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Photography at Motocross Tracks

cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
5 Mar 2012 7:15PM
I wonder if I could call on all those photographers who have visited motocross tracks fairly recently and ask about general 'photographic' access to the tracks. I hope to visit some rounds of the national ACU British MX championships and have noticed that those at 'parks' appear on their websites to have limited access to spectators: the fatCat circuit at Doncaster (a meeting this coming weekend) and Milton Park at Northampton for example - it looks as though you can get a great view around the outside but at a distance and not much, if anything, within the central areas of the circuits.

I wonder if this is to overcome the issues of fencing tracks and managing specatators; however, while understanding why that is sensible for the organisers and riders, it has the reverse effect for photographers unless you have a monster lens; I I have seen this at a couple of local grass roots circuits as well and won't go again. I have ridden (many years ago) both Hawkstone and Cadders Hill at Lyng and will go to them, Mallory is a built circuit but seems to draw huge crowds so will go there as well.

Do any of you have a view (sic) on Doncaster and Northampton. I haven't looked at the AMCA series yet and I may do more at grasstrack venues where it is still possible to get quite close and remain safe. Grateful for any comments, thanks.


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NEWDIGIT 7 401 United Kingdom
6 Mar 2012 9:33AM
I actually live alongside Mallory park so have attended many events there circuit as well as offtrack. Yes you can get close to the action on the autocross circuit but beware that its a very dusty environment and your kit will take a battering.
cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
6 Mar 2012 10:40AM
Ikky, thanks for your reply, much appreciated. I see on the Mallory web site that access to the circuit has been changed to avoid surrounding villages; I guess if you live close the volume of traffic must be a pain - Chris
Philip_P 13 71 1 United Kingdom
8 Mar 2012 7:39PM
Hi Chris I've been to Canada heights in Kent a couple of time & hope to go on the 1st April for rd2 of British MX, there you can get extremely close to the action. The only problem is finding the best places for the action with good back grounds & the amount of people at the events. As Ikky said it can be very dusty or muddy.
Good luck
cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
8 Mar 2012 10:08PM
Phillip, thanks for replying. Canada Heights isn't a track I have been to - despite riding in that area many years ago; I am sure I saw it on TV once though when Grandstand used to cover the sport every now and again! I take your point about crowds and background, I tend to go to British Superbikes on practice days for some breathing space for that reason, I guess you trade the shot against the atmosphere and a different shot on the racing day. I have decided to go to the 1st Round of the championship at Doncaster on Sunday - I will report back on how I get on. I think Canda Heights might be a bit too far to travel but I hope to get to Cadders Hill and Hawkestone. Have a great day on 1 April. Chris
cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
12 Mar 2012 7:04PM
Thought I would just answer my own question posed above. I went to the Fat Cat MX park at Doncaster to see the first round of the British Championships and it was a very good day out as far as the racing went. A sunny day and a man-made track promoted great action; however, you could only walk around the outside (and only about half the track at that) so brilliant for the fans.

There was a large crowd (but nothing like British Superbikes) and the crowd was much younger on the whole (pre-dominantly teens to young men; not surprising perhaps given the physicality of the sport). With a smaller overall fence line and the most spectacular jumps right in front of the pits, the crowd was about 3 to 5 deep from the first practice at 9 o'clock which I had arrived for; not so good for me then but I just had to think harder about geting some shots (I enjoy the racing anyway). As the day went on the crowd moved into other outside areas (not on the inner though which would have been unsafe) and the marshalls tolerated a safe margin which gave some better photo opportunities in the afternoon.

