I often get questions about photographing racecars and while most of those questions are about capturing on-track action, that’s only part of the deal. The part we don’t often talk about is safety when around cars traveling at 200mph. Some of this advice may seem obvious but if you follow these tips, I’ll guarantee it will result in better images because there won’t be any distractions.
Park your vehicle in a designated parking spot in a designated parking lot. The last thing you want to hear when getting ready to photograph a championship race is the announcer calling “will the owner of the blue Gremlin, please move your car or be towed.”
Work with the track’s press office to get full access at race tracks. Tip: It helps to have some kind of assignment, even if it’s for your blog. While photographing head-to-head drag racing is fun, I can’t resist shooting burnouts like this. Shot with Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN and EF 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens (at 265mm) with an exposure of 1/800 sec at f/8 and ISO 200.
When making photographs, remain behind safety barriers and these barriers may not be everywhere, especially on a sprawling road course. If you’re not sure about your location, a safety worker will shortly arrive asking you to move. If they do, be nice to them; they have a tough enough job without coping with whiny photographers.
Road racing circuits, like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, often have barriers with “shoot through” holes so accredited photographers can shoot on-track action. These spaces usually providing good camera angles but are designed for the shooter’s safety first.
An American LeMans Series racecars, shot from behind a barrier fence (not unlike that on the other side of the track) using a Canon EOS Rebel—you don’t need an expensive camera—using an EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens (at 200mm) and a Shutter Priority exposure of 1/250 sec at f/22 and ISO 200.
It may or may not be hot at the track but it surely will be loud. Be sure to bring earplugs. Most track’s concession stands sell earplugs and keep several pair in your camera bag because they’re easy to loose but inexpensive to replace.
While in the pit area be alert because there will be many scooters, 4-wheelers, motorcycles, or golf carts transporting people around. Pay attention to cars getting ready to enter a staging area. Racecars don’t have horns like the family jalopy.