Today's goal was to experiment with shooting on a remote trigger. I know where I'd like to go with this, but before jumping in with both feet and spending untold dollars on all kinds of trick gear, I wanted to get a feel for the "look" and the feasibility.
What has prompted this is the recent change that the American Le Mans Series has made restricting "over-the-wall" access to pit lane during their races. While their reasoning has merit, the change has been met with much consternation among many permanent credential holders. For me, I wanted to find a way to work with the cards I've been dealt. This may or many not become a permanent scenario, but regardless, reduced access is a constant in this and many other sports, and we need to find ways to shoot and work around it.
So, taking a lead from many of the photographers shooting at the Olympics, I decided to see what opportunities might be available by shooting remote. Keep in mind, at this point this was just a simplified exploratory mission and confined to shooting in pit lane.
Using an inexpensive wireless remote, firing strictly the shutter, I mounted up a camera body with a 12mm-24mm zoom and attached it to a monopod using a swivel head ball mount. With the transmitter in hand, I extended the monopod up into the air and out over the car in pit lane with the lens facing primarily down. All the time remaining behind the pit wall.
I knew going in (and it was quickly obvious) that hand held wasn't going to be the perfect solution, the results were actually pretty good. The effort certainly provided the information I was looking for. I shot overhead. I shot straight out and in front of the car and even shot angled back to the car... though still somewhat overhead.
The next phase of the experiment will be getting some rigging and clamps that will allow me to mount a camera in a semi-permanent position and a remote system that can be triggered by another camera. Since at some tracks we will be allowed to shoot pit stops from the center island, I will be able to take two photos at the same time. One from the angle of the camera I'm holding out on the island and another that fires simultaneously from the mounted camera's remote receiver. Of course, this will involve more sophisticated equipment and is where additional costs will come into play.
The risk in my next setup will be a.) not being able to get enough shot variety since the camera mounting locations will have a bit of permanence ... at least during the race. b.) the camera being bumped or moved after it's set up and in place. c.) another photographer doing a similar thing and inadvertently utilizing the same radio frequency. And, of course, I can only provide this shot for one team at a time.... at least in the short term.
Once I see the results from the next phase, we'll then start thinking outside the box (and pit lane) and see where else the idea might be applied. Hmmmm... curb cam?
The bonus of today's experiment was not going out on track to shoot. Spending the afternoon in pit lane turned into a nice day of shooting for me. I didn't shoot a lot, but I was pleased with some of the things I got. It was a nice break away from falling into the routine of going out on track and just shooting cars. It's so easy to slip into the trap of getting here, heading out onto a corner and automatically shooting. There will be lots of opportunity through out the weekend and on race day to capture the cars doing their revolutions of the circuit.
I really have this urge to broaden my view of each weekend's activities. One of the things I enjoyed while shooting this year for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was that I got to shoot different events with a lot of different activities. It wasn't just on-track stuff. Certainly the job called for on-track images, but the track's needs were diversified and called for images that would go into 2009 marketing and sales collateral. Images that included track signage, crowd and spectator backdrops and many of the fan activities such as car corals and such. For instance, the vintage bike weekend included shooting bike manufacturer demonstration rides, trick riders and even a swap meet. Shooting these other things really drove home the message that we're not just shooting cars. There's a whole weekend of activities and people being entertained. It's important we take pictures that tell and capture the whole story.
So that's my mission for the weekend. Stay tuned.