Monday, 15 October 2012

Covering all the angles at Brands Hatch BSB

Anthony and I teamed up with Ian and Deb Macey for the final Saturday of the British Superbikes Championship at Brands Hatch - our appetite having been whetted by our visit in July.

To say that Deb is a keen Josh Brookes fan would be an understatement, so part of my plan for the day included taking some shots of him at different parts of the circuit.

Josh Brookes - photographed in the pits at Brands in March 2012
As I'm fairly new to this style of photography I was keen to improve my panning technique as well as exploring different angles of attack; some of which worked and some didn't.

Limbering up

We started off at the outside of Surtees - the first part of the GP circuit the riders hit on their way round - for some early panning of the 125s.

235mm; 1/200th at f/5.6 ISO 800
My success rate at 1/200th was fairly good and I did get a few sharp ones at slower shutter speeds.

220mm; 1/160th at f/5.6 ISO 200
Getting the right exposure was quite tricky here as the bikes were moving from a well-lit zone into one that was in shadow.

135mm; 1/80th at f/4 ISO 200
I got a bit brave and went down to 1/80th, in part due to the low light levels available. The above shot was the best that I got so I vowed to stay at 1/160th or higher for the remainder of the day.

A word on ISO

In low light conditions it's easy to run our of apertures at the wide end and the only remedy is to bump up the ISO. Anthony has in the last year purchased a Nikon D700 to complement his D300, the former of which has much improved high ISO performance. The improvements he sees are similar to those I got when I upgraded from a Canon 50D to the 1D MkIV. [In fact, I found the 50D just far too noisy overall and sold mine on eBay. I think Canon has learned the lesson now] 
Having the confidence to shoot at higher ISO also affords one the luxury of setting the ISO to 'Auto', which is perfect when shooting in Shutter Priority in low light. Anthony has used this method before with great success so I followed suit and found that it worked really well. After all, given the choice of a slightly noisy image or a poorly exposed one I know which one I'd pick!

Up to Stirlings

Stirlings is the sweeping left-hander leading into the long straight than enters Clearways. There were two main options here: front-on shots while the riders are cranked over in the bend or panning as they accelerated down the straight.

Josh Brookes hard on the power; 500mm; 1/1000th at f/4 ISO 800

Many of the riders would have the front wheel off the ground as they put the power on. Note the deformation in the rear tyre on the image too.

140mm; 1/200th at f/3.2 ISO 250
It's not everyone's cup of tea but I tried a few shots from the entrance to the bend. I like the lead-in of the rumble strip making a different pictorial statement. This one was taken at ISO 1000 and the image quality is on a par with ones shot at lower sensitivities.

500mm; 1/2500 at f/4.5 ISO 1000


My previous photography at Druids has always been from the inside of the bend but, after a morning of panning, it was time for something different. Anthony had the idea of shooting through the fence down towards Hailwood's Hill, trying to isolate the bikes against the out of focus background.

The secret is to get as close to the fence as you can with the longest lens that you have, set at its widest aperture. My years of wildlife photography have taught me to move around to ensure the cleanest of backgrounds; my trademark according to Anthony.

500mm; 1/4000th at f/4 ISO 250

Dingle Dell

Early in the afternoon we bumped into Sean Harding, a fellow member at Ashford Photographic Society. Sean joined us for the afternoon and was good company as we fought off the cold that accompanied the sun's disappearance behind the trees.

For much of the early afternoon, photographing at Dingle Dell meant shooting into the sun. This gives a very different effect, with the shadow of the bike cast on the track and a few star bursts to boot.

Back-lit. 150mm; 1/250th at f/8 ISO 100

Reflecting on the race day

It was not the perfect day for Deb as Josh failed to make any inroads into Shane Byrne's lead. And it was more of the same on Sunday when Shane was duly crowned a worthy champion.

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