It’s Drag Racing Season Again

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

The National Hot Road Association’s 2019 racing season is under way and even out here in the Rocky Mountain West—yes, there was a blizzard going on as I wrote this—cars show and racing season is right around the corner…

The essence of drag racing is head-to-head competition between two cars or motorcycles going full tilt down a quarter-mile of straight smooth track. That pole in front of the cars is called a Christmas tree whose colored lights count down to start a race. For action shots at the Christmas tree, I usually shoot a short burst of images using the camera’s continuous mode. Exposure is critical because there’s no time for bracketing so right before a race I to shoot a few tests and make exposure adjustments all day long by looking at the histogram.

The old racer’s expression “There’s no substitute for cubic inches” can be translated into advice for photographing drag racing as “There’s no substitute for millimeters of focal length.” My guess is that some of your best action images will be captured with zoom lenses that have a 200-300mm maximum focal length and maybe having a 1.4x extender in your pocket, just in case, is not a bad idea.

How I made this shot: The above image was photographed at Denver’s Bandimere Speedway on a race weekend. Camera was a Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN and an EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens with an exposure of 1/400 sec at f/8and ISO 200.

But there’s more to drag racing than what’s happening on the track. Unlike other forms of motorsports, you can sometimes get close enough to the action to photograph it with a wide-angle lens. For images in the pits bring along a wide-angle zoom. In the past, I’ve used the Tamron’s 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC lens. But the key word when shooting in the pits is not just focal length, it’s safety. Stay alert and pay attention to what’s going on around you.

How I made this shot: The above image was photographed at Bandimere Speedway. Camera was a Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN and an EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens with an exposure of 1/160 sec at f/11 and ISO 100.

Photographing any sport requires at least a rudimentary knowledge of the rules so you’ll know what’s going on to capture the peak of action. You can photograph drag racing without knowing the difference between a “Christmas tree” and a Hanukkah bush but you’ll get better pictures if you do a little research or ask a friend about the sport before making any photographs. Visit the National Hot Rod Association’s website for information about the sport.


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