NASCAR – Wide Angle View

April 8th, 2010

Well, today is the start of the NASCAR season with the running of the Daytona 500.  After five years back in the DC area, I’ve been weaning myself off NASCAR.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like it, but there is so much else going on that I don’t catch as many of the races as in the past.

A few (way back then) years ago, I fell in love with NASCAR, as a photographer.  An assignment to go photograph Michael Waltrip sucked me in.  It was not the racing that did it (round and round and round), it was the COLOR!  As a photographer I’ve always been drawn to color, and NASCAR has it everywhere.  Color, graphics, people, personalities and besides the racing…. the wrecks.

My favorite track to photograph in: Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA. Twice a year I made my  “pilgrimage” to the half-mile oval.  It’s the shortest and the oldest in NASCAR Sprint Cup. Because of it’s length, its very accessible to walk and shoot.  You don’t have to run a 5k to get to the end of the pits and it was (new garages have been added) all in the open.

So from time to time I will be sharing some of my older NASCAR photos in my PhotoCamp blog as photography lessons. Sharing what went into the pictures, camera settings and their results.  This pit stop dates back to Jeff Gordon’s early years in NASCAR.

This pit stop dates back to Jeff Gordon’s early years in NASCAR. Pit stops are pretty stressful.  More that 12 – 14 seconds in and out, and your doing “bad.” Each team has their alloted “lot” and they set it up and protected as their turf.  So as a photographer you have to be cool and try to not get in anybody’s (Earnhardt’s pit story another day) way.  In this image I squeezed myself up the small area between Gordon’s pit and the one front of him.  After a wreck, you have one or two laps before everyone pits.  For this image I positioned myself with a 20 mm lens, f-stop set around f8 and the shutter up in the high range, and then waited for the moment to present itself.

I like to shoot in bursts, five or six frames at a time. Always, with my eyes in the viewfinder.  As the crew jumped out I began to shoot.  They always go and change the tires on the passenger side and then race back around to the drivers side.  So to me the moment that I was waiting to capture was them coming back around towards me.  I like to see faces and motion, and this time it came together.  As the started around, I put my finger down and probably shot 18 – 24 frames in this particular scene, while following the action.

With the 20 mm lens, the wide angle view allowed me to keep my camera framed to include all the action happening in front of me.   But also I was able to include the people on the right of the frame.  Wide angle lenses have a deep “depth of field”, you can keep all of the frame in focus.  So in this case the people on the right  are in focus add to the depth in the photo, while the fast shutter speed stops the action on the crews running and stops the hose flying through the air.

At a typical NASCAR (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) weekend, I will shoot close to 5,000 images.  Out of those I will probably choose 500 that I like, out of those 150 will be the ones people will see.  Moral of the story – if you want good images, take lots of pictures.

Jeff Gordon - Pit Stop, Martinsville, VA.

Jeff Gordon - Pit Stop, Martinsville, VA.

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