View Full Version : Composition for Traditional (historic) Motosports?
03-19-2008, 05:47 AM
I have a very strong passion for motorsport and motorsport history, and in Australia we do have some good clubs with regular track days, race meets and social outings (although it nowhere near as big as the Euro, UK and US scene)
I'm also very intrigued with period motorsports photography. (see pic attached from Michael Hewett's book on Monaco Grand Prix)
I'd like to try and focus on doing some traditional (period) style photographs mainly for my own benefit, but also with the possibility of selling some prints to members of these Historic Car/Racing clubs.
I think historic road/race car owners would appreciate a traditional, period style photograph of them in their historic road/race car.
Nostalgia is a great thing! :)
I think I'll handle photographing the pit lane scene with the lenses etc I already have but I'm curious about what lense I should be using for the on track/road action.
Is there any length that would be good?
Zoom or Prime?
Obviously I wont be able to get as close to the action as what Michael has, I may be able to get quite close for some of the non-racing events though.
Also, what other compositional elements should I be thinking about.
I've just bought a bulk lot of Delta 400, so I would be looking at using this film, are there some good techniques for getting a more tradidional style photograph? (either in camera, or through develloping)
My current equipment is a 73' Pentax K2 35mm SLR with F2.4/35, F1.4/50 and F4.5/70-210.
The only filters I have are a #25 Red and a polerizing.
Any idea's comments most welcome!
David H. Bebbington
03-19-2008, 06:14 AM
Only you can decide what lenses to use, since only you know the track where you will be photographing. If it's a club race meeting, your chances of getting a track pass should be better, which on some tracks means you could get good close-ups of cars at race speed with a 100 mm lens (!) - conversely, at an international meet where you can't get close, a 400 or 600 would be vital.
I would think your present gear would be quite good, as long as your zoom is sharp enough at full aperture. For most peole these days, b+w is traditional in itself, I wouldn't worry about darkroom tricks, personally I wouldn't even push-process the film. If you do buy another lens, why not look for a 400 - there are some around with no automatic diaphragms but good glass available for peanuts (you don't need an automatic diaphragm because you'll be shooting at full aperture all the time!).
03-19-2008, 06:39 AM
The U.S. Library of Congress is your friend:
Their interface is crude, but if you choose suitable search terms you can turn up a lot of info in a short time. This is what you get if you search on "auto race":
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/f?fsaall,app,brum,detr,swann,look,gottscho,pan,hor yd,genthe,var,cai,cd,hh,yan,bbcards,lomax,ils,prok ,brhc,nclc,matpc,iucpub,tgmi,lamb:0:./temp/~pp_mjoH:
03-19-2008, 07:04 AM
Struan, that third one is a screamer, that is the first racing picture where I have seen pits. Although I assume they weren't meant for the cars in this instance.
Nathan, there are many of these events in this country but they do require some good planning and you may end up travelling near and far.
We recently had a good historic event at Philip Island the week before the Grand Prix.
This is lifted from the Age:-
And, in contrast to this weekend's formula one circus, it's quite probable you will bump into famous drivers, such as Vern Schuppan - former grand prix and Le Mans ace - milling around the pits or strolling through the crowd. Yes, you can shake hands, say hello and chat.
The intimacy of the event is rare in this age of no-go zones and automaton security guards. This is a relaxed and friendly meeting, despite a collective field of glossy machinery estimated by organisers to be worth more than $40 million.
There are cars as diverse as ancient Bugatti racers to the world's most powerful race car of its day, the Porsche 917/30, which was so successful at the time that officials changed the rules.
Owner: Porsche Museum, Stuttgart (picture missing)
In motor sport, the chance to witness an object of absolute domination doesn't come around very often.
The Porsche 917/30 is such a car; an awesome, intimidating behemoth that didn't merely beat its opposition, it smashed it with clinical ruthlessness on the way to victory in the 1973 Canadian-American Racing Series and is cited as the car that killed Can-Am racing.
An evolution of the 1970 and 1971 Le Mans-winning 917/10 cars, its 5.4-litre, turbocharged V12 engine could make up to a staggering 1178 kW in qualifying trim and was capable of speeds up to 355 km/h.
