Sport photography – Speedway British Semi Finals

I have been trying to get to the Speedway track for over 4 years. My old manager and I have talked about it but never got around to it, this time we were both available and it was a important meet. I was using it as a recce for possible future visits.

This isn’t the first time I have taken photos at a sport event, I normally cover motorcycle racing and motorcycle track days ( but Speedway was something different from the norm for me.

I used a Canon 7D with a Canon 300mm F2.8 L and x2 converter. Using AI Servo and shooting at 1/400 of a second. With the converter and the x1.6 the 7D gave me I had 960mm to play with, if I worked it out correctly. I was standing at the other end of the track in the crowd and I was able to get a good reach from the lens. As the converter doubles up the aperture the lowest I could use was F5.6. This wasn’t a problem in the beginning but by the time the sun was down the ISO was pushed to maximum levels and the photos got grainier. The converter was taken off at sun down and aperture went to F2.8 but it made little difference in the end.
I enjoyed the evening and out of the 1000 photos I took I have 140 keepers, I’ll be able to whittle it down further but that not bad for the night in my eyes. You have to be realistic with your hit rate I feel, I took anything from 1-10 photos per corner, out of those I choose 1 maybe 2 keepers. As I won’t be selling these to anyone it works out well, if I was doing my normal racing and track day coverage I would be aiming for 80% keepers go give customers a variety to choose from.

There are a few things to be weary of when you decide to go to a sport event with a telephoto lens. The photographers track side either pays or are contracted to take photos, they don’t like it very much to see a big lens in the crowd taking photos. So find out beforehand if you are allowed to use a telephoto lens. In my case I found it out once a photographer track side spotted the lens I was using and sent a marshal over to tell me to stop taking photos, the marshal said the information was in the program. As I bought a program on the spur of the moment I checked the next day and there in small print on page 3 it states that no video, zoom or close range photography is allowed without prior accreditation. As I have public liability insurance of £5 million and already do track side photography I’ll try my luck to get permission for next time, however I don’t think I’ll hold me breath as track side is a very difficult place to get into.

The mascot of the Edinburgh monarchs.
IMG_0001Some practise starts by some of the riders. The power the bikes has easily lifts the front wheel upwards and the body position of the rider controls the height and direction the bike travels.
IMG_0002 IMG_0012 IMG_0025Some racing moments, sideways of course and with mud flying off the back tyre.
IMG_0004 IMG_0007IMG_0008IMG_0005If you look at the left edge of the photo at the bottom of the yellow board you will spot a black patch, that is a track side photographer, as I edited the photo I thought I’ll keep a little bit of him to show how close they are to the action.IMG_0006Track side furniture gets in the way of good photos but sometimes that just can’t be helped.IMG_0009 IMG_0146A rider removing a tear off, this clears the visor so he has a better view of the action.IMG_0085As half the track was in sunlight and half were in shadow it’s not always the easiest thing to balance, with 55-56 second races times you need to make quick adjustments if you want to cover both sides of the track. IMG_0003 Sun was down by the time the rest of the photos were taken. You can see as the ISO climbs the quality drops.
ISO 1250, F5.6 IMG_0445F2.8, ISO3200IMG_0480
People standing in front of your perfect photo will happen from time to time, if the action is good enough to distract the viewer from the intrusion then I feel you can use the photo.
IMG_0451IMG_0495F2.8, ISO4000IMG_0593 IMG_0561F2.8, ISO5000IMG_0693

Photographs by Jacques…