Motorsport – The Snowman Rally 2018

Below is a gallery of my favourite shots from Stage 5 of this year’s Snowman Rally in and around Inverness. These shots are from the stage that takes place on Forestry Commission land in Contin, which is a Ross-shire village and civil parish between Strathpeffer and Garve in the Highlands.

Like many photographic opportunities, it is best to plan and scope out the best locations in advance, if you can.Alas, I did not, at least not as much as I could. i dis arrive early and walked up and down a few hundreds yards that was marked out for spectating. Due to safety concerns, the areas from which you can spectate and photography are limited. There are six rally stages to choose from. In 2015, I went and photographed from stage one, so this year I wanted to try a different stage.

I’m not a big petrol-head. I went for the photography. To be honest, I’m one of those armchair sports fans who’d generally prefer to watch my sport (unless photographing it) from the comfort of my home, with the benefit of the multiple vantage points that TV channels typically have with their cranes, multiple cameras, helicopters and drones etc. I know tat several of my photography friends and acquaintances really enjoyed watching and experiencing the motorsport action first hand.

The challenge is that from one limited viewing perspective, your photos can all end up looking quite similar. So it pays to think out different kinds of shots and perspectives. One classic type of view, that can be very effective is to take a panned shot from a side perspective; with the right shutterspeed and with a little practise, you can get a nice sharp image of your sports subject against a blurred background. Here’s an¬†example from the Snowman Rally Stage One in 2015:

The Snowman Rally

The problem with taking this kind of shot is that you need to find a straight – where the cars are travelling quickly. You also need to be far enough back from the action to be able to pan for a couple of seconds to get your shots. Finally, there needs to be few or no obstacles and spectators between you and the subject whilst panning. All of that can be quick difficult to achieve. Plus, if you do, then you are restricted to taking pretty much that shot from that vantage point. Here’s another example from down South – this one is from Donnington raceway.

motorsport panning shot

Despite the relatively low speed, I was panning the shots of the cars going around the hairpin, which is why in some shots the stones flying up in the direction of the pan are sharp, the car may be slightly blurred as it changes direction (relative to the panning) and the background is also slightly blurred. On an image like the one above, the shutter speed would have been slower to exaggerate the blur. If you practice the panning, you can still retain a sharp car (subject) so long as it is moving in a plane that is perpendicular to the camera.

The shots below were taken with my Canon EOS 7D Mark II with this lens: EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. The initial shots (in better light) were taken at f8, 1/500th of a second, Auto ISO at around 100mm to 180mm, with the camera set to AI servo to track the cars as they came towards me. I was looking for a sharp picture with a reasonable depth of field to have the car all in focus. Then I dropped the shutter speed to 1/250th second to introduce a bit more blur and motion, especially in the stones flying up in the hairpin bend.

As the light dropped (after a delay to the stage), I dropped the shutter speed to 1/180th and opened up the aperture to f4.5. Here’s the gallery of shots.

The Snowman Rally 2018