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RE Amemiyama Mazda RX-7 - racing photographer in Melbourne

World time attack challenge

Flash back to World Time Attack Challenge 2012! The event took place on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 of August at Sydney Motorsport Park (formerly Eastern Creek Raceway). Teams from England, New Zealand and Japan joined the Australians in the quest for the lowest track time. The event attracted amateur and professional teams competing with popular road cars highly modified for the purpose, some beyond recognition.

Hard-hitting teams from Japan RE-Amemiya and Top Fuel employed Nobuteru Taniguchi to pilot their Mazda RX7 and Honda S2000.

Panspeed listed another highly experienced Japanese pro driver Naoki Hattori to drive their howling normally aspirated RX8. Last year’s winners Cyber EVO placed Tarzan Yamada at the wheel once more to attempt world acclaim.

In addition to the air slicing, time-slaying machines shooting for outright glory in World time attack challenge, there were a number of support events.

The Motul Turbo Legends race showcased Group A Nissan GT-R’s, Group A Nissan Skyline GTS-R, Group C Nissan Bluebird 910, multi Australian Rally Championship winning Celica GT-Four, a Carlos Sainz replica Corolla WRCar and ex-Makkinen Ralliart EVO 3.

The Tectaloy Drift Challenge boasted some of the best drifters in the Asia-pacific region, notably; the legendary Team Orange from Japan brought their rear wheel drive converted Impreza STi and EVO 7 with Kumakubo and Suenaga piloting the 500HP+ tyre shredders. A strong number of New Zealanders came across the sea to smoke up the Aussies.

A vast range of 150 cars were displayed as part of the MotoGraphics Show n Shine.

From European to Japanese to American, there was something for all car fans; 1970’s Toyotas and Datsuns, JDM style Silvias and Skylines, slammed Golfs and Civics. Car shows are great when there’s so many different makes, models and types of cars. Diversity is inclusive, and it’s far more interactive if there’s a good range of cars on show! What do you think should have been on show here?

Contact me for all your motorsport photography needs!

Racing photography in Australia

Photographing Motorsport

Have you ever thought about photographing a motorsport event?

Photographing motorsport is exciting and exhilarating. Capturing the action is demanding like most sports photography. Adding to this, you are exposed to all kinds of weather. It’s a commitment generally only made by car enthusiasts.

As the event rolls ahead you need to be ready for the action as it will not stop for you. You can’t expect to get a second chance as some drivers will crash, or their cars will have mechanical failure. Rally, drift racing and time attack are especially challenging as the cars may only pass once. This is especially the case with rallying as the cars pass at seemingly impossible speeds and do not return because they are not on a circuit. The next time you see them will be in another part of the countryside.

How do you get on the dangerous side of the fence?

Being in the right position to get unobstructed shots is a hurdle which seems too high to jump for most people. Access is only granted to genuine members of the media on the premise their images will add value to the event after being published. The bigger the event and higher level of competition the more strict the application process.

If you’re not a member of the media and haven’t been photographing motorsport, start building your folio with a range of images.

It’s advisable to include images relative to the type of motorsport event you want to photograph. Event and action shots showcasing your ability to tell a story are the winners. If you haven’t photographed a motorsport event before build your skill level and folio.

Start with easy access club or state level events, contact the organisers and introduce yourself. Some organisations have a formalised media application process and some only have a simple indemnity form. In motorsport, safety is a high concern. Strict guidelines are in place at all levels of the sport because of the risks associated with cars being pushed to their limits. At the event you will be briefed on access and prohibited areas.

They’ll ask for Public Liability Insurance.

Apart from your photography gear, make sure you’re well equipped with food and drink. You’re likely to be out in the open and concentrating hard on framing cars, nourishment can take a lesser priority. Dress for the elements and prepare for hotter, cooler and rainy weather. This is especially important when photographing a rally. As they are mainly staged in forests and mountains, the weather can change suddenly so you need to be prepared for this. It can make the difference in having a fun or a terrible day.

Familiarise yourself with the course by looking over a map.

Assess the access points to sections of road you want to shoot. Your decision will be based on the shots you want to achieve and the capability of your photography gear. By this stage you’ve already thought of the possible shots; high speed panning shot, front-on approach, long shot, close shot, passing shot (if a race). The overall aim is to emphasise the speed of the car.

