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.
As well as shooting trackside and pitlane action, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and European Le Mans Series (ELMS) official photo agency Adrenal Media are always looking to provide some very special images from each of the events.
Creative Director and Fujifilm X-Photographer John Rourke invited German race team Proton Competition to bring both of their Porsche 911 RSR 991 race cars to La Source at the recent ELMS weekend at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium to photograph their car using a rig and a Fujifilm X-T2 to capture a shot of the two race cars from an unique vantage point.
The rig is a 6 metre carbon fibre four section boom made by UK firm Car Camera Rig that is fixed to the car using high powered suction clamps.
The camera, which is a FUJIFILM X-T2 fitted with the XF10-24mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens, is then fixed in position to the end of the boom. To achieve the correct exposure the camera is fitted with a Formatt Hitech filter system, in this case a Polariser and an ND Grad and then an ND filter to extend the shutter speed to around 10 seconds. This allows Adrenal Media to take images from a position that would not be possible to take when the cars are on track racing.
Using a long shutter speed of between 8 to 10 seconds the movement in the shot is achieved at walking pace by team members pushing the cars and the result is an image that makes it look like both Porsches are moving at racing speed.
“We started asking teams to provide us their cars back in May for these special images but this shot with Proton Competition is the first we’ve done with two cars from the same team,” said John Rourke. “The reason we use the rig is to take images of the cars from a vantage point that would be impossible to do in the real world.”
“Each shot takes around 20-30 minutes to complete once the rig is attached to the car,” John continued. “The rig itself is lightweight thanks to the carbon fibre construction so it doesn’t take long to put in position, the biggest issue we have is finding a place to attach the suction clamps to the bodywork of the car. Some cars are wrapped, so the suction clamps don’t have a perfect seal, so we usually do a pre-shoot recce with the team to ensure there are mounting points where the rig can be securely attached to the bodywork of the car.”
Mounting the suction cups
Mounting the suction cups
“The X-T2 is the perfect camera for this type of shot. The 24mp X-Trans III sensor gives us high resolution images to work with and the tilt screen is a real help when the camera is attached upside down to the end of the boom.”
“The biggest challenge with shooting with two cars was keeping both Porsches moving at the same speed and we did the shot a few times to make sure we had one that we were all happy with.”
Once an image is selected, it is then edited by John to remove the boom and other elements that shouldn’t be in the final shot. The result is a dramatic image that highlights the excitement of racing in the European Le Mans Series.
Jeff Carter founded MacLean Photographic after leaving the Royal Air Force in 1996. The company name is from Jeff Carter’s full name – Jeffrey Stuart MacLean Carter.
With over 20 years’ experience in several fields, including sport, landscape, wildlife and travel, Jeff is based in Dunbar, near Edinburgh in Scotland. However he travels the world with his work in the motorsport and automotive industry and is constantly on the lookout for that next great image to capture.
As well as providing photographic services to editorial and commercial clients, MacLean Photographic runs a number of Photographic Workshops and Tours for individual or small groups of photographers of all abilities in and around the South East of Scotland.
Why did you choose Fujifilm?
A camera is the tool of my trade and the best tool is one that becomes an extension of my creativity, something that I can use without thinking about how to capture an image. I have used all different types of cameras over the last 20+ years but, for me, the three X Series cameras I use are like an extension of my eye and brain.
The first X Series camera I bought was an X100 black limited edition for a business trip to Shanghai. The X100 was like a mini version of the Fujifilm GA645 medium format camera that I had used in the early 1990s and the fixed focal length camera put a spark back into my photography, it was a joy to use. The ability to travel light and still get ‘the shot’ really opened up my mind to the possibilities of the compact system camera. This led to an X-Pro1 a year later, then the X-T1, an X-Pro2 in 2016 and now the X-T2, with a good selection of XF lenses to match.