Although not employing the "ground effects" aerodynamics of formula one racers, Porsche Museum director Klaus Bischoff says the 917/30 gets significant aerodynamic advantage from its low, improbably wide stance and a massive rear wing.
These days the 917/30 is occasionally used as a guest pace car. "I don't know why they ask us to be a pace car, because usually no one is able to keep up," says Mr Bischoff.
End of the Age stuff.
As for another lens, what about a mirror lens. I have a Sigma 600 f8 mirror lens and it is perfect for getting closeups of cars/bikes on a track. The downside is the speed, but with 400 ASA film and Australian sun you will be shooting at 1/250.
It almost hand holdable, but I find a monopod is brilliant for this type of set-up.
I picked mine up about 15 years ago for $180.00, recently there was one that sold in the photo trader for $150.00.
There were also a bevy of 300 f5.6 mirror lenses about 15 years ago, not sure what brand they were but someone here may know. For tight tracks that would be better.
03-20-2008, 03:15 AM
Some great replies! Thanks everyone for the feedback!
I guess I'll just take all my gear out and shoot with different lense/filtercombinations and find something that works...
Mick, Nice to see another Historics supporter!
I was looking forward to making the Phillip Island Historics this year but unfortunatelly couldnt make it.
I was a member of HSRCA for a while, and have been to alot of events at Eastern Creek and Oran Park.
The upcoming Tasman Revival http://www.tasmanrevival.com/index.htmlat Eastern Creek looks like it'll be even bigger and better than the 2006 event so I'll definatelly be looking forward to that!
I used to work for a Historic Collector/Restorer/Racer here in Sydney.
He has a number of Lotus Elite's and Sevens, plus a few open wheelers and an interesting car designed by Frank Costin and Roger Nathan with a plywood tub and Hillman Imp powered. Was good for 147mph down Mullsanne in its day.
I was also involved in the chassis restoration of an ex-Frank Williams Brabham BT21 F3 car.
All fun stuff!
I've since changed jobs though and havent had much time to go and tinker...
03-20-2008, 08:23 PM
Vintage means a lot of things. If you were doing 50s and 60s sports cars and F1 cars, then B&W with short tele and moderate WA lenses would be what they used.
If you are doing 70s- to 90s then it is mostly Color and the equipment is probably not that much different than contemporary (ie long fast lenses, zooms, and extreme wide angel)
Here is a thread with some real vintage photos for ideas:
OFFICIAL 1970-1989 RACING PHOTO THREAD http://www.ferrarichat.com/forum/showthread.php?t=182830
Also, every issue of "Forza" (http://www.forza-mag.com/) has a vintage 50s to early 70s photo on the last page. Almost all of the photos have equipment notes. I just picked 8 issues at random and copied the equipment notes:
Folmer Graflex, lens NA
Leica M3, 50mm Summicron
Zeiss Ikon, 50 2.8
Kodak Brownie, 25mm [sic] fixed lens
Canon, 135mm Tamron
Canon F1, 300mm
Nikon F, 50mm Nikor [sic]
Leca M3, 50mm Summicron
03-24-2008, 04:08 PM
That looks like Elio De Angelis in the John Player Special Lotus 95T at Monaco. Those were the days.
I was 18, and I was nearly able to walk into the Lotus Team pits as I followed Elio from the track to the Convention Center at the 1981 Long Beach GP. He was kind enough to stop and sign my race program as the secruity guards were turning me around and heading me back out.
Ic- racer certainly has the right idea for "vintage". And if you mean B&W, I'd shoot an older style emulsion like FP4+ or HP5+ or Tri-X and then maybe push it a little.
Fixed length teles, probably not much more than 300 mm for pre 1980 technology. No wides more than 24 or 28 mm. An 85 mm would probably be a good "I'm not quite in the pits" length to get you a little closer when you can't get over the wall.
My father bough a 100-500 f/8 zoom in 1979 for his Minolta, and it was like shooting a cannon - it was big and heavy. Not the sharpest, especially compared to more modern designs, but it was flexible. I got a really nice close-up of Gilles Villenueve in his Ferrari at Long Beach with it. He was looking right at me as he was waiting to go out an qualify. I need to scan that shot.
