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!
Curtis Smith (Curtwill7)