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pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
12/26/20 5:44 p.m.

Curious what people like to use to photography motorsports events as far as focal lengths for the system of their choice.  I had hoped to make it to the Challenge, photograph it for fun & the experience of it, but this year didn't work out that way.  Thinking about next year's Challenge, and thinking about the lenses I do own, I've wondered what I would want to pack down there with limitations on space as my hope is to ride a motorcycle there and back. 

We get photography threads around here now and then and I wondered what sort of focal lengths people would pack when they're thinking about interchangeable lens cameras.  If I were told I had five minutes to pack my camera gear up and leave, I think I'd grab my 75 to 150mm f4 zoom, my 85mm f2 prime, and a 28mm f2.8 prime with a pair of 35mm film bodies.

What do you bring to something like the Challenge or other similar events?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/26/20 6:59 p.m.

For most work, I just carry two lenses: 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 17-40 f/4.0. Those are used on a 1.6x crop Canon 7D MkII. I also carry a 1.4x converter but don't use it that much. 

For the head-on action shots that Dave Green gets at the Challenge, he's using a 400 f2.8 lens on a 1.6x crop body. That's some heavy glass, but it does what it needs to do. 

Canon now makes a 70-200 f/4.0 that's intriguing. It's one stop slower than what I now carry, but it's also lighter. 

After carrying SLR/DSLR cameras for decades, I recently picked up a Fuji X100V for fun stuff. It has a fixed lens: 35mm (equiv.) f/2. I love it. Love it. In fact, I have been using it in the garage. 

What you have sounds fine. You're giving up some distance for action, but that 70-150 would also grab great candids in the paddock. 

Recon1342
Recon1342 Dork
12/26/20 11:54 p.m.

I shoot with 35mm film and prime lenses, so I'd bring my 50mm F2 and my 135mm F2.8, both Minolta Rokkor glass. They punch far above their weight, IMO. I'd probably toss my TLR in with some 120 film as well, just for kicks...

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
12/27/20 7:02 a.m.

For 35mm, if I'm serious I work with prime sets, either 21/35/85 or 28/50/135 (or occasionally 100). Usually two bodies, and I'll switch the wide and long lenses as needed, keeping the standard mounted at all times. I use old Leicas, but my lenses are a mix of stuff: Leica, Nikkor, Canon, Konishiroku, and a few others. Try to use lenses that produce a similar look (this is not such an issue with newer equipment). If you shoot B&W you will want to think about filters, but that's another discussion.

If I'm just screwing around, one body, one lens, which will almost always be a 50, with the only possible alternative an 85. Limitations like this breed creativity. Similarly, I second the TLR suggestion, especially for around the paddock. They are unobtrusive, so you can get good candids up close, and the low angle they tend to produce is great for cars. Shorter depth-of-field at wide apertures makes for good isolation of subjects. Plus squares are cool.

I can post some samples of different focal lengths at the track later if you like.

 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
12/27/20 7:50 a.m.

Generally bigger is better if you don't have a press pass. Fortunately you can get quite close to the action at the Challenge, though, so my go-to lens there and anywhere else where I can stand right next to the good corners is a 70-210mm. I'll usually compliment that with a 11-16mm ultra wide.

If I'm at a bigger track, I have a big 135-400mm zoom lens, and I'll pair it with a 18-55mm or a 50mm prime.

FWIW, my go-to gear for getting on a plane with limited space to go shoot on track is a D7000, that 70-210, the 11-16, the 35mm prime and a SB-900 speed light. That fits in my carry-on with plenty of room leftover for everything else, and covers 90% of situations. 

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
12/27/20 8:17 a.m.

I took an 18-70mm and a 70-300mm to the challenge and never wanted for more.  That's on a DSLR which is a bit smaller than 35mm, so not apples to apples on focal length/image size, but you get the idea.  I knew everything was going to be daylight, so I wasn't worried about super fast lenses.  I just took the kit lenses to save on bulk.

