I’ve been attending the Festival of Speed since 2007, all of them on the Friday since I was hooked in by free Friday tickets that used to be given away in the Sunday Times (a lot has changed since then!) It’s now most definitely not free, but still, in my view, worth every single penny.
The Friday used to be a relatively low key ‘enthusiasts day’, most of the headline cars still went up the hill but usually driven by test/reserve drivers. I distinctly remember a number of the road cars passing me on through Chichester early in the morning, and those that were already in position could be covered up until lunch time. It’s now a full-on Festival of Speed day with air displays, many of the headline drivers and everything in full swing. Interestingly the Thursday (which used to be the Moving Motorshow) is now experiencing the same ‘feature creep’ with more and more activity being added to the hill and elsewhere each year, I’m seriously considering the Thursday next year (or Thursday and Friday) to try and recapture that slightly more relaxed feel.
As always I followed my tried and tested plan of arriving in the car park just before it opens at 6:30am (which does mean a 4am start for me). The roads are quiet, the car parks are quiet and the entry queues are non-existent. It does mean waiting for 20 minutes or so until the gates open, but helpfully the security team pre-checked our bags whilst we waited, which meant we could walk straight through dead on 7:00am. The pay-off for arriving so early? The paddocks are empty, and I do mean empty…
With so few people around you can enjoy the vast paddock areas remarkably efficiently. I don’t bother with the manufacturer stands on the other side of the hill, so can usually see everything in the paddocks within 2 hours. That leaves me with the rest of the day to enjoy the action on the hill. The downside of being early? Many of the teams/crews are a bit more relaxed about taking the covers off cars, particularly in the supercar paddock now that they don’t run up the hill until later. Less than half were uncovered as I wandered through first thing.
I pick pretty much the same spot on the hill every year (at least since they closed off the area I used to watch from) for the first run through, which is basically the last section of hill climb before you head into the forest rally stage. It stays relatively quiet here all day, you can easily pop off to the loo or go and grab some food and still find a space at the front when you return. The one issue (well, apart from the lack of nearby facilities) is that you’ve got to be on the ball when spectating or photographing. There are no TV screens and very limited commentary coverage, and vehicles appear out of the wooded area at quite a pace.
After the first complete run through I headed slowly back down the hill to play around with different angles. I was surprised at how much room was available this year, pretty much all the way down to the start line there were spaces at the front, something I’ve not experienced at FoS.
Viewing locations on the house side of the hill are extremely limited, despite a walkway ascending well beyond the paddock there is nothing but a crossing point (with no viewing) at the end of it. Considering it can take well over an hour between crossing openings it’s fair to say there were more than a few hot, bothered and fed up people stood waiting to cross whilst not being able to see anything. I did manage to find one tiny bit of space where I could fire away some shots (on tip toes!) but other than that, it’s a fruitless exercise looking for locations on that side (cars passing right to left as they go up the hill).
Over 10 hours done, I headed out at around 5.30pm. Amazingly I drove straight out and somehow avoided any major congestion around Chichester, so all in all a very smooth day for such a large event
- Sony a7RII
- Sony a7
- Sony Zeiss FE 55mm 1.8
- Sony FE 24-240mm f3.5-6.3 OSS
- Sony FE 100-400mm 4.5-5.6 G
Before the Event
Programmes aren’t cheap (around £12), but they are the only official way to get a full flying schedule. The App and/or the mini-guide (handed out at the event) give you a few key timings and the commentary team will usually announce the next hour or so occasionally, but if you want a full listing for free it’s worth having a look around airshow forums on the Thursday or Friday, as kind souls usually post up the full schedule.
RIAT operates a set-price menu for common items available at the various food stands, but even so that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. You can take along your own food and drink (a cool bag is a wise investment), camping chairs and the usual British ‘summertime’ essentials such as rainproofs and sunscreen are of course recommended, and often end up being used during the same day.
As per my Goodwood Festival of Speed guide, I’m going to be extolling the virtues of an early start here, in fact it’s even more crucial at RIAT if you want a relaxed day.
