The following is special guest editorial by Jamey Price, a professional motorsports photo journalist and avid Formula 1 fan. Jamey has photographed NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCar, and other sports car series; for more of his stunning images, visit www.JameyPricePhoto.com.
// No More Limits
COTA's initial announcement of the limitations on camera lens length sent the whole world up-in-arms. Anyone who has been to any car race knows that everyone and their mother is carrying a camera, some of them far larger and more impressive than the equipment carried by the professional photographers there doing their job.
Thankfully, COTA retracted these limitations and declared lenses of any length acceptable for the November USGP. Even though these limits are removed, there's little guarantee you're going to get great results from your camera. So before you carry in that giant 20 inch lens you've just bought to photograph rare and elusive wildlife, we should talk tactics to help you get the best images you can. Chances are the 70-300mm f4-5.6 or the 70-200mm f2.8 tele-zoom you already own is more than sufficient so let's explore how to use what you have to it's absolute maximum potential.
// How It's Done
I am now a professional motorsport photographer who is fortunate enough to travel the world covering some of the world's most famous and fun car races and be paid for it. But I didn't just arrive here by chance. Though as a working photo journalist, you have to subdue your "love" and "passion" for the sport a bit and be more subjective and unbiased……….I am still a die hard F1 fan too. So during a time that I lived in England in late 2010, I hopped on a plane and headed for Monza where I was to attend the Italian Grand Prix as a spectator with a three day general admission pass. But here's the catch…..I was working. I covered the ENTIRE weekend like I was being paid to do so. Of course I enjoyed myself. It was the best weekend of my life, but everything I did, I did to shoot better photos, try different angles and TELL A STORY. I was not there with credentials. I was there just like everyone else. Just a backpack and a ticket in hand.
When you go to the races, you'll often see professional photographers working along the catch fence and sometimes you dream of having the exclusive access they do. But here's a hint from someone who's' down there in the photo holes. It's not all it's cracked up to be. If you have 100 photographers working a weekend, 80 of them will go home with more or less the same images. 10 more will have slightly different than that, and that leaves 10 guys with something different than the rest. And where do you think those 10 guys get half their images? Spectator areas.
They might be standing right next to you. They might be in the grandstand behind you. The might be on the general admission hill across from you. They are professionals because they are paid to see something different. It takes years of practice. It takes an eye for the sport. It takes experience to know what will work and what won't, and of course a little luck.
But I say this to say, use your eyes. Look around you for something different. While you're day dreaming of being on the catch fence next to the 80 other guys, the best shooters are looking for something that makes them stand out from the crowd. My general rule of thumb is that if you see a pack of photographers, go somewhere else. What is the point of getting the same photo everyone else has?
// The Story
So what can you do with the equipment you already have? Well, the best thing you'll be able to do is tell a story. F1 is back in America!!!! The atmosphere should be incredible! Flags waving, bodies painted, it will be amazing. Tell that story! F1 isn't ALL about the cars. The fans make the story. But when it comes down to the cars, my recommendation is learn to pan. Panning a car isn't hard, it just takes practice. So what is panning? It's best achieved on a DSLR camera and done by using a slow shutter speed to make the background and foreground go all blurry, but the subject (the car) stays more or less in focus. It gives a tremendous sense of action and speed. And isn't that what racing is all about?
Now, like I said before, practice practice, practice. Don't expect to nail anything close to sharp if you are trying panning for your first time on an F1 car. Go outside and try it on passing cars. Same principle applies. They're just moving MUCH slower. And don't just assume that zooming in as far as you can on the car is best. Try going as wide as you can too. The amount of atmosphere you can capture in a photo is sometimes more fun than trying to catch a fast moving car in a tight frame. Pan through people, pan through flags. Pan through grandstands. Pan through whatever you can find. Just use your eyes!
So while you PROBABLY won't get that incredible image of Lewis Hamilton, tight on his helmet from ground level with his eyes tack sharp looking right at you, you can certainly find something interesting to photograph. Even with just some basic equipment, you'll have more than enough to make some great photos and enjoy the weekend.
For more about taking the best GP photos you can, see Jamey's Q&A with F1Fanatic here: "How to take great F1 photos: Jamey Price answers your questions," via F1Fanatic.co.uk.
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