Round the houses
The Albany Classic is an annual event during which classic cars race around the central streets of the city on the south coast of Western Australia. The 2019 event was held under clear blue skies and calm conditions, and watched by thousands of people.
The field included cars such as a 1928 Ford model A, a 1937 Hudson Terraplane, an 1955 FJ Holden and an entire race of Minis. (The cars don’t race each other, rather compete in a regularity event in which they must nominate a time they think it will take for them to do one lap, then stick as close as they can to that time.)
Whether you are a classic cars or motor racing aficionado or not, the Albany Classic allows you to get up close and see, hear and smell some amazing cars tearing around the town centre. I used a Canon 5D with a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens and aimed to portray how these amazing cars were not on a race track but instead racing around a tight course in the centre of a city. So I wanted pictures of the cars, yes, but also the spectators and the streets and town itself.
I walked around most of the track looking for different angles, then camped myself at one corner to practice my panning: this is when you reduce the shutter speed and follow the movement of the car with your camera, with the aim of having the car sharp and the background blurred.
It’s a challenge when photographing racing cars to get a sense of speed and movement. What I was trying to avoid was just taking a photo of a car on the circuit with a fast shutter speed – such shots can look like a picture of a car parked in the street.
So, for me, to capture the cars’ movement and dynamic it was either a slow shutter-speed pan, or fast shutter speed but with two or three cars to give some sense of the drama.
For the pan shots I put the shutter speed on 1/80th of a second. The fast shutter shots were 1/320th of a second.
There were only a few minor accidents on the day, and I was close to capturing two of them. In one, I had been focusing on a corner and taken a few photographs, then had my camera down and was looking slightly to the right when out of the corner of my eye a big reddish sports car sideswipped one of the concrete barriers and was covered in a cloud of dust. I took a few photos of the car and dust before the driver managed to turn the wheel and drive slowly past and back to the pits.
The second accident happened just up from where I was standing, but I was looking at the track down the other way.
While the driver was OK and climbed out of the car, the car itself wasn’t so lucky and had to be winched on to a truck and driven away, bringing an early end to that event and a long delay to proceedings.
I guess it proves you can’t capture everything that is happening on a racing circuit.
You can see more of my photographs of the 2019 Albany Classic, including some photos of the Mt Clarence Hill Climb event held the day before, on my Flickr site here.
Have you been to the Albany Classic? Do you have any tips on photographing motor sport events? I’d love to hear your thoughts.