Hot Rod Forum : Hotrodders Bulletin Board - View Single Post - Drag Race Photography: Irwindale Speedway - July 2010
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Old 04-06-2011, 12:18 AM
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Lol! I ended up in the Canon camp purely by chance; some guy was selling his 300D for $220 last year to pay rent and I picked it up. Wow, you've got quite a few bodies. It is interesting you've got the older 20D and 30D. They are very solidly built bodies. Do you find that they do well when photographing fast-moving subjects? I ask only because I've never used them and was personally considering the 40D as my next "upgrade" (I am ultimately shooting for a 5D, no pun intended) . The 1D I have is awesome. Its very sturdily built and the 4MP is very misleading. But it is loud! I was asked to photograph a play in a very small room and it was like a machine gun going off!
Nikons are just as loud, just watch the president making an announcement and all those big nikons blasting away at 8 frames with a flash, you think these guys can't take a single picture, lol. I will never part with either of my older bodies, even though outdated I still use them quite often with different lenses on each. Both are well capable of catching a 230 MPH pro mod on the top end on the wall, just a problem for one of these is file size, which is where the 7D comes in. Pretty soon you will be finding a 40D - 50D prices dropping like flies, unlike glass, camera's are like computers, they just fall fast, glass is always high as Canon and others usually update their bodies on a two year schedule. I know I have more than 40,000 clicks on the 30 and has never had a problem, I also have a friend that uses the 50 which gives great results also but has that autofocus deal involved, I hate it and will just keep it on center point. You will do nice portraits with a 5D, but for sports or fast shooting, it's not the camera, you either do the 7D or go to the pro camera's like the big Marks. The one thing I do like about any of the higher or later bodies is instant on once you lift it, it's ready and I mean fast. I can have any of these idle and lift / shoot in that amount of time.


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I am glad you brought up the fact that you use Sigma and Tamrons. They are looked down upon by the L-series and brand snobs. My first investment after buying the 300D was the Tamron 75-300 and the 28-85 set. I originally used the telephoto for photographing the moon but I soon made my way to the track. For the price I paid, it performed very well. I am looking into buying a 70-200 2.8 L. It seems like its got a solid combination of range and speed. Do you use a tripod for it, btw? Or is it light enough for a day of hand-held shooting?
There are two vesions of the 2.8, one is USM and the other isn't, both in the early versions are relatively cheap now but solid as a rock. The newest version is simply amazing but again cost would be a factor, pricey yet you won't find a better lens in this range. It's fairly heavy but comfortable, I have one hanging on my neck all day. I don't shoot with a mono or tripod though i would recommend it for slow panning from the stands which BTW, I have never heard a rule of no fancy camera's in the stands ( complete BS ) IMO, I don't know what is up with that but you paid to get in, it's a public area, and you have the right to contest that as a spectator. Again make sure you check your camera store for rentals, it's well worth it for the price if needed,going to a car show, get a 10-22 and see some awesome shots afterwards, rent a 70-200 and see how much weight you can take for a day, I don't mind it, but moving to the sigma 120-300 would be like having a barbell on your neck but one of the fastest peices of glass there is.


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The rules at Irwindale basically say "no fancy-looking cameras" in the bleachers. but they are ok away from the bleachers area and behind the fence. Rumor has it one photographer has got some kind of a deal with the track so he's the only one with the pass to get up close. I also tend to go to Auto Club Speedway They aren't uptight about photography and are willing to give a pass to get closer to the staging area.
Then go there, the racing is probably just as good and if invited, be polite, stay out of the way of ticking off the track owners or staging crews and you will be welcomed back



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The XTi is quite limited in terms of focusing and definitely suffers from noise issues. Nut it is a workhorse. I never thought about using a flash. Im not even sure if its allowed, to be honest. You are definitely shooting at much higher shutter speeds and aperture than me. I am always shooting in manual, havent tried the AV or TV at the track yet. You do bring up a good point about owning crop-sensor lens and then buying a full-frame camera.
As with any camera, theres a time to flash, and a time not to. I have head all the stories of drivers not liking a flash going off, which is false unless it's a bracket style race, yes they will stop after they redlight and jump the wall to beat the daylights out of you, not so with the pro classes. The pro classes use a heads up tree either .400 or .500 so they have just about enough time to mash the pedal and when the staged light is on, they hit it. Unlike the braket racers, one may leave before the other so it comes down to who leaves last if you intend to flash, never flash the first to leave, you may cause the driver in the opposing lane to leave early and again have the living daylights beat out of you. Once it comes to night shots, mny photogs are now tring the "No Flash" high 1600 and more iso settings with upwards of 1.4 prime lenses. I personally like the look since most of our racing is Pro Mod, Outlaw 10.5 so when the nitrous comes on you catch the flame action real nice without blowing out the flames. The only other way of doing the same with a flash is using 2'nd curtain flash sync but that will soften the backs of the cars a bit.

