005 - Automotive
One of my other loves alongside photography and animals is the automotive world, cars and motorsport, in fact anything with wheels. I was one of those kids who could remember the BHP, 0-60 and top speed of the cars. Head stuck in the yearly “New cars” magazines a few of the newspapers would bring out. I was always looking at the supercars I’d never be able to afford (still do) The Ferrari 288 GTO… what a car, the Ferrari Daytona (like the one used in Miami Vice but a real one not a kit car) And of course the other “F” marque that has been part of my life since I could drive, Ford… My first car was one I bought from my brother, a fantastic Mk2 Escort 1.6 Ghia.. tweaked engine, performance exhaust, uprated suspension. Yep that was the car of the time for us. RWD, so much fun in the wet and on the roundabouts. Sadly that one didn’t last too long, an unfortunate incident with a JCB put and end to it. But Ford was in my blood, and it has stayed there to this day. I have been a fan of the sportier Fords over the years, XR's and now an ST.. One thing I've always liked is the older cars. I prefer mine to have less features to assist driving, in fact the current car was bought in the year it is because it didn't have the traction control, I mean who wants that!
This love of cars had the natural lead into motorsport, F1, Rally, Rallycross, BTCC.. if it involved noise and going fast I was into it. F1 always had the wow factor for the speeds and of course the names, Ayrton Senna will always be the best there was as far as I am concerned. But rallying was where I could see the drivers were on another level, all surfaces, conditions and times of the day. (I do miss the night stages)
With my previous experience of cameras it just seemed natural that it was motorsport that drew me back into the photography world (two interests collided). I wanted to get photos of these awesome cars. I wanted to capture to the speed they were doing. My first outings were with a bridge camera, the results were not what I was wanting. When you are taking photo of a fast moving car, you want motion in that picture, not a car that looks like its parked on the track. But it certainly made me want to dive deeper into the world of photography and digital cameras. I spoke to a few people over social media to get recommendations and at the time the make of choice was Canon, I have stuck with them since. Even without much experience with Nikon DSLR cameras I would not hesitate to recommend anyone looking at taking up photography to join the Canon world (no I am not being paid to say that, tho I wish I was!)
I remember being at Donington Park and standing next to a guy with a Canon 1DX, a huge canon L series zoom and thinking I’ll ask him for advice. I had to laugh when he said he didn’t have a clue really, he’d seen a few people using the setup so decided to get the same so he could capture the same photos… even then I knew its not all about the camera.
Over the years I’ve been to all different types of racing with my cameras. From drag racing at Santa Pod (I’ll need to drag those photos from one of the DVD’s I’ve got) to the Winter Stages rallying at Brands Hatch. Over the last few years my real loves in the world of motorsport have been the WEC and the World Rallycross. In the rallycross I was lucky enough to meet one of the legends of motorsport and someone I have been as fan of since he came onto the scene.. Petter Solberg. (Tho the first time I met him was in the hotel he owns beside his house on my first trip to visit my friends at IceDriver. Quite surreal to be sitting having your lunch and one of your motorsport hero’s casually walks in and says “hi”)
Its good to look back over my photos from the early days to remind myself how far I have come since then with my photography. From the hit and hope in the early days and spending ages in a location because I was getting good photos, to now exploring the tracks to take photos at different locations and looking for where the light is falling on the track to take photos. When I’m at Silverstone I always head over to the Village Complex when the day is drawing towards the end as the light that falls there is fantastic. The photos below are at Village with the late afternoon sun.
I also look for the little things, at Lydden Hill a few years back Pat Doran was driving his awesome RS200 (another Ford) and every time he was downshifting into the Devils Elbow there was a lovely fire breathing moment from his exhaust. Other things I look for are where cars are getting a drift on through a corner, or cocking a wheel as they brake. When you see these happening watch a few cars and see if they are all doing it. Another one of these was at the first visit of the World Rallycross to Silverstone. The RX2 cars were all nosediving over the jump, one after the other nose first. There were a lot of repairs needed after the first heats.
