Shooting the Honda Grand Prix
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Indy Car race got rained out on Sunday (the shot above is from the 10 minutes I got to shoot the Indy Lights race in the rain on Sunday). There was just too much water on the track, and so after spending all of Sunday waiting in the Media Center for the rain to break, they rescheduled the main Indy race to run at 10:00 am on Monday (yesterday). NOTE: Click on the images for a larger view.
I was there shooting the race on assignment for Southcreek Global Media, so even though the race got rescheduled, I really needed to be there, though a lot of photographers (and unfortunately fans) weren’t able to be there on Monday. The upside was—there was a lot of room to shoot, so there was no jockeying for position—you could pretty much shoot where you wanted to. The downside was—the stands weren’t packed, so I just pretty much avoided having them visible in the background.
Here are some of the shots from the day (the thumbs up in the shot above is because he just took second place).
TECH SPECS: I shot with just one camera all day; a Nikon D3, with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, with a 1.4 tele-extender to get me a little closer to the action. I had my 200-400mm in the car, but since I had to cover so much track, I decided to go with a lightweight set-up instead. I took my Boda Lens bag, and in it I had two other lenses; my 14-24mm f/2.8 and a Fisheye, and I switched lenses at almost every turn (they cut some rectangular holes in the chain link fence so the photographers have a clear unobstructed view to the track, so once I shot with the long lens, I switched and shot with the other two for a lap or two each).
I used two different sets of settings. I was really trying to make sure that most of the shots had some movement in the tires and wheels (as seen above), so the cars look like they’re moving and don’t look like they’re just parked on the track, so most of the time I shot in Shutter Priority mode at 1/125 of a second or 1/60 of a second, and I panned with the cars as they went by.
When you do this technique, you wind up with a lot of blurry photos as you’re panning (because of the slow shutter speed), but then all of sudden you have one that’s really sharp, but with a blurry background and wheels spinning and that’s the goal (so you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince).
If the cars were coming directly at me (like the one you see here), I switched to Aperture Priority mode, and shot wide open at f/4 (you lose a stop because of the 1/4 tele-extender, so your f/2.8 becomes an f/4 lens). If the car turns a little, you see the wheels are frozen (because now you’re shooting at a shutter speed of more than 1/2,500 of a second in daylight which freezes the motion), but if you look at a lot of pro IndyCar shots, you’ll see a lot of frozen wheels, so I didn’t lose much sleep over it. For post production, mostly just selectively adding contrast and sharpening, but two images got slight vignettes added.
The race was just over 2 hours, and I covered the course from one end to the other, and then I went directly to the trophy presentation, and then uploaded 21 images to Southcreek Global, after adding the appropriate metadata and naming conventions.
The weather turned out to be great, with blue skies above, and the temperature was a perfect 68 degrees with a slight breeze. It was a prefect day for a re-race. :)