Point your Satnav at GL7 4EG and follow the appropriate coloured route in once you reach the yellow AA signs. The car parks open at 6am but the actual event gates do not open until 7:30. That said, it’s wise to arrive early if possible. Arrive at 6:30 and you’ll pretty much drive straight in, arrive at 8:30 and you can probably look forward to a 2 hour wait, particularly frustrating when the air display has started and you’re stuck in your car. The car parks are huge and featureless, so it’s crucial to note your zone via the flags dotted around the car park and any other landmarks that may help. Even then, expect to spend 5 minutes looking for your car.
Entry / Finding a Spot
If you want a spot at the front of the crowd line you realistically need to be in the entry queues ready for the 7:30 opening, and don’t plan on trying to venture too far from your entry zone (the runway is 2 miles long!) However it’s worth pointing out that 95% of the action takes place well above your head and is therefore visible to all regardless of how close or far you are from the front. Large sections of the crowd line are sectioned off for the various premium areas, particularly the nearer you get to the middle, but either end of the runway has vast open areas.
As the air display doesn’t start until 10am we normally have at least two hours to kill once we’re settled in place. Thankfully there is plenty to see and do including over a mile of static aircraft to view. There are buses that take you to different zones, but we usually take it in turns to have a look around (one of us staying with our chairs and looking after our gear) and we easily walk the entire static display and back within an hour each.
Everything is coned/roped off and there are thousands of people looking around, so creative photography options can be quite limited. But as always if you think on your feet a bit you can capture something a little beyond the average record shot.
If you’re visiting on your own it’s fine to leave your spot ‘reserved’ with your chair whilst you have a look around the static display or pop to the loo, I’ve done this several times and many others do it. It goes without saying that leaving bags unattended is not the wisest of ideas.
The flying display starts at 10am and usually goes right through to at least 6pm without any real break. In terms of equipment, ideally you want at least 300mm on a crop body to get reasonably close, but 400mm or even 500mm is better.
I’m no expert with aviation photography so I keep things simple and basically just point and shoot, concentrating on composition and letting the camera sort out the technicalities. Continuous AF (Group AF on the D750 worked incredibly well), shutter priority, a fast shutter speed for jets (1/1000), and a significantly slower shutter speed (usually 1/160th ish) for helicopters and props to ensure some prop blur worked for me.
I last attended the Members’ Meeting back in 2015 (#73MM), it was incredible. Imagine the Festival of Speed in full flow but with loads more room and less than half the people there…that’s the Members’ Meeting. Imagine more McLaren F1 GTRs than you are ever going to see again in your life, all lined up in the paddock with almost nobody surrounding them – Members’ Meeting. Imagine 90% of the circuit being completely devoid of spectators, despite ultra-rare racing cars battling wheel to wheel with plenty of famous racing drivers filling the grids – Members’ Meeting.
The downside? It’s in March and it’s usually very cold out around the exposed airfield circuit. This year took that to another level though, as you can see from the photo above. With a feels like of -10, strong winds and heavy snow it was quite an experience.
Rewinding a bit, I packed my Sony a7RII, Sony FE 55mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8 and the 100-400mm G Master. I’ve never shot a single frame of action with the Sony so I was looking forward to seeing how it would perform. The 100-400mm was on hire from the good folk at LensesForHire so it would be my first experience of that too.
The first bit of fun for the day? The car park. March + grass parking rarely works too well but most cars seemed to get in ok. From then on I had a few hours to explore the paddock before the track action was due to begin. Unlike the Festival of Speed you really have room to breathe in the paddock and the people are generally far more civilised.
I then braved the elements and headed out into the open. I found some nice angles out around the circuit and due to it being so cold I rarely bumped into anyone, unlike the Festival of Speed I could shoot from wherever I liked. Goodwood is strange in that it has zero conventional debris fencing, instead it’s a combination of raised banks and low fences. It looks great and is fantastic for spectating, but does limit the number of really low angles available. After an hour or so the snow arrived, a light flurry at first but then turning into a fairly decent blizzard. Remarkably the track action carried on largely to schedule, giving me the opportunity to shoot through the snow for the first time.
