I talk a lot about technique here on the blog. It’s only a very small part of photography as a whole but it’s not until actually using the camera becomes second nature that you can start really thinking about all the other stuff.
Seeing a different angle or composition, for example, is far harder to do when you’re still trying to figure out what your shutter speed needs to be.
This weeks’ photo was taken when I was standing on Brooklands corner at Silverstone. I just happened to look behind me to see a car rounding Woodcote, just visible above the barriers. I found something to stand on to get myself a little higher and saw there was a shot to be had.
The settings are pretty standard for this type of shot (1/160th at f/8 in Shutter Priority mode) but I had them already dialed in so I didn’t have to think about them. All I had to do was pre-focus on where I knew the cars would be and flick my 70-200mm into manual focus. Because of the number of barriers, signs and fence posts along my panning path, my auto focus would have had very little time to lock on to the car one it came out into the open.
The real takeaway here is that because I wasn’t chimping the back of my camera, or fiddling with dials and buttons, I was free to look around me and spot this different image opportunity. So spend some quality time with your camera – get to know it even better.
Today’s post is Photo of the Week mixed with some of my favourite images from last weekends Gymkhana Grid at Silverstone.
I’ll start off with this shot of Baggsy putting on a smoke show for the crowds on Sunday. I was able to get this angle because I was sat in Brett Castle’s Team Japspeed Lexus drift car but it’s about the only shot I was able to get whilst being thrown around the arena! After seeing and hearing the amount of gravel and chunks of rubber being thrown off Baggsy’s rear wheels, it’s no wonder you see so many drift cars with cracked windscreens.
It’s not all tyre smoke and noise at Monster Energy events. The Monster Energy Girls are always on hand for a touch of glamour. This image was shot into the sun, with a boat load of positive exposure compensation to stop the girls being silhouetted against the bright sky. A lot of photos were taken of these four and I wanted something that wasn’t just another shot lit with on-camera fill flash.
This is my friend Jake on one of his practice runs. Normally when shooting motorsport I’ll be in Shutter Priority mode to capture some motion, but I’d noticed the smoke cascading off the front wheels of the Fast Japs AWD Subaru van and quickly switched to Aperture Priority to freeze the motion.
Luke Fink came over from Australia to drive for Low Brain Drifters and win the event by a mile. It’s just a pity a photograph can’t capture the earth-shaking noise this NASCAR-engined beast made! I was back in Shutter Priority for this one.
Luke was quite pleased with his Baggsy-shaped trophy too! Lots of exposure compensation dialed in again for this one as I was shooting into the sun. I really like the moment here, great expressions, the trophy in clear view and Buttsy Butler lurking mischievously in the background ready to shake up a can of Monster!
This is the ever shy and retiring Steve “Baggsy” Biagioni show boating while his ex-Japspeed teammate Paul “Smokey” Smith donuts around him. Shutter Priority again at a fairly slow shutter speed, braced against the arena concrete barrier to catch the movement of Paul’s car but still keep everything else sharp.
I think the expression on the face of Buttsy’s passenger makes this one. Slightly worried that his driver is half out of the car, driving around the arena waving at the crowd!
It’s as if the trophies for Gymkhana Grid were designed to be impossible to photograph. They are so highly polished that whatever is behind you is reflected, be it crowd barriers or a swathe of photographers in hi-vis vests. I’d had this idea in mind for most of the day and when I noticed the 1st place trophy at just the right angle on Luke’s wining car I made my move. After a bit (ok, quite a lot!) of explaining, the Monster Energy Girls were happy to line up and smile at my reflection in a shiny piece of metal!
And finally, a photo that had very little to do with me. This is Baggsy again, shot by my GoPro attached to the back of Buttsy Buttler‘s car. I put my Hero3 into time lapse mode and set it to take a shot every half second. Dotted between the 4000 images of smoke, wall and the crowd were a few gems.
Time for another Photo of the Week. This time an Aston Martin taken during the public grid walk before the Britcar 24 hour endurance race at Silverstone. I’ve published images with this ghostly crowd effect before but they are generally created from multiple exposures aligned in Photoshop and layered with stack modes.
It would have been much easier to use that technique on this day as the sun was bright and the car was wrapped in reflective silver vinyl but as I had my tripod and ND filters with me I decided to do it “properly”.
Even with my ND filter in place (I think it was a 6 stop filter) I had to drop my ISO to 50 and stop down to f/20 to get around a 3 second exposure. A nice side effect of being at such a small aperture is the starbursts on the cars highlights.
