Reader Story: Steve Vit dishes tips for motocross (and other motor sports) photography!

by Guest Contributor

posted Friday, October 30, 2015 at 6:14 PM EDT


By IR Reader Steve Vit

I've picked this sequence of images because it shows that shooting motorsport is not a case of just screwing up the shutter speed as fast as you can get and then shooting away.  When I shoot motocross, I try to capture movement, either in the attitude of the rider or in movement blur.  It doesn't always result in pin-sharp images, but sometimes I'm happy to trade-off if it enhances the sense of action.

To do this I will usually select a shutter speed low enough to give me rotation in the wheels or some blurring of the background to convey speed. This image was shot in overcast conditions as you can see from the flat light, so I was lucky in being able to not only get a 1/250th shutter speed, but also to get an F4 aperture whilst doing it. 

Canon 5D Mark III / 1/250s / f4 / Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 with 1.4x TC

I used a Canon 5D Mk III with a Sigma 120-300 F2.8 and Sigma 1.4x teleconverter attached at 384mm focal length. I panned with the rider and took a burst of three frames with this image being the first of the three. I've attached the other two as they were also good images and you can see that you can shoot a burst whilst panning and still get them all sharp. Whilst it is true that you need to anticipate the action, you cannot anticipate what the photo will look like, as it happens very fast, so I take short bursts of 2, 3, or 4 images. Obviously, with even slower shutter speeds like 1/60th where the object is to put more motion blur into the background, you may only get one frame before the bike is gone.

This young rider is Cody White and he is now a contracted racer with a great technique that he reproduces over and over at various points on the track, so photographing him is easier and more predictable for me than shooting someone I've never seen riding before. I tend to use shutter priority mode mostly when shooting MX, but I also try to keep a wide aperture by juggling ISO.  If this means using ISO50, then so be it.  I also generally use only a single focus point, which I try to put on the front number plate, and turn down the tracking sensitivity.  I don't shoot for media, so I have the luxury of shooting in RAW and converting later. Whenever I'm on-track, I always adhere to the instructions of race officials for safety reasons, and this tends to prevent me from using shorter focal lengths.

[To see more of Steve Vit's photography please click here!]

What do you think? Any comments or questions for Steve? Do you shoot similar action? Any tips of your own to share with other readers? Leave your comments below!

•  •  •


Reader Stories is a new column on our site, a platform for our readers
to share images and ideas with our community. It's a great way to share your creativity and passion with your fellow photographers out there! If you'd like to submit a story of your own, please visit this news story for more information on how to submit an entry. We look forward to hearing from you!