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Old 11 Dec 2001, 15:01 (Ref:184665)   #1
gi_gav
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Seeking advice on photographing at Le Mans

I'm wondering if any keen motorsport photographers can give me some advice on photographing at Le Mans, at night...

I have a Canon EOS 3000 and use a 300mm zoom lens, but i need some help on roughly how to take panning shots of the cars.

Any inputs would be greatly appreciated!!

Gavin Ireland
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Old 11 Dec 2001, 15:03 (Ref:184666)   #2
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Re: Seeking advice on photographing at Le Mans

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Originally posted by gi_gav
I'm wondering if any keen motorsport photographers can give me some advice on photographing at Le Mans, at night...

I have a Canon EOS 3000 and use a 300mm zoom lens, but i need some help on roughly how to take panning shots of the cars.

Any inputs would be greatly appreciated!!

Gavin Ireland
It really depends what side of the fence you are - If you are in the public enclosures then it is tricky but from trackside it can get some great results - check out http://tus.racinglines.com for some great night time photography from Le Mans.
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Old 11 Dec 2001, 16:46 (Ref:184680)   #3
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How fast is your lens? If it is like mine, a Tamron 80-210mm f4.5-5.6 then it is not really fast enough to take the killer shots we all see in the magazines. However, there are ways to trick the lens into doing the things you want.

For night photography of action I would do the following...

1. Remove any filters you normally use. I would probably even remove my 81A skylight as I need all the light I can possibly get and the filter may slightly vignetting the image. I would also remove the lens hood to gather a much light as possible. Be very careful to avoid damaging your lense this way.
2. I would recommend using a 400 speed negative film as it offers the best of everything you can hope for. Good automatic color correction, decent speed at f8.0(where you will probably be at 300mm at night), and low cost of processing.
3. You can have the film push processed. Do this by taping over the ASA/ISO number on the film so your Canon cannot identify it automatically. Set the ASA/ISO for 800 for 400 speed film and shoot it. Tell the processor that you want it push processed as 800 speed. The film will be underexposed but the developer can compensate for this and develop it longer to bring out detail. You will get more grain this way.
4. Avoid taking shots directly into the headlights of the cars. This will burn the film and cause the camera to compensate and the picture will be of two incredibly bright lights in a field of black. No car detail at all.
5. If you have not much practice panning racecars I would suggest a cheap monopod (a single legged post to steady the camera). I have one but rarely use it because it gets in my way now.
6. Remember to follow through when you fire. If you press the button and stop panning the picure will be blurred. Follow the car as you shoot until you see it in the viewfinder again.
7. Unless you have a fast lens with predictive focus your camera cannot automatically keep up at 300mm with the car and keep it in focus. Use manual focus. It takes practice but you are able to predict the car's motion much faster than most consumer lenses.
8. Camera settings I would use on my Canon EOS 2000 for 80-210mm lens and 2x teleconverter and Kodak 400: f8.0, 1/250 sec, panned as steady as I can in dark. You will get a lot of blurry pics this way so be prepeared to take lots of film. It is LeMans and maybe you never get to go back. I would rather take 20 rolls of flim and develop them over a couple of months instead of taking one roll and getting 5 or 6 good shots.
9. Place a blank label on each film roll and write what you did on it so you won't have to remember. Especially if you need push processing.
10. If you want truly awesome pics you will need to shoot slide film. However, any mistake you make (ie: blur, improper exposure, etc.) will be amplified and it is more expensive to get prints from. But Fuji Provia 100F rocks for razor sharp images and brilliant color.

Whatever you do go out and practice taking night shots of highway traffic at different settings to see how you and your camera react. It will take practice to get good shots.

Refer to this article...

http://www.photo.net/photo/sports/overview
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Old 11 Dec 2001, 18:49 (Ref:184713)   #4
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Some great advice there, KC. I would emphasise a couple of things:-

1. I agree you should take as many shots as you can. You may have to have to take dozens (or more) to get one gem. I've been taking pictures at Le Mans for 16 years and I still haven't taken what I consider to be a great shot at night (even though I never sleep!).

