So here's a post that's way overdue. Last September I finally got to go to the Baltimore Grand Prix (ok, "Grand Prix of Baltimore"). If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it. Here's what you'll need to get these shots:
- Canon 1D Mark II
- Canon 400/5.6 L USM
- CF or SD cards
- Plenty of water!
Just stand as close to the fence as possible and shoot through the fence at your widest aperture and you should be good to go. This is where a shallow depth of field really helps you out. The fence is so close that it blurs right out of the picture. In many cases, there were two fences between me and the track, spaced about four feet apart. With such a long focal length, I was still able to shoot through both fences without a problem. I'd still recommend switching the lens to far focus range (8.5m to infinity) to keep the camera from being tripped up by the fence though.
Also note that "tickets" aren't on that list. All of these shots were taken from the public viewing areas outside of the track. It actually amazed me that some of the best viewing areas were left totally free.
That's not to say that I wouldn't recommend tickets. The general admission will get you plenty of cool places to watch the race, and plenty of free schwag. Unfortunately, almost none of the viewing locations lend themselves to racing photography. On the other hand, if you're looking for shots of spectators, you won't be disappointed. There's plenty of good people-watching in the general admission areas.
If you can swing it, I'd also recommend getting the paddock pass. It's inside the convention center, which is a great place to cool off and watch the drivers and race teams prep the cars. In some ways it's a show unto itself. If you're into getting portraits of the drivers, this is the place to be. Just have the high ISO ready, as the lighting is fairly poor (1/30 f/2.8 at ISO 1600).
As a final note, here's a nine-shot composite image of turn 12 during the American Le Mans Series race. Each shot was a 2 second exposure at ISO 50, f/32.
It's amazing to see the variation in the tracks. Many of the wider and shallower turns (presumably sub-optimal) were due to other cars that were going through the turn at the same time. Here's a normal exposure from the same vantage point:
Of course the 1D Mark II scored again. A camera that I bought used in 2005 is still making great images in 2012. You shouldn't have any trouble finding one for well under $1000. Happy shooting!