Before heading out, study the schedule and decide where to be when the action unfolds. Motorsport facilities are large and it’s advisable to maximise the time you’re actually shooting, rather than walking back and forth from point to point. Your camera gear will feel twice as heavy by the end of the day! It’s also a matter of getting to the right access point at the right race/session. The access points can be small and you may be shooting through a hole in the fence shared with a number of other photographers so be polite and patient.

Before the cars approach decide where on the track you want to capture them and choose your exposure.

This might sound obvious, but drivers take different lines on the course and their cars behave more aggressively at different places. Most drivers will take the same ‘racing line’ on a circuit. But in the case of a rally, drivers with different driving styles and car types will have you shooting them on different parts of the road.

The car is at its limit when a driver dives deep into the braking zone and turns their car into a corner. Capturing the stress on the car will show more action in your shots. It’s also possible the driver will loose control of the car and you need to be ready to capture any drama. This might be a brake lock-up, a slide, leaving the track or even hitting a barrier or another car. They’re the kind of situations you don’t wish on any driver but they make great shots.

Aim to get a variety of shots at different points of the course. Some events may not have a variety of corners or access points, so try different photography styles to differentiate your images. Once you have the key images experiment with the rest. Don’t stop at the action shots. Take a walk through the pit or service area and photograph the cars refuelling, changing tyres and getting repaired.

This is the place to meet the drivers and teams.

Depending on how the event is unfolding for them they’ll usually be happy to talk to you about the team, car and driver. They’ll also allow you to get close to the machinery and it’s a great opportunity to take some detailed shots of the cars.

The end of the day is similar to any other photo shoot. Sorting through the hundreds of images is time consuming. Keep a copy of the entry list so you can identify the car and driver for filing your images and submitting to your publication. The organisers of the event are good sources of comment and information if your submission requires more information to make the story great.

Has this been a help to photographing motorsport? Please let me know what you’re going to shoot in the comments…

Racing photography in Australia - FIA WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

2019 FIA WEC 6 hours of Fuji

Shooting 6 hours of Fuji was an amazing experience. The speed and engineering of cars built to race for 24 hours straight is mind blowing!

When I went to 6 hours of Fuji I was amazed… The combination of power, lightweight and aerodynamics are what make a car fast, right? Take a LeMans Prototype class 1 hybrid (LMP1) for example; power of 750kw, weight of 875kg and amazing downforce, they’re impressive figures but seeing and hearing them in action is astonishing.

Every time I head back to Japan I check the calendar for motor sport or car events. My bucket list is endless. It started with Super GT at Fuji Speedway, then working as staff on Japan’s WRC event in Hokkaido, R31House and its Wonder Festival, Nismo Festival at Fuji Speedway with the R31house crew, Tokyo Auto Salon, D1 at Fuji Speedway, Super GT a couple of times at Okayama as well as D1 and F3.

What could have been next?

My options this time were Formula Drift at Okayama (not far from my in-law’s place and the chance to see Shibata’s drift team in action), F3 at the same track, or a round of the World Endurance Championship – FIA 6 hours of Fuji. I’ve dreamed of experiencing 24 Hours of LeMans all my life so this would be the next best thing – witnessing the same crews take a 6hour blast.

Before I left home in Melbourne I pondered taking some photos at the event. Taking a spectator’s view could tell a cool photographic story. But it would be better to have full media accreditation. I applied to the FIA, and a few weeks before the event an email from Paris confirmed. “Of course, your accreditation is granted”.

I’ve photographed events from grass roots to WRC and V8Supercars and the level of media facilities can differ greatly.

It was nice to be involved in an FIA run event again!

The media centre was fully catered – Bento anytime, even French and Italian lunchboxes to cater for them. I had my own desk with name plate overlooking pit lane and so many screens to check times and footage around the track, its almost like I didn’t need to leave the room at all.

One of the most amazing things was getting a drink from the water fountain. Just normal water, nothing exciting… standing there, looking at my choice, I heard a familiar Scottish accent. Alan McNish standing next to me lining up for water! 3 time Lemans winner and many more titles, I got out of the way quickly, I wanted to say hi… but what would I say? Nah, I just stepped aside and tried not to geek out.