One of the trickiest skills (in my opinion) to learn is the panning shots to capture the speed. Slow shutter and then following the car as it passes you (at high speed) so that the car is in focus and there is a lovely motion blur to the background. This really is the essence of motorsport photography and for me it really makes the cars "pop" against the background. In my early days I would miss more than I caught, and there would be the half cars in the photos. Even now, I have "warm up" shots at the tracks to get that smooth motion you need to the crisp photos. Over time you can get slower and slower with the shutter speed to introduce more motion blur on the background. As you can see in the photos below, the blur you can create even on the corners really gives you the sense of speed.
Being a fan of motorsport as well, means I have missed some potential cracking shots because I was watching the race thru my eyes only and not the viewfinder. But I do think that this is something everyone at the track should do. When you get to a new section of the track, even if you have been there before, watch for a few laps to see where the cars are one the track and how they are moving. That will give you a better chance of being able to follow and predict the cars position once you have the camera against your eye and your view is restricted. Also walk the track before the racing. You might have been there many times before, but nothing worse than getting to a spot you want to take photos at and have used before, only to find that they have changed the area and you can’t get to your usual place. I have had this a couple of times at Silverstone. On one occasion they had put huge advertising hoardings on the fences at one of my favourite areas, this was remedied the next day after the organisers had several complaints. Another time and more permanent was one of my locations has now had fences put in keeping you away. Such a shame. Now you can shoot through the fences, you need to use an aperture of f2.8 and close and focus on the spot that you want the car to be in, this is where back button focus is your best friend. I actually use back button focus all the time. If you don't know what this is, here's a brief description.
When you are taking a photo with autofocus, a half press on the shutter sets the focus then the full press will take the photo. Now this is ok but to keep the focus you need to hold the button at the half way position and if you've pre focussed on a certain piece of track this can be awkward. So by setting back button focus, some cameras have a dedicated button, others you need to change the actions of a different button, you can set the focus and then let go of the button while waiting with your finger poised on the shutter button. It is also (in my opinion) much easier to use when you are tracking with a car and using the servo focus. I feel there is much more control by separating these functions..
The photos below were taken through a fence at Silverstone
Over the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to be at events where I know the drivers, namely Andy McKenna in the Brticar and now his son Scott McKenna racing in the Ginetta GT5's (from the IceDriver family you'll remember from another blog ). And with more events to come in 2020 I am looking forward to taking more photos of Scott’s motorsport career, and with his younger brother waiting in the "paddock" to join the on track action there will be more photos to take of this fast family. There is something special about being able to capture photos like these for people you know. (Back to my tagline “Creating Memories”)
But there is more to my automotive photography than just the motorsport side, I love getting close the cars (both racing and display) to look at the details that the designers spent all those hours working on, the curves, the flicks, the bulges, the wheels and even the lights. So as well as capturing the car in the whole. I like to look at the details and isolate that part of the car, showing the way the light and shadows fall on the cars. I do get some looks as I kneel down and sometimes lay down to get the angle I want for the photo.
While a painting and photography is considered and “artform” I think that car design is the same, and I like to appreciate the work that these guys and girls do to bring the cars from the board (computer screen) to the road and tracks. The more you look at and study cars, you get a better feel how the light will fall on them. I am always looking at the photos in car magazines and on the internet to look at the details and the light/shadows and the curves... In my mind I am thinking how I would like to take that photo.
I am also a fan of the light painting of cars, this is such a cool style where you as a photographer decide where the light is going to fall on the car. This is much like portrait photography, where you create the light to accentuate the models features, you create the light to accentuate the cars. This can be done in a variety of way, speed lights, LED lights, torches or a combination of them. Using this method, you can create totally different looks to the same car in the same location just by adjusting the way the light falls on the car. This photography can be done in any location, only limited by imagination. After the photos are done and there can be anything from 5 to 50 taken with the lights working on different area of the car and location, its into photoshop to layer and edit them, adding in only the bits of light that you want on the final image. So you created the lighting first and the create the final image. With my creativity both of these tasks are fun, "seeing the light" in the first part and then watching the final image appear piece by piece.
If you’ve got a car (super or not) and want some photos taken of it, then you just have to hit me up on the contact me. I am more than happy to discuss with you the sort of image you are looking for and then creating a package to suit your budget. Or if you are (or know) a motorsport fan have a look at my galleries in the automotive section and you might find an image that you want to put on your wall.