How To Photograph Light Trails In Motorsport

How To Photograph Light Trails In Motorsport

How To Photograph Light Trails In Motorsport

One of the most visually striking photos you can capture in motorsport, especially when it comes to endurance racing at night, is light trails.

Light trails make for some of the most iconic motorsport photos you’ve seen. You know, the ones – underneath the Dunlop Bridge at Le Mans, through Eau Rouge and Raidillon at Spa and down through The Esses at Mount Panorama, just to name a few.

So, how do you start adding these amazing light trail photos to your motorsport photography repertoire? Let’s run through everything you need to know.

Understanding The Basics Of Light Trail Photography In Motorsport

In its simplest form, a light trail photo is just a panning photo at night, but instead of moving with the car, you let the car move through the frame.

Just another term for long exposure photography, light trails require a slower shutter speed while controlling your exposure, to allow the lights of the race cars to draw their way through the photo as they move at speed through your shot.

Obviously, the more steady your camera is, the more success you are going to have in capturing light trail photos. But we’ll get into that shortly.

Essential Equipment For Capturing Light Trails

How To Quickly Find The Best Photo Spots At A New Race Track

The only real essential equipment you need to capture light trails is a DSLR or mirrorless camera where you can control the settings manually.

However, I’m going to suggest bringing a tripod with you is going to help you a lot. I have captured light trail photos completely handheld before, but the success rate wasn’t great, and I was really limited in how slow I could drop the shutter speed. You could also take advantage of any number of solid surfaces around the race track to stabilise your camera, but that really does limit how you compose your shot. So, light trails are one of the few instances where I really do recommend bringing a tripod with you to the race track.

Camera Settings For Perfect Light Trail Shots

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As I just briefly mentioned, manually controlling your camera settings is crucial for capturing light trails. Here are a few of my guidelines on the settings you should use:

Shutter Speed

Using a slow shutter speed is fundament to capturing light trails. However, 3 seconds can be a long time at the start of the race. Depending on the effect you are going for and the amount of ambient light, try to make sure your light trails follow the track right through the frame. This could be as little as 2-3 seconds, or for a wider, more scenic shot, you might want to set your shutter speed to 30 seconds.

I find that for motorsport, 5 seconds is a good place to start, and then I adjust as I need to.

Aperture

Typically when it comes to capturing motorsport action at night, you want your aperture as wide open as possible. However, with the longer exposure time required to capture light trails, you really want to stop down your lens to a narrower aperture.

I find that starting somewhere around f8 is best. This will allow you to get a nice broad area in focus, something that we’ll touch on in a second.

If you find that you have too much ambient light for the shutter speed you want to use, you can progressively stop your aperture all the way down as small as it can go. This has the added benefit of a much wider focus area, but it can also introduce other artifacts into your shots, like bringing into focus any dust and debris on your sensor and creating interesting star effects with any permanent light sources in your frame.

ISO

Keep the ISO at its native low setting; for most camera manufacturers, that is ISO 100.

Increasing ISO adds digital noise to your image, and while that really isn’t noticeable on high cameras until you get into the higher ranges of its ISO capabilities, keeping your ISO as low as possible will give you the best chance at getting a great photo. Use adjustments in the shutter speed and aperture to get the exposure you are looking for first.

Focus

In motorsport photography, we tend to lean on the auto-focus capabilities of our cameras quite a lot. However, when it comes to capturing light trails, I recommend that you switch to manual focus instead.

The movement of the cars, the changing of the light, and even the complete lack of ambient light, depending on how and where you are composing your photo, can all cause your autofocus system to hunt for focus while lining up your shot, especially if your camera is still configured in its continuous autofocus mode (AI Servo on Canon cameras).

Instead, what you want to do is prefocus your camera and then switch to manual focus. What I do is look for something (a wall, tree, sign, etc.) roughly where I want my focus to be that is either lit up enough that I can lock focus on it and that I can light up enough with a torch to get focus. Then once I’ve got that spot dialed in with focus, I switch over to manual focus and don’t touch my lens again while capturing those light trail photos.

Stabiliser

If your camera is set up on a tripod, make sure you turn your stabiliser off. Sometimes, particularly in poorly lit scenes, it can bounce around because it’s got nothing to lock on to.