The a7RII and 100-400mm held up really well considering the conditions. Between the wind and feeling colder than I ever have before it was pretty challenging. AF would regularly lock onto the wall of snow coming down rather than the vehicle, but once it gained a lock it would rarely let go. As expected the batteries really took a hammering. Shooting motorsport you can usually squeeze 3-4 times the CIPA rating out of a mirrorless battery, but not so much when it’s that cold. I went through 4 full batteries within 1600 shots, yet on a warm day that would be two at most.
Next up was the paddock as I was really keen to get some snow shots whilst it was still coming down. This was my favourite part of the day, everywhere I looked there were unique scenes to shoot, I would guess a once in a lifetime experience.
I called it a day very early, heading off at 12:30 after 5 hours of shooting. Although the weather was due to improve at Goodwood we had an amber warning at home for later in the afternoon. As I had to get back that day I didn’t want to risk it (a good choice, as it happened, as we were snowed in later that evening). I missed the Group 5 stuff, but cheered up as soon as I started working through the photos as I realised I had a wonderful record of a unique few hours at Goodwood…
I’m not the biggest fan of London, but living in Wiltshire it can quite difficult to scratch the ‘big city photography’ itch I often get when I look back at my New York photos and so on. As it’s only a 90 minute train journey away I try and head over at least once per year to shoot for a few hours, usually in winter so I get more time shooting when the sun goes down.
I’ve rarely strayed from the obvious touristy stuff and even after just a few hours it’s nice to come home (I’m obviously a country bumpkin!), but I’ve always been pleased with the photos I’ve come back with…
I like having big international events within a few hours’ drive to go and photograph, but I’m not a fan of sitting in traffic or wrestling through massive crowds. You might think one has to come with the other, but there are ways of minimising the stress (and costs) at most big events, and it’s no different with the FoS.
Choosing a day
Now the first day proper of the Festival of Speed; the Thursday is evolving every year but currently sees most of the road and rally cars on the hill throughout the day. It's a reduced timetable with a focus on manufacturer cars rather than the race cars, but a fantastic day if you want to wander around with smaller crowds and take in the vast static elements of the Festival.
Friday – Sunday
The event used to be run with Friday as the ‘enthusiasts day’, which was all about the cars rather than the stars, with Saturday and Sunday being the main event days when the F1 drivers etc would show up. Friday has morphed into a full-on day now, but it’s still by far the best option if you want to experience everything FoS has to offer without it being quite so busy.
Technically the main hill climb event is a competition with a final shootout on the Sunday, but in reality (particularly if you’re not near a PA or screen) it’s a bunch of cars hooning up the hill all weekend, which is fine by me.
Before the Event
If you’re on a budget visit the Goodwood website and note down the schedule for the day or download the app. You’ve immediately saved yourself £10+ on a (bulky) programme. I personally also take my own lunch and water, which saves a small fortune on the day. There are no specific restrictions on taking food and drink into the event but bear in mind that with the enhanced security checks required these days you may need to empty your bags at the gate. Drinking water taps are located near the loos, so I'd recommend taking a bottle and topping up throughout the day.
If you’re driving aim your satnav at PO18 0PX and follow the yellow AA signs once you get near. There are a number of car parks depending on which direction you arrive from, just be sure to remember the car park letter and location of your car (there are markers dotted around) before you head over to the event itself.
Car Parks open at 6:30 (in reality a bit earlier) with the actual event gates opening at 7am. I always aim to arrive in the car park for 6:30 and have always driven straight in, there is very rarely any traffic at all to worry about at this time. I then stroll over to the entrance gate ready for opening. Queues are usually very small at 6:30-6:45 but start to build a little towards 7am.
The Static Displays
7am in the paddock is a revelation if you’ve only ever experienced it in the day or have seen pictures of crowds as far as the eye can see. I gradually head through the Supercar and First Glance paddocks, then across to the Cartier Style Et Lux lawn, past the central feature and then up to the F1 and Motorcycle paddocks (which also contain all the other cars competing in the hill climb). As it’s fairly quiet you can work through all of that in a couple of hours quite comfortably. What you won’t get is the fun of large batches of those cars firing up and heading to the start line, but I tend to experience a bit of that on the way back down in the afternoon.
