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07-14-2015, 08:55 AM   #1
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Grassroots Auto Racing - Manual focus tips

Hey everyone! I'll be going to a grassroots auto racing event this weekend, so of course I'll be bringing my camera. I've got a few AF lenses for in the pits and what not, but my only long lens is MF. Does anyone have any tips or tricks, besides catch-in-focus, for using MF in such a fast paced environment? I know back in the day, that's all photogs had, so it for sure can be done.

My kit consists of a K-50, Sigma 10-20, FA28-70, DA35, A50 f/2, and A70-210.

The event is at Gingerman Raceway. I've attached a screen shot of the layout. I'm not sure where I'll be standing though, so it might be possible to use my FA28-70.

Thanks in advance!

Attached Images
 
07-14-2015, 10:41 AM   #2
osv
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the default scenario for roundy-round racing is to pan the shot, i would try f/5.6 at maybe 1/800th, but most people want more background blur, so experiment with f/5.6 at 1/500th, or slower... it'll really depend on how fast the vehicle is going.

when you go slower than, say, 1/250th, it can become difficult to get the entire car in focus, so watch out for that.

if the car is coming towards you, which means that it's not a pan shot, you'll want to revert to freezing the action, which could be 1/1200th or quicker.

i would use manual zone focusing whenever possible, but that takes practice, and you need to be able to prefocus perfectly.
07-14-2015, 11:01 AM   #3
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Hi Joey, saw your intro post. I`m not far away either and my photographic interest goes back 40+ years. Raised in Windsor and now live about 1/2 hour out in the county. Windsor has auto events often and it`s safer to walk around anywhere here to enjoy your visit. Yes, the best Detroit skyline photos are taken from Windsor`s very accessible and long riverfront path.
For your manual focus lenses I can bring up several important points to consider. As a start, find the highest ISO that will suit your needs and preferences as that will allow the highest shutter speeds. Best results in sports action are easiest to obtain when movement is at lulls and its slowest so look for spots where cars tend to slow down. Note also that action is most difficult to shoot if at full speed across your frame, somewhat easier at angles, and the best when shooting head on to movement. So looking far down the track as cars approach will give you the best chance to freeze them. Some techniques that enhance best focus and sharpness include prefocus at points of known action like the corners of a track. Good drivers usually take a fairly predictable path out of the corners before they accelerate on the straight again. There, you focus on the spot they will be in before they arrive and provide your manual version of digital photography`s "Catch in Focus" technique. Most sports photographers become familiar with panning while shooting action so that the subject stays sharp, or nearly so, in one spot in the frame while the background becomes blurred with the camera motion during a slower shutter speed. Turn off shake reduction and practise for best results.
Some also like to experiment with zooming while shooting slower and maybe while panning too for surreal effects.
Enjoy and find your own unique views and perspectives if you can rather than the typical shots most take.
07-14-2015, 04:01 PM   #4
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It sounds like the best way is to do the prefocus method. So I'll definitely give that one a try. As for the high ISO with the fast shutter speed, that's more for completely freezing the action. I'd like to have the background motion blur, so that ones out unless the cars are coming towards or going away. I also like that idea of zooming while panning, I'll have to try that. It sounds like that might look pretty cool.

All good points though. Keep them coming.

07-15-2015, 11:54 AM   #5
osv
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this is what ~1/1200th looks like, at a perfect side panning angle, at 40+ mph.

manual focus of course, but it was difficult.

it's a perfect shutter speed, because the paddles on the tires are moving, but still visible.

there is background blur, but in your case it won't be enough blur, because roundy-round tracks usually have ugly walls, pavement, and dirt or grass for backgrounds.

i would chimp the shots hard, especially early in the day, until you can get a handle on what settings to use... shutter and aperture should be done in 100% manual mode.

07-15-2015, 12:59 PM   #6
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That's an awesome picture! I'll have to try the shutter speed that high. I won't be going to a circle track, it's ~2 mile 10+ turn road course. And I have no idea where I'll be standing.

I typically use Manual mode, unless I'm doing car to car rollers, in which I use Tv. But I'll probably shoot in TAv mode unless the ISO stays in the same range, in which case I'll switch back to manual.
07-15-2015, 06:08 PM   #7
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if you are backlit you could maybe float the iso, let the camera decide, if it has that capability, but i would keep the shutter and aperture in manual mode... f/5.6 is on the cusp of aps-c diffraction, you could probably get away with f/8, this isn't landscape shooting.

turns will probably be where the action is, but some clean straightaway shots like that buggy shot would be cool.
07-15-2015, 06:54 PM   #8
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Shoot in shutter priority.

You will get a pretty good success rate at 1/250, but won't have very good motion blur. Anything 1/500 or faster will basically freeze the motion and make for a boring shot

I try to shoot as slow as I can, and always pre focus.