That said, if you are trying to capture a light trail photo handheld, definitely take advantage of your camera and lens stabilisation system. It’ll give you the best chance of getting the shot.

Tips For Capturing Dynamic Light Trails in Motorsport

Tips For Capturing Dynamic Light Trails in Motorsport

Now that you know the settings you need to dial in to capture light trails, here are a few more things you need to consider to capture dynamic light trail photos during motorsport events.

Positioning

The best light trail photos in motorsport showcase movement through a series of corners, usually including some sort of elevation change. Look to set yourself and compose your shot so that you can showcase this movement throughout your frame.

Timing

Again the best light trail photos showcase movement throughout the entire frame. So you want to make sure you anticipate the action and start the capture just before the car/cars enter the frame. Always remember, you can always adjust your shutter speed a be a bit longer to ensure that you get the shot you are looking for.

Taillights Look Better Than Headlights

This might just be my personal opinion, but taillights make for much better light trail photos than headlights. The colour and intensity just make for much better photos. Often, for endurance races at night, cars are fitted with high-intensity driving lights, which are great for the drivers to be able to see further down the road, but they are just too much for light trail photos.

Conclusion

Capturing light trails is one of my personal favourite things to do in motorsport photography. It’s a unique way to showcase speed and motion in a photo. As with all motorsport photos, when it gets dark, they can be harder to capture than you might be used to, but the resulting image is well worth the extra effort.

Want to make your nighttime motorsport photos pop… Check out my Lightroom preset specifically for your night shots. Or check out my bundle with all of my Lightroom presets to speed up your workflow.

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

What Makes A Good Motorsport Photo

What Makes A Good Motorsport Photo

What Makes A Good Motorsport Photo

Anybody can take a photo of a car on a race track. Modern cameras and smartphones make this quite easy. But what makes the art of motorsport photography really stand out is the ability to take a good motorsport photo.

If you want to be a motorsport photographer, you really need to understand the difference between capturing an image of a car or bike on track and creating a photo that showcases what makes motorsport stand out – speed, emotion, and action.

It sounds simple in theory, but there is a bit more to it than you may think. It isn’t just about attending racing events and clicking away. It’s about having a knack for telling a story in your images, capturing both action and emotion and choosing techniques, angles, and compositions to capture the essence of motorsport.

Showcasing Motion In A Still Photo

Showcasing Motion In A Still Photo

The key thing to keep in mind is that motorsport is a sport of high-speed movement. That’s the major thrill of it.

So how do we bring that thrill into our photos? Well, first things first, we use a technique known as panning to bring motion into our photos.

I’ve delved into the details of what panning is and how to do it in this post, but in short, it is where you move your camera in time with the subject of your photo (in this case, typically a car or bike) to blur the background of the shot with motion blur while keeping the subject sharp.

Another technique is to hide the moving components of the cars. Shoot cars head-on where you can’t see the movement (or lack thereof) of the wheels – this allows the viewer’s mind to think there is movement in the shot, especially if there are if there are a group of cars together battling for position.

Finally, think about how and where you capture your photos and give the race car or motorcycle. Are there sections of the track where cars bounce over kerbs? Where do bikes have their greatest lean angle? Do they drift and slide through corners? Kick up dirt? Do the brakes glow? Or does it spit flames from the exhaust? All these elements can contribute to showcasing motion in your images.

Composition

Beyond the basics of motion, how you use composition in motorsport photography is equally important.

Honestly, anyone can take a photo where a car looks like it’s parked on a piece of tarmac or dirt in the middle of the frame, that’s easy. What separates good motorsport photos from very average ones is putting the scene, the car, and the action into context.

When you are just starting out, one of the easiest composition techniques to remember is to stick to the Rule of Thirds and avoid placing the moving vehicle smack in the middle of your frame. This technique alone creates more dynamic and visually appealing photos.

Once you mastered the Rule Of Thirds, you can look to add other techniques to your repertoire, like including Negative Space, Leading Lines and Dutch Tilt, into your photos. 

Just remember that all rules may be broken, and by all means, experiment and improvise as much as you want to discover your own unique way of photographing speed. But utilising these fundamental motorsport photography composition techniques will allow you to build a solid foundation when you’re just starting out.

