Shooting Motocross at a Dirt Track
I’ve been shooting quite a bit lately for the book I’m just finishing up and I thought I’d share a few shots from a shoot I did on Monday, set up for me by my friend and neighbor, photographer Kathy Porupski at a motocross track in Dade City Florida.
(Above: Here’s a behind-the-scenes shot. You can’t tell from this shot, but my photo assistant Brad Moore is way up on a hill that the riders jump over. That’s my friend and fellow photographer Kathy Porupski holding the power back behind Brad, and I’m below them a bit farther down the hill).
We used natural light for a lot of the action shots, but we also used an Elinchrom Quadra battery back and strobe head with a 27″ soft box (or just a reflector and grid) for some of the shots, and all of the portraits. I love the Quadra kit because I can control the power wirelessly from my camera position. Brad mounted the strobe on the end of a monopod, so we were able to move pretty quickly, which came in handy when we needed to climb up a hill with the gear.
(Above: I tired this after watching Dave Black’s class on Kelby Training, which was amazing! As for focusing: I left auto focus on in Continuous focus mode, and as the riders entered the turn I looked through the viewfinder to at least get a quick focus lock on them, and then I took the camera away from my eye so I could make sure I didn’t get hit by the bike, (and so I didn’t't hit the rider with my camera) and then fired one shot letting auto focus do its thing. It worked a lot of the time, but sometimes it missed focus, but more importantly I’m still alive to tell the tale. :)
I mostly used two lens: a 300mm f/2.8 or a 14-24mm f/2.8 (I think I used a 24-70mm once, too but not for long). No special camera settings. When I had the 300mm on the camera, I was in Aperture Priority mode at f/2.8 the whole time. When I was using the strobes for the portraits, I was in Manual mode, with a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second, and my f/stop at f/13.
(Above: It was a very cloudy day, and there was literally only one small patch of blue, but to actually shoot the riders against that blue patch of sky, they had to ride on the track in the opposite direction).
(Above: Here I’m shooting my 300mm f/2.8 as the riders go into the turn and then head right past me).
(Above: At one point while we were shooting the action shots, I look over at one part of the sky and it’s really dark and ominous and I tell Brad, “We need to shoot against that sky now, because it looks like it’s leaving fast,” (The rest of the sky was cloudy, but not stormy) so Brad grabbed the gear and headed to the top of a jump with Kathy in tow, and Larry the track owner helping us out along the way (luckily, he’s a photographer himself). I also underexposed all the skies by about 2-stops to make them look even darker and more dramatic).
Above: That’s me posing with our riders. I knew that they were done when all of sudden they started literally covering me in dirt after doing 20 or so passes without getting any on me whatsoever. We had been at out for more than two hours, so I kinda don’t blame ‘em. Right after this photo was taken, I reached over and tipped the red bike over so it have the domino effect and take down the other two guys. Serves ‘em right. (kidding, of course).
There’s a first time for everything…
And this was my first time shooting motocross, and I absolutely loved it. In fact, I’m planning my next trip back to the track already. Thanks to Kathy Porupski for setting this up, helping us out, and just being really awesome the whole day. Thanks to Brad for risking life and limb, and for being so willing to climb up lots of dirt hills.
And a special thank you to PhotoExtract.com who each day posts their picks for the Top photos of Google+ and they chose my opening shot for their Feb. 7th Top-12-Photo on G+ list (seen above). I was truly honored (and very excited to say the least!).