At this point the first batch of cars is usually hitting the hill, so I head for the top, but you can detour through the main manufacturer stands on your way up if you like.
The Hill Climb
The hill gets quieter the further you climb, with that in mind I go straight to the top! If you plan to do the same make sure you head up with the hillclimb on your left (i.e. the side with the manufacturer displays, not the paddocks), crossing via the bridge near the central feature. You can no longer get very far at all up the hill on the paddock side and the foot crossings are unreliable at best (hour long waits are not uncommon).
I always position myself in the very last open section. Much like the paddocks at 7am it’s amazing how relaxing and quiet it can be up there. The area is sparsely populated during much of the day and it’s never difficult to get a spot at the rope. The only peaks are when the F1 cars take to the hill and when the supercar batch is running.
Vehicles are separated into 5 or 6 batches (Americana, Pre War, Supercars etc) and these are repeated in the afternoon, so if you don’t want to see everything again you can make the short walk onto the Rally Stage or head back down into the madness.
You really don’t need a long lens to make the most of Goodwood, if anything you’ll want to make sure you can go wide enough for the hill. I took a 200-500mm in 2016 (on a full frame body), 200mm was way, way too long for standard panning shots on the hill so I reverted to my 85mm prime. A 70-200 or similar is perfect.
Cars often appear out of the shadows and if they’re pressing on will be gone before you can even lift your camera up, so it pays to be prepared. Race cars are generally loud enough to hear coming, but with rally cars and off-roaders in the background it’s not always as obvious as it seems. It’s surprisingly easy to miss the supercars during their run, they follow each other fairly closely, don’t hang around and relatively speaking aren’t particularly loud.
A batch concludes with support vehicles and a safety car (usually the Mercedes F1 or DTM safety car), after a short break they will then come back down the hill (slowly, in theory) to return to the paddock, again concluding with the support vehicles and safety car. You therefore get two bites at the cherry, once when they’re attacking the hill proper, and once when they’re heading back down.
My favoured location at the top of the hill is so good because you get a nice clean background for panning on the way up, and a lovely angle of the cars coming back down the hill out of the trees. If you’re quick and have a zoom lens you can capture cars twice on the way up, the second time a rear view when they enter the final corner.
As with any big event, leaving early or late is usually the best option. On Thursday and Friday event traffic isn't usually an issue, but the general commuter traffic is. Chichester and the many roundabouts on the bypass are a nightmare to navigate between 4pm and 6pm, so that's best avoided if it all possible. It's a little known tip that you can hang around pretty late should you still have the energy, the advertised closing time is usually around 7.30pm, but there are so many pit crew and staff wandering around that you're not going to be asked to leave until pretty late into the evening.
As soon as the dates are announced local accommodation fills up; as the event draws closer you will need to look further and further afield to find anywhere to stay. It’s worth bearing in mind that Goodwood usually announce the date provisionally at first and do not confirm until the Formula One calendar is set in stone. For the 2017 event, for example, the provisional date subsequently clashed with the revised F1 calendar, it was immediately clear which weekend FoS was likely to move to but a little while before they announced it; this opens up a small window of opportunity to speculatively book some (hopefully refundable) accommodation.
Other than that, hotels around Portsmouth tend to have availability right up to the event itself. It’s a bit of a drive (45 minutes or so) but if you’re travelling from the other end of the country or something it’s a pretty good option. I managed to book a nice little hotel with breakfast for £70 just two weeks before the event this year.
I’m not a professional motorsport photographer (not the best way to start a guide, is it?!), I’m barely even an enthusiastic amateur anymore due to my wedding photography business and a 2 year old taking up most of my time. However, I have got experience on my side and my rather sporadic motorsport work these days still seems to be really well received. Amateur motorsport photography was where it all started for me 15 years ago and for a good 10 years or so I was attending upwards of 20 events per year. These days I have to be a little more selective, I’m lucky to get to 2 or 3 events…just enough to illustrate this guide with recent examples.
It’s also worth saying straight away that every single photo you see here has been taken from a public position; I have no special access so it’s through or over fences and limited elbow room for me. What you see here is perfectly achievable by anyone with a bog standard ticket to a motorsport event and some Fuji gear.