Personalities And Emotion

Personalities And Emotion

There is more to motorsport than just the cars/bikes on the track. What about the behind-the-scenes elements? The personalities and emotions of the drivers and crews?

After all, motorsport is a sport, and there is a huge human element that is often overlooked by amateur photographers. Be it the concentration on a driver’s face or the celebration of the pit crew, all of these photos add depth to your motorsport photography.

Even if you don’t have access to the garages and the pitlane, make sure you spend some time in the paddock, to capture photos of the people in motorsport, which you can easily do at most motorsport events. 

Just be mindful that there is a lot going on in the pits and paddock, so make sure you don’t get so caught up looking down the barrel of your lens that you end up in the way of something important going on. But capturing these emotions brings the viewer closer to the heart of the sport, telling the complete story of the race weekend with your images.

Post-Production

For the most part, a good image can survive a bad edit, but a good edit will never salvage a truly bad photo.

In professional motorsport photography, editing is an important aspect of making your photos stand out in your own unique style. However, in most cases, less is more.

In fact, when it comes to working for magazines and news outlets, which are often where motorsport photos end up, they are looking for an editorial-style edit. That is, something very simple that does not subtract from the authenticity of the photo.

On the other hand, teams, drivers, and sponsors are a little more open to creative expression in their edits.

However, keep in mind that for motorsport photographers, especially in the day and age of social media, being able to get photos to customers quickly is another key aspect. Big complex edits are not conducive to the quick delivery of files, particularly during an event, so you need to make sure you showcase what you can deliver in the confines of a race weekend.

I find that keeping my edits to a minimum and utilising my Lightroom presets allows me to process and deliver my photos very quickly. A key skill you’ll need to master yourself as you take your motorsport photography more seriously. 

Wrap Up

Once you start looking at stepping up your trackside photos from average snapshots to good-quality motorsport photos, there is a lot you need to learn and consider. However, with patience, practice, and a bit of experimentation, you can very easily start to step your photos up to another level. 

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

How To Photograph Speed And Motion

How To Photograph Speed And Motion

How To Photograph Speed And Motion

One of the most fundamental skills you need to master if you want to be a motorsport photographer is the ability to showcase speed and motion in a still image.

Anyone can take a photo where a car (or bike) looks like it is parked on the track. But to give a still image a sense of movement, that’s the real art form of motorsport photography.

As motorsport photographers, we’ve got an array of tools and techniques that we can draw upon to achieve this. So let’s take a look at what you can do to showcase speed and motion in your photos.

Panning

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The most essential skill to master as a motorsport photographer is panning. 

Panning involves using a slow shutter speed and movement to create motion blur in your photo adding a sense of speed to the image. If you’d like to know more about the basics of panning, I’d recommend checking out this post. 

Once you understand the basics of panning, this post will tell you everything you need to know to take your panning photos to the next level.

The biggest thing to keep in mind with panning is that the technique comes down to practice and experience. While it’s the most essential skill to master, it’s also one of the hardest to perfect. So give yourself time for the skill to develop.

Hide The Wheels

Mastering The Rule Of Thirds In Motorsport Photography Composition

Alternatively, you could also hide the fact that the car isn’t moving in the photo but hiding the wheels.

Another technique for implying movement in a photo is to hide any of the elements that prove to the viewer that it is still. In the case of race cars and bikes, that’s the wheels.

The best way to do it is to photograph the car directly head-on (or directly from behind) where you can’t see the side of the wheel.

For most cars, this is enough, and you can use a high shutter speed to ensure you get nice, sharp photos. But keep in mind that for open-wheel cars like Formula 1 and motorbikes where you can still see the tyres, you should use a slightly slower shutter speed (1/800th-1/1000th) to make sure you can still see some rotation in the tyres to keep the illusion of motion.

Creative Composition

Using Leading Lines To Enhance Your Motorsport Photography

It’s easy to overlook the importance of creative composition, but it plays a vital role in conveying speed and motion in motorsport photography.

This starts with the basics of how you frame your photos, like using the rule of thirds to give the car or bike room to move through the image.

Leading lines can also guide the viewer through your photo adding to the sense of movement.