After the mandatory media briefing session I was set to shoot. Or was I? Fujifilm had set up a clinic – camera cleaning and loan of their gear. My old Canon 5D had some layers of rally dust and it was time to get a free clean and service. I had a choice of different cameras and I decided on the X-T3. The guys loaded me up with a couple of camera bodies and 4 lenses to cover what I wanted to create. It was an absolute privilege to test this gear, about $20k hanging off my shoulders and stuffed into my media vest.

I was prepared to walk around one side of the track on day one. Then the next day, the other side. Though in the late summer heat and high humidity I felt like I couldn’t walk the full length. Why wouldn’t I just catch an air-conditioned shuttle bus? I could stop wherever I wanted… or just ride around and watch the practice session from the comfort of the bus. I did a bit of both!

I mentioned the performance of these cars early on. And yeah, they spectacular to watch – the LeMans Prototypes and the GTs! Riding in the shuttle bus along the main straight at 60kph when these cars are screaming past at just over 300kph is pretty exciting, chilling, and even humorous. As we approached the 1st corner I was looking out for the race car’s brake lights. We were getting closer and they were still flat out. The lights came on inside the 100m boards. I don’t know what this translates into G-force, but braking from 300 to 80 within 100m must be pretty strenuous on the driver’s legs!?

Watching this action through the camera lenses all day was pretty exciting. I got to shoot them from all angles and ventured all round the track. I realised how steep some sections were, something you don’t notice on camera.

Qualifying ending mid afternoon and I started on my way out of the complex. Unfortunately tonight’s accommodation was over an hour away in a city I’d never been to, and getting the connecting trains was crucial.

The trip back to the track on Sunday was easy and I was there early. I made sure to spend some time in the pit garages to look over and photograph the cars, I got some portraits of drivers and did the grid walk before the race. Another thing that amazed me was the heat radiating from the cars parked on the grid. All they’d done is an out-lap and pull up on the grid, so the heat they put out at race operating temperature must be ridiculous.

The grid walk was an experience on its own. Picking out world class, some household names and some instrumental personalities.

If you ever have a trip to Japan, I heavily recommend you search out some motorsport events to attend. And call me, we’ll go together!

Contact me for any photo needs and read more about racing photography here.

Rally photographer Subaru Impreza STi

The Valley Stages rally in Toolangi

The sport of Rally is part of me, and in recent years I haven’t been able to get to one because of family commitments. I’m always looking forward to any opportunity to get out to one. When a rally came up on a Sunday, generally my only free day, AND with Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown being lifted, I jumped at the chance. The one event that marked the emergence from Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdowns was the Valley Stages rally in Toolangi on 29 November.

I got in contact with the event organisers to assure media accreditation, and the publication that helped my rally photography in my early years – RallySport Magazine.

With purpose, I worked on a media plan with Matt Whitten of RallySport Mag. We planned for the best coverage of the event to get a variety of photos. I know the area very well, having grown up in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The rally base was only 30 minutes from my childhood home. That, as well as the area being a hub for rallies over the past few decades, I barley needed a map.

In typical springtime weather in this part of the world we need to be prepped for warmth and cold. In the days leading up to the event there was a mix of rain and 30-degree heat. On the day, the prediction was showers early with a top of 17 degrees. Well, the rain was constant in the morning, easing to showers throughout the afternoon. And the temp ranged from 10 degrees in the dense, wet forest to 20 in the open woodland. The fun of rallying!

Canon Eos 5D Mk2
My Kata weather proof cover saves me from cleaning dust and mud off my camera and lenses after events

My first stop was at the end of Special Stage 1, Mt Slide. A road very familiar for many Australian’s involved in rallying thanks to Glen Cuthbert’s Rally of Melbourne. I parked at the control and was delighted to see a couple of old rally mates, Mark and Lyn, who were Stewards of the event. (I only say old because I’ve known them since the mid-nineties when I was teenager. And I’m not suggesting they’re old).

My initial idea was to capture shots of the drivers and co-drivers as they stopped at the time control.

