I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 round of the MotoGP World Championship in Austin, Texas on April 10-12. Having been to these races before I knew what to expect and some of the best places to position myself to get reasonably good shots. So Tip #1 for Capturing Motorcycle racing is to get as close as possible. I tried to shoot from a position where the bikes were not at top speed. The braking zones coming into a slow corner were a good choice. Note how rider Marc Marquez is very hard on the brakes (front forks compressed, rear tire barely touching the surface) in the image below.
Camera settings can vary depending of lighting conditions and how fast the subject is moving. Most of these shots were taken with overcast skies so it was necessary to bump the ISO to 400 so I could set the shutter speeds at 1/800 or higher. Tip #2 is use a fast shutter speed even if you have to increase the ISO. I had the f-stop on my 300mm zoom at 5.6 for most of these.
The biggest challenge was getting sharp focus as these bikes are seriously fast! I was panning with the rider and bike as they dove into the turn. Most of the time I would pre-focus on a spot on the track then follow the rider to that point and fire the shutter. Tip #3 is to try pre-focusing as some auto-focus lenses will not be able to keep up. I managed to get reasonably sharp focus on about half of my images. I love the great colors that make up rider Karel Abraham's suit and helmet!
It helps to have a monopod but it was sometimes cumbersome when panning. However, the images with the pod were slightly sharper then most of the images that were handheld. Tip #4 is use a tripod or monopod when possible.
Thanks for reading and please add your own comments and tips!
Thanks for the input Babar. You will be very lucky to get any sharp images at 1/30 (!). Maybe you can get better images with 1/250 but they will be few. Perhaps you have some examples to share. I would love to see them. Thanks.
Sorry, not so good job. Motorcycles are capable of going 195mph and you show me no speed here. First tip, learn to pan with the motorcycle. As he's coming in to the frame on your left, follow the rider until he is directly in front of you. Then take the picture. Shutter speeds should be between 1/30 and 1/250, depending on the amount of blur you want in the background and what speed he is going. It takes practice but I'm sure you'll get it. Sharp motorcycle and blurred background. The ideal is to pan smoothly and at exactly the speed of the motorcycle. Good luck!
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