As a motorsport photographer I enjoy taking pictures of fast cars. As well as shooting cars on a race track, I work with manufacturers, drivers and sponsors photographing cars out on public roads. Working on public roads means you need to be more aware of safety considerations, for yourself, your clients and other road users.
I recently worked with Scottish race driver Christie Doran and one of her partners, the Leven Car Company in Edinburgh, who provided a Zenos E10S sports car for the photoshoot. Christie works for Leven Car Company on track days at Knockhill Race Circuit and other circuits in the UK and one of the cars she drives is the Zenos. The Zenos E10S is a road legal track car, built in Norfolk and with performance to put a huge smile on the driver’s face.
We took the Zenos out into the Scottish Borders for a day shooting in the countryside and here are my tips for anyone wanting to get into car photography.
As a Motorsport Photographer and the Director of Adrenal Media, the Official Photographic Agency for the FIA World Endurance Championships and the European Le Mans Series, I spend a lot of my time shooting at many different race circuits around the world. a lot of these race tracks we have to cover are big! And I mean BIG!
This means we need big glass to cover the distance from the edge of the track to the car. Circuits vary massively in width, with many of the race tracks having large run-off areas or fencing to keep the car within certain boundaries of the track. These also keep us photographers safe and out of trouble… Mostly!
While it’s always great to be safe, the drawback is that we are kept further from the action than we would like to be. To compensate this we use big glass.
Fujifilm answered our prayers when they introduced the Fujinon XF50-140mm with the 1.4x tele-converter and then when they brought the XF100-400mm into the mix as well – This brings us in line with DSLR photographic ranges. I also use my favourite lens, the Fujinon 90mm F2. This lens has a place at the track too and should not be ruled out. All three of the lenses are not only perfect for the racetrack but are also exceptional in the pit lane.
Okay, Okay, I admit the 90mm has limitations on the track itself but for those places where you can get closer, the F2 aperture provides a stunning shot. I also like the 90mm for the environmental images. For example the car with track included so the viewer will know which circuit the car was racing at. This is an important image in our ‘shot list’ as part of the race week narrative.
In the pit lane the 90mm is mind blowing. For pit lane portraits, detailed shots and subject isolation, such as a car standing on its own in the pit lane, the F2 aperture helps pull the eye through the frame to tell the story. This lens replaced my 135mm F2 when I switched over from the DSLR system of old. However, I really wish it was able to take the 1.4 converter like the old 135 could. This would be my only negative thing I can find on this lens. I frequently use this lens for effect, isolation and arty images.
The XF50-140mm is my workhorse, if you could buy only one lens… oh, okay you really do need that 18mm F2 in your life too! That and a 50-140 you can shoot anything! Well, okay get the the 1.4 converter as well then you really can shoot anything – so anyway I digress and the shopping list grows.
The 50-140 or 75-210 equivalent is for everything! Stunning at f2.8 with an awesome image stabiliser to go with it. The pull on this lens is great on the track and in the pit lane night and day. You can attach a 1.4x converter and you then have a 70-196mm F4 lens that you can carry in a coat pocket giving you a total range of 75-297mm in a 35mm equivalent that’s money well spent if you ask me. This lens is really fast focusing, the camera can react quickly to oncoming and passing cars and pitlane action, this is my go to for track and pitlane.
“I would not leave the media suite without this on one of my cameras.”
Then you have the XF100-400mm, well what can I say? This is all manners of Boom Shakalaka! This lens on the track is just mind-blowingly sharp. The money shot for me has to be a few cars fighting on the corner for a lead or ‘battle shot’ as we call it. Many photographers shoot catalog style at the track, that’s one car per frame, for me it’s boring! Thankfully our clients tend to think so too. We love battle pictures, they really show the dynamics of the race, the tension, drama and emotion…this is the lens for that!
Even if you have a 50-140mm already, don’t worry you will still want a 100-400mm in your life for sure…. This lens will pick out details in the heat – the shimmer around the cars and in the sharpest of action details. Images shot at the 400mm end have a gorgeous bokeh and lens compression that really helps to isolate any subject matter whatever the distance.
When I first got the lens I thought I would struggle with the f4.5 to f5.6 aperture, but now I’m used to it I can use the lens all day long. It will even take the 1.4 converter, this takes the equivalent 150-600mm focal length, with the 1.4x to 840mm that’s pretty awesome if you ask me in such a compact lens.
I have used this lens a lot since I got it and even in the pit lane the versatility of this lens makes it worth buying. Shooting through pitlane clutter to pick out details and action is so easy and stunning.
As you can see the differences are clear enough but all are usable in motorsport. It’s really just down to personal preference of the individual, to which one you use and the style of image you require, if you have any one of these lenses you could easily walk away with some epic shots from the day.
Recently we were lucky enough to spend some time with four professional motorsport photographers at the 6 Hours of Fuji event at the Fuji Speedway in Japan. All four of these guys have been shooting with Fujifilm X series cameras and lenses as their main systems for a varying number of years so we asked them about their experiences.
If you are thinking about making the switch and are not sure if the system is ready yet, check out these videos below!
I was recently in Japan to take part in a marketing meeting, which in itself was nice, but by coincidence, the weekend I was there was also the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji race at the Fuji Speedway and I had tickets!
It seemed as good a place as any to try out the new XF1.4X TC Teleconverter for Fujifilm X Mount lenses, and also the cheeky little XF35mmF2 WR compact lens.
We were there on the Saturday filming some Fuji Guys content (to be released soon) but on the Sunday, the actual race day, I was given the freedom to simply enjoy the race and do some shooting for myself.
The XF1.4X TC
This obviously got the most use since I was at a motorsport event. Here’s a selection of OOC JPGs. I’ve not uploaded the full res versions because they were taken on a pre-production version of the lens and I wouldn’t want to do it an injustice, but it’s clear even from these “resized by WordPress” images that the quality is there.
I spent most of my time shooting with the “Zone Mode” Autofocus. I’ve used it before with mixed results but I found that here it was working amazingly, despite the spray from the wet roads.
Sometimes I was tempted to shoot Manual Focus and know that I’ll be getting the cars as they come through, but I stuck with Zone and the hit rate was amazing – especially since I’m not a professional myself.
Here’s a sequence of OOC JPGs that demonstrate the Zone AF working under some pretty touch conditions. This Ferrari was really moving!
The adaptor itself makes little to no difference to the size and weight of the camera, and I can’t notice any noticeable difference in image quality compared to using the lens without it.
I took both of these shots from trackside within a hairpin. When I switched from the XF50-140mm + TC to the XF35mmF2 I felt like I was about to throw the camera because it was so light. I know the same can be said for most of our lenses compared to what I had previously, but this lens really is small and light. Both using “Zone Mode” Autofocus.
There was a bit of light rain when I took these shots so the Weather Resistance was a nice addition.
All in all I’m really impressed with the new additions to the lens lineup and I’m certainly glad that I got the opportunity to test them out in this amazing location.
I’ll sign off with a couple of “Lightroomed” versions of my creations, including a few from the pit walk before the race started. I hope you enjoy and you can see more on my instagram.