It is a passion and a thrilling experience knowing that it’s a challenge.” This is how Premjith Narayanan, an engineer and a photographer describes his experiences at the recent Formula-1 race conducted in Bahrain. Photographing Formula-1 is not every photographer’s cup of tea and there are few takers from the country.
Keeping in mind recent reports about Formula-1 Grand Prix coming to India in 2010 and the construction of a new circuit due to begin in New Delhi in October this year, the proposition of photographing Formula-1 doesn’t seem to be a far off possibility for the Indian lovers of the sport. But the reality is that even for professionals it’s not easy.Extreme concentration
“It’s like Arjuna aiming at the eye of the fish. Once you are on the stands, there will be the harsh sun, the deafening sound of the pacing cars and the crowd, but for you to be able to capture the cars on the camera, your attention should be only on the speeding objects. Planning the shots ahead and sound knowledge of the sport and the circuit are must for good results,” explains Premjith who is also adept in astrophotography and whose photos recently got published in BBC’s Sky at Night magazine.
Formula-1 is an extremely thrilling event and the biggest challenge for the photographer is to be able to capture its thrill and motion on a still surface. One may think that a high shutter speed will serve the purpose but it doesn’t; it simply freezes the subject of the photo, which is not desirable to create the special effect of motion.
Panning is a technique that allows the photographer to capture the subject and also its speed. This technique is used to suggest fast motion by bringing out foreground from background. “Panning a camera results in a motion similar to that of someone shaking their head from left to right,” explains Premjith.
While photographing a moving subject, “panning” is achieved by keeping the subject in the same position on the frame for the duration of the exposure. The length of the exposure must be long enough to allow the background to blur due to the movement of the camera as one follows the subject in the viewfinder of the camera. To achieve this properly and smoothly one needs to be at least some distance away which means one also needs zoom lenses.
Despite all the glamour and high tech glitz in Formula-1, sitting in the same place and seeing the cars go by for more than 50 laps in a single race could be quite monotonous. “So you need to keep changing places,” says Premjith.
One has to be very selective about the place from where to take the photo. Shots of cars coming directly or at a steep angle should be avoided. The fact is that the cars are moving so fast (200-300 km/hour on a straight stretch) that one will have difficulty in continuously focusing and trying to keep it in the frame as the car gets larger and nearer. So planning ahead and selecting a section in the grand stand that allows one to be in a position from where cars come only at a less angle is important to create the intended effect.
Special effects can further be created by changing the angle of the motion in the frame and sometimes getting close-ups on a portion of the car, covering the wheels rather than the whole of the car itself. “Please bear in mind that the wheels are always an important aspect in the Formula-1 photography as they express the sense of movement,” emphasises Premjith.
Photographing Formula-1 is a skill and an art and for it to be perfect one has to experience the whole setting, think about what one wants and be open to all the possibilities on ground.
By getting involved more in Formula-1 photography, Premjith says that he was automatically drawn into the technology behind the whole sport. According to him the sport is a combination of the talent of the driver, the technological advancement of the machine, and teamwork, all contributing to winning the race. Complex effort
The performance of the cars is highly dependent on electronics, aerodynamics, suspension and tyres. The discipline, the physical demands, the lurking dangers on the tracks, the technology behind the high-tech purpose-built tracks, the importance of a millisecond, the effectiveness of the team members during the tyre changes and gasoline fillings at the pit stops, the overall team strategy in planning the whole race not only excites him but also gives him new insights into technological advancements.
The tracks are the same every year but not the learning. Premjith Narayanan has learnt not only the trade of the game and photography but also a secret truth of life. After all learning never ceases!
Camera Settings: SLR cameras are better than compact cameras as they provide more control and clarity. The exact length of exposure required will depend on the speed at which the subject is moving, the focal length of the lens you are using and the distance from the subject and background.
To get the best effect, keep the ISO as low as possible (below 400 to give a fairly decent shutter speed which should not exceed 1/300s). This will reduce high ISO induced noise. Beware of camera shake when using slow shutter speeds. Shutter speeds at 1/1000s and above freezes the cars. To have a stunning panning effect, open the camera aperture wide which will reduce depth of field. Again these settings could change with surrounding light.
Camera Accessories: It is very difficult to handhold long zoom lenses and keep them steady as these are heavier. But in the case of panning for the beginners a monopod which makes it easy to swing the camera along one plane is strongly recommended. With fast moving cars the risk is that the panning motion would be jerky and would be harder to keep the subject in the same position of the frame for a longer period of time. Here lenses with Vibration Reduction (VR) or Image stabilizer (IS) would be of help.
7 months ago