Wednesday, 2 November 2016

2016 Greymouth Street Races

I love the Greymouth Street Racing event held here every year at Labour weekend. I look forward to it every year - and this year was no exception. It looked good in terms of the weather (slightly overcast but no hint of rain), and my previous experience using the E-M5 MkII had me excited for more.

Go-Kart action. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 40-150mm f4/5.6
It turned out to be a strange sort of a year this year though, and I came away feeling a little frustrated. First there was an horrific accident in the very first race of the day, that sadly resulted in the death of one of the riders. It is the first fatal crash the event has had in its 27 year history, and almost ended the day before it had begun. Racing did resume, however, at 2.00pm in the afternoon (a delay of about four hours).

F1 Rider No.121. Greymouth Street Races. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 40-150mm f4/5.6
This meant that a whole days racing was now cut down to only a few hours. Understandable given the circumstances, but disappointing none-the-less. Maybe this sudden urgency made me loose my focus, or maybe it just wasn't a good year, but whatever the reason, I found myself constantly at the wrong places at the wrong times - not getting the shots I wanted.

Motorcross Rider 450, Greymouth Street Races. OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 40-150mm 
Because I had some time on my hands before racing got underway in the afternoon, I decided to walk around the whole track and see if there were some vantage points I could use to give me different photos than previous years. It turns out that there isn't, but unfortunately racing had gotten underway again and I was stuck in a section of the track that had no decent photo opportunities! There are several crossing areas spaced around the track for people to change sides every now and again, but because they were trying to get through the races quickly, I was stuck there for almost an hour before I was allowed to cross over to an area I actually wanted to shoot from! And this turned out to be the story of my day.

Catch me if you can.... Greymouth Street Races 2016. OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 40-150mm f4/5.6
There are two or three areas on the track where the riders come around a bend at a low angle and pick up speed, and these are the areas I try to concentrate on. I focus on the bend, switch the camera to manual focus, and take a burst of images as the bikes reach the area of focus. I use a fast shutter speed to stop the action, and although this can reduce the sense of motion and speed in the image, I think it's made up for somewhat by the exaggerated angles that the riders achieve. There is still a lot of drama in the composition, and that's what I'm after.

Ahead of the pack. Greymouth Street Races, OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 40-150mm f4/5.6
I try to get as 'clean' and as uncluttered a composition as I can, which isn't easy given the number of people at the event. Sometimes feet, legs or bodies in the background can't be avoided - but I do try to whenever possible. And a little cloning later on never hurt anyone :-)

This year, I also decided that the images actually worked better in black and white. I've never converted my street racing images to black and white before, so this was a new twist this year. I converted them in Photoshop, using the high contrast red filter setting, and dialed it back just a touch if needed. This gave me punchy, high contrast images that I like - finished off with what I hope is a subtle vignette to frame the action in the center of the image.

Total concentration. Greymouth Street Race, 2016. OM-D E-M5 MkII with Zuiko 40-150mm f4/5.6
Next year I'm hoping to have the use of a Zuiko 75-300mm f4.8/6.7 - either by getting one earlier, or renting one for the weekend. I'd like the 600mm reach for sports and wildlife anyway, so it would be the perfect lens for the street races. Josh has also expressed an interest in this lens - so maybe we could go halves and get it together?  That would be pretty cool....

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