Fuji X was never taken seriously as a sports system until the X-T1 arrived (and for many, not even then) but it has slowly been growing a following. Fundamentally there is no reason why you can’t shoot motorsport with any Fuji X kit (or indeed any system, it wasn’t that long ago that all sport was shot with manual focus), but on a practical level and considering basic expectations these days, it’s best to consider one of the following options…
- X-T1/X-T10 - The X-T1 and X-T10 essentially share the same internals, image quality is identical but you’re giving up some external controls, weather sealing and a bigger viewfinder by choosing the X-T10 over the X-T1. The X-T10 is a perfectly usable sports camera (as you can see from many of the samples here) but some may find it a little small for the bigger telephoto lenses and it won’t take the same abuse as an X-T1.
Both are very good cameras perfectly capable of excellent motorsport photography with a competent operator. Viewfinder blackout is at the manageable end of the scale, AF is very solid and if you like to mash the shutter they both fire away at a decent rate.
- X-T2/X-T20 - Like the X-T1/X-T10 relationship, the X-T20 is the smaller sibling of the X-T2 but will give you exactly the same output from the new 24mp sensor. The X-T2 gains a joystick and dual card slots this time around, but also the option of the Booster Grip which I’ve found to really useful for motorsport photography
Both cameras are faster and more powerful than their predecessors and effectively on a par with a decent DSLR.
Any of the above 4 are perfectly capable cameras that are unlikely to limit the average enthusiastic motorsport shooter in any way.
- A quick note about the XE/X-Pro Range
I’m not covering these cameras in great detail simply because the ergonomics are questionable for a long lens, however they balance pretty well with the 50-230mm and 55-200mm. That’s not to say they’re not capable (they are, particularly the X-E2S and X-Pro2), just not ideal if you’re looking to buy with motorsport in mind. If you already have one of them though, go for it.
It’s difficult to go wrong here. Fuji make excellent glass so just pick whatever suits your budget and jump in. A longer affordable lens would be nice (such as a 70-300) but the 4 existing lenses are all so good it's hard to complain.
- Fuji 50-230mm
It would be easy to be dismissive of the cheap plastic lens that gets bundled in with some camera kits. However, this one is a great little lens capable of excellent results. It’s a remarkably sharp little thing and for day to day photography the OIS is fantastic. If you’re starting out or on a tight budget I’d highly recommend it.
- Fuji 55-200mm
The mid-range option and a very solid choice if the ‘big two’ are out of reach. I started with this lens (it was the first tele option) and don’t have a bad word to say about it. It’s really well built and AF speed is excellent. A world away from the cheap 55-200s found in other systems.
- Fuji 50-140mm
Fuji’s equivalent to the workhorse 70-200 2.8s beloved by pros. Unsurprisingly Fuji nailed this one, it’s well built, super-fast and as sharp as you’d ever need.
- Fuji 100-400mm
The beast. You’d never call it light or compact but it’s not excessive either, I’ve used one on the diminutive X-T10 extensively with no issues. AF is seriously impressive, I wasn’t expecting it to be up to the standard of the 50-140mm 2.8 but it’s just about there.
I set up the X-T2 as follows, obviously as with all of this guide it is just a guide so feel free to try, tweak or completely ignore the following. Clearly there are many more settings than this, but if I haven’t mentioned them they are either left at default or entirely personal preference (i.e. JPEG/RAW etc). The vast majority of settings are relevant to all Fuji bodies, so I set up my X-T10 in the same way, the major difference being the AF-C custom settings found on the X-T2 but not on any other model.
- Aperture: A (Auto)
- IS: Off
Not much to cover here except to say that if your lens has IS (all the telephoto lenses do), switch it off. This can be done on the lens if it has a switch, or in the camera menu (IS Mode). Panning and IS aren’t really compatible as the whole idea of IS is to try and combat camera movement.
