I love giving tips on the best photography equipment you should be using.
Some types of photography require setting everything up and then patiently waiting to get the shot, but motor sports photography isn’t like this. If you want to capture the best motor sports shots, you need to be mobile and move around the race circuit, taking photos from every straight, every corner, and every hairpin.
Carrying around a load of photography equipment when you have to be mobile isn’t fun—trust me. Not only are your arms, shoulders, and back going to be screaming in pain within a few short hours, but there is the problem of keeping your expensive photography equipment safe and out of harm’s way whilst you're happily taking photos of the cars, motorcycles, or whatever vehicles are racing.
You need to travel light when you go for a day out doing some motor sports photography; you should take only what is necessary. The basic rule of thumb is that if you’re not going to use a particular bit of equipment, it stays at home. Taking equipment “just in case” is a luxury you have to do without
When I go out for a day capturing motor sports, I will take one camera, one lens, and a few accessories, as follows.
The Camera I Use
A camera for motor sports photography needs to be strong and robust (well, you are outside), fast focusing, and have a high burst rate.
The camera I use for motor sports photography is the Canon 7d, and it is excellent. If money weren’t an issue and I had unlimited funds I would be the pro spec Canon 1d, but I simply can’t justify the eye watering price tag of this camera. The Canon 7d is an affordable alternative and a very capable camera.
A long reach zoom lens is essential for motor sports photography, and whilst many photographers like to use a prime lens, I find a zoom lens is the best tool for the job.
Zoom lenses are more versatile than fixed focal length prime lenses. With a zoom lens, I can use the variable focal length to change the composition to get the shot I want.
With a zoom lens, I can remain in situ and zoom in and out without having to physically move. Because of safety barriers, fences, and other race fans, it is not always possible to move closer to the action at race circuits.
I use a Canon camera, and the lens I use for motor sports photography is the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens. This lens is tough, durable, and weather sealed, which is crucial to keep the dust and the dirt out.
The build quality is second to none and this lens is totally bombproof, although this does make it fairly big and bulky. The image quality is awesome, and whilst the f4.5 maximum widest aperture isn’t particularly fast, the image stabilization helps to get a sharp shot.
Review of the Canon 100 - 400L IS lens
Whilst you can hand hold a large and heavy lens, you are going to feel the effect within a short time, and your photos are going to suffer as a result. A monopod is an essential bit of kit for motor sports photography, and you should never attend a race circuit without one.
In addition to a mono pod, I have a ball head joint mounted to the top so I can quickly and easily change the position the lens is pointed in.
I only ever take essential accessories with me when I go out to capture shots of motor sports, and if there is no way I am going to use it, I don’t bother taking it. I’m not going to load my camera bag with stuff for the sake of it.
The accessories I take with me comprise of:
- 2 spare batteries: There’s nothing worse than having to stop snapping because the camera dies.
- Spare memory cards: I never delete any image track side and firing off several shots in quick succession soon fills up the memory cards.
- Waterproof lens cover: Even though my camera and lens are both weather sealed when the wet stuff falls from the sky I want to ensure there is no chance of water damage.
- Lens cleaning cloth, lens pen and air blower: Race circuits are notoriously dusty places and a lens cleaning kit is crucial to keep the lens nice and clean.
My camera/lens combination requires a fairly large camera bag, and my camera bag of choice is the Lowepro 75AW. This is a sling type top loading bag with a thick padded strap.
It is also tough, durable and, once the water proof cover is on, fully weather proof. I can carry this bag, complete with my motor sports photography gear, all day and still be relatively pain free.
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