The X-T2, X-Pro2, X-T1 and X100 I currently use, along with the range of quality XF lenses, are tools that allow me the freedom to be creative but they have also put the joy back into the image making process.
How have you found the new Fujifilm X-T2 camera?
This is the camera I have been waiting for ever since I moved from Nikon to Fujifilm in 2014. Each step that Fujifilm has made in the past four years have culminated into this camera. It is like an extension of my arm and eye when working trackside or in the pitlane. The X-Pro2 is a great camera and pointed the way to the next step. And the X-T2 doesn’t disappoint.
I can follow focus a car moving at 200mph and I can follow focus a bird in flight. I can also switch focus from one subject to another quickly and seamlessly. The Electronic View Finder is beautiful, a joy to use, and doesn’t black out when shooting long bursts. The 11 frames per seconds on boost mode adds to the flexibility of the camera, as does the ability to shoot 4K video.
24 Hours of Le Mans Test – no97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8
Photographing the Gannets of Bass Rock in flight. A good test of the AF capabilities of the X-T2 and 100-400mm lens
The 24MP sensor produces the same stunning image quality as the X-Pro2 and 6000 x 4000 pixel images gives greater flexibility to crop the image in post production. The film simulations are to the same high standard as always with Fujifilm and gives me the option to take the images straight off the camera if speed is of the essence, which in sports photography is usually the case.
The quality of the images when shooting at high ISO settings is really outstanding and I have no hesitation in pushing the dial to 6400 or even 12800 when needed.
The leading Porsche arrives for a routine stop in the pitlane at the 24Hours of Le Mans
Heavy Rain during qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans caused the session to be stopped for 20 minutes due to deep water on the circuit
The ergonomics of the X-T2 have taken the best that the X-T1 had to offer and improved the overall operation of the camera. The new dials and locking mechanism are really good to use and the joystick on the back of the camera also speeds up the operation in the field. Finally the new tilting screen which means I can shoot in a landscape or portrait format from down low or above my head is a big plus point and something I was using all of the time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The weather proofing got a thorough test at Le Mans too as it rained for most of the week leading up to the race and the X-T2 never missed a beat, which is more than I can say for the photographer!
For me this is the ultimate X Series camera!
What’s your most loved image taken on the X-T2 so far and can you tell us little bit about it?
Capturing the moment at a top international sporting event like the 24 Hours of Le Mans is hugely important for any photographer working in editorial photography, especially sport. The new X-T2 allows me to react to a situation quickly and this was essential in capturing my favourite image so far.
The image is of the podium celebrations following the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche had a dramatic win in the final five minutes of the 24 hour race when the leading Toyota stopped on the final lap, allowing the Porsche to take the chequered flag. The emotions on the podium were there for all to see.
The winning Porsche drivers Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas were celebrating in true motorsport style and afterwards Romain Dumas was speaking to the circuit commentator on the podium after his second overall win at Le Mans. While he was speaking he was ambushed by four of the other drivers and they tipped champagne all over his head.
I was able to react quickly and capture a whole sequence of images with the X-T2 and the XF50-140mm f2.8 + 2x converter. This image sums up the relief and elation of winning the most famous motorsport event in the world and this is why this is my favourite image from my time with the X-T2 – so far!
What lens do you think best pairs up with this camera for your shooting style?
For sport most people would probably think I would say the XF100-400mm f4.5/5.6 but for me, the best all round lens is the XF50-140mm f2.8. This lens gives me the greatest flexibility and produces images that can match anything produced on the XF56mm f1.2 or XF90mm f2 (which I own and use as well).
The XF50-140mm f2.8 coupled to the X-T2 is a powerful combination, especially with the improvements made to the continuous Auto Focus function on the new camera. The ability to follow focus a fast moving subject, such as a race car, or a randomly moving subject such as a Gannet diving into the sea for fish, is a huge plus point for my work.
