Photo Feature: Motocross
I love motorbikes. We used to have bikes before we had Freya and used to enjoy going to watch the British and World Superbikes and, occasionally, speedway… but we haven’t checked any bike racing out for some time, so I was delighted to find that there was some beach motocross going on in Weymouth when we were visiting last weekend. And, of course, it gave me the opportunity to get some action shots… But there are a few things to be aware of when photographing motocross:
Now, of all the challenges when trying to photograph motocross, dirt or, in this case, sand is definitely the biggest one! Firstly, it gets absolutely EVERYWHERE; secondly it can cause havoc when trying to focus and; thirdly, it can pretty much obscure everything in sight!
So you need to try and keep your camera as dirt-free as possible by keeping it in it’s case as much as you can and by putting the lens cap on when you are not using it. Alternatively, you can try standing further away from the action and zooming in.
In the photo below, the riders are slightly obscured by the sand but are still in focus, which is what you are aiming for – you want to see the dirt/sand being thrown up as it shows that the bikes are moving at speed. My settings for this shot were: ISO 125 (it was a bright, sunny day), f5.6 (I wanted the background to be reasonable clear as the view was nice) and shutter speed 1/1000 (to freeze the movement of the bikes).
Another issue is that usually, as with any motorsport, you cannot get very near to the action – for obvious reasons! So make sure you have a zoom lens if you want to get any close up shots. On this occasion, we were not too far from the action as we could stand on the promenade watching the bikes on the beach come fairly close to us in some sections of the races, so I didn’t need to use my zoom too much.
And, finally, you have to factor in the speed at which the bikes are moving. Dealing with this is relatively easy – a fast shutter speed will freeze the action. I used a shutter speed of between 1/500 and 1/1000, depending on the speed of the riders and the light conditions (as they did change during the afternoon). Though on a largely sunny day like Sunday, there was no issue with getting enough light in so I didn’t have to adjust my settings too much once I’d got the shutter speed right.
The shutter speed for the image below was 1/800 in order to freeze the bike in mid air.
This final issue is not really one you can do much about… unfortunately, unless you are an official photographer you are going to struggle to get any photos which don’t have safety barriers/tape, marshals, other spectators, etc in. You just have to try and make these items as unobtrusive as possible. Try changing positions or shooting at a different angle to minimise these distractions. And you can always try and remove any unwanted objects/people afterwards in whichever photo editing package you use.
And my final tip… when you’ve finished shooting, make sure you clean your camera well – firstly with a blower and soft brush and then with a soft, lens cloth. You need to get all that dirt off as soon as possible!
What sports do you like to photograph – or are you not really a sports fan? Let me know in the comments…