- ISO: L (100)
- Metering: Multi
- Focus Mode: C (Continuous / AF-C)
- Aperture: Auto
- Shutter Speed: Variable (generally anywhere between 1/15 and 1/200)
I’m not a machine gunner so opt for the CL Drive Mode (set at 3fps) on the X-T2, obviously this can be adjusted to suit your style. ISO is generally left as low as possible when I’m panning, 1/60 etc in bright sunshine means I’m not normally requiring anything else. In most circumstances I let the camera figure out Aperture and just concentrate on the shutter speed. Metering is simply personal preference and occasionally adjusted to suit.
Aside from shutter speed there are very few things I adjust on the fly once I’m set up for motorsport so I just leave the Fn buttons as per my preferred day to day settings. On the X-T2 one button is assigned to AF-C Custom Settings as I occasionally need to adjust those.
- AF Mode: Single Point
- AF-C Custom Setting: 1, General
- Release/Focus Priority (AF-C): Release
- Shutter Type: Mechanical
- S Mode: Off
I’ve been a single point AF shooter since day one, clever tracking options are improving all the time but I’ve not found them necessary for large contrasty subjects like cars. The 3x3 zone AF mode on the X-T2 does seem to work well enough so feel free to try it out, you may prefer it if you’re not used to smoothly tracking objects in the frame as it does a great job of keeping locked on to subjects.
Mechanical Shutter (rather than Electronic Shutter) is really important unless you want distorted images, and choose the ‘Release’ AF-C Priority option otherwise you may be frustrated by your camera refusing to allow you to shoot at a critical moment (it doesn’t always confirm focus lock when panning).
That’s it, nothing particularly technical or clever, just a few tweaks to optimise performance and minimise frustration.
AF-C Custom Settings (X-T2)
Specific to the X-T2 are custom AF-C settings that are designed to tweak the AF system dependent on what you’re shooting. I’ll admit I was fairly dismissive of the concept at first as I’ve never felt the need to delve into complex AF options before, but they really do work.
- Set 1 Multi Purpose
This is the default setting and works perfectly well for general panning and head-on shots. If you’re ever in any doubt just leave it on this setting
- Set 2 Ignore Objects and Continue to Track Subject
This is pretty clever, basically once you’ve locked on to a subject it will do its best to ignore everything else. I did my best to trick the system by tracking and shooting a fast moving car through a large crowd of people and was amazed at how well it held up.
- Set 4 Suddenly Appearing Subject
At the Festival of Speed there are a number of locations where vehicles suddenly appear from behind walls or from obscured areas, something I rarely come across at big wide open circuits. Quickly locking and shooting subjects in these situations is pretty tough for operator and equipment. This setting tweaks the AF system to lock on as quickly as possible. Compared to the Ignore Objects setting it’s hard to gauge how effective this is over and above the basic default setting, but I had no trouble gaining quick locks on cars and bikes suddenly appearing at speed, so it appears to be doing the job.
1. Ensure you’re comfortable and well balanced with steady footing. Ideally you want your feet spread comfortably apart with your body facing the point at which you want to capture the photo
2. Firmly hold the camera with your right hand, for anything other than the smallest of lenses I highly recommend gripping the lens rather than the camera with your left hand
3. Track the car through the viewfinder at the earliest possible opportunity
4. Hold the shutter release down half-way to initiate focus
5. Continue to smoothly track the car with the button half-pressed, the camera will continue to refocus
6. Fully press the shutter release at the point where you want to capture the car
7. Continue to track the car in a smooth movement
The most important thing is to ‘follow through’, there should be no pause or abrupt end once you have taken the shot, continue to pan smoothly and you are more likely to get the shot. If you have a viewfinder I highly recommend using it over the LCD, it’s inherently more stable and smooth to pan with the camera pressed against your eye rather than at arm’s length through the LCD.
Head-on / Rear Shots
This one’s simple to explain, just choose shutter priority mode and select the fastest shutter speed you can, you will need a shutter speed of at least 1/400; depending on light conditions this may require increasing ISO. Fire away, no panning or any particular technique is needed, the shutter speed will be more than fast enough to freeze the car.
A few general tips to consider, these aren’t rules by any stretch of the imagination, but they may help initially…
1. Get Down Low
Whilst it isn’t always easy, a shot from a low angle is generally recommended over a shot where the car roof is visible.