But with the new satellite timing technology implemented to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, it meant they didn’t even need to stop. Almost all stopped out of habit. It was hard to shoot through the tiny slider windows most cars have nowadays, or some didn’t even have their window open. The rain on the glass made it a real challenge to get a clear shot.

On to SS3 on Spraggs Rd, Toolangi, the cars were approaching on asphalt and turning left onto gravel on a very wide intersection. Despite being one of the safest corners to photograph cars, even with a long lens allowing me to be quite a distance from any mistaken or failed turn-ins, I still got hassled by an official. As an event accredited photographer who does their due diligence in being accredited, it’s always very frustrating. He was adamant I had to stand where he wanted, so I reluctantly had to negotiate a compromise.

It was surprising to see so many drivers misjudge the corner. There were probably ten of them who did it right – entertaining and exciting. And the drivers who got it wrong… entertaining and perplexing, nonetheless.

Rally photographer Subaru Impreza STI
Ivan Register had an early turn-in and went wide, just avoiding a tree on the outside of the exit

My next planned stop was the end of SS5 on Monda rd at the top of Mt St.Leonard. Last time I went to this spot there was thick snow on the ground. But that was in Winter. There wasn’t snow, but a mysterious fog floating around, and the ambient temp was close to 10 degrees. Standing still on the edge of the forest makes you feel cold, and when I looked down, I saw leeches coming up my legs. My socks were pulled high and I was wearing pants, but I wanted to make sure they had no part of me. So, I flicked and flicked between every car coming past.

Most of the drivers at this last corner were not very committed, probably because the end of the stage was on the corner and they’d backed off. I got a mix of shots at this point – panning oversteer and understeer.

At SS7 on Marginal Rd and Horseyard Creek Track in the north end of the Toolangi State Forest the weather was warm. There was even patches of blue sky – great contrast to the previous spot. The characteristic red soil makes for nice colours in photos, and with a little dust being whipped up by the cars, the shots look quite different.

I was standing at a hairpin bend and had the option of being on the inside and panning with the car, and on the opposite side of the road. I love to have a choice. Hairpins are always spectacular, even if the driver makes a mistake it’s entertaining.

With a large tree just in from the apex, I leant up against it to catch the cars on their approach. I swivelled as they past so I could shoot them all the way through. I’m very happy with the results, even though a couple of drivers tipped into the corner backwards and came close enough across the apex I had to step aside.

My final point had me venture deeper into the forest.

It was definitely a case of ‘off the beaten track’ and it was slow going. The narrow road wasn’t smooth and had fist-sized rocks along most of it. I was driving my Subaru Liberty B-spec so the ride height and low-profile tyres meant I had to keep a slow pace of about 35km/h. Because the event was running about 30 minutes ahead of time, I missed the first couple of cars. I had to run along the road into the stage to my planned vantage point.

It was an uphill, tight, slightly banked corner. Probably pace noted as ‘right 2+ opens’ so I was expecting some aggressive slides. But perhaps due to most of the field not committed to their notes, the cars at this spot also performed at mixed spectacle. With huge gaps between cars, I decided to leave… just as a flurry of cars came. As I walked along a straight piece of road I had to jump well aside as a slow Peugeot was being overtaken by a fast EVO… and I missed the shot.

With plenty of shots on the card, I was thinking about each of the spots I went to. I had cover 900 images to short-list. My usual practice is not to overshoot, rather, shoot when needed. Because shortlisting can be a great consumption of time, it’s best to anticipate when to shoot. I think because it had been over a year since shooting a rally, combined with the unpredictable styles of the drivers I held my finger on the shutter release far more than I would normally.

The Shortlisting didn’t take long. I wasn’t too picky with them and knew they’d be appreciated by my editor. So, the day after, I processed the images and sent them off to Matt at RallySport Mag. Subscribe to them and look out for my shots!

Check out more rally shots here.

Michael Finger, Photographer in Melbourne

3 Ways to Learn Photography

Have you learned all there is to know about photography? If you think there’s nothing more to learn, what do you do? Here’s 3 Ways to Learn Photography.

Are you an expert on it all? If you are, stop reading this and go do something productive like teach someone.

Are you seeking new ways to do things? That’s the spirit. There’s always someone better than you. If you like what they do, why not learn from them?

