Shooting through the fence…

Without the privelidged access that the media photographers have, you sometimes find yourself struggling with catch fencing. The MSV circuits are not too bad for it, but there’s still the odd stretch. I was Oulton Park recently, and the entry to Lodge is a good spot, with the view back to Druids, but there is a fence. Very helpfully, MSV have put a grand stand in here, and it’s high enough to see over the fence. But, it does change your perspective – it’s nice to be as level as possible with the cars on track. So, here’s how to cope with the fence.

  1. Get as close as possible to the fence – not so your hitting it with the lens, but not far off.
  2. Use a long lens, so that the subject is not too close when you’re shooting. Basically, your maximising the distance at the other side of the fence, whilst minimising it at your side.
  3. Open up the aperture as wide as you can, ideally F4.0 or F2.8 if you have the lens.


(Taken on iPhone to illustrate)

You’ll be surprised how little influence the fence has. Panning a shot might not be ideal, you tend to loose a bit of clarity. Still, it might be fine, somewhere like Paddock Hill at Brands Hatch, where little else is possible. Here, I kept the camera still and looked to freeze the action:

Sports racer at Lodge Corner
Sports racer at Lodge Corner

Canon 80D, 300 mm, F4.0, 1/2000 s, ISO-400

Having set up to close the fence, the usual considerations take over. Keeping dry! You’ll notice the camo cover fitted. The wet weather meant it was quite dark, so to get a decent shutter speed I’m up at ISO 400. Autofocus on the 80D is stellar, but if you struggle in the dark, just pre-focus on the spot you know the car will arrive at and shoot accordingly. With one of my past cameras and an F5.6 lens I’d have had to do that on this day. Out of focus car in background gives the shot some depth. This was taken in portrait orientation and then cropped down to more of a square – works better on screen than a full portrait.

First day with the Canon 80D…

Well, I went over to Oulton Park to try out the new Canon 80D. I’m not sure I’ve ever been there on such a wet day before, which did limit what I could do. Still, with the camo cover fitted, I did manage to grab a few shots of the 750 motor club meeting.

I’d installed the partner app on my iPad, to make use of the file view and transfer whilst at the track. Whilst this isn’t quite seamless, I soon got into the routine of clicks to get it working (enable wifi on camera via Q / touchscreen – switch iPad to Canon wifi – launch app – wait for connection – view images). It did mean whilst sheltering in the car I could review, delete or save each image on the big screen. This was better than using the SD card reader as it lends itself to sorting individual images and deleting from the card, the reader is good for a bulk transfer.

The camera handles much like the 60D I had previously. Same size, similar weight, similar layout. I like having lots of buttons to access particular functions. I do tend to shoot in a few particular ways, so I don’t make loads of changes. I’ve got the auto ISO set to max 400, so it chooses between 100 and 400 itself. However, if you want to push the shutter speed, you still need to select for yourself.

The touch screen, in combination with the Q button allows you to access functions more easily than using the paddle, but you still need to use the paddle to adjust some functions once you’ve selected them.

Obviously in terms of picture quality, it is awesome and having higher resolution is great!

I’ll come back to this topic when I get a better day to play with it, maybe the coming weekend?

Very wet Island Bend at Oulton Park
Very wet Island Bend at Oulton Park
Canon 80D, 300 mm, F4.0, 1/500 s, ISO-320

This was coming out of Island Bend. Unusually, the meeting was on the Island Circuit, which misses off the Shell loop. I liked the layout, sorter lap means more laps, and you can get a great view of Island. This was in the heavy rain, with the rain cover over the lens and body I ventured out for a few minutes at a time! The hairpin is tight enough to get other cars in the background, which adds to the picture I think. The 1/500 s shutter speed was enough to freeze the movement of the splashing water, enabled by selecting a higher ISO of 320. The aperture, F4.0, is wide open on this lens, so I couldn’t go any faster. It’s wide enough to throw the other cars a little out of focus.

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.