2. Use Space
Leaving more space in front of the car than behind will generally give you a more appealing composition.
3. Avoid Cluttered Backgrounds
The aim of a motorsport photograph is often to capture a particular vehicle, as a general rule anything to take your eye away from that is not good for the final image. Try to avoid shooting from positions where marshals (in their hi-viz gear) or unsightly scenery are visible in the background. If that’s not possible, blur it out by panning at a relatively slow shutter speed.
4. Try a Monopod
Some photographers find that monopods make motorsport photography more difficult, however they do significantly stabilize your lens which is important for both panning and standard shots. When panning it removes nearly all vertical movement, this is one of the major factors in ensuring a nice sharp panning shot.
5. Be Prepared
Expect the unexpected, and know how to adjust your camera quickly to capture moments that may require completely different to those that you are using. The X-T2 has a lock on the shutter speed dial, I always leave this unlocked so I can quickly adjust it to suit different situations.
6. Go Wide
It's easy to fall into a trap of thinking you need to shoot as close as possible, always looking for extra reach. Sometimes it's nice to look at the bigger picture and go wide. If you have a wide angle lens, use it, you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
7. Go Mad
The most important advice I can offer is to go a bit mad, particularly once you are reasonably competent with the basics of motorsport photography. Whilst it is good to get some ‘record’ shots saved, I find that my best images actually come after I’ve got a few standard safe shots and then decide to experiment and do something a bit silly, in many ways this helps you to develop as you are pushing your abilities to the limit.
- What accessories do you recommend?
- Batteries – You’ll probably find you’re able to squeeze far more photos out of a single battery when shooting intensively for a day of motorsport than you would otherwise for day to day photography. That said, it’s still handy to have a spare or two. As a rough guide I comfortably get 1200+ photos out of a single battery in the X-T10, X-T1 and X-T2.
- Rain Cover – Even with a weather resistant body and lens I always feel much happier with a rain cover to hand, especially during the ‘Great British Summer’. Op/Tech produce disposable transparent sleeves that are only £5 for two, alternatively I use a Storm Jacket, which seems expensive at £40 but mine has lasted 9 years and still works perfectly.
- Monopod – This is a very personal choice. I used one for an event and hated it, but others swear by them.
As always if you’re spending a whole day outside in the Great British countryside (circuits are invariably in exposed locations), good shoes, layers, waterproof coat etc are all good to have.
- JPEG or RAW?
After several hundred thousand images and a fair bit of toing and froing in the early days, I found no practical benefit to shooting motorsport in RAW. It’s usually slower, both in terms of the shooting experience (buffer, image review etc) and the editing process due to the larger files; and it’s unlikely that you are going to be taking advantage of the extra flexibility RAW gives you anyway. As a bonus Fuji JPEG colours are generally really nice straight out of the camera, often better than I could have processed the RAW file anyway.
- Why do you recommend Single Shot?
I get asked this a lot. Say you were learning to shoot a gun and the teacher gave you an automatic rifle, you fire off 100 rounds and one hits the bullseye, the other 99 are way off, most aren’t even on the target. The teacher gives you a certificate saying you’re a competent marksman (you did hit the bullseye, after all). Would you say you’ve learned anything?
Panning in full banzai 14fps mode is no different. Slowing things down and concentrating on one shot will give you a good idea of what works and what doesn’t; it helps you learn from your mistakes (e.g. ‘should I be panning slower, or faster?’)
- Why should I switch off Image Stabilisation?
IS/VR systems are designed to compensate for movements you make whilst taking photos, but when we’re shooting motorsport we are intentionally moving to track cars, so the IS systems are then working against you. Some systems do allow you to set stabilisation on just the horizontal plane, which in theory may help with conventional panning, but in my experience it’s best just to switch it all off.
- Which circuit is best for photography?
To keep costs down it makes sense to visit your nearest circuit, particularly if you want to visit regularly. Silverstone and Rockingham are generally regarded as two of the most restrictive circuits to the public, but most other UK circuits have a decent number of angles available to spectators.
It’s also worth investigating events like hill climbing, motocross or rallying, all of which are far less restrictive and generally ‘fence free’ so you’re likely to find yourself much closer to the action.