Ideally I’d have liked a little more blur in the people, but under the bright conditions, with the gear I had, 3.2 seconds was as slow as I could go.
What really lifts the image for me is the fellow photographer lunging in from camera right for a quick shot.
Last weekend saw Trax come to Silverstone and another chance to shoot in the famous Formula 1 pit lane. No planning, no preparation – just a beautiful car and an unlocked garage. Rather that just hitting you with the eye candy, I thought I’d de-construct a few of the shots and tell you what I did to get them.
As always, start simple. At 1/160th (a safe sync speed on the 5DMkII using Elinchrom Skyports) at f/6.3 all ambient light was killed allowing me to add my own light. When shooting a car, you can get away with hard light, so this was lit with bare Quadra’s either side.
With the doors opened, and the car turned around, I exposed for the scene outside (1/160th @ f/8) to give the picture some context, then started adding flash to bring it up to the same level.
I quickly realised this wasn’t going to be very exciting though, so I killed the flash, opened up to f/2.8 and kept slowing the shutter until the car was properly exposed and the bright pit lane blew out. A bit of desaturation and floor clean up in Photoshop yielded this:
Time to move outside and shoot down the pit lane using the sun as a back light. To control to sun, and be able to keep it in the frame I had to stop down to f/16 at 1/160th which meant I had to crank my lights to full power (400WS) and bring them in fairly close.
If I’d had my 18cm reflectors I would have had a bit more leeway and would have been able to shoot wider. You can see here how close I needed the lights.
Then at the suggestion of Chris the owner, we tried a wide, side view as if the car had just driven in for a pit stop. I knew it was doing to be hard to light, but what the heck! Once again I set my exposure for the ambient light and under exposed by about 1 stop to keep some saturation and detail in the blue sky (1/160th at f/9 this time as the suns not in the frame). Here’s the shot unlit.
And with the same settings but with the flashes firing at full power again. I had to have the lights in a little closer than I wanted meaning I couldn’t quite get the end walls of the garage in shot. I’m rearranging my camera bags this weekend to make sure I always have the 18cm reflectors and some grids with me!
Everything in photography is a compromise and working within the limitations imposed by location, subject or gear is all part of the challenge. I’m still happy with the final shot:
And finally, a quick illustration of how a little wink of flash can make all the difference. Its not until you see the lit version that you realise just how much detail was missing from the unlit one.
When you are at the World famous Silverstone circuit and you’ve got access to the pit lane, it’s just plain rude not to use it as a location. Especially when you’ve got the lovely Sarah and her equally lovely VW Polo as your subject.
The plan here was twofold – firstly I wanted to get some good shots in the can for Sarah and secondly I wanted to find out just how well my new lighting rig coped in a typical car show situation. Fortunately, it passed with flying colours.
To work in this situation, a lighting rig, for me at least, needs to be;
Light enough to carry: No matter how close you can park, it’s always a distance to anywhere you would want to shoot. I’ve got both heads, both packs and all cabling in a Crumpler Company Gigolo 9500 bag. With my light stands, a few modifiers, and some grip equipment in a fishing rod bag, I am able to move the whole lot short distances on my own. Although this time I had help from Chris Wynne and Darren Skidmore.
Quick to set up: You’ve got to move quickly at a car show as you’ve likely borrowed the girls from a trade stand or a car from a Show n Shine area so time is limited. Another box ticked by the Quadras. The heads are small enough for a Manfrotto Nano 001B stand to support with the pack hanging to add stability and the Elinchrom Deep Octa goes up swiftly. Cheaper eBay softboxes take a while to assemble though.
Power: I don’t always get to choose when a shoot is going to happen and areas in shade aren’t always the best looking locations, so I need some punch to overpower and control the ambient light. For this shoot the solution was to use 3 hot shoe flashes for example. At 400w/s the Quadra packs aren’t the most powerful, but still had plenty to tame the light spilling into the pit lane in this case. Although I’ve yet to try, I am certain 2 bare heads could handle full sun.
Enough talk, onto some images! Firstly to underexpose the pit lane enough to be able to add my own light I had to shoot at around f/18 at my max sync speed. I should probably take this opportunity to mention the Elinchrom Skyport Speed controller syncs withe the receivers in the Quadra packs at my max sync speed of 1/200th without trouble.
All I had to do now was bring in the lights. A simple, bare head setup for just the car and the Deep Octa softbox (in beauty dish mode) added to the camera right flash for the shots with Sarah.
And onto the results. Let me know what you think in the comments.