Ended up not shooting much.  Too much driving to be done cheeky  Also learned on this trip that my $10 ebay strobe isn't really compatible with my D3200.  Oh well.  Not sure what I expected for $10.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
12/27/20 8:35 a.m.

Wallens :

Seems like you and Green are both using body & glass combinations with much more reach than I was expecting.  The focal lengths I considered are more for walk around; the drag shots, for instance, always seem to be taken from further distances.  A prime lens somewhere between 200 and 300mm would be nice but I'm somewhat limited as to what's available for the bodies I own and shoot with; old Pentax k-mount that needs aperture rings (and are manual focus, which kind of matters, but on a secondary level).  A Ricoh GRIII would be nice, kind of like that X100V you've got, and I never really got on with 35mm on full frame (no pun intended) so the field of view on the GRIII would probably be more my speed. 

Recon1342 :

Nothing wider than a 50?  The 135 makes sense, agreed there.  My longest prime is a 105mm f2.8 Macro that really wouldn't be that great for this due to the long focus throw and relative weight & size of the thing.

02Pilot :

That all makes sense for the most part.  Is the TLR really that unnoticeable, maybe due to a waist level finder?  I could see, in good light, using a small 28mm prime or some other lens like my 40mm pancake, set the aperture to f11 and use hyperfocal zone focusing and never have to bring the camera to my eye (advantageous to have aperture priority automatic exposure shooting available).  I'm not too bothered by filters yet; I picked up an orange filter recently but haven't shot with it mounted yet.  And by all means post some photos you've taken.

Suddard :

Hard to argue against the image quality of a modern APS-C digital camera. 

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
12/27/20 8:38 a.m.

Curtis73 :

This would definitely be me just being there and not being there to support a team or drive etc.  If I was on an actual team I'd probably pack a single camera body and a 40mm prime lens and try to focus on the event and not the photos too much.

Recon1342
Recon1342 Dork
12/27/20 9:22 a.m.

In reply to pres589 (djronnebaum) :

I have a 28mm wide, but unless I'm really close, the 50 is more than capable of doing what I need. My TLR has a focal length of 80mm, IIRC, and a negative size of 6x6 cm. It's capable of some stunning images...

This is the Logan, Utah LDS temple-

dxman92
dxman92 Dork
12/27/20 9:25 a.m.

All the photo setups around here garner fantastic photos from all the events and magazine shoots.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/27/20 10:26 a.m.

Here's an article we did at Classic Motorsports that might be of  interest: shooting classic cars with classic cameras

I bought film for my Canon G-III a while ago but then realized that the windering mechanism might be a little messed-up. Then I bought the X100V. It shoots like a vintage camera but without having to wait. 

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
12/27/20 11:19 a.m.

Wallens :

Thanks for the link.  Shame about the Canonet having winder issues.  I've wondered about getting something like the later one with the 40mm f1.7 lens but I'm not sure how much I want to use a rangefinder; through-lens focusing seems nicer to use but it does drive one to larger camera bodies.  And my MX is fairly compact so I never made the leap (I don't really love the MX though).

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/27/20 12:50 p.m.

There is an aesthetic aspect to the choice as well, so it partly depends on what style you're looking for in the end product.  Personally I find that I prefer longer focal lengths to avoid the foreshortening effect, so even if I have the option of getting close to the car I tend to reach for the longest lens I have room to use.  I haven't done much shooting the last few years, but it's rare that I use anything shorter than a 24-105 f/4 on my APS-C sensor camera, with the 70-200 f/2.8 and 100-400 f/4-5.6 being more common.

Recon1342
Recon1342 Dork
12/27/20 3:01 p.m.

In reply to codrus (Forum Supporter) :

That's why my 28 gets very little use. My 135 is probably one of my favorite lenses...

ckosacranoid
ckosacranoid SuperDork
12/27/20 4:10 p.m.

I have been shooting the local dirt track for the past 7 years and then I broke the 18-55 and had to get a new lens for pit shots. I had a 75-300 for range.

I picked up a tamaran 18-200 for an all-around lens and found it sucks under the lights at night. The 75-300 is better for under the light for action. But the other one is pretty much just what I use and even for non-track use. 