While more advanced techniques like dutch tilt can add an extra dynamic element to the photo to really engage the view and create that sense of speed.

Experiment With Angles

Motorsport Photography Camera Settings Cheat Sheet

Motorsport Photography Camera Settings Cheat Sheet

The angle at which you capture the action can significantly impact the perception of speed and motion in your photo.

Photographing race cars (and bikes) from a lower angle can make them appear more imposing, adding to the sense of speed.

A higher vantage point will provide a different perspective and, coupled with other techniques, create more dynamic photos.

Wrap Up

Mastering the art of capturing speed and motion in motorsport photography is a journey of continuous experimentation.

Utilising different techniques, understanding the importance of composition, and experimenting with angles, you can create stunning images that truly convey the speed and excitement of motorsport.

Remember, every race, every track, and every category offers a new opportunity to capture something unique and spectacular.

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

What Is A Panning Photo: Capturing Motion in Photography

What Is A Panning Photo: Capturing Motion in Photography

What Is A Panning Photo: Capturing Motion in Photography

If you’re just getting into motorsport photography, you’ve no doubt heard the term “panning photo”, but what does this mean, and what does it look like?

In short, a panning photo is an artistic way to illustrate motion in photography, capturing a photo where a moving subject, like a race car, is sharp against a blurred background. Now let’s dive into details and see what this looks like and why it’s one of the favourite techniques for motorsport photographers to master.

What Does Panning Mean?

Panning in the context of photography is quite simply the technique of moving your camera along with a moving subject. This swinging or sweeping motion of your camera is referred to as a pan.

Why is it called that? Derived from panoramic, the word pan refers to the camera movement technique that was initially used in video/film to showcase more of the scene than could fit into the frame. So panning photo is a result of the camera movement.

What Does a Panning Photo Look Like?

What Does a Panning Photo Look Like?

Panning photos have a distinct look because they uniquely showcase motion in a still image. This means that in a panning photo, the race car (or bike) would be perfectly in focus and sharp, while the track and surroundings are rendered into a smooth blur. This style of photo creates a powerful contrast between the subject and the background, highlighting the speed and direction of the vehicle.

Characteristics Of A Good Panning Photo:

  • The subject in motion (typically in motorsport photography, a car or bike) is both in focus and sharp.
  • The background is a smooth blur, with horizontal streaks of colours and lights.
  • In motorsport, in particular, a full rotation of the wheels enhances the sense of speed.

Always keep in mind that a good panning photo in motorsport is determined by what is crisp and sharp, not just by how blurry the background is. Panning should also draw the viewer’s attention to the intended subject of the photo.

Why Use Panning?

Panning is the best technique to showcase movement in a still photo. It’s used frequently in motorsport photography, to capture and showcase the speed of cars/bikes.

It also creates a focal point. The contrast between the sharp subject and the blurred background naturally draws the viewer’s eye to the main subject of the photo.

How Do You Create A Panning Photo?

How Do You Create A Panning Photo?

In its simplest form, panning is a technique where you use a slower shutter speed and move (or pan) your camera with the subject as it goes past you as you take photos.

It sounds easy when I break it down like that, but in reality, it takes quite a bit of practice to make sure that not only is your panning motion smooth to ensure that the subject is sharp, but you also match the speed and the movement of the race car (or bike).

Basic Camera Settings For A Panning Photo

  • Put your camera in a mode where you can control the shutter speed – Either manual or shutter priority
  • Choose a “slow” shutter speed – This could be anywhere between 1/250th and 1/5th.
  • The dragging of the shutter will about you to use a lower ISO and narrower aperture than you might otherwise use to capture motorsport if you are using manual mode.
  • Adjust the stabilisation on your camera to better allow for the panning movement.

Process For Capturing A Panning Photo:

A good panning technique actually starts with your feet. You will want to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a good, solid, and stable platform. Typically, in motorsport photography, we want a smooth vertical movement, and we want to do everything we can to minimise any other movement by both yourself and your camera.

In addition to making sure you have good, solid footing, you also want to make sure you are holding your camera so it will be as stable as possible throughout the panning movement. The best way to do this is to have the hand not controlling the camera underneath the lens holding the camera up. Holding the camera up against your face, which you should be doing anyway, to use the viewfinder, will give you three points of contact with the camera to help minimise any other movement. You can increase the stability of your camera by tucking your elbows in towards your chest.