3 ways to learn photography… its pretty much the same way to learn anything.

  1. Experiment and learn by trial and error.
  2. Start a formal qualification.
  3. Find a mentor and learn from them.

If you’re at all interested in taking a photo with a camera, you would have already done one of these. I have attempted two of the three, but never followed through entirely mainly because of practicality. I learned the basics in high school with 1970’s technology. The camera controls being ISO and shutter speed, and then on the lens, aperture and focus. Oh, it did have an on/off mechanism, and a depth of field preview.

So, with an understanding of the basics, I went for experimentation – and any photographer will admit some of their best work has been the result of experimentation.

I started a formal qualification at a private institution at Melbourne’s Southbank. This taught me how to bring the techniques I had learned years earlier into a professional arena. Taught me how to work under pressure with a project brief and deadline. Something of a challenge when you’re talking to a creative person. I didn’t complete the Diploma due to my passion being directed to a different industry.

Find a mentor. Ask to be their assistant and watch what they do to achieve their results. I have not made this happen, but have passively watched my peers as they go about their work and how they achieve results. The reason for me not pursuing a mentor is because its difficult for an assistant to be present in my main type of photography, due to the nature of the shoot. And, I don’t particularly admire the work of any local photographers.

So, have you tried all three ways of learning? Please tell me about your experience with at least one.

 
Spyder5 screen calibration

3 Important Steps to Prepare for Monitor Calibration!

Do you have your monitor calibrated? How do you manage your Colour? Here’s 3 important steps to prepare for monitor calibration!

The use of a high quality monitor and correct monitor calibration is essential in producing high quality prints from your digital files, which is why you need to prepare for monitor calibration.

When you calibrate your monitor, you are adjusting it so it’s output conforms to an accepted standard, nominally an ICC specification. This can be likened to tuning a guitar. Once your monitor has been calibrated, the profiling utility lets you save a colour profile. The profile describes the colour behaviour of the monitor — what colours can or cannot be displayed on the monitor and how the numeric colour values in an image must be converted so that colours are displayed accurately.

Before calibrating your monitor;

  1. Allow your monitor to warm up for at least a half hour. This gives it enough time to get up to its operating temperature and ensure a more consistent display.
  2. Check that your monitor is displaying thousands of colours or more. Ideally, make sure it is displaying millions of colours or 24-bit or higher.
  3. Set the background of your desktop to show neutral greys. Bright colours and vivid patterns surrounding an image interfere with the ability to accurately perceive colour.

Do one of the following to calibrate and profile your monitor;

  1. In Windows, install and use a monitor calibration utility.
  2. In Mac OS, use the Calibrate utility, located on the System Preferences/Displays/Colour tab.

The best quality calibration is obtained by using a colorimeter such as the Spyder Pro by Colorvision. In general, using a measuring device such as a colorimeter along with software can create more accurate profiles because a precision instrument can measure the colours displayed on a monitor far more accurately than the human eye.

It’s important to know, a monitor’s output changes and declines in performance over time. It’s recommend that you recalibrate and profile your monitor at least once a month. If you find it hard to calibrate your monitor accurately, it may be too old and faded or too low in quality.

What do you use?

Comment below or contact me.

Published photojournalism work

Do you want to be published?

Am I right in suggesting that every photographer wants their images to be published?

Are you a photographer that would like your images printed in a magazine, or even a book? Have you been asked, “do you want to be published?”

It’s certainly a nice feeling to see your images in print. Whether in newspaper or magazine, there’s a great sense of achievement. A level of respect from the editor or publisher of that publication, and then the admiration of the readers.

It takes a lot of commitment in your specific field of expertise to get shots published, depending on the quality of publication. Most people wont even reach for that, or just simply don’t have the time to commit.

One thing photographers can do is design a photobook. A coffee table book. Something they’ll put in position when friends or relatives come by. Something to gain the same senses of achievement and admiration. Its so easy to plug in a USB stick and perform a slideshow on your massive LED/LCD/Plasma screen, but it comes back to the feeling of having your photos professionally printed and bound in a hand-held book.

Pretty soon, I’m going to compile my own photobook. And I’m going to tell you about it.

Have you ever had your photos printed ?