Also, no shutterspeeds over 1/1000th second...
Get some old Autocourse or other old racing photo books from the era you're interested in and study the shots. Actually, go check out Pete Lyon's web site. He shot Can-Am and F1 in the day and is one of America's Premier motorsport photographers. www.petelyons.com He's a very nice guy and I'm sure he could tell you what his gear/kit was in the day. Also, look at the Klemantaski Collection at http://www.klemcoll.com/
Kirk - www.lotus30.com
I went to the recent Phillip Island historics but used a electronic light collection device. Seeing the 917 on track was a thrill even if he (Jim Richards) was cruising.
At PI, with 300mm you can get close enough in most spots (some need a lot less), a few need 600mm to get close enough. The last time I went (2 years ago) I did take some B&W. None scanned to give an example. I think some differences in those pics and 'old' ones are the camera angles (in the old days they stood on the apex of the corner a lot of the times) and the trackside scenery looks 'modern'. Things like curbs, fencing and buildings.
03-25-2008, 09:10 AM
Go to the "Festival of Speed" at Goodwood if you want classic vintage racing car photos. You can get up close and photo opportunities are easily had.
03-25-2008, 01:20 PM
A very popular and now cult lens system for race photographers was the Novoflex lenses. VERY fast focusing by squeezing a pistol grip. Adaptable to virtually any camera system from Exakta to Nikon and everywhere in between. I've used the 280 f5.6, 400 f5.6 and the 600 f8 with great results. They can be used with a shoulder stock or Mono/tripod or just a chain hanging down to stand on. The lenses are optimised for sharpness in the center. Very period retro look to the images. I'd probably use Tri-x to complete the look and a shutter speed equal to or faster than the focal length except for a panning shot.
IF I were trying for a more vintage look, I'd probably use an old Speed Graphic type camera with a back shutter set to a tension between 3 and 6 and a curtain slit of 1/8" or at most 3/8". This will give the forward lean illusion of speed. For long shots, I'd also probably use a 400mm f5.5 (short back focus) telephoto lens with this camera. For film with this camera, I'd most likely use one of the Eastern European films in 125 ASA. for a period look.
Hope this helps,
03-25-2008, 03:08 PM
In the late 70's-early 80's I was able to get full access photo passes to the USGP at Watkins Glen as my father was the main motor sports writer for Sports Illustrated and he'd get me on their credentials list. At the time I had only a 50mm and a 135mm lens but I think I was able to get some pretty decent photos with just those two focal lengths. Unfortnately I've lost most of those prints and negs over the last 30 years.
My main advice would be to not get into the mindset that you need a fast shutter speed to get good pictures of fast cars. The blurred background/sharp car shot is got by panning with a shutter speed of less than 1/focal length. Standing just past the apex of a corner on the inside of the track is a great place to get shots of drivers at work (especially in open cars).
The other main piece of advice I have for shooting anywhere near the track is KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS OPEN. If a car loses it and you're in the way you have to be prepared to move FAST!
03-25-2008, 04:23 PM
Over 20 years ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Spa F1 race meeting in Belgium by some people who had spare tickets. We drove down overnight from the UK and arrived at daybreak. At 5am in the morning on the first practice day there was no one about so we drove onto the circuit and did a couple of laps, stopping on pole position of the grid to take some photos and the next time round we pulled into the pits, put the bonnet up, and took a few more pics of our vauxhall estate before going to find the local campsite. After putting our tents up we walked back to the circuit in time for the first practice session. We were directly opposite to the back of the pits before practice and saw a couple of people run across the track into the pits. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, we all did the same and spent the whole of the first practice session in the back of the pits watching drivers come in and out and the mechanics working on the cars. I took of lots of photographs of drivers, cars and mechanics. I was only challenged twice for my pass and luckily the steward spoke no English and I pleaded ignorance and got away with it. I've never been to an F1 race since but can recommend getting a pit pass if you can. Or just learn how to vault a barrier or two:D