Slow Shutter Motion Blur

Posted on 29 Apr, 2015 by Scott Jones
Marc Marquez pit lane blur

Please click on the above image to view it larger.

Working in pit lane is one of the best things about photographing a MotoGP race weekend. But there are challenges unrelated to making sure one doesn’t get run over.

One of these challenges is down time. There are almost always periods when most if not all bikes are on track, leaving pit lane fairly quiet, both literally and in terms of things to photograph.

So how do you fill this time when the riders are gone? One thing I like to do is to photograph the on track action from the pit lane itself, as shown above. This image of Marc Marquez approaching 200mph on the CotA front straight was made while standing in front of the garages.

Between the rider and the photographer were about 60 feet of pit lane, then the pit lane wall with assorted colorful team stations. The speeding riders are visible for various split seconds of time as the appear and disappear between the team stations.

Panning in this situation is a bit tricky. There is too much junk between the camera and the subject to use autofocus, so I prefocus on the area of track where I expect a bike to be. If the rider is too close to the pit lane wall, or too far from it, he may be out of focus even if my panning in accurate. But using a small aperture, which goes hand in hand with a slow shutter speed, lends quite a bit of depth of field, so the panning is the most important part when it comes to getting the rider in focus.

The Exif info for the above image:

At f/11 you get another problem to deal with: any little spec of dust on your lens will suddenly be very noticeable. At wide apertures you can get away with quite a lot in this department, but the moment you stop down for a slow shutter speed, everything on your lens is visible. Here’s a close up of what I mean:

dust spots

Although this portion of the image was ultimately cropped out, I still removed these dust spots before making the final cropping decision. While Adobe Lightroom has pretty good dust spot removal tools, they still don’t match those found in Photoshop, especially for instances such as these, where there are lines running through the dust spots. Lightroom will often struggle with situations like this, so some deft Clone Tool work is required in Photoshop.

Now and then you might even get the rider in a large gap with nothing except the wall blocking your view.

Andrea Dovizioso pit lane blur


For more motor sports photography tips, click here.

Photographs: ©2015 by Scott Jones / PHOTO.GP – All Rights Reserved

Camera Info: Nikon D4 with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8


[mgallery keyword=”Pit Lane”]




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