The deadly flashing while a car is staging dilema: I have seen this too many times, when guys have a camera or not enough skill to be able to catch the launch and will flash a car as it is staging. IMO, if you don't have the equipment to shoot at night, leave the line and go to the pits for some slow shutter speed shots at night on a tripod. This is one of the worst penalties I can imagine for a driver ecspecially in eliminations, on a .400 tree, they see a flash and bang, they are gone and will surely have issues because of this. This is why a fast camera and 2.8 lens is needed.

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Never thought of that. But I am usually too faraway for any smoke to get in the way. Glad you pointed it out.
Don't kid yourself about being too far away, the smoke will hang in front of the car or underneath and move forward in alot of situations, even from far away, sometimes I'm at 1/8th mile and it is still in the image making it either washed out looking or will mess with how you metered again looking like noise.


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Luckily, I haven't run into any dedicated photographers (yet) to be of any nuisance to them. I did buy a gigantic Canon photo printer but I am also considering using an online gallery like Smugmug when I feel confident enough that my work is worth selling (or buying).
You will soon I'm sure, they are out there and again, it's their turf and you are the newbie. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I wouldn't be so hard on myself, if I like it, it's either going to be critique'd or passed over, take a look at HDR pools on flikr, some are incredible and some flat out stink, would someone buy either, it's up to the person who is looking. My opinion is just do it, and do more than just drag racing, add in some wildlife, dogs, sunsets or sunrises to complete the portfolio, Smugmug is excellent as a way to have a photographers website at a minimal cost without the hassles of you doing printing, I hate printing anything. I'm sure California has some beautiful scenery, beaches and so on, get up early and shoot some streams, beaches, sunsets and make them available. Smugmug also has the option of tagging the whole gallery for search engines to find you, a priceless bit of SEO for nothing other than using the pro online.


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I have been shooting in RAW so far, but that's going by the advice I read online. Thats a very good technique you bring up about practicing on the street. I definitely need to get my "sweet spot" down, along with panning.
Yes, the big RAW deal, I don't get it myself, huge files and so on. Lightroom does the same to a JPG without destroying it, Photoshop 3 and up has DNG or RAW capabilities too for processing, it's not like the old days when you took a .tiff image to the photolab at 44 megs, the image is just as good in a bitmap or even a PNG but you did start with a JPG which is something to consider. If I was to just shoot in RAW, it would be for HDR only, and bracket it on a tripod for about 6 shots stepping up or down .3 stops at a time then merging in an HDR program. There are also chioces for selling "stock" photos. very expensive but business's need some and will pay for a clean shot of say a business area, local tavern and so on. I found on my 30 and 20D that it loves 170mm at the track about 110 feet out, nice DOF and clear although many consider DOF to be against all logic since the human eye has infinate DOF compared to a lens, I like DOF so I stick with it, just like panning, try some motorcycles, a police parade, and so on, even dogs running which I think are awesome.


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You got me on the "Not Miss It" strategy; Im very guilty of that. but I guess for me its more because I like capturing wheelies . but I know what you mean about pictures with the pit crew setting up on the cars returning. I have photographed them but never gave them much thought until you pointed them out.
I like getting them too but won't burst unless I feel it's going bad or going on the bumper, I'm at a disadvantage when being on the track using a 70-200, once it's near you, you have to stop and catch it from behind since it's just too close at that time unless it's in the far lane. Any super stock race will give you the best wheelies you could ask for and nostalgia events. Don't give up on import events either, drifting, and so on is still pretty big, so are car shows. A good lens and some strange angles is what they like and will buy. Go to the pits, ask for a team photo of some bigger teams, well dressed, not a spot shot but prepared style, allow them time to get composed and make it look good.



Mark, all this information is extremely helpful and you have obviously put quite bit of work into it. I, or anyone else who reads, can never thank you enough. You should seriously consider doing a sticky post of this info so other members are more likely to find it and read it.

Again, thank you so much for sharing all this!

- Moe

Anytime Moe, I hope you got the PM's I sent and installed the programs. If you need tips, lemme know on setting it up or how to manage a workflow.
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