2. If you've no experience of panning, don't expect to get superb Autosport style shots straight away, particularly at night. It took me a couple of years to get the hang of it and I still get it wrong more often than not.

Perhaps my best piece of advice is to look out for those places where you can get good shots. Although I adore the place, Le Mans has become much more difficult to photograph at over the last 5 years or so because of all the debris fencing. You can find gaps here and there though, such as at the Ford Chicane, up high at the Esses, on the inside of Tertre Rouge on the exit of the corner, Mulsanne Corner and so on.

I always take a tripod as I like the long exposure night shots of the cars streaming past the pits in particular, and the "Welcome Building" gives you the perfect opportunity for those. (I think I must have taken exactly the same shot from there in each of the last 4 years!).

Just one other thing, KC refers to predictive autofocus. I use a nearly 10 year old EOS 100 with a 4.5-5.6 100-300 zoom. Not fast at all, but I find the autofocus very good for oncoming shots (in daylight, that is!). I never use it when panning. For someone whose eyesight is as poor as mine, autofocus is quite a boon.

You don't say whether you've been yet, Gavin? If you haven't and you're going next year, all I can say is - enjoy! (If you have been, you won't need me to tell you what an experience it is!).

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Old 11 Dec 2001, 18:56 (Ref:184716)   #5
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And I've got a question for you, KC. You refer to 400 speed film. (I'll forget the push processing stuff - I'm just a simple soul!). Have you ever tried faster film? About 10 years ago I used a roll of 1600 Fuji. This was as dawn was breaking. The results were very grainy, inevitably, but they were different, at any rate. I've never been inclined to try it again, but with the advances in film quality over the last 10 years (today's Fuji 400 print film is probably better than the 100 was 10 years ago), I wonder if anyone has tried anything faster? More to the point, can you still get it?
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Old 11 Dec 2001, 21:20 (Ref:184779)   #6
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Some good ideas there guys. I've played around the last 2 years at the BTCC night races but never realy got the technique properly sorted. I'm considering a trip to Le Mans next year so this is good advice.

I've been to UK circuits enough to know where to stand long before I get there but this is a completely new environment for me.
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Old 11 Dec 2001, 21:37 (Ref:184797)   #7
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considering.....!

What's to consider redshoes? It's the place to be!!

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Old 11 Dec 2001, 22:55 (Ref:184825)   #8
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The usual considerations of money, transport, time off work, etc etc etc Looks like Craig and co are dragging me along which means getting things booked early and I'm never usually that organised.
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Old 12 Dec 2001, 16:16 (Ref:185033)   #9
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The fastest film I have ever shot is Kodak Max Zoom 800. It was pretty grainy and lacked detail. Just about any pro shop stocks Ilford, Fuji and Kodak ISO1600 and ISO3200 speed film, but it is usually used by people doing art work or severe pull processing. Most all photojournalists still using film use ISO800 as its grain is no problem for newspaper print. however, most are now using high end digitals like the Canon D30 or Nikon D1.

You should try some Fuji Provia 100F slide film for daylight shots. The color saturation and incredible detail are amazing. I have shot some motorcycle racign and you can see the riders face clearly through the the visor at 300mm zoom. It is more expensive to buy, cheaper to develop, but more costly to make prints from. Here is a link to a shot from the roll of Provia 100F. This is one of the best shots I have ever taken of racing.



My Canon EOS Rebel has trouble autofocussing at 5.6 or higher. It will hunt back and forth and I will miss the shot so I prefocus and manually tune as they pass. It takes practice but it offers me my best chance it is quite a challenge.

I am hoping to purchase a couple of items next year. My Tamron 35-80mm lens has quit on me and I am going to buy a Canon 50mm f1.2 prime lens to replace it. For US$89 and it still rates extremely high for sharpness. The other is a long range flash so I can fill the shadows in daylight shooting.

