Category Archives: sport

How Low Do You Go In The Bends

It is quite amazing to me the cornering that motorbike racers achieve.  When I am out on my bicycle, I am always wondering how well the grip will hold up in tight bends at speed but I am not anything close to the cornering angles these guys achieve.  Sure, they have a prepared surface and custom rubber for the tires but even so, it is amazing how they push them to the limits (and occasionally beyond).

Watching them come through the corners, it was a regular thing to see the knee pads down on the surface of the track.  Some of them adopted a far more aggressive approach, though, and the occasional elbow could be seen getting down to the surface.  I wonder how that feels through the leathers and whether it is a good feeling or an unsettling one.

To see these guys coming in to the bends and then heading away from you with the bike and body cranked so far over and the throttle being modulated to keep just enough power on to maximize the speed out of the bend was so impressive.  Riding motorbikes has never been something I have been terribly interested in but watching someone that knows what they are doing extract so much from them was very cool.

Victory Field Indianapolis

I was scrolling through some shots of ships when I came across these pictures of the baseball stadium in downtown Indianapolis.  It sits next to the football stadium and is just south of the hotel we were staying in on a previous trip. There was an evening game underway, and the fading light provided a lovely view of everyone having an evening at the game.  I have been to Victory Field for a game on another visit when some of my work colleagues wanted to check it out.  I do have some pictures from that trip but perhaps they can have their own blog post.

 

Panning Practice When Things Are Close

Photographing motorbikes means trying to get the shutter speed nice and low to make the background blur out and give the strong impression of speed.  When you are a distance from the track, you might have to go quite low in the shutter speeds to get the effect you want.  There is an alternative.  Get really close to the track.  Even with quite a high shutter speed, there is plenty of blur.  Indeed, the chances of getting a sharp shot get quite low unless you take the speed up a bit (or shoot a lot and go with the probabilities saving you).

I went to the Turn 5 location at Shelton a couple of times while I was there.  The marshal station is right in the apex of the bend and it is slightly above track level.  Standing beside it gives you a view down on the riders as they come by.  I tried it out once in the morning.  It was good to get some practice but the light was behind the riders so it wasn’t ideal.

I went back again later in the day when the light was slightly more favorable.  I shot with both a long lens as they were approaching and with a wider lens as they passed right beneath me.  The speed with which they corner means that the panning becomes more of a whip motion and it is hard to pull off reliably.  Plenty of efforts were made to try and get a good shot of the rider while conveying the sense of speed.

A Sequence of Pain and Damage

Motorsports are dramatic enough when things are going normally but there is also the scope for more drama if things end up going awry.  I saw a few of the riders end up on their sides as they came in to a sharp left hander with too much speed but these were normally relatively benign affairs with some bruises and scratched up panels on the bikes.  However, early in the day, I had one more dramatic event.

I was up near Turn 5 when I heard something going wrong.  I had the camera up already and the bike and rider came into the viewfinder without me really controlling things.  I did then manage to track them as they headed off into the grass separately and at some speed.  The bike cartwheeled around while the rider slid and rolled.  He did not spring back to his feet and it took a while for the marshals to get to him and to help him up.

He walked gingerly to the marshal station to await someone coming to pick him up later.  While he seemed basically intact, he certainly didn’t seem well after the incident.  I didn’t hear about his condition so I hope he was okay after a bit of time to recover.

Superbike Racing At Ridge

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.

Surfers At Waikiki Beach

The title is not intended to catch you out, but it probably will.  These photos are in Washington rather than Hawaii.  Cape Disappointment has a small beach tucked under the cliffs and it goes by the name of Waikiki.  At the tail end of my trip there, I saw that a group of surfers had gone in to the water and were making the best of the waves which, since they were a lot smaller than what I would have hoped for, we probably ideal for them.

Not being a surfer, I am not a good judge of what the right techniques are when surfing but, even so, you can usually quickly work out who has got a better feel for the waves and who hasn’t.  Picking the right one to go for and getting up to speed to make it on to the wave seems to be a bigger deal than staying up for some of the people.  As I say, I’m not a surfer so this is all uninformed commentary.

Two things are of interest when photographing surfers.  Having them coming in your direction so you can see their face while they are carving across the wave or watching them wipe out in style.  The latter is probably not what they want me to be focused on but you take what you can get when shooting this stuff!

Sailing Amongst the Islands

The holiday weekend meant the San Juan Islands were definitely the place to be if you had a boat.  We saw plenty of boats coming and going including plenty of sailing boats.  Some seemed either to be racing or training together too.  I just grabbed some shots of the boats when I could.  The evening light on a spinnaker really looks very nice.

Sailing Boats on Puget Sound

We took a walk along the beach at Shoreline one Sunday and the weather was lovely.  Obviously plenty of people thought it was a good day too and there were lots of sailing boats out on Puget Sound.  Some of them came in quite close to the shore before tacking away.  The winds was obviously pretty strong as some of them healed over pretty hard as they caught the wind again.  I love the look of yachts sailing in a strong breeze.

Herne Hill Good Friday Meet 2003

Not long before we left the UK, I finally got around to doing something I had meant to do many times and always forgot about until it was too late.  A visit to the Good Friday meet at the velodrome in Herne Hill.  Since it was south London, it was a pretty easy place to get to by train so no need to fight the traffic in to Town.  It was a big deal in those days – maybe it still is – and it attracted a great selection of riders.  Some pros showed up to race or to be seen.  David Millar was there being interviewed but didn’t race.  I was really pleased to see Stuart O’Grady, I rider I really enjoyed watching race.

The track scene had a selection of established stars and up and comers that I new about vaguely from reading Cycling Weekly.  Chris Newton was a big deal in those days although he never became a widely known cyclist.  However, there were two young guys competing that day that I knew were pretty good.  I didn’t know they would go on to better things.  One was a chubby young sprinter called Chris Hoy.  The other was a good pursuiter called Bradley Wiggins.  Olympic and Tour de France glory awaited them later in their careers.  I was very tempted by one of the t-shirts on sale that day.  It said “I’m not fat, I’m a sprinter!”.  If you’ve ever seen the physique of some of the fastest sprinters, you would find this funny.

Powered Surfboard

Sitting on the pier at Log Boom Park in Kenmore gives me a plentiful supply of things to photograph.  This guy was out on what I can only assume is a powered surfboard of some sort.  I couldn’t work out what powered it exactly but he seemed to have a hand controller to manage his speed.  He was happily cruising around the north end of Lake Washington.  For those of you that are surfers, is this a good alternative when you can’t access good surf or is such a thing heretical in your eyes?