Tag Archives: racing

Clipper Race Sailing Boats

The Clipper Round the World race has been underway for many years.  It is a race of a single class of sailing boats/yachts (depending on where you live) with two qualified crew and the remainder are individuals that can pay to take part on one or more of the legs around the world.  It starts and ends in Portsmouth and stops off at various cities around the world.  It has been to Seattle since we have lived here but I never managed to get down there to see the boats.

I had a work event down at the harbor one evening when the boats had arrived.  After the event, I took a few minutes to walk along the waterfront to see them tied up.  I managed to get a few shots with my phone in the low light – how impressive phones can be in dark conditions – but couldn’t get any closer.  Then I made an error.  They were advertising that you could visit the boats to look around, so I headed down at the weekend with Nancy.  There was no one to be found.  Turns out, they weren’t doing tours that weekend.  It had been a wasted trip (combined with it being a wet and windy day anyway).  However, there is more to come on this topic.

Sticky Surface

I’ve posted a few times about my experience with the drag racing at Pacific Raceway.  One of the things that I particularly was fascinated by was the surface of the strip itself.  I mentioned before the machines that they used for conditioning this surface to ensure that there was maximum traction between the tires and ground.  Periodically, the staff would come on to the track to take samples and measurements to understand exactly how it was performing.  What photos don’t show you, but video can, is just how anything on the surface would stick.  Only when you heard people walking along the track could you get the sound of their shoes sticking to the ground.  Here is a video to explain what I mean.

The Racers Doing Their Thing

In a recent post, I shared some shots of an evening at the Jerry Baker Velodrome in Marymoor Park, Redmond.  We had a good time enjoying the racing, the food and the beer and, a couple of weeks later, they were holding a large meet with many international riders taking part.  This seemed like it would be worth a follow up visit.  That proved to be a good choice.  The size of the field made for much interesting racing and some drama.

Getting there proved a touch more difficult because a concert was also on at Marymoor Park but we made it in before the events got underway, so all was good.  The quality of some of the athletes was impressive.  In one race, a breakaway was well established for a large part of the race and I thought there was no way that they would be pulled back.  However, I was mistaken.  With only a couple of laps to go, a few broke away from the pack and bridged the gap to overhaul the breakaway with what seemed like ridiculous ease.  Most impressive.

There were some riders that were clearly in a league above.  You could see them managing their performance through the races, coming to the front for a while, biding their time for much of the race and then turning on the power when it was required to come home with the win.  Other riders went off on solo breaks which got them some time at the front but, by the end of the race, it was clear that they had burned themselves out.  It made for a lot of fun to watch so I am grateful for the effort that they all made.

Another top evening out.  The food truck may not have been quite so good, but the beer was still excellent, and the racing was a blast.  We shall see when we can next get down there to watch some more.

Tire Ripples

I had seen images from drag racing which showed how the tires get distorted as the immense amounts of torque are transferred through them.  A tire is at its most effective when it isn’t sliding but is in static contact with the ground.  You might recognize this from your own experience.  If you push something across a surface, the resistance reduces once the item starts moving.  The same thing happens with tires.  To get the best out of them spinning is not good.  With the tire gripping the surface but the axle rotating, the sidewall is the area that has to compensate which it does by distorting and then unloading as it drives the vehicle forwards.  I wanted to try and catch this so took a bunch of shots focused on trying to catch this moment.

SOVREN Spring Sprints

It wasn’t terribly long ago that I became away of a motor racing circuit not too far from home.  The Pacific Raceway is down near Kent and is about 40 minutes from home if the traffic is moving normally (by which I mean moving and not bogged down with traffic which might seem normal sometimes).  With one of the early events of the year coming up, I decided to pay it a visit.  I was planning on shooting for a friend’s website but they limited media credentials to those that had shot there before due to a shortage of staff.

No matter.  I figured I would go down anyway and shoot from the public viewing areas.  As it happened, this suited the friend as he needed some material for an article on anyone shooting motor racing for the first time.  The event was the SOVREN Spring Sprints.  I got down there at lunchtime on the Saturday after visiting the opening event of Exotics@RTC.  There was nothing happening when I got there and it turned out that there had been a fatal accident during one of the sessions.  After a little waiting around, it was announced that there would be nothing further that day and they would start the following day.

I headed home and came back the following morning.  A few of the competitors had gone home after the Saturday so the field was a bit reduced but there was still plenty to see.  There were very few spectators so it was easy to go wherever I wanted in the public areas.  The best shooting locations are on the south side of the course but that is only accessible with credentials.

The variety of vehicles was great.  Plenty of single seaters but also lots of road cars modified for track racing.  I am not familiar with all of the classes of car racing but I just get to enjoy watching them blasting around the course.  I wandered from place to place to try different shots.  The light was not ideal with backlighting for a large part of the day.  I was messing around with low shutter speeds which, with the speeds they are at and how close you can be to the track, resulted in a lot of blurry images.  You get parallax issues that close as well so deciding which bit of the car is sharp to be an acceptable shot is a bit of a taste issue.

The entry to the track from the paddock area is by a stand so I would often sit on the ground but the entry point as the cars drove in.  It made for a slightly different view of the cars but the backgrounds can get pretty busy.  I also went up in to the stands to get some shots looking down.  The barriers could sometimes be a hindrance but they do have some platforms at ground level to get you close to the track which is handy.

I probably was being too aggressive on the shutter speeds which meant lots of useless shots but, to be fair, it was a day for playing around and, as long as you get some shots out of it, does it matter?  I was getting a little tired in the afternoon and then realized, I wasn’t shooting for anyone else so I was free to leave if I wanted.  Therefore, I decided to head off home.  I took one more pass through the paddock area shooting people working on their cars or just hanging out and then I called it a day.  I will aim to be back for some of the upcoming events, though.

Popping Wheelies – On Purpose and Inadvertently

Back to my time shooting bike racing at Shelton for this post.  Today I am focusing on wheelies.  Powerful bikes are able to pull wheelies without any trouble but, while racing, that is not something that people try to do.  However, while accelerating away from the start or from a slow corner, it is not unusual for the riders to get the front wheel off the ground.  It is usually pretty brief so you aim to get it quickly.

When the races are over, it is a different story.  As the riders run a final lap after the checkered flag, if they see you watching or holding a camera, it is not unusual for them to pull the front wheel up for an extended period.  It makes for a cool shot if you are ready.  These shots are a selection of wheelies O got during my (exceedingly hot) day out shooting the racing.

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.

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.