Shooting at the 2010 Monterey Historics

Dave Anderson

I went on a drive/outing with a few fellow NorCal 928’ers to the Monterey Historics on Aug. 14, 2010. Of course I wanted to take my camera and get some shots. I love old machinery, especially old cars so combining this with photography was a double bonus.



Car #7, 1924 Bugatti Type 13(1500cc), Goy Feltes(L-5380Uebersyren,), 29th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:44.214 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)

This was my first outing with the 70-400G and monopod head:
RRS Monopod head with Sony 70-400G
Note: All images on this page will open a larger version in a new tab/window when clicked.

On my last trip out to Laguna Seca I had found that my 80-200 f/2.8 APO was too short at times(the pic below was cropped to only ~2600 pixels wide):

Car #62, Ferrari 430 GT(GT2), Melo/Bruni, 8th Overall(225 Laps) 4th in Class, Qualifying Time 1:22.752, Best Race Lap 1:24.133  Car #3, Corvette ZR1(GT2), Magnussen/O'Connell, 10th Overall(224 Laps) 6th in Class, Qualifying Time 1:23.201, Best Race Lap 1:24.118

At the other end, where the 80-200 was way too short, the 500 f/8 was often too long(uncropped):

Car #02, Ferrari 430 GT(GT2), Brown/Cosmo, 28th Overall(194 Laps) 12th in Class, Qualifying Time 1:23.394, Best Race Lap 1:24.055

The Sony 70-400G f/4-5.6 fills the gap perfectly for me, and while this time I was in a different location on the track working on my panning technique I found the G lens was absolutely up to the task. One of the challenges at this track is finding a place to shoot over or through the fence. Fortunately I am about 6′ tall and I found a spot near the entrance to turn 5 where the fence was low enough for me to shoot over.

I was experimenting with different things, and at one point was in aperture priority when a guy walked over and started asking me about what mode I was shooting in. He then proceeded to tell me that I had to be in shutter priority for this, then proceeded to imply that because he is a photojournalist I should listen to him. Well, he did seem to know technically what he was talking about but didn’t seem interested in the fact that I was getting acquainted with a new lens in my own way. To be fair he did offer some decent tips, like focus on the driver’s helmet and so on. Later he told me “You can’t pan with a monopod – you just can’t”. He then showed me his monopod with no tilt mechanism on it and while I could see how it would be tough to shoot over a fence and downhill with that particular monopod, I felt that I was getting some good shots so just nodded my head and smiled.

I’m not in the greatest of shape at the moment, certainly not up to several hours of shooting a 6lb camera/lens combo without some support. :) I don’t want to belabor the situation by going into a lot of detail on what was said and what I thought, because he seemed like a nice enough guy… just with his own perspective and ideas about the “right way” to do things and not much regard for what the recipient of all of his good advice may need to factor in. :) I only