An old friend of mine from Chicago runs a website that covers a lot of motor racing. He asked me whether I would be interested in shooting any events that are out this way and I was happy to do so. The first good opportunity came up when MotoAmerica held motorbike racing at Shelton. I had never been to Shelton before. It is the other side of Olympia from us so not a long drive but not that close. Until this event came up, I had no idea that there was a motor racing circuit there.
Called Ridge Motorsports Park, it is a nice circuit which doubles back on itself quite a bit and makes use of some significant terrain changes. At the end of one straight is a sharp left handed which immediately drops off the side of the hill and transitions in to a right handed and then a left 180 that brings you back to the start finish straight. It reminded me of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.
Unfortunately, the race weekend was the same weekend that the Pacific Northwest experienced heat unlike anything it normally sees. The temperature at Shelton was 105F. Since I was spending the majority of the day outside walking around the track carrying my cameras with me, this meant I was drinking a ton of liquid. Fortunately, I could get restocked at the media center and the marshal stations also had coolers with plenty of drinks available so, while it was hot a tough, I wasn’t running out of drinks.
I have shot car racing in the past but this was my first time with bikes. They were interesting to shoot and I shall probably have some other posts about specific things I shot. One thing I found out as I went through the shots, though, was that only a few types of shot work. When shooting at the chicane, I would shoot them as they entered, transitioned and left. The transition shots looked interesting in the viewfinder but were nothing on screen. The sequence would be good video but, without the context of the motion, a waste of a shot.
Some other angles had a similar level of boring about them. You need to convert the motion and the intensity of the action. Seeing how far over the riders are lying during the corners is something else as well. It is hard to believe that they can maintain traction when so far over. Longer shots were appealing to get a different perspective, particularly when riders end up pulling the front wheel up as they power out of corners. However, hot asphalt is not your friend over longer distances so, if you want a sharp shot, you have to be close. That did have the upside of meaning there was no point lugging the 500mm around with me in that heat!
It was a bunch of fun to shoot and I would happily do it again. Dropping down to really low shutter speeds was a must for most of the shots. I used a polarizer all the time in order to avoid the aperture being super small (showing all my sensor dust) and to also address the harsher reflections that shooting in the middle of the day brings. I think a return to the Ridge is also worth a go.