Why I love Cadwell Park…

We have lots of great circuits in the UK. The really famous, historic ones, like Silverstone and Brands Hatch, get lots of attention. What about the smaller ones, the ones that are a bit off the beaten track?

Cadwell is one of the best in this latter category. Motor Sport Vision took it over, and have tweaked track and facilities each year, without getting carried away. I could talk about the cafe, toilets, access to the paddock, the new bridge, etc. But, the best bit for photographers is that there’s hardly any catch fencing – the photographers arch nemesis at many circuits. So, you get a clear view. You can also get really close in places, so you can get interesting perspectives and you don’t need massive lenses. There are elevation changes too, which lead to interesting angles, much nicer to shoot here than flat and fenced in Silverstone!

Alfa Romeos at Cadwell Park
Alfa Train steams down Park
Canon 60D, 300 mm, F4.0, 1/1250 s, ISO-100.

This shot of the Alfa Romeo 156 was taken from Charlie’s, looking down the dip on Park Straight (it’s not very straight!). The trick here is to keep focus close to the camera and throw the background out of focus with the short depth of field, which results from the wide aperture (F4.0). Timing is everything as the blue car appears into the pre-composed scene. I’ve tightened up the composition with a crop to square proportions, which works well on screen. Patience is needed here to let the race develop, and the spacing of the cars give the composition you want. All close together looses the depth that is achieved here.

I will, no doubt, share more Cadwell pictures.

From the fans perspective…

My plan for this blog is to show you how to get great photos using your digital SLR and without the need for a press pass. Digital cameras have made photography more accessible. Many more fans have a decent camera than when film and development were involved. There are loads of photography books, but little focus on Motorsport specifically. This is what I would like to focus on here.

Shots like the one below come about from a mixture of timing and technique. Club racing is the ideal place to practice, just as aspiring drivers come here to practice, so can aspiring photographers. Once perfected, the techniques can be used at higher profile events such as Le Mans and Formula 1.

Mazda MX5 Oversteer
Cheap Thrills in MX5 Racing
Canon 60D, 300 mm, F/5, 1/200 s, ISO-100

Cheap is probably somewhat unkind, as all racing is costly, but relatively speaking, club races such as the MX5 championship provide an affordable entry into Motorsport for many drivers. As you,can see, lively rear drive sports cars can be a thrill-a-minute too, as car control is developed!

At this point on the circuit at Cadwell you are close to the actions, so a 300 mm lens is plenty. I was following the cars as they crested the hill, and shooting 3/4 front panned shots across the track. Good panning involves following the car a little before and after, and in this case, he ran a little wide over the brow. Over correcting off the grass brought the tail around – nicely controlled and on his way on this occasion! As I was panning shots, I had the Canon set to Tv mode (shutter priority) with the shutter speed set at 1/200 s to give some blurring, but not wildly so. I just got away with the shutter speed shooting this with the MX5 coming towards me, and a nice effect with the dirt flying.

The Canon 80D has arrived…

I’ll be giving the Canon 80D a full Motorsport photography work out on Saturday, but here are a few first thoughts having unpacked it today.

So, this is an upgrade from the 60D for me. I skipped the 70. Why? Well, usability upgrades looked OK, but with no more pixels, I was never convinced it offered enough. As soon as the 80 was announced, with 30% more pixels, greatly improved autofocus and all the nice usability of the 70, I placed my preorder.

I’ve had a quick play in the house, just to get some basic familiarisation with the setup. A few buttons have moved, time will tell if I like the new positions. Big difference – touch screen. In an Apple world, the lack of touch was feeling archaic. I’m pleased to report it works really well too. The new autofocus is a big improvement on the 60. You can choose zones of sensors, leave it to its own judgement, or pick an individual sensor – with so many to choose from, this is going to be great for a bit of creativity at the track.

Canon 80D
Test shot of Valentino Rossi

iPad Air!

Not much more to say here, I shall return with photos and thoughts after a day shooting at the race track…