Saturday, September 26, 2009

British Touring Car Racing

I recently had the chance to shoot British touring car racing at Rockingham Motorspeedway track in Leicestershire.

It was my first attempt at car racing of any description, I chose British Touring Cars to shoot as NORMALLY there is heaps of action crashes etc so I thought I may get some decent shots that possibly ESPN would be interested in but alas it was not really my weekend ;-) no matter where I went accidents did not happen the nearest I got was when I had set up my camera to do what we call a pan shot, so slow shutter speed to make the background look blurry and the cars going fast, so I didnt get anything really worthwhile.

Motor racing poses it's own problems different to shooting the usual sports, for starters it's bloomin loud plus due to safety reasons you are limited to where you can and cant shoot from, obviously all the places I looked at that would give me a good clear shot was poo poo'd by some jobsworth marshal another problem with motor racing is the distances you have to walk with all your kit and most times you are stuck in that position until the end of the race, which means fighting your way through the crowds after to get to the podium... luckily I am king of speed walking and tapping people out the way using the base of my monopod...

At first I got a typical frosty reception from the other photographers there, this is so typical of shooting sports in the UK where everyone is guarded about their shots and dont like outsiders!! However it soon became apparent to me that 99.9999999% of these alleged photographers were weekend warriors most shooting on semi automatic or even automatic mode.. I ended up given a few advice about camera settings and picture composition, then a problem developed... I had a trail of photographers follow me where ever I went to get the same shot so they could compare!! That soon fizzled out after I went to stand in an area full of stinging nettles to get a good angle.. Always dress for extreme conditions is my theory so long socks and heavy duty trousers means no stings for me ;-)

As always when I shoot a new sport I try various different cameras and lens combinations I am always tinkering on the training runs somethings work some dont. for instance the shot below I wanted to get a different view of the finish line as everyone was the other side of the chequered flag getting a head on shot so I went wide and from behind to incorporate the car, flag, crowd and also an advertising for the racetrack (for future sales opportunities)

All in all after 6 days out of 7 shooting sport (3 cricket 1 football and motor racing over 2 1\2 days) I was very tired and happy with the results. Next stop is the British Superbikes at Silverstone so stay tuned for the next riveting read ;-)

Motor racing BTCC 19 - 20/09/2009 - Images by .

Friday, September 25, 2009

The good the bad and the ugly.

Well following my trip to the home of cricket Lords I was off in my motorhome to Nottingham for 2 more of England's cricket matches against Australia... needless to say the Aussies creamed us but again I had some good shots.

Ricky Ponting scored a century in the 1st match, again I was playing with various focal lengths and lens camera set ups, a 7 hour match means you have a bit of time!! I also decided to do some old school stuff with manual focus.

After the match I drove up to Liverpool as I had managed to secure accreditation to cover their Champions League match with Hungarian team Debreceni VSC. As a school kid I had been a bit of a fan of Liverpool with Kenny Dalglish my hero. So to actually stand on the pitch as 60000 people sang the Liverpool Anthem "you'll never walk alone" was possibly the highlight of my sports photography career so far. Prior to the game I had a brief chat with a guy called Michael Reagen from Getty Images, he is also the official FA photographer, and possibly the best football photographer in the world. He gave me a bit of advice about best position which was nice of him.

I chose to shoot facing the KOP with the away fans behind me, and about midway between the goal and the corner flag. For the first half Liverpool attacked the goal my end, the match was fairly boring Liverpool eventually winning 1-0 with Dirk Kuyt scoring the winning goal.

I didn't get a good shot of the actual goal as a big Hungarian arse was in my way.. these darn players are so inconsiderate at times... I was working on the wires for this match (images going direct to newspapers etc from the agency) so speed was of an essence in getting images out, what you have to do is shoot some shots then change memory cards download what you have taken to your laptop, then edit / caption and then FTP (send) them to the agency, you do this constantly during the game so sometimes you are relying on things like crowd noise to let you know when something is happening. The big agencies have either editors for their photographers or something called shoot live where the cameras are connected to the laptop and within a second of the image being taken it's transferred to the picture desk back at head office.. As yet I have not worked for an agency with this system but it means no onsite editing so cant be a bad thing ;-)

My workflow was basic for this, shoot the action, chimp (check the screen see if images are sharp and good) then ingest to the laptop using photo mechanic, add a caption, transfer to photoshop to crop adjust colours, and then ftp. I shoot in RAW 99.99% of the time which may be a bit slower but means if you have a good image but it's slightly under or over exposed then you can sometimes save it. This is handy when you shoot on manual settings and suddenly the light may change mid shot.

After the match I returned to my motorhome to find it had been broken into, the police were on scene and waiting for me, luckily I had all my important gear with me and only lost an old pentax slr camera a point and shoot camera, and some tools, the worst thing though was all my clothes had been pulled out of the wardrobe and cupboards and trampled on the floor, also my travel pillow had split with millions of tiny polystyrene balls all over the friggin place. I was gutted but life goes on the door had virtually been ripped off it's hinges so a Mitch repair job with some string a bungy and some gaffer tape secured it for my trip back to Nottingham and the cricket the next day.

Football Champions League Liverpool vs Debrenici - Images by .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What a week so far..

I have managed to realise 2 childhood dreams so far this week, one was to be on the pitch at Lords cricket ground, and the second was to be on the pitch at Anfield, home of Liverpool Football Club. For Lords I was tasked to shoot an England one day international cricket match against Australia.

Cricket is not the easiest sport to shoot owing to the fact you are a long way from the centre of play, even using a 400mm lens with a 2x converter you still have to crop into the image, also using a 2x converter means your images are generally not as sharp as using a prime lens.

Lords is a funny place, so many old traditions, you cant get into certain areas unless you have a suite and tie, is one of the strangest. photographers positions are not in the best places. for the England innings I was stuck in a gap with a constant stream of people walking past getting in the way!! Like most events I cover I have to try and find a position away from the major agencies like Getty Images, Associated Press, Press Association, Agence Francaise Presse, because for sale purposes why would an newspaper pay for my image if it was the same as they get anyway!

It took me a while to work out the best setup for me to use, and I settled on using my Canon 5d with 400mm f2.8 lens and a 2x converter for the close up shots, and a Canon 1d Mk3 with a 70-200mm F2.8 and a 1.4x converter for general shots. I also had a Canon 20d with a 24-105mm F4 for wider shots and general views. As much as I am a huge fan of cricket I am not really patient enough to shoot it, I normally have the attention span of a 3 year old so I did find shooting the game hard at first, but the sight of Brett Lee the australian pace bowler ripping through Englands batting attack kept me going.

I was fairly happy with the shoot and lucky for me so were the agency I was working for that day as they asked me to shoot to more England matches later in the week. I will write about them later.

Cricket: One Day International 50 over England Vs Australia - Images by .