When you think photography and motorsport, you probably have the word ‘expensive’ come to mind. Followed by that you’ll have the word ‘big camera, and even bigger lens’. This weekend though we ventured to Queensland Raceway with some of the team from Motoring Photography.
Our experiment: Could you take an entry-level/semi-pro digital SLR camera and a $136 zoom lens and get photo’s you’d be proud to share?
Our gear: What we used was a Canon 60D digital SLR, which can be picked up locally for around $800 plus a Sigma 70-300mm f4-5.6 DG Macro lens which can be currently bought for $136 from Teds.com.au
The event: At Queensland Raceway there was The Australian Superbike Championships round which saw a great range of categories competing. It was our first ever two-wheel motorsport event, which meant a great place to test our setup.
Tip 1: Position, position, position.
To get great photo’s at the track, it is all about your position. There’s no point being up in the stands and trying to take photos if you want up-close and detailed. At the track, if you look hard enough, you will realise you won’t need a media pass at all to get a great vantage spot.
Each track and the type of motorsport you’re watching will vary, but try to find spots that will allow you to see the apex of a turn down low, or a spot which gives you an awesome side view of the straights.
Tip 2: Don’t use automatic mode.
If you venture out and use manual mode on your SLR you’ll find you can have a lot more control on the outcome of the shot you have. We found the best manual mode to be an exposure of 1/200-1/250, an F-stop of 10-14 and an ISO of 100. Finally on our Canon we have a mode called AI Servo. This allows the camera to track the moving object, so it is always in focus. Really handy for fast moving objects!
Now each camera is different, so it’s worthwhile looking up how to manually set the exposure, F-stop and ISO levels.
Tip 3: Take advantage of post-processing.
These days you don’t have to be a Photoshop genius to be able to edit your photos on the computer. Windows Photo Gallery or iPhoto will let you do most of your editing to fix colours, sharpness and straightening.
When editing our photos we found that the motorcycles themselves are nice and colourful, but the backgrounds including the grass can be quite boring and ugly. Post-processing allowed us to bring out the colours and enhance the overall effect. You’ll see below the dramatic difference it makes.
For our editing we used Adobe Lightroom which can be bought for around $150 by itself and it is highly recommended if you’re wanting to take your photography to the next level. It’s straight forward to use and very powerful.
Conclusion: You can take great photos.
So our equipment cost is just over $1000 and you could get that below $1000 quite easily by shopping around and for what we had, the results were a lot better than what we expected. Either side of us we had camera setups which would be a lot closer to the $5000-$7000 mark and arguably not getting anything better than we were for uploading to Facebook or printing out for at home.
The best thing about a SLR, particularly if you already own one, is the ability to experiment. We played around all day with different settings to see what the results were and some were better than others, but in the end found out what worked and what didn’t work so well.
A big thanks to the team from Motoring Photography, they’re not professional photographers but have enough experience to qualify as pros and have got some great shots up on their Facebook page.