The Wrong Lens at the Right Time

Today’s Post by John Larsen

In 2015 I was fortunate to obtain media credentials at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport) to take photos of a couple of professional series that were racing.

When I go to any venue I move to various locations seeking different angles and perspectives, while changing focal lengths. For one particular race I headed to Moss Corner, named for racing legend Stirling Moss who won the first major race there in 1961. This sharp corner is the slowest on the track. Due to the changes in speed and congestion, contact between competitors is not unusual. Leaving my car for the steep uphill walk to the corner I left my heavy Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L lens behind in favor of my Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L lens. The shorter lens optics would be better suited to panning as the cars exit the corner heading up the Mario Andretti Straightaway.

Other credentialed photographers joined me on the outside of the corner, behind a concrete barrier. The location on the run-off pavement provided head-on photo opportunities from a low perspective. Standing behind the barrier I realized that the 100-400 would have been the better choice for tighter head on shots. Access is closed once cars are on the track, so I had to make the best of the situation and shoot with my 70-200mm lens.

Within a few laps, while looking through my viewfinder, I saw a car veer across my frame from behind another car. I held my shutter button down and kept firing photos while tracking a Mini Cooper that went up on two wheels, rolled over and hit a tire wall which sent it airborne!

The Mini eventually came to a rest on its side. In total I captured 27 frames from start to finish.

I later sought out the driver who assured me he was unharmed. His crew was focused on repairing his Mini for the following day’s race. Sure enough, they were on the starting grid.

If I had been using my 100-400mm zoom lens I would not have been able to follow this car. The larger viewing area with the smaller lens was necessary to capture this stunning series. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only photographer to record it. As painter Bob Ross was fond of saying, “We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.”


John Larsen is located in the Greater Toronto Area, whose PhotoGraffics website contains samples of motorsports and hot air balloon photography from numerous Canadian balloon festivals.