Once you’ve got a steady platform, the panning motion actually comes from twisting with your waist, hips and legs to rotate as the car goes past you. This movement will ensure you remain as smooth and stable as possible to help ensure that your photo is sharp.

Alternatively, you can use a monopod for extra stability, particularly while using a larger lens. Just keep in mind that your pivot point with a monopod is slightly different, and you will need to adjust your movement accordingly.

Don’t use a tripod! I’ve seen many panning guides recommending a tripod, and for photos, particularly in motorsport, it’s just bad advice. To get the level of movement that you need to capture panning photos, you lose all the stability that a tripod has to offer.

Now that you have your camera as stable as it can possibly be, all you need to do is move as your subject moves with a smooth sweeping motion. Looking through the viewfinder, follow the car and ensure that it remains in the same spot in the frame throughout your shooting sequence. A good way to do this is to use your focus point as a reference point.

What Shutter Speed Should You Pan With

What Shutter Speed Should You Pan With

When it comes to panning, there isn’t one shutter speed setting that is the perfect solution for all shots. When you are just starting out, you can begin with a comfortable shutter speed range – somewhere between 1/250th and 1/160th – to ensure you get a good sharp photo of your subject.

Then, once you’ve started to get your panning action smooth and you’ve got a good hit rate with getting the subject of your photos nice and sharp, you can experiment with slower shutter speeds.

The ultimate rule when it comes to panning, the slower the shutter speed, the more dynamic the image. But always remember panning is a technique to draw attention to your subject, so that needs to be sharp for it to be a usable photo.

What Lens Should I Use To Pan With?

When starting out learning to pan, there is a sweet spot with lens focal lengths that will give you the most optimal chance of getting the entire car nice and sharp in the photo. This is usually between 70mm to 200mm.

If you go wider, you introduce lens warp into your pans. Once you’ve mastered the basics, this can actually be a desired effect. But I’d focus on getting the technique right and getting a good consistent hit rate before you look to start panning with wide lenses.

Also, if you use longer lenses, the camera becomes more sensitive to movement, and you’re more likely to introduce camera shake into your pans.

With longer lenses, you can look to add additional stability by using a monopod, but again having a good technique will help you with your consistency.

When Is The Best Time To Capture Panning Photos?

I tend to focus on getting my panning photos during practice and qualifying. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, during practice and qualifying, the cars tend to be more spaced out around the track. This makes it a great time to focus on individual cars allowing you to get a little more arty with your compositions.

Secondly, during the races, you are more likely to be on the lookout for the high-action moments, crashes, passes, etc… And for these, you want to have a higher shutter speed, especially in the opening stages, to ensure you capture the moment, no matter what plays out in front of you.

because during actual races, you’re more likely to be in a situation where there are high-action moments, and I typically tend to stick to faster shutter speeds during races, especially the opening stages.

Start With Side On Pans

When starting out capturing panning photos, the easiest ones to get into a rhythm with are when the race car (or bike) directly side on to you, particularly at constant radius corners.

This will allow you to work with a nice long sweeping motion for your pan with the race car (or bike) maintaining a fairly constant distance and speed. This will give you a bit longer and a few more attempts to get the shot.

Once you’ve mastered the side-on pan, you can add some flair to your shots by panning with more unique angles.

You can also add more action and drama to your shots by panning at a section of the track where you can see multiple cars going in different directions.

How To Improve Your Panning?

Now that you understand the basics of what panning is and how you can use it in your motorsport photography, check out this blog post to master the art of panning and take your photos to the next level.

How To Improve Your Panning?

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

How To Photograph Endurance Racing

How To Photograph Endurance Racing

How To Photograph Endurance Racing

Endurance Racing – It’s without doubt my favourite form of motorsport to cover as a photographer.

Longer sessions, multiple drivers, often racing into the night… There are so many factors that make endurance racing an enjoyable experience to photograph.

That said, endurance racing also means long days, especially 12 and 24 hour races. This means that endurance racing is also the most mentally and physically exhausting style of motorsport to cover.