Aysedasi, do you use flash at all?
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Old 12 Dec 2001, 19:30 (Ref:185112)   #10
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Aysedasi, do you use flash at all?
I have tried, KC, but I've ended up with reel after reel of superb debris fencing! I took one or two vaguely successful flash shots last year when I found a perch in the Welcome Area (downstairs!) where I could get above the fencing. I've only got an elderly Cobra 700AF and can't justify the expense of getting something better. If you've got any flash tips for a novice, I'd welcome them.
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Old 12 Dec 2001, 23:04 (Ref:185236)   #11
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I have done the same thing. Nice glowing catch fence and a black background, no race car in sight. There used to be a guy who posted here named Chris Greenburg and he was shooting professionally on the ALMS schedule. He had really nice gear and shot mainly ISO64 slide film and used a powerful TTL flash to supply fill and better freeze the action. A flash with a decent guide number like 150 or better cost more than my entire camera kit!

I have found that the flash will only work if you are unobstructed viewing. Anything in the way and it makes a giant reflection and kills the shot.

I have a nice new book by John Shaw called "John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide". He shoots a lot of birds and other animals in action from long distance in broad daylight. In it he describes all kind of ways to get great shots without spending huge money. He uses a standard SB-24 Nikon flash with a fresnel concentrator. Its is not cheap at US$40 but far cheaper than a US$300 medium range flash. It can be found at www.kirkphoto.com. I am thinking about getting one to use with my Sunpak manual flash. I have not used the flash very much becasue it is just too short range for what I am usually doing and my Canon can only run 1/90th a second max without TTL flash. Thats just too slow for most motorsport pics.

I normally shoot at 1/250th or 1/350th a second and the f-stop wide open (as I can get it anyway).
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Old 13 Dec 2001, 09:09 (Ref:185358)   #12
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Just remember to enjoy the race as well.

I know it sounds daft, but sometimes, (particularly the start) it is easy to spend all the time looking through a lens and not actually enjoying the moment. There's also often an off, spin or shunt between the start and Tetre Rouge; very easy to miss if you are watching through your camera.
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Old 13 Dec 2001, 16:08 (Ref:185455)   #13
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I am guilty of that as well. Good point AllonFS.
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Old 13 Dec 2001, 18:02 (Ref:185514)   #14
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Funnily enough Allon, I had the best of both worlds at the start this year. I borrowed a video camera with one of those pull-out viewing screens. I was able to hold it high above my head so I had an unobstructed view of all the cars as they came past. So I saw the cars and got some nice footage of it as well!!
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Old 17 Dec 2001, 09:13 (Ref:186823)   #15
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No-one likes a show-off Aysedasi!

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Old 3 Mar 2003, 11:07 (Ref:523317)   #16
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If you are there for Practice & have a head for heights, then you could try the balcony above the pits, this will give you some heads down shots.
Dont get to hung up about having the best camera, part of the challange is to overcome and develop your own style (blurry in my case), alot of modern cameras do to much for you. IMHO
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Old 3 Mar 2003, 13:09 (Ref:523403)   #17
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We were at Spa last year and we took a Canon EOS as well as a sony digital camera - never having taken motorsport photos before the digital camera was great practice as I could delete all the photos of empty track, chain fences and tail ends of cars!! The best tip I found was mentioned by KC above (point 6) keep following the car until you see it again in the viewfinder!! Shall probably be able to take a few better ones at Le Mans this year I hope....
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Old 5 Mar 2003, 23:04 (Ref:526117)   #18
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KC has some good ideas-BUT...don't use a monopod for pan shots! You must hand hold the camera. It may sound sound stupid but perhaps go outside on the pavement and practice following cars going by-you may get some strange looks but it could help. For pan shots try 125th as this is slow enough to blur the background though keeping the subject sharpe (in most cases). If the subject is little fuzzy it's probably camera shake-it will get better in time. If you use a mono-pod you will almost certainly follow the subject in a small arc - ie the camera will go up and down slightly as you follow left to right or whatever-plus you will hardly be able to keep up with the subject unless its a Malaysian in a Minardi!
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