Take some time to actually watch your subjects before you try to take pics. They will do lots of laps so you don't need to get all your shooting done in the first pass. Racers obsess over consistency, so expect them to hit the same mark on the track every time. This is why observing before hand is important. See where they will be. Then it's easy to pre focus.

Pick your shot before the car shows up. Grab the car in your view finder early and focus on keeping a spot on the car in the center of your view finder. Assume a wide stable stance and lock your elbows into your trunk. Rotate only your shoulders. You want you use your core to rotate and not your arms or neck, this will help with vertical shake and also make it easier to match your pan speed to the vehicle speed.

Once the car is where you want it to be. Fire a 4 or 5 frame burst. I try to start the burst just a bit early so any bad input by me isnt as big a deal.


Play around with shutter speeds and angles, its a ton of fun.

But don't expect it to be easy. Panning is really tough


Here's one of mine. 1/60s



07-15-2015, 06:55 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wibbly Quote
Shoot in shutter priority.

You will get a pretty good success rate at 1/250, but won't have very good motion blur. Anything 1/500 or faster will basically freeze the motion and make for a boring shot

I try to shoot as slow as I can, and always pre focus.


Take some time to actually watch your subjects before you try to take pics. They will do lots of laps so you don't need to get all your shooting done in the first pass. Racers obsess over consistency, so expect them to hit the same mark on the track every time. This is why observing before hand is important. See where they will be. Then it's easy to pre focus.

Pick your shot before the car shows up. Grab the car in your view finder early and focus on keeping a spot on the car in the center of your view finder. Assume a wide stable stance and lock your elbows into your trunk. Rotate only your shoulders. You want you use your core to rotate and not your arms or neck, this will help with vertical shake and also make it easier to match your pan speed to the vehicle speed.

Once the car is where you want it to be. Fire a 4 or 5 frame burst. I try to start the burst just a bit early so any bad input by me isnt as big a deal.


Play around with shutter speeds and angles, its a ton of fun.

But don't expect it to be easy. Panning is really tough


Here's one of mine. 1/60s
Nice! What's your success rate with panning shots? When I tried it myself I didn't have a single as sharp as yours
07-15-2015, 07:04 PM   #10
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If I'm shooting at 1/250, I'd say about 25-30% would be considered keepers. At 1/125 about half that. At 1/60 I kept about 5% of my shots. It's really difficult.

It's really important to get in a rhythm so you are able to consistently match your pan speed to the object speed.


It's also important to have the right length lens. If your lens is too short, you will have to move the camera very quickly, this makes it more difficult to time yourself with the object. If your lens is too long you can time the object better, but you are more likely to have vertical blur due to camera shake. I find that around 200mm on apsc is good for shooting bikes. I can pan smoothly and avoid shake.

Obviously ymmv when it comes to lens selection, I can only speak for the speeds I am dealing with at my local track
07-16-2015, 02:11 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by wibbly Quote
Shoot in shutter priority.

You will get a pretty good success rate at 1/250, but won't have very good motion blur. Anything 1/500 or faster will basically freeze the motion and make for a boring shot

I try to shoot as slow as I can, and always pre focus.


Take some time to actually watch your subjects before you try to take pics. They will do lots of laps so you don't need to get all your shooting done in the first pass. Racers obsess over consistency, so expect them to hit the same mark on the track every time. This is why observing before hand is important. See where they will be. Then it's easy to pre focus.

Pick your shot before the car shows up. Grab the car in your view finder early and focus on keeping a spot on the car in the center of your view finder. Assume a wide stable stance and lock your elbows into your trunk. Rotate only your shoulders. You want you use your core to rotate and not your arms or neck, this will help with vertical shake and also make it easier to match your pan speed to the vehicle speed.

Once the car is where you want it to be. Fire a 4 or 5 frame burst. I try to start the burst just a bit early so any bad input by me isnt as big a deal.


Play around with shutter speeds and angles, its a ton of fun.

But don't expect it to be easy. Panning is really tough


Here's one of mine. 1/60s
That`s a fantastic bike shot, thanks for sharing.
07-16-2015, 09:32 AM   #12
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Some more good point Wibbly. I'll be sure to have this thread bookmarked on my phone for reference. I'll also update it after the weekend with some shots.

That bike shot is awesome! Just curious, what camera/lens combo was that taken with?
07-16-2015, 09:53 AM   #13
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I shoot with a k3 and da* 50-135 with the hd1.4 tc usually. Sometimes I'll use a da*300


I got very similar results with my previous k20 and 50-135, but had less keepers due to the slow burst mode.

I was at a different track with the k20 and I could get much closer to the action. So I didn't need as much reach.
07-16-2015, 10:12 AM   #14
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That is one of my dream lenses How do you like it with the tc?
07-16-2015, 10:19 AM   #15
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It works really well actually. For this type of shot though, bokeh, absolute sharpness and rendering matter a lot less I think, the oof elements are all motion blurred to heck and the in focus stuff looks really sharp by comparison. If I had a 55-300 I'd probably use that for this type of stuff
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