Photography Lessons Learned at the Track

Continue to guess as to how many photos I took. I am still counting them myself (thanks to my surprise ‘out of hard disk space’ issue on my Mac).  Should have a final count soon.

I have learned a few lessons from my day of shooting at the track.

1. Rent a fucking telephoto lens.  I don’t have one that would have been adequate. The one I had with my last camera would have been a bit better than the ones I had.  But my lenses with me worked but created some challenges of their own.

2. Turn the autofocus on sooner.  I am not an auto-focus girl.  I manually focus.  But when someone is racing at speeds excess of 100 MPH on the track, there is no fucking way you can manually focus on them.

3. Telephoto + autofocus = more focused shots.  Because I was trying to focus in on a “small” portion of what I could see in the viewfinder – a MOVING small thing – I would end of focused on the wrong thing.  Being closer via a telephoto would have prevented that issues.

4. Learn to use the Histogram feature on the camera.  The track is located in high desert meaning the surrounding area is wheat fields and scrub grass – or, in other words, all yellow.  And it was sunny – very sunny with no clouds.  Washout was a problem.  Toss into the mix the fact I could not judge how the photo looked even in the limited shade I had, and my settings were off. Not bad, but off.  If I knew how to read the histogram better, I could have used it to prevent this issues.  End of day 1, another photographer made that comment – it was my “doh!” moment.

5. Post processing is a pain in the ass when you don’t have the right lens and settings on the camera.  Not necessarily a problem – just that it requires me to touch every fucking picture.

6. Learn my camera settings.  I haven’t had to use burst mode yet on my camera.  I haven’t taken pics requiring it.  My D80 had it in one place, and it took me 30 min and the iPhone manual for me to figure out where to turn it on withint the D3 menu.  This is just one example of setting changes I needed to make and had to hunt for.  That meant more problem pics during the first few hours of day 1.

7. Tripod or at least a monopod.  G loaned my tripod to someone.  And I didn’t even think about using the monopod that we have.  My body would have thanked me.  A D3 is not lightweight – nor is a good lens.

8. Cleaned my camera from dust and all beforehand.  If you look at this picture – you can see that I have dirt in my camera near the mountain itself.  And me without my cleaning kit.

9. Good close toed shoes with my orthotics.  Since I didn’t expect to be able to have free reign, I didn’t bring any.  Kept me from going through certain areas.  Damn rattlesnakes!

10. Bring my portable external drive.  I assumed I had enough HD space, but did not.  Oops.

Things I did right:

1. Brought both of my CF cards – empty of photos.

2. Charged both batteries the night before.  I didn’t need the second one, but after not having the second one in a time of good photo opportunities, it gave me peace knowing it was in my bag.

3. I brought my lens hoods.  Most of my lenses have them off as they drive me nuts when I’m trying do some certain things.  I usually take them off and toss them into my other camera bag.  This time I made sure I had them. I knew the sun would be harsh and knew I had a real reason to use them.  They  made a HUGE difference.

4. Brought the right hat and sunscreen and hair ties.  This one may sound odd, but standing on a reflective surface in 85 degree weather made me feel baked.  Thankfully, I had minimal sunburn the entire weekend.  The hat I grabbed is not your traditional baseball cap – it has a shorter brim which meant I could wear it and use my camera.  Sunscreen is just a big “duh”. And hair ties – well, when you have long hair like I do and there is a breeze, it means hair flying into my shots.   I almost forgot them, but tossed some into the bag at the last minute.

5. Brought my laptop and card reader.  Being able to download the photos allowed me to take pics freely without having to stress about how many photos I had left.

6. Brought my good camera bag.

Kept everything handy and and within reach while I was still portable – meaning, I didn’t have to go gather my stuff. The other photographers had backpacks they kept stashing somewhere so they could move around and get to their other gear.  This worked well for me.  Plus, I could stash water and other things into it.  

Overall, it was a good experience.  Like I’ve mentioned, I haven’t gotten to shoot real sporting events in a lont time – so this was also a great learning experience.  I hope to do it again, and see how my photographs improve next time.  It’s also nice having something to “work on” in your hobby.  Good stuff!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Fusion says:

    Also turn on your vibration reduction (VR switch) whenever shooting with a long lens. And switch the focusing to continuous when shooting high speed bursts. I also usually set my exposure -.7 to -1.0 under when shooting bright scenery, so I don’t lose the detail. I use a 18-200mm lens with my D200 and D300 bodies, but I’m looking for a good deal on a 300-400mm lens now. I’m not going to guess, but I filled up 4 8gig cards a few weeks ago on an Alaska cruise.
    I really enjoy looking at your photos!

  2. Chapter Two says:

    I love everything about this post!

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