Photographing motorcycles is demanding, but also an exciting discipline. It is not only exciting to photograph motorcycle races, but also a perfect opportunity to take unique pictures. You just have to choose the right equipment, find a good shooting spot and make the appropriate camera settings.
If you take a look at the race calendar, you might notice that there are quite a few races in your area. From motocross races and rallies to races of various kinds. Now all that's missing is the grip on the photo camera and the way to the race.
The principles of photography are practically always the same. How these look like, I will show you with some pictures of motorcycle races.
With what should I photograph?
Ideal is a SLR camera with a telephoto lens. For example, with a lens with a focal length of 70-300 mm you can create interesting shots.
Suitable is also a better compact camera, where you can shoot in manual or semi-automatic mode. Try also calmly superzoom cameras out. But remember that the zoom range is usually too large, which is often unnecessary on motorcycle races.
Personally, I take up to 90% of my photos with a lens that has a focal length range of 70-200 mm Has. The camera has an APS-C image sensor. Of course, the faster the focusing on the camera and/or lens is better. At motorcycle races you will really take full advantage of the speed of the autofocus.
Which focal length is ideal?
When photographing from the spectator area you are more likely to use longer focal lengths. Extra long focal lengths are logically worthwhile where you as a spectator are very far away from the race track. So z. B. With motodromes.
If you shoot as an accredited journalist, then you have a big advantage – namely, thanks to the long focal length, you can take almost frontal shots of the motorcycle. From the spectator area this is rarely possible. Sometimes you are however also quite close to the race track. A shorter focal length between 50 to 100 mm is sufficient for. You use an even shorter focal length if you want to capture the surroundings as well as the motorcycle.
Emphasize the movement
About photographing motorcycles in motion we have already written recently. To repeat – we take photos in one mode, where we can manually set the shutter speed. Do not forget to check whether the photos are sharp.
Often people use the sports scene to photograph races. As a rule, the shutter speed is preset to 1/2000 s for this scene. This gives the photographer a whole series of photos where the movement is frozen. So be careful!
For example, the wheels of a motorcycle rotate and it is good if the rotation is visible in the photos. It simply looks better. Keep in mind that you are not shooting a static image, but rather a dynamic scene take pictures. It applies: The faster the speed in the race section and the longer the focal length of the lens used, the faster the shutter speed should be.
If at a certain moment you are specifically standing to the side of the motorcycle, then you can use the Panning technique where you can use a slower shutter speed use. For motorcycle races this is between 1/160 to 1/1000 s. However, if you want to experiment with panning, then feel free to use a slower shutter speed.
Taking pictures from the spectator's position
The easiest way to take photos of motorcycle races is from the spectator zone. The choice of the place is up to you, of course, but as long as you care about the composition of the image, then you will spend some time looking for the right place.
Choose z. B. A place where there are several spectators on the other side of the racetrack. It often looks great when you have a blurred background with cheering fans and a sharp motorcycle in front of it.
You should also keep in mind that there are often many spectators at motorcycle races – therefore you should be on the spot in time, to get the desired place.
When photographing from the front row, you will probably not have a problem with panning, which looks great especially on fast motorcycles. It is more difficult to take pictures in the middle of the crowd. You need to carefully choose the field of view so that no one happens to be in your way.
For races on weekends it is also advisable to have take some photos already on Saturday, where usually only the trainings or qualifications take place. There will be less spectators at the race track and who will realize that it is not the actual race on Sunday?
However, if you want to have pictures with a lot of spectators in the background, then you can't avoid Sunday.
Although it is more complicated, then you can still take great photos from the spectator zone. I often come across interesting shots directly from the spectator area after the race.
It is also often advantageous that these photos look different than those taken by accredited photographers. This is because they usually gather in one place. The shots therefore often look quite similar.
Furthermore, you do not have to torment yourself with administrative matters and are i. D. R. In a relatively safe place.
Photographing with accreditation
How to get accreditation? While there are still a few races where you can get there, sign a piece of paper taking pictures at your own risk, put on a high-visibility vest and you're a journalist. But such races hardly exist anymore – fortunately.
The standard procedure is that you take pictures for some media publisher and help the organizer with the promotion of the race.
If you are already photographing at a high level and you enjoy photographing motorsports, don't be afraid to write to an editorial office that provides information about such events and around this topic. Because not always they have their own photographers on site. Especially in less significant races. You will certainly be pleased if you get free photos this way.
As an accredited journalist you have a lot of advantages. You do not pay an entrance fee (as a rule) and you are lucky enough to be able to go to places that are inaccessible to the viewer. This is just optimal for choosing the right shooting place as well as your first "journalistic" photos.
But there are also limits regarding the freedom of movement on the grounds. You have to think about your safety first and foremost. It is suboptimal if you are standing in a place where the motorcycle comes flying at you in case of a crash. Remember that no shot is as valuable as your health.
Some organizers also give you recommendations where you can stand. If necessary, you can learn something from other colleagues. You will be so in already proven places.
It is certainly better if you take pictures in a curve or in places where something interesting is happening. For example, shortly after the start, where there is jumping or where often the racers come to the fall.
If you are in a place from where nobody is chasing you away, then everything is a bit easier than if you have to take photos between the spectators and somebody is constantly getting in your way. There is often nothing between the journalists and the moving motorcycle. You often get really close. Can also use wide angle lenses – for example also below 30 mm. When using the panning technique you make so very impressive shots.
Perhaps you will also succeed in taking a shot where the motorcycle is coming right towards you and you can also make full use of focal lengths of over 400 mm. When combined with a very wide-open aperture, you skillfully set the motorcycle apart from its surroundings.
Taking photos with accreditation also has its disadvantages. For example, that with your signature you take full responsibility for accidents and damages caused because of you.
Another disadvantage is that you lose photographic freedom over time. The editors may require you to take certain pictures in a certain quality, quantity and time. Taking pictures for fun can quickly turn into a stressful shoot, and not everyone likes that.