Would I go again, yes. However, the crowd was mostly young men who seem unable to put 3 words together without the f-word taking 2, urinating against fences when the loos were only some 100 metres or so from any point on the track. The same can be said of BSB but not on any grand scale and while none of the above was threatening or upsetting to me; however, from a family point of view, I would choose a bigger track to watch motocross, or choose BSB over it; the latter has more families watching.

cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
13 Mar 2012 11:49AM
I can't figure out how to edit my note above - even though I have done it once when starting the thread! As this forum is mainly for professionals, the thread is in the wrong place as any pros will probably have access to the centre of such tracks anyway. However, in photographic terms I wanted to clarify - if I went back to the track it would be to watch the racing and maybe get a picture. If I could get inside the circuit I would go back for pictures. Overall, I will try and go to circuits that are set within natural countryside where access is better and across a greater area. Chris
digiman57 7 22 United Kingdom
1 May 2012 7:02PM
A comment from myself if it's not too late?

I am the official track tog at my local mx track and have a 5M Liability Insurance Policy.

Many of the tracks may also have official togs but if they don't you are advised to go to the main office and ask for permission to shoot on the infield where the shots are a lot better with many more choices of where to go. Be warned that it can be very dangerous being a few inches from the track edge but it is fun !!!

Even if there is an official tog there, and you don't plan on selling your photos then he/she may well agree to you being there, but you would be expected to respect his position....and don't be disappointed if he says no....shooting from outside the track is very limiting.

Oh, and don't forget to take a hi-vis vest along, as long as it doesn't have your name all over it you may well be lucky. The Chief Track Marshall can also become your friend...the one at my track is very protective of my position, but then he does get a good price on his son's photos LOL

Good luck and be safe Grin

cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
2 May 2012 9:31PM
Hi Martin

Thanks for adding to the thread from the inside track, so to speak. I have since been to the British Sidecar Championships and that was a man-made track (a very good one) but the public only had about a 200 metre stretch of straight track while the remaining vast expanse of track was off limits; shame.

I will start to approach the chief steward or organiser beforehand regarding access inside the circuit; I am an ex-rider so know the drill and danger points. I take entirely the sensitivities you mention (official togs) and have no desire to compete (I don't see myself as being good enough anyway). A top tip the 5M indemnity insurance, that will help if I ask, as will the high vis jacket.

I am in Lincolnshire and much has been rained off of late but hope to get to the British Sprint Enduro Champinships later this month.

Thanks for your insights.

Johno450 7 24 1 United Kingdom
23 Oct 2012 3:48AM
Hi Chris..

I visit my local MX circuit at Landrake in Cornwall... Red Bull Nationals were held there this year along with a lot of large club meetings.

The chief track marshal and other track marshals are definitely worth be-friending as they can help you a lot getting a good position.

I have 2 Million Public Liability and you definitely need photo ID and a high viz vest. The in-field areas are usually the best...although take care moving around....abide by what the marshals tell you and you won't go far wrong.

Worth taking plastic bags to wrap around your lens and bungy them on... a lot cheaper than special covers... keeps the crud off your lens... and just bin them afterwards.... might not look good.... butt better than getting mud and dust all over an L series lens... even if Canon say they have good seals Smile

Anyway just my two penny worth Smile good luck on your next track shoot.

cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
23 Oct 2012 11:58AM
Hi John, thanks for your comments, not too late at all. I had a good season in most respects until we lost so many events to the wet weather and swampy access to tracks and subsequent cancellation of so many meetings.

I soon found that the top MX events on man-made tracks pointless going to as the public only had limited access and, being well supported, limited opportunities for photos but still an enjoyable day out. The best circuits were the natural ones and I had a really good day out, in every respect, at Hawkstone Park; the only draw back being the ability of a thoughtless element of small-ish crowd, to turn a huge car park into a small one by blocking all exit points! I really enjoyed the grasstrack events I went to with the ability to get to the action which is virtually non-stop. The best event I went to by far from a photography angle was the British Sprint Enduro Champ round near Northampton which had few specatators and access was easy and everyone had space to, safely, do what they wanted with unobstructed views of the riders.

I went to a number of British Superbike rounds which I really enjoy and which seem to becoming ever more popular, particularly the Cadwell Park round in August where even the first practice day, usually quieter and why I go on those days, was rammed with photographers and as space at the best viewpoints was limited, a few tempers frayed as long-lenses clashed. Actually it was usually just bad manners that set things off, I just looked for different angles but not always easy to do. I did go to a number of local club events as well but have not taken out the insurance yet but your advice is well received and it is in my mind to do this for next year.

