhere

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

I debated writing this solely because I don't view these photos as my best work.

I quickly realized that was ridiculous because I felt as though I learned something at these events and now feel the need to pass it along. At the very least, this is to document these moments if nothing else. I recently attended a couple of races and brought my camera along. Here's what I learned...

Mistakes were made.

No doubt, action sports photography is difficult. You need to be standing in the right spot at the right time. You need the appropriate gear and your camera settings better be correct. What a disappointment it is to review your work and find a photo with great composition and action, but only to have your soul crushed because it is completely out of focus. There's a car going down the track somewhere behind this raggedy looking fence post.

Each photographer has their agenda. My agenda was my own and simple. I was looking to capture photographs that show fast-paced action and hopefully tell a story. Sometimes, I got what I was looking for, but I also missed my mark a lot. Here's a tip: If you're trying to show speed in your photos, don't set your shutter speed so fast it stops almost all movement behind your subject. They'll look frozen in space and appear to be at a standstill. I was shooting at 1/250 sec while panning for awhile and didn't realize until later, this was still too fast for what I was trying to accomplish. I started shooting at 1/125 sec around f/7.1 and found this to be better. If I could go back, I'd slow this down even more and drop my f-stop as well. Personally, I would've liked to try somewhere around 1/80 sec and f/11 or f/16. Next time, I suppose.

Shooting in the middle of the day is not preferable, but not always possible to avoid with race schedules. There was no golden hour light to be had at either of these races. Sunblock and a hat is pretty much a necessity if you're naturally pale like me and out in the sun all day.

Gear is an important piece of the photography puzzle, but it's not the missing link standing between poor, mediocre, and great photographs. I'm not feeling up to lecturing on the importance of composition, exposure, and basic photography techniques anymore than I already have, but learn how to make the most out of the equipment you have and invest in the bigger, better stuff down the road. You could hand me the best set of golf clubs in the world and I'm still going to find a way to slice that ball.

Practice and persistence is key to getting good photos. I took over 3000 shots the last two races I've been to. Most of these are not very good. Thankfully, the digital age of cameras has brought us to a point where I can go out, shoot 1000 photos, and cherry pick a few good ones and learn from my mistakes. However, if I take the time to think about my shot before hammering that shutter button, I guarantee I'm going to see an improvement in the quality of my photos. My advice would be to practice as much as possible, but think about what kind of photo you want before you start to shoot.

After these races, I spent several hours working to reorganize my photos and folders on my computer. I didn't have much of a choice since I accidentally filled my computer's memory to the brim. I slowly began to realize the importance of keeping my work organized and backed up as I sifted through this digital pile. The sheer volume of RAW files and edited copies could certainly be overwhelming. I can't say this for certain, but most people probably don't keep 600GB of photos in storage.

Finally, if you're going to a race, bring some ear plugs. You may or may not need them, but if you do, you'll wish you had them. If there's a Top Fuel drag race, trust me, you will need them.

Hop over to my contact page and drop me a line if there's a picture you want or would like to connect. Thanks for reading.


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