Another advantage of the XF50-140mm is the ability to fit the 1.4x and 2x converters, meaning I have a focal range of 50mm to 280mm available to me in a relatively small package.
To see more of Jeff’s work please visit his website and social sites:
At the start of a new year I often find myself looking back over the shoots from the preceding 12 months and in 2014 one in particular stands out: Les Voiles de Saint Tropez.
Les Voiles – literally “The Sails” – take place from April to October across the French riviera. Each race brings together some of the most beautiful traditional wooden yachts alongside the most extraordinary modern sailing boats for a week long regatta in beautiful ports such as Antibes and Saint-Tropez.
My good friend and fellow Fuji user Serge Krougikoff who runs Create-Away, a photography workshop company based in the south of France, has been talking about running a trip based around the regattas for some time and when he suggested we get together try it out I didn’t hesitate to say yes! We first teamed up with professional skipper Francois in Antibes in June and the trip was such a success that we agreed to do a second test-trip in Saint-Tropez in October.
Nestled between Cannes and Marseille the picturesque medieval port of Saint-Tropez would be stunning even without the boats. When you add some of the worlds finest vintage and classic yachts it becomes a feast of varnish and brass.
On shore there is a party atmosphere throughout the regatta but out on the water is where the action happens and where the photographic excitement begins. Picture this: The south of France in the autumn sunshine, racing across the bay of Saint-Tropez in the shadow of Elena under full sail – trust me – life doesn’t get much better than this!
The original Elena, built in 1910 and winner of the Trans-Atlantic Race in 1928, was one of the greatest racing yachts of her time and this stunning replica, built in 2009 is one of the largest yachts in the regatta with a length of 41.6m (136′) and a crew of 30 – some of whom clearly have nerves of steel…
Under full sail she is quite simply magnificent – a true queen of the seas.
But it is when you are close to her you really feel the power and the majesty of a great racing yacht.
These black & white images are taken with my infrared modified Fuji X-E1IR and the XF14mm lens – infrared really brings out the drama in some of these shots, especially when the clouds form interesting patterns that compliment the sails.
All the colour images are taken with Fuji’s brilliant X-T1 and their weather resistant, optically stabilised XF18-135mm lens. This was the perfect choice for shooting from a RIB where most of the time you are being bounced around and covered in sea spray – it was certainly a good test for the camera’s weather proofing and it didn’t let me down. The OIS in this lens is staggeringly good allowing sharp shots almost regardless of how fast the RIB was going, and the wide range of focal lengths is perfect for a shooting situation where changing lenses is simply not an option…
Technically, this kind of shooting is really challenging. The light changes all the time, depending on whether you are shooting towards or away from the sun, and I found the live histogram in the viewfinder of both cameras invaluable in ensuring that highlight details were properly captured – both in the sails and the sky. Some of my favourite images place the sun shining through the sails bringing out tremendous detail in the canvas and rigging.
Most of the time I was shooting in shutter priority mode, keeping the shutter speed at around 1/350sec – fast enough to allow sharp images even with the RIBs motion. Focus was left to the camera with continuous tracking AF working flawlessly on the X-T1 even at 8 frames per second – no mean feat when the acton was changing so fast.
Amidst the excitement of this shoot it is all too easy to forget composition and just hit the shutter in the heat of the moment but it is really important to take the time to plan and conceive a shot before it happens. Our skipper Francois is hugely experienced and was able to position the RIB exactly where we asked him to get a specific shot, but always with the skill and safety of a professional captain, mindful of the fact that we were shooting in the middle of a race…
In calmer moments we were able to capture details and abstract images of the yachts – shape, form, colour and line producing patterns and textures that tell a story of their own.
And occasionally when the wind just didn’t blow the crews had a chance to rest as well…
At the end of the day, exhausted and exhilarated we return back to Saint-Tropez as the light faded and the evenings celebrations began…
For details of the two “Les Voiles” workshops Serge and I are running in 2015 follow these links: