The direction for this blog post, is as good as any. Very vague, covering many factors in hope to be the least biased, but give the most informative angle as possible. Sounds perfect right? Well, we’ll see.
Disclaimer: I’m no expert, but I know a thing or two, that could perhaps make your day easier, or more enjoyable or even more accomplishing! So why not continue reading.
Today, accompanied by my lovely family, I attended the ‘Summer Finals’ Drag Racing event @ Santapod Raceyway in Podington (UK). This must have been roughly my fifth or sixth visit to the venue, and it get’s better every time it seems.
Let’s talk Preparation
Below I have compiled a list of just a few things to be prepared for before you go;
-Rain covers (Sad to say, but at least today these saved our bacon with the impromptu weather conditions) One for the camera, one for your hair, and one for your butt, to save you from having to sit on the cold wet grass!
-Money (Lots of it. The food is dear here)
-Shoes (It’s always advisable to wear shoes, but in this case, make sure they have good grip!)
-Pack light (This is essential IMO, and directly impacts how much fun you have whilst shooting).
-Be prepared to wait. Your subjects vary hugely in size, shape, characteristic, speed and overall dynamic. This can mean waiting for new setups, for the rain to stop, then for the team to manually DRY the track, false starts, breakages, debris, or all of the above. We are talking serious torque, something is bound to snap, or blow out at some point in the day.
-Almost contradictory to the above, but be quick. Once the ball is rolling, it’s continues to do so, and doesn’t wait for you. Don’t get left behind in the dust (rubber & nitrous).
Whether you are lucky enough to be shooting for an organisation and have a press pass, or just the average Joe, out on the weekend with the kids, pay attention to your surroundings, and do your best to stay out of other peoples way.
Anticipation is one of, if not THE most useful skills you can learn for shooting motorsport events, especially the 300MPH kind. At these speeds, you have to have already started focussing, panning, be keeping balance, AND keeping the subject in frame before the lights are “GO!”. You have a split second to do this before the vehicle hits the horizon and it start all over again. Practise is key!
Go with friends, meet new people
A fantastic way to network in this business is actually out in the field. Rarely will you ever get commissioned work through online social media. In most cases, the best way to get “somewhere” is by meeting others whilst you’re out doing what you do. Build a rapport, and go from there. Today, Michael Fincham and I met up with a newly acquired friend and fellow Photographer (John Kennedy) (through Twitter), which although was brief, was a great way to engage in conversation and learn new ways, positions to shoot from, angles, weather updates, and any other things that relate to the sport you are shooting.
Don’t expect a press pass, unless you’re actually with the press
At least in my (limited) experience in trying to gain access to a press pass, most event organisers don’t even want to entertain freelancers onto their pit wall, or their limited access press area of the track. Don’t let this put you off though, there are some out there, and you just have to make sure you give PLENTY of notice when inquiring, and are in the right place at the right time.
Have your wits about you
Motorsport events are usually busy. The higher the number of guests, the higher the number of potential thieves with eyes on your kit bag. Keep your bag(s) with (and on) you at all times (which leads onto my next point…).
Having briefly touched on this already, let me elaborate on what I take to the races. Depending on the event of course, I will usually take a small inconspicuous shoulder bag, this will carry my iPhone charger, my 2-3 rain covers, a wide angle zoom, batteries, cards, wallet, cloths and that’s it. I don’t carry my main camera and lens in a bag for these short-stay (single day) events. That comes with me, simply slung over my shoulder as I walk. Having your camera out, and on a monopod, will raise eyebrows with a massive white lens (if you shoot Canon/Sony), but will also give you a sense of precedence in certain situations. Countless times I can grab a shot, then pull away from the viewfinder to see a heap of people stopped to the side of me out of courtesy, so they didn’t get in my way. Thanks people!
Hopefully this goes without saying, but move the hell around! DO NOT stay in one spot, unless you are limited to do so, and in which case I would suggest experimenting with varying focal lengths. But by all means, walk around the track, don’t look at what you’re meant to be shooting all the time when scouting a spot, be IN the subject area, and look outwards for inspiration. Take a whole new perspective. Be different. You will go far.
That’s it for now! Basic stuff.
Happy shooting, and I hope that helped 🙂