I shoot a Nikon d5200 body for ages now and had lots of good use and abuse for the thing since I do not clean it much and times I have found dirt on it from the end of the season of racing a few months later. 

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
12/27/20 6:02 p.m.

OK, here we go. I tried to get a few representative shots here - far from comprehensive, but hopefully it gives you a few ideas:

21mm

28mm

35mm

50mm

 

85mm

135mm

TLR

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
12/27/20 8:08 p.m.

02Pilot :

Those are all really great.  Thanks for sharing.  Thinking about the wide end, a 24mm on FF might be a good compromise, but I kind of see it as another compromise focal length that doesn't really excel; I want a 28 or my 17 (or 20) but I didn't want to bring both so I got the best/worst of both in a 24. 

I need to sell some glass.  Well, need is a strong word, but sometimes I have too may options.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
12/27/20 8:58 p.m.

In reply to pres589 (djronnebaum) :

I bought and sold a 25mm and found the same thing: it's a compromise. Kept the 21 and the 28 for wide.

I've got way more lenses than I need, but I've also sold a fair few. I shoot 50mm most of the time. It's nice to have options from time to time, but working with a single focal length tends to produce better work.

Recon1342
Recon1342 Dork
12/27/20 9:48 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

I'm just not a fan of wides, honestly. I've got a rangefinder with a fixed 45mm, and it's really about the widest lens I like...

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/27/20 10:46 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

In high school, we were limited to a 50mm lens. Want to get closer? Walk closer. Need a wider view? Walk back. Looking back, it helped.

And in college, we had to print everything full frame--no cropping when making prints. It taught us to compose in the viewfinder. 

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
12/28/20 6:29 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Oh, the cropping argument. I've gone through this with a bunch of people over the years in various photography groups. I even spoke about it in a presentation I gave a few years ago. People like Cartier-Bresson talking about how he never cropped started this, I think. It supposedly means that the photo is a true representation, as opposed to a crop where something may have been edited out, but it's just nonsense; the photographer can easily alter the scene or eliminate things simply by moving the camera. Doing everything full-frame is a good exercise, I agree, but cropping offers so many possibilities for changing the nature of a photograph that's it's too valuable an editing tool to give up, IMO. On an even more drastic editing note, I just ordered this book from Amazon. Not that advocate it, but it certainly raises questions about the supposed veracity of photography.

And I've now digressed rather severely. My apologies.

In reply to Recon1342 :

I don't work with wides a lot, but I've spent some time trying to figure out how to make them interesting. Too often, I think, people tend to use them to "get everything in," but this is inevitably boring. To me, they are best when creating vaguely unnatural perspectives (see the examples I posted), or when doing tight interior work where nothing else will do. I do think the look has become more mainstream with the rise of cellphone cameras, all of which are quite wide. Makes me like my 50s that much more.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
12/28/20 11:06 a.m.
02Pilot said:

I don't work with wides a lot, but I've spent some time trying to figure out how to make them interesting. Too often, I think, people tend to use them to "get everything in," but this is inevitably boring. To me, they are best when creating vaguely unnatural perspectives (see the examples I posted), or when doing tight interior work where nothing else will do. I do think the look has become more mainstream with the rise of cellphone cameras, all of which are quite wide. Makes me like my 50s that much more.

The wide nature of cell phone cameras drives me nuts on car pictures.  It really doesn't flatter the lines at all.

 

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
12/28/20 9:15 p.m.

I think cell phone pictures can work for shots like the Lotus 7 pic above.  But most shots aren't going to be like that.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
12/29/20 6:19 a.m.

The rise of good cellphone cameras has dramatically changed what people expect to see in visual images. For anyone raised on normal cameras it's immediately obvious when something is shot with a cellphone, but for a lot of younger people that horrible distorted perspective is what they know.

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
12/29/20 8:59 a.m.

This discussion has motivated me (after months of relative photographic inactivity) to pull this out and take it with me on a hike today.

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