Leave a comment below or contact me.

are you a hipster with a fixey?

Are you a hipster with a fixey?

camera Lenses… Fixed focal length or zoom? Are you a hipster with a fixey?

There’s a German camera company that does not supply zoom lenses for two of their systems. They go on the belief that zoom mechanisms, and the construction needed for such lenses, inhibits quality. You could ask a Leica user, “are you a hipster with a fixey?”

So why do most use them? They are convenient, right? And with the current build quality of today, who can tell the difference?

I’ve used Canon’s 85mm f/1.2 for a couple of jobs, and I own a Sigma 50mm f/1.4. I make myself use the 50mm most often. It obviously has restrictions, especially when I’m trying to get a shot of one of my Daughters and I have to physically move, rather than twisting a zoom ring.

I trained on fixed lenses with my Minolta SRT-101, so I should be accustomed to it…. like riding a bike, yeah?

Now, when I was looking for the first lens for my 5D MKII, I could have bought a zoom like the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 and that would have covered me for portraits, sports, etc. But, I didn’t. I wanted a larger aperture for the obvious depth-of-field reasons. AND, I wanted to challenge myself with composition. Sure, if/when needed, I’ll hire a lens or two for specific jobs.

Do people use a zoom just because they are lazy?

Are you a hipster with a fixey?

Comment below or contact me.

Addicted to your camera screen?

Are you addicted to your camera screen?

Do you always check your image on the screen after taking a shot? Yes, you do don’t you? Every single shot?

I was thinking back, not too far, to when I shot all my images on film. This is 6 years back… not long at all. When shooting, I always made sure my exposure was right and checked how my frame was composed before depressing the shutter release. I wasn’t going to waste any more Velvia or Provia than I needed to. Mostly because a roll cost $25. But also because as I was shooting motorsport, I couldn’t afford to miss any shots while I was reloading. I didn’t really know if I had THE shot until the film was processed. I wonder, are you addicted to your camera screen?

These days, I find myself checking the screen of my DSLR after a series of shots so I know I can move on to another kind of shot. I don’t feel that I check it compulsively, though. Are you addicted to your camera screen?

I brought this up in the office last week. I asked a few coworkers, who are also photographers, how often they check. One said he switches his off. He makes sure he has exposure is right before he fires the shutter, and doesn’t check till he brings the images up on the computer screen. He’s afraid of missing any opportunity of capturing a great moment while he’s looking at the LCD.

Another agreed, although said he does check after he’s stepped away from the scene.

I have a friend who’s very enthusiastic, and quite the emerging photographer. He’s guilty of checking his screen after almost each shot. He jokes with me that he has no idea of a world pre-digital as he took up photography well into the digital era.

It makes me think that there are many photographers out there, no matter what level, who have picked up the art form with no experience of touching film, have not positioned a loupe over a film strip on a light box, have not had cracked skin on their fingers from too many splashes of dev, and have certainly not learned to feel their way in the dark while loading a cassette from a bulk loader!

Tell me, how often do check your LCD?

Let me know in the comments or contact me.

Quality Photobooks. Know what to choose?

Quality Photobooks. Know what to choose?

In my last post, I wrote of the experience I had with my Dad’s recently made photobook. It looked pretty good, but I could notice the binding was not perfect and the edge of some pages were not fine. He said the software was not as intuitive as he wished, and was difficult to make changes to what he’d done. At one point he decided to start the design again. Quality Photobooks. Know what to choose?

So, how do you know what you are getting? Pretty much all of these companies are online and you design your photobook with software obtained from those company’s websites. Furthermore, there are a number of them to choose from. Which are quality photobooks?

What stands out to me when purchasing anything is awards and recognition – Manfrotto gear with the Red Dot Design Award, Kata with the same award, the workshop I take my car to has many motorsport accolades backed up by word of mouth. So when it comes to a lab that prints my photos, and more specifically phototbooks, I’d choose one that’s awarded nationally and even internationally.

DRUPA, a print media fair and convention for the industry, is a worthy judgement of quality photobooks.

Last month, a Melbourne (Australia) company received two awards at DRUPA, which added to their existing collection.

I think their quality output is outstanding, and the comments on their Facebook page are in-line with this.

Comment below, or contact me.