So, let’s take a look at what you need to know before you attempt to cover an endurance race and how it is different from other forms of motorsport.

Long Sessions

How To Photograph Endurance Racing - Long Sessions

The best part of endurance racing is the longer track sessions, but not just the race itself. Often, in the lead-up to a 6, 12 or 24-hour race, there are several hour or longer practice sessions to allow teams to work on and test out a myriad of things before the race itself.

This has a two-fold impact on how you approach photographing endurance races. Firstly the longer sessions really give you a chance to be more creative. You can try out several different shots and angles that you probably won’t have time to test during shorter sessions. But it also means you could spend long periods trackside without your client’s cars on the track as they work on stuff in the garage.

The other thing to remember is that you need to pace yourself. This is often something I need to remind myself of in the lead-up to an endurance event. Typically if you photograph shorter endurance races, you’ll get into a rhythm of rushing to get as much variety as possible to be able to tell the full story of the event. However, if you do this during hour-long practice sessions, you might find that you’ve covered everything (although not thoroughly) by the end of practice two, leaving yourself repeating shots for the remainder of the event, including during the race.

In my experience, I find it’s often better to pace yourself, photograph sections of the track more thoroughly (and creatively) and split long practice sessions between being trackside and in the garages (where possible). This approach will also help you manage your own fatigue, especially if you’re photographing a 12 or 24-hour race where there are going to be both late practice sessions and an exceptionally long race day (or two).

Multiple Drivers

How To Photograph Endurance Racing - Multiple Drivers

Another thing to keep in mind while photographing endurance races is that teams have multiple drivers. Obviously means driver changes during pitstops (which we’ll get to in the next section), but there are also a few other things to keep in mind.

The most notable thing is how different drivers will drive the same car. This is far more evident in Pro-Am driver combinations, but even two professional platinum-rated drivers could have a different approach and style to driving the same car. It could present itself as the lines they take, how flamboyantly they attack the apexes and bounce over kerbs, or how aggressively they try to overtake other cars on track. But it is worth keeping in mind that the same car might have a different approach the next time it comes passed.

Once you’ve built up a bit of a repour with the team and the drivers, you can often tell which driver in the combination is driving the car, just simply on how and where they place it on the track.

Another thing to keep in mind is that different drivers have different personalities. How a driver interacts in the garage, how much time they spend in the garage, and how they react to having a camera in their face could be very different to what you are used to, particularly for bigger international events where you’ve got a mix of drivers.

Taking a little bit of extra time to watch and observe from the corner of the garage (out of the way) and taking shots from slightly further back can be a good approach when capturing drivers you don’t know yet. At least while you work out their routines and what they are comfortable with.

Pitstops & The Crew

How To Photograph Endurance Racing - Pit Stops

How To Photograph Endurance Racing – Pit Stops

Sure, shorter races can (and do) feature pitstops. And while they can have a big impact on the result of the race, in sprint races. However, in endurance racing, pitstops typically take longer, with more things happening to tell a much bigger part of the story of the race.

Obviously, the rules for each series (and event) can be different in their specifics, but driver changes are an important element to capture. Fuel also takes much longer, and crews might not be allowed to change tyres while the re-fueling is taking place. Giving you time to focus on the different crew members and their roles and get more variety of photos of the team as a whole.

Just keep in mind, depending on the series, there will be different safety requirements and levels of access that you will need to comply with to photograph pitstops. Most series or events will have a separate photographer vest for those who are allowed to access the pit lane. Some events will have a couple of vests that are available on a rotational basis, that you can book out for a small window during the race.

Also, keep in mind that anytime there is the possibility of refuelling, it’s a fairly safe assumption that you will have to be wearing a full fireproof race suit. It’s also likely you need to be wearing a helmet. If you’re unsure, it’s worth checking in the lead-up to attending.

That said, even if you don’t have access to the pitlane, what happens in the garage is just as important to the story of the weekend that you are trying to tell with your photos. From the action of drivers and crew getting ready ahead of a pitstop, the debrief with engineers after a driver change, the discussions about race strategy, or even crew members resting between stops. These are all elements that play a part in the overall story of an endurance race weekend.

