Motorsport Photography Workshop at Lime Rock Park

Two weeks ago I attended the Motorsport Photography Workshop at the Lime Rock Park. It was a 2-days workshop with professional instructors (Rick Dole, George Tiedemann and Robert Laberge) leading a class of around 40 students. I actually learnt of it last year but the date clashed with our weekend at the US Open Tennis. This year I signed up for the workshop the moment I received the email alert. I, however, did not sign up for the full 2-days course, only attending the first day. The workshop used the Ferrari Challenge weekend as the source of racing action to teach us how to take action photography, involving head-on shots, panning sideways, compositions, interacting with mechanics and drivers in the pit lane/paddock, etc.

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Blue Angels at NAS Oceana

Ever since I’ve watched the Blue Angels on Discover Channel (A Year in the Life of Blue Angels), I’ve always wanted to visit an air show with them demonstrating their aerobatics skills.

A few months back, we found out that the Blue Angels will be at the NAS Oceana down in Virginia Beach for the Ocean Air Show last weekend. So Leah and I decided to drive down there on Friday (with a stop at Annapolis to see the US Naval Academy). The air show was fantastic with non-stop aerobatics displays from 10AM to 4PM with the Blue Angels closing out with an hour-long demonstration. The most memorable display, however, was not when we were at the stands. Rather it was at the beginning of the day we were already in the naval air base but still in our car, in a queue to the parking lot. We were in the middle of the tarmac and a F-16C circled around to make a low-level, fast approach to the stands from the side. The flight path took it directly above us so we were treated with watching the F-16C flying towards us at 400mph+ at around 150-200 feet then passed us at 90 degree from right to left. The sound was deafening but glorious as it flew pass us overhead, its engine exhaust glowing with afterburner shooting flame out.

Knowing that we don’t get many opportunity to see the Blue Angels, I’ve rented a long telephoto lens (100-400mm) from and managed to get lots of great aerial photos (570+). The best ones are on Flickr but here are a few from the collection.

F/A-18 in Russian paint scheme
F/A-18F Super Hornet in transonic regime
Blue Angels F/A-18 in tight turn

Forget about the gears

A lot of photographers obsess about their gears. What features their cameras have or not have? How does it compares to another model/make? Which lens is sharper/better than another? A healthy understanding of the capability of the gear you own is crucial to capturing the image you want. But if the pursuit of understanding the gear gets beyond that and it becomes feature-matrix obsession, it is very easy to forget about the point of photography which is to make great photos.

I’ve just hanged up a 16″ x 20″ print of a photo of Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren F1 car. It looks great, doesn’t it? The photo captures the dynamic motion of the car as well as Hamilton working with the steering wheel. Do I buy this from the merchandise stand at the track?

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My Golf GTI

Ever since I bought the Golf GTI back in March I always planned to take photos of it with nice background. It finally took Leah being stranded in the UK by volcano ash and a burst of sunny weather today to get me to do it.

All of them are taken using my Canon 50D with 50mm f1.8, handheld. This is also the first time I used Aperture 3 in a more in-depth editing role. The brush-in adjustment feature is absolutely awesome!

The whole collection is on Flickr but here are a sample:

Front view

Rear view
GTI badge

Photography gears for 2010

It’s only been 10 hours into 2010 and I’m already planning my photography purchases for the year. Here are my list thus far:

  • Kata E-702 Camera Raincover – I wish I had this last couple of weeks during the snow days so I could be out taking photos even in the middle of a snow storm.
  • Pelican Case 1510 & Lid Organizer 1519 – I have accumulated enough photography gears (2 bodies with battery grip, 5 lenses, 2 flash lights, 4 filters, 8 CF cards, etc.) to the point where camera bags are not the best way of storing them. This case will be perfect for storage and the carry-on luggage size means I can take all my gears on vacation if I need to without having to check-in.
  • Pelican Compact Flash memory card case – Having all my CF cards (well 4 of them at least) organized in a single box is infinitely better than trying to find them among all the bag pockets.
  • Brno White Balance lens cap – For the situation where mixed lighting will really play hell with the auto white balance on the camera.
  • Apple Aperture – I feel that finally I’ve grown beyond iPhoto capability, especially with my recent interest in HDR. Right now I’m hoping Apple will update Aperture in 2010, otherwise I’d pick Lightroom instead.

Fun with digital photography

Recently I’ve been diving into High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. Initially I used Bracketeer to combine three photos that had been taken with different exposure (-2, 0, +2 stops). But very quickly I became unsatisfied with the output from Bracketeer. After a little research, it turns out Bracketeer only fuse photos with different exposures. Whereas other HDR software also perform tone mapping. After listening to a TWiP podcast about HDR and read through the HDR tutorial by Trey Ratcliff, I decided to try Photomatix Pro last week to see what different result I would get.

To demostrate the difference between Bracketeer and Photomatix, here are two identical photos processed by each software with the original exposure on the left:

As you can see, the result from Photomatix is so much more natural looking (though it can also produce extremely psychadelic version) than Bracketeer. And more importantly, I get to this very good photo very easily, whereas the options in Bracketeer are extremely technical and confusing.

Both are commercial software with Bracketeer a little bit less expensive than Photomatix. But judging from the output quality, I would thoroughly recommend going straight to Photomatix if you want to experiment with HDR.

The High Line

Having a brand new camera body encourages me to take more photos during the weekend (funny that always works). Today, Leah and I went to the High Line after having brunch with some friends. From the Wikipedia, the High Line is

The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side of Manhattan, which has been redesigned and planted as a greenway. The High Line runs from the former 34th Street freightyard, near the Javits Convention Center, through the neighborhood of Chelsea to Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District of the West Village.

The High Line

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