Having spent Thursday and Friday becoming accustomed with the the circuit and etiquette at the event, Saturday was my main opportunity to shoot trackside as I was planning on shooting the pits on Sunday. Armed with the Speedhunters canon of doom (aka the Canon 400mm F2.8 L IS USM) and a 1.4x extender I boarded a media shuttle and begin the task of searching the circuit for good photo spots during the GT3 qualifying session.
I started with the chicane on the mile long Mistral straight. The blue concept safety zones provided possibly the most colourful backdrop a photographer could wish for.
It also provided a nice head on view as the cars clipped the apex.
Moving up the track allowed a great view shooting back down the mistral. The 400mm with the 1.4x (which equates to a 560mm F4 lense) allowed this great view that's just possible with shorter lenses.
The same location also allowed for the obligatory Circuit Paul Ricard shot.
As they come closer they changed direction and quickly moved from right to left in the frame. Dropping the shutter marginally allowed the wheels to show the movement.
The further they moved away, the more you could incorporate the safety zones.
The final corner allowed for this dead-on front shot.
It also gave you the chance to shoot down the start / finish straight.
Just to give you an idea of how long this lense is, here is an uncropped shot of the moon. Lunarhunters doesn't have quite the same ring to it unfortunately …
Popping back into the paddock for a while, I tried to capture a couple of human shots.
Patrick was to drive the first stint in race one. I'd love to have an insight into what goes through his mind before he sits into the car.
For the race I setup shop in a spot under a tree to stay cool. The heat was and still is unrelenting here, so waiting around for half an hour or so before the race started with no respite from the heat was not an option.
Even with the zoom monster of doom, it was a struggle to fill the frame with cars. It might give you an idea of how big the venue is.
From roughly the same location we could shoot this as the cars headed onto the Mistral straight.
Using the media shuttle, I had to do pretty much a full lap to get to the spot where I wanted. Had I walked it would of taking two minutes, but it took forty minutes in the shuttle. Why ? To travel on foot to the location would of required me to walk through a red zone which is a big no no. This is the first chicane after the start / finish straight. The slight elevation helps isolate the car from the background whilst allowing some decent bokeh in the foreground.
Same corner but facing backwards. You can see the atmospheric heat rising from the circuit and you can also see the heat rising from the rear of the car.
The goal of all this hiking around was to get to this corner. It's a simple right hander that breaks into a sweeping left, but the inside kerb is quite high, allowing the cars to show some daylight beneath the wheels. It's actually the same location where David Lister got that shot of the GT2 BMW that Andy reported last month.
For the start of the GT1 race, Rod and I decided that we should shoot the opening lap from the top of Mistral. However, after observing the safety car pass through, I thought the backlighting was too harsh so made a last minute decision to change places.
Although I would of liked the cars to be closer together, it was still a capture of the top four cars fighting for position.
It was also a cool spot to capture some safe 3/4 views of the cars.
And also a spot catch this shot of when the Mad Croc Corvetter got it all wrong.
Paul Ricard is a circuit which has very little in way of elevation change. The only spot I found that offered the visual height was this section two or three corners before the start / finish straight.
It was also ideal to capture the packs of cars as they battled through the French heat.
Back to the final turn once again, this time to try some one leg longer than the other style shots.
Moving pretty much twenty feet in one direction changed the view point completely, allowing you to capture the cars destination in the photo.
Moving another couple of feet allowed for this side pan which incorporates the safety zone.
That was pretty much my story from all day Saturday. Just action shooting in the hot, hot sun. There were a couple of behind the scenes shots too which illustrate the lifestyle and promotion at the events but I'll cover that in one separate post.
Tune in shortly for part trois !