- How can I get a media pass?
The clue is in the name of the pass. If you’re working for a media organisation you can apply for a pass for the event you’re covering (even with media credentials some events are more restrictive than others). The overall standard of your work does not necessarily have a significant bearing on this, opportunities are normally down to hard work, perseverance and getting to know the right people.
Hopefully my images (all taken from public positions) show what’s possible without needing special access.
- What events are best for practising motorsport photography?
Don’t expect to turn up at 10am on the Saturday of a GP weekend at Silverstone and find lots of places to take photos. However, Castle Combe on a chilly Saturday trackday in March? You’ll have the circuit to yourself. Fortunately here in the UK we have lots of venues and hundreds of events, many of them free. Look at the calendar for your local circuit, there are often car club days, sprints and smaller events which are cheap or free and rarely attract crowds.
Generally speaking, for bigger two day events the Saturday (Qualifying) day is much quieter (and cheaper). If you really want to photograph at popular International events (such as WEC or F1) go along on the Friday practice day, which again is cheaper and quieter.
- Can I find a list of all motorsport events in my area?
www.racedates.com list a huge number of events, however it’s always worth visiting circuit websites directly to confirm dates/times.
Imber village has been uninhabited since 1943 and has been out of bounds to the general public ever since. The MOD do however open the village and surrounding access roads for a few days several times per year, this is usually over the Easter bank holiday weekend, August bank holiday weekend and between Christmas and New Year. The vast majority of the village has been replaced by building shells for military training, but the church is still there and is open and manned by volunteers occasionally during accessible periods. Loads more info can be found here.
I visited during the Easter bank holiday weekend, a family trip in the morning and then an evening visit on my own later that day. On a nice day it’s a busy place with loads of people wandering around, but it’s not exactly what I’d call a family day out. There are refreshments available from the church when it’s open, but there are no loos or any other facilities. It’s also worth bearing in mind there is zero phone reception for a good mile or two in any direction, try not to break down!
Aside from the church none of the buildings are accessible and strictly speaking you should never leave the road when wandering around, unfortunately loads of people ignore this and treat it as a bit of a theme park. As a place to photograph it’s really interesting, the lengthy access roads across the plain offer up plenty of opportunities with completely untouched landscapes (the occasional destroyed tank aside) that can be photographed from the roadside. My evening trip was extremely eerie with nobody at all around, you quickly realise how lost you’d be without any phone reception whatsoever.
I think we may be on our 9th or 10th trip to New York City, so it’s fair to say we like it. The majority of our trips have been in February and we’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy beautiful clear blue skies nearly every day we’ve spent there (probably around 40 days in total). To balance that out we did once get stuck (literally) on the runway in the snow at Heathrow for several hours before they eventually shut the airport, so that trip never happened.
My early trips were ‘pre-photography’ so I had a disposable or primitive digital camera at best, but from around 2008 onwards and the arrival of my first DSLR I’ve taken many of my favourite photographs ever taken in New York…
I was one of the fortunate few to get a pre-booked ticket for Dismaland, and as luck would have it my allocated day coincided with a beautiful day in Weston-Super-Mare.
As with every popular event I attend it paid to arrive nice and early. I was close enough to the front of the queue to be within the first 100 or so people in, which meant I could explore the ‘installation’ whilst it was relatively quiet. The alternative was to arrive later, queue for twice as long in blazing sunshine, then battle the crowds inside…no thanks.
The ‘theme park’ itself was as bizarre, amusing and disturbing as you might expect and great fun to photograph. The attention to detail was pretty incredible...
The Wildlife Heritage Foundation (perhaps more commonly known as the Big Cat Sanctuary) is situated near Smarden in Kent. They are dedicated to the captive breeding of endangered big cats. You can find out more about the WHF and what they do on their website. The sanctuary is not open to the public, but during the year they offer a limited number of 10 person, 4 person and individual photographic workshops, I opted for the 4 person workshop as a nice balance between the cost of the individual workshop and the less personal nature of the 10 person workshop (where non photographing guests are also welcome).
As you can see from the photos, access is amazing...