Classic Cars Podcast
I haven't routinely announced my podcasts on the blog, but I think I will make it a habit to talk a bit about this other part of my Nikonians production to extend and expand a bit on the stuff that I didn't get into the sound file and the slideshow quite like I wanted it. Remember that all podcasts are accompanied by a slideshow that will show you pictures from the shoot along with my comments.
This time the podcast was recorded during the weekend where I attended the Copenhagen Historical Grand Prix as I have mentioned several times on the blog.
I will just run though some of my thoughts and experiences from shooting this arrangement. First of all: getting access. There are two ways (more actually, but sneaking in or being a VIP doesn't count). You can pay your way in. It's not that bad. The prices here started at 280.- Danish Kroners which is equal to about 60 US$. Not cheap, but not really bad either.
But since I write and podcast about photography, I thought "what the *beep*", and applied for press credentials for the race, and as I would expect I had no problems obtaining one. A few references to online publications and to the fact that I had covered other Copenhagen events did it.
Other press agencies may be more reluctant to give press passes to bloggers and podcasters. Don't expect to get press access to a Formula 1 race or events like Photokina because you blog or publish your images on the web. They sit a lot tighter on the so sought after press vests, and will require press cards and references to printed magazines, papers as well as signatures from publishers, editors-in-chiefs or the like.
But press credentials sure makes it a lot more fun to shoot at an event like this. You can pass fences, go behind the scenes and get close. And we're talking a lot closer than the paying audience, which does make a large difference when shooting. So if sports events like this takes place in your neighborhood, don't hesitate: apply for a press or photographers pass. And remember to honor the pass by returning to the agency with a report on your shoot with some images or references to publications - online or offline.
Second: gear. You need serious gear for shooting motorsports. Sure a P&S may catch something useful, and a small DSLR and a kit lens can capture some nice images too, but I would beg, borrow and steal to get some more power.
Luckily I have good friends who shoot Nikon, and I managed to borrow a D3 with a 300mm f2.8 as well as a D200 plus a couple of fixed focal length lenses. I have my own D200 and a D40. Combined with my standard lenses - Sigma 10-20mm, Nikon 17-55mm f2.8, and 70-200mm f2.8 - they would have brought me far, but getting the real horsepower of the D3, the long lens and an extra D200 as a backup was great. These darlings deliver fast AF, rapid shooting sequences and great image quality.
Third: lugging it around. I grew a third arm with a shoulder for the extra camera straps during the weekend. I have no idea what all this gear weighed, but I fear that 20 kilos or some 40 lbs. is a good estimate. I packed most of it in my Kata R-103 backpack. This is very comfortable, and held the two D200's and all other equipment apart from the 300mm and the D3. I stuck that on a monopod and carried it over my shoulder. Even with the nice backpack, the weight of a D200 with glass and flash on one shoulder and the D3 fully armed on the other was quite agonizing. I'm full of sympathy for the guys and girls who do this every day.
Fourth: settings. I shot at aparture priority on all cameras, and set them at f5.6 to f8. I had fun with the D3 at 2500 ISO, but also shot quite a lot at 800 and 400, but most at 200 ISO. I shot cars at 9 frames per second, but I found that I didn't need that much speed. The slower pace was good enough to catch 2-3 frames in focus of each car. The D200's were left at their highest speed for car shots and at single for other shots.
Fifth: flashes. I shot a lot of pictures with flash. Not because I needed the light - rather the opposite. There was a lot of light. The sun was shining from a clear sky most of the time, so I needed the flashes to fill the harsh shadows. I simply put an SB800 with a standard diffuser on the camera and shot with the flash pointing directly at the subject leaving the exposure to the camera.
I shot at slow shutter speeds and high speeds using a slow, rear sync for the slow ones and high speed sync for the fast ones. In most images the light from the flash is almost undetectable. But without flash the shadows would have dark and harsh.
Last but not least: postprocessing. I always shoot RAW and in most cases also JPG. To conserve card space I shot RAW only on this occasion. But returning home with a couple of thousand RAW files does clearly demonstrate why many pros shoot JPG's. Browsing through hundreds and hundreds of large RAW files was staggering and I was rescued by an old piece of software - Preview Extractor - which simply strips out the JPG that's embedded in all RAW files and quickly produces JPG's of all images. Not adjusted or modified, but certainly quicker to browse than the RAW's on my old laptop. Once I found the images I wanted I could convert from RAW with all the bells and whistles needed.