I did use a plastic bag at one particularly dusty meeting and used elastic bands but it was a bit fiddly - do you use small bungies, I can see one being used at the lens end, over the lens hood say, is the other placed where lens meets camera?

Looking at the grasstrack and MX map, Cornwall and the SW seems to do pretty well for meetings, I think one of the big MX meetings was down in Exeter; a bit too far to travel for me.

Thanks for taking the time and trouble to write, much appreciated.

Johno450 7 24 1 United Kingdom
23 Oct 2012 9:45PM
Hi Chris,

Landrake in Cornwall seems to get a fair amount of good MX meetings... its a good track... easily accessed (although well marshalled) so you need to have some things in place... IE insurance, ID and a high viz vest before they will consider letting you in the in-field areas. Its also worth not stepping on the pro togs shoes... they are there as their job... so best to keep that in mind.... although yes like anything sometimes rudeness does prevail.... thick skin needed!!

I don't sell my shots... so for me as an amateur hobbiest its just getting to meetings and improving shots.... looking for best view points and angles... and if possible least uncluttered backgrounds. I must try and get to some of the more Northern tracks and circuits next year.... work permitting... that always gets in the way of good events!!

Gear protection.... well I have a few different covers as I do quite a lot of surf photography... so keeping the elements off is a priority for me.
I shoot with a 7D and either a 70-200mm f2.8 or more recently a 300mm f2.8 for events. For the MX I just use a few plastic bags around the lens...from the hood end right up to and on the camera body... and use some of the really small elastic bungies you can pick up in B&Q... it does not win any fashion stakes.... but protects your all important investment from flying mud, crud and flying stones. Mind you with the 300mm I tend to stay well back as I get a good tele reach Smile

Hopefully next year I will be able to attend a lot more bike meetings and some Rally too... I know what you mean about this seasons weather!! I always go armed with a light weight poncho and trusty welly boots Smile

I would say definately do photo gear and public liability insurance if you are going out of the usual spectator areas at any events... I use Photoguard for both my equipment and liability insurance... in these days of litigation its very very wise to be covered. The insurance costs are quite reasonable.... and a small cost to pay for peace of mind.

Happy snapping.

cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
23 Oct 2012 11:40PM
Hi John

I shall look out for the small bungees! Thanks for the tips. I have a similar set up to you but with the 70-200 F4 along with a 1.4 extender, both of which are usually glued to the camera. I am thinking of another lens and with all the choice even on a limited budget, I may be thinking for some time yet. I can imagine that salt is as bad as sand!

I will watch out for your water shots.

Johno450 7 24 1 United Kingdom
24 Oct 2012 1:50AM
Hi Chris,

Some good shots on your folio from the events you have attended.

The 300mm pretty much lives on my 7D all the time now...sometimes paired with the 1x4 converter.

I would say with the 70-200 f4 paired with the 1.4 converter you are losing a lot of light as you are pushing up to f5.6... its a difficult scenario... I suffered from the same thing when I was pairing my 70-200 f2.8 with a 2x converter..

Do you use a 1x4 mk II or mk III converter?

You are getting some good compositions and panning shots... well done on that Smile

The most recent shots on my folio are water based of the last Meeting for the Zapcat 2012 Championship down at Fistral Beach in Cornwall .... well worth checking out the Zapcat series for next year which kicks off in April.... the series goes all round the country.... so probably a race nearby to you..

cuffit Plus
11 323 5 England
24 Oct 2012 11:38PM
Hi John, thanks for your kind comments. I have the Mk 11. Funny you should mention the watersports, I was looking at the Nottingham watersports centre and had missed the last round (or next to last round) of the speedboat championships. Unfortunately, I did hear a rumour that it may be closing but, if not, I will certainly get along there next year.


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