I've posted a few pictures here from my outing to the NSC Velodrome in Blaine, MN. I was out mostly for fun and to support my friends racing. I had been inspired a while back by some track racing images from my internet photography and bike friend Wade out in California. I finally made the trek out to Blaine, MN and shot the opening round of Thursday Night Lights track racing. What an incredible evening and joyous night.
After showing up, I went and filled the paperwork out, signed my liability waiver and got my volunteer vest. I did this so that I could shoot from the infield. I received instruction as well as some warning about where the pace motorcycle exits the track. The key things were that I could not get too close to the track and you can't obstruct the officials point of view. OK.. Got it. Now let's get to shooting.
Gear - I shot two cameras; the Fuji XT1 and the Olympus OMD EM1. I had a back pack full of gear but this is what I ended up shooting with for 99% of the night.
- Olympus OMD EM1 w/Really Right Stuff baseplate
- Olympus 12-40 Pro f2.8
- Panasonic 42.5 f1.2
- Fuji XT1 w/battery grip
- Fuji 14mm f2.8 wide angle
- Fuji 55-200 f3.5-4.5 zoom
- Small, short tripod
I also brought a tripod to do some remote shooting. I intentionally did not bring a flash, not only because I am not that good using one yet, but because I like natural light and the vision I had was to play with the harsh shadows of the track and the low evening light.
Here is my favorite shot of the night. It looks almost perfectly choreographed. Riders positions mimic the shadow of the track. It's almost like a podium finish. This is exactly what I was going for. I shot this with camera mounted to tripod, low and near the track through remote shooting. I set to manual focus, set my desired ISO, aperture and shutter speed and connected my phone thru the awesome wifi feature. This was great as I could stand/sit well back from the track and not distract the racers or disrupt the field of view for the officials.
With the wifi feature, I could hold the phone in front of me watching the view from the camera while at the same time watching what was going on with the races. It is only a 250meter track, so it's easy to hold the phone in front of you while you circle the track and follow the racers. When I saw something good developing, I could wait until the perfect moment and start shooting in bursts. Thank goodness the EM1 has a deep buffer and quick file write times. I was able to get many great shots this way.
Overall, I was super pleased with my gear and my set up. I really wouldn't change a thing with the exception of trying to shoot a bit more tight and isolating the riders a bit. As the light dipped below the horizon and the track was lit by the stadium lights, I switched to the amazing Panasonic 42.5 f1.2 for a few shots. Below is an example that shows you the look I am going for on my next trip. While this specific image itself doesn't convey the speed of the track, it does give you an idea of what my next attempt will show, tighter viewpoint, effort, speed, and isolation.
Lastly, you may be interested in my thoughts on the EM1 vs the XT1 for these shooting conditions. As I have written before, I am more comfortable with the EM1. I know the controls, the speed and the capability. Because of this I favor it, but I can also tell you the XT1 did tremendous as well. Here are a few shots from that camera for you to compare yourself. I mostly shot wide, but did put the long zoom on it for a few compression type of shots such as the riders shots on the rail.
I must say that both are extremely capable. I prefer the EM1 for overall performance and ergonomics. I prefer the fuji for manual focus shooting, low light and really wide shooting because I have the 14mm prime. Image detail wise I prefer the Fuji. Working with the files, I strongly prefer the EM1's flexible files while I prefer the noise control of the Fuji. Overall IQ wise, I don't have a favorite. They are both different and unique tools. For me it comes down to what I want out of a shoot and I will pick the proper tool. I have more thoughts and images from the Fuji X-T1 here.
If you missed it written above, I know these images are processed with a harsh contrast and some of you may not prefer this look. Both cameras are capable of very good output regardless of your personal style. I intentionally was going for this look as I really wanted to play off the harsh contrast of the light, the track, the shadows and later on in the evening the stadium lights. It was just my vision for this evening. If you have specific questions on either camera, please email me through the contact form or leave a comment. I'll do my best to answer.