The Story Of The Race

How To Photograph Endurance Racing - The Story Of The Race

I’ve metioned telling the story of the race through your photos a couple of times already in this post. But what does that actually mean?

Well, there is more to endurance racing than just being the fastest driver in the fastest car. Strategy, the performance of multiple drivers, fatigue, and the fragility of the cars, on top of everything else you are looking to capture during any other race, all come together in this rollercoaster of ups and downs that plays out over the course of several hours. And what makes photographing endurance races really unique is that you really don’t know what that story is until late in the race, if not the chequered flag.

A good motorsport photographer will capture photos over the course of not only the race but the full event that can tell that chapter of the story at any given moment. The highs and the lows. In fact, the best stories involve overcoming some sort of adversity. So make sure you capture the images of all these elements of the race, not just the highlights.

This will allow your customer, be it a driver, team, manufacturer or publication, to tell the full story of the race (and the event) through a series of photos.

Conclusion

Endurance racing is both a dynamic challenge and a unique creative opportunity for motorsport photographers. But the end result for a good photographer is a testament to the power of visual storytelling through a lens.

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

How To Quickly Find The Best Photo Spots At A New Race Track

How To Quickly Find The Best Photo Spots At A New Race Track

How To Quickly Find The Best Photo Spots At A New Race Track

For motorsport photographers, the opportunity to photograph a new race track is an exciting prospect. It’s like starting with a blank canvas, full of possibilities waiting to be explored.

However, getting acclimated to a new track, especially for those without a lot of experience, can be a bit challenging. Let’s delve into the practical ways of quickly learning a new circuit while ensuring you not only capture the best possible photos for your customers during a race event but also showcase the unique aspects of each new venue to capture images that tell the full story.

Social Media

In the digital age, social media serves as a valuable tool for photographers seeking inspiration and insights about a new race track. Before visiting, taking some time to browse platforms like Instagram and Facebook will allow you to see what other photographers have captured at the venue. This will give you a good sense of the track’s unique features and the types of shots that have been taken there previously.

That said, while social media is a great source of inspiration, it’s essential not to get too fixated on replicating what others have done. I find that I’m at my most creative when photographing a new race track with fresh eyes and an open mind. Allowing myself the freedom to explore and discover shots as I see them in front of me.

Look Up Race Reports About The Track

Motorsport media outlets regularly publish race reports that not only highlight the race action but also provide context for each track by featuring iconic shots of it. These reports can be a valuable resource for photographers looking to understand the most significant and visually appealing aspects of the venue.

By reviewing recent race reports, you can identify key locations on the track where important moments typically occur, but also shots that put the venue in context. This knowledge will help you plan your shots and ensure you don’t miss capturing crucial shots during the race weekend.

Do The Track Walk

How To Quickly Find The Best Photo Spots At A New Race Track - Do The Track Walk

Just as drivers and teams do a track walk to familiarise themselves with the circuit, as a photographer arriving at a new venue, you should also participate. Walking the track allows you to gain a comprehensive understanding of its layout, elevation changes, and unique features.

If you are able, tag along with one of the teams as they complete their track walk and listen to what the drivers and engineers have to say about the different parts of the track. This will give you invaluable insight into where race cars might bounce over kerbs or run right out to the edge of the circuit, and even where they need to be careful not to be caught out by track limits.

If you’ve already watched races at the track on TV or have a basic understanding of its layout, consider doing the track walk in reverse. This approach will help you uncover photo opportunities and angles as you will be trying to capture them. Remember that the track’s character can change dramatically depending on the direction of your walk, so explore all possibilities.

Walk Around The Track

While organised media shuttles or scooters can provide convenient access to predetermined photo spots, particularly at large race tracks, don’t limit yourself by only using these. Some of the most captivating and unique photo opportunities can be found in less frequented sections around the circuit that other photographers often overlook.

Take the time to wander around the track while photographing and explore areas that other photographers might not consider. Hidden gems, such as unusual vantage points or unexpected angles, can often be found by venturing off the standard route.

Conclusion

By combining these practical strategies and keeping an open, creative mindset, you’ll be well-prepared to capture stunning and memorable images that showcase the essence of any new race track that you visit. Embrace the challenge and let your passion for motorsport photography shine through in every shot you take at a fresh circuit.

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

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