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How to photograph motocross


How to photograph motocross - Motocross is an exciting, photogenic and accessible sport, so give it a go.

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Sports and Action

Ah, the smell of two-stroke! If you fancy trying your hand at sports photography, motocross is a great event to try. There are plenty of local events so you should find a meeting or two close to you and access is very good so you can get close to the action without the need for long telephotos. Indeed, you might even find a use for your wide-angle lenses too.

Because you can get quite close to the action it is worth saying that you should not go beyond any safety ropes so just take heed of any signs and the safety stewards.

Motorcross photography

Gear needs

With relatively easy access, you should be able to get frame-filling pictures with a typical telezoom, a 70-300mm is perfect. You will also find use for a wide-angle zoom too so take that along as well.
A tripod is not very practical but take along a monopod, available from brands such as Slik and Velbon.

You need to think camera protection. If it is wet, you may get mud flying around; if is dry, it will be dust in the air. Both can damage your camera and lenses. Protect lenses with skylight or ultra-violet filters, and either use a waterproof cover over the camera or just get a large shopping bag and cut a hole for the lens to poke through.

Motorcross rider

Techniques to try

Getting to a suitable spot is important. At big meetings it might be busy but at local events getting as good spot is easy enough. The outside of a bend is a great spot, but so too is the end of a straight, after a big jump and the start itself.

Motocross is a fast sport but continuous autofocusing should be able to cope in good lighting conditions. Try it if your DSLR can't keep up, try manually focusing on a point on the track and then start shooting just the instant before your subject reaches that point.

For exposure, you can use manual or any autoexposure mode. Set the camera to continuous shooting too so when you press the shutter speed you get a sequence of shots. However, it is worth saying that even continuous shooting at several shots per second is not guaranteed to get the peak of the action moment. You are often better off trying to time your shots rather than 'machine-gunning' the subject and hoping for the best.

Motorcross blur
In terms of exposure mode, manual or any of the auto modes is best, with shutter-priority (S) AE being the most suitable. A shutter speed in the range of 1/125sec to 1/1000sec is best, depending on your position, the subject's speed and effect you want. At bends the racers are going slower so slower speeds are okay. Also, if you want to 'pan' with the racers as they move across you, a slowish speed, say 1/60sec, would keep the subject sharp and blur the background.

Of course, use 1/1000sec or 1/2000sec even the fastest action will be recorded sharply. You will find that even the spokes of the wheels will be sharp at this shutter speed and it might look too static.

As well as racing action, there are plenty of candids of the crowd as well as the racer themselves, and still-lifes in the pits to be shot, and remember to try some creative techniques too: slow shutter technique, perhaps with a burst of fill-in flash, can give excellent results.

Single motorcross rider jump

Take a look at Karl Taylor's motorcross photography video for more advice.

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Al0530 6
3 Apr 2012 12:26AM
Great tips .. will be shooting my son's races this year - first year for him and was looking for ideas on how to shoot.

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