It was taken at Japfest 2013 on the fastest entry to a corner I have shoot in drifting. Cars come over Avon Rise at almost 100mph before initiating about 25 feet away from where I was stood.
That explains why there is so much motion blur in this image when the shutter speed isn’t particularly slow. 1/100th of a second wouldn’t normally get such a long, streaking background blur. The closer you are, or the faster the car is moving, or both, means you’re spinning on the spot pretty quickly as you pan. The shutter speed can be faster than usual but your keeper/fail rate will be pretty low until you get into the groove.
I’m shooting in manual mode here as the lighting wasn’t changing and I wanted to keep at 1/100th and have my aperture at f/13 so I had enough depth of field to get the car sharp and when panning you don’t need to worry about knocking the background out of focus as it’s blurred by the camera motion.
For this week’s photo you can probably tell I wasn’t actually behind the camera! I’ve positioned my GoPro Hero 3 against a tyre wall and retreated to a safe distance. If you look carefully, you’ll see me in front of the Race2Recovery truck on the right, leaning over the hedge. I’m using the GoPro app on my iPhone, right on the edge of wifi range, to trigger burst mode. That’s 10 shots per second for 3 seconds in this case.
After a few test runs to get used to the lag (being able to wirelessly review shots with the app really helps work this out) I was getting shots like the three below.
These got opened as layers and auto-aligned in Photoshop. The shots were taken a few minutes apart and so much debris was hitting the camera that it moved a little so the auto-align came in handy when masking.
As you can see, it’s quite a simple file. Just the main exposure with an (artificially) blurred wheel, the chase car and the flying rocks.
So here is the base exposure. Because it’s shot with a GoPro, with no manual controls, you pretty much get what you are given. The quality is decent enough and 12 mega pixels gives plenty of opportunity to crop in but the real reason for using it in this case was the ability to get it VERY close to the action.
With no control over shutter speed, the wheels on the Bowler Wildcat were frozen still. I selected the wheel, popped it onto its own layer and applied a radial blur, masking out everything but the bits I needed. There is also a little motion blur added to the other wheels using the Smudge tool – literally the only time I use it!
Finally, the flying rocks. These were kicked up behind a different truck as it was trying to get closer and closer to my camera each lap! Again, with the GoPro shooting at whatever shutter speed it needs to work with its fixed 2,8 lens, the rocks were frozen in mid-flight so to add some movement I applied a very slight zoom blur. I’ve then masked the layer to control where the rocks appear.
Which leads us on to the final image:
As usual, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.
Sometimes my job sucks! I have to walk around Castle Combe taking photos of some incredible rally cars, chat with the drivers and owners, and stand trackside and shoot them in action from any angle I like. Then, to just to make matters worse, I am cajoled into photographing Jen and Sam. It’s a terrible job, but someones got to do it!
If you have read anything else on my blog before, you’ve likely heard me talking about needing to be different to stand out and when shooting the same subject as virtually everyone else with a camera at Rallyday, that becomes even more important.
I came up with the idea for this shot whilst walking around the paddock. I noticed people passing a trade stand promoting super-bright LED arrays were being given a nice rim light… I later noticed the same lights on the MML EvoX… parked right next to the Pace Ward / Mitsubishi Lancer Register stand for which Sam and Jen were working. That’s too much serendipity to ignore.
So, with an idea in mind, I had a chat with the MML team and they were more than happy to fire up the lights on their car. While the girls sheltered from the drizzle, I took a few test shots and dialled my settings in.
I’m at f2.8 to blur the background as much as possible and minimize distractions. ISO 500 because that’s what I had been at for most of the day and a shutter speed of 1/1000th to keep the lights on the car under control.
I was using a wink of fill flash to make sure the image didn’t totally wash out because of the backlight and to put a catchlight in the girl’s eyes. Even though the flash was in high speed sync, the fairly high ISO meant it didn’t have to push out too much light and recycled almost instantly.
Here’s what I got in camera. It’s sound enough but not what I was in my head when I thought about using the car as a rim light. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a strong a light as I wanted from the car so the plan was always to round-trip it out of Lightroom in to Photoshop for a few tweaks. Obviously I have boosted the brightness of the lights (with nothing more than the brush tool and a low flow setting) applied some colour grading and a little dodging and burning but there are a couple of other edits in there. Let me know in the comments if you spot them.