I’ve always loved photographing motorsport so when I heard about an opportunity to shoot Motocross I wasn’t going to turn it down. Colin Brister, a fellow member of our camera club, shoots the sport professionally and runs workshops sharing the secrets of his techniques. He uses off camera flashes to add some dramatic lighting and I wondered if this might be something I could use in other areas of my photography.
We all met up at Washbrook Farm Motocross Circuit early this morning for an initial briefing. Our first task was to photograph one of the young riders in some posed shots, using Colin’s studio lights. I had some trouble getting my camera to communicate with the lights properly, so I only came away with one shot I really liked. However, my main focus was always going to be on the action, so I wasn’t too worried.
Heading out on track, Colin pointed out the route of the circuit and advised us of the safest way to cross it should we need to. With lots of steep inclines it’s important to always cross at the top of a jump rather than the bottom, so you can see when the next rider is coming. Through the day we shot from a number of different locations around the circuit. Some of the most dramatic opportunities came on the jumps where it was possible to catch the racers in mid-air.
I was sharing a flash trigger with my friend Cliff so my pictures were shot with a mixture of off camera flash and natural light. The flash ones certainly have a dramatic look but I found it was possible to get some great results without it too, especially when the mud was flying.
Keeping clean out on track was always going to be a challenge. My boots ended up completely caked in mud and I spent quite a while pulling clumps of dried mud out of my hair after we’d finished! Fortunately, my camera is weather sealed so I wasn’t precious about it getting dirty, however, I quickly realised two crucial techniques. The first of these is to always keep your mouth closed when the bikers are coming through, unless you want some extra grit in your teeth! Secondly, I found it best to take my shot as the bikes sped towards me and then turn my camera away from the track as the plume of mud showered overhead so as to avoid getting it inside the lens hood. This served me well and miraculously I only had to clean the front element of my lens once!
By the end of the day I’d shot just under 500 pictures, many of them not great, but with a smattering of lucky gems. I can’t say it’s going to be a sport I’ll be shooting with great regularity, but I wouldn’t have missed the day for the world and it’s given me some ideas as to how I can transfer what I’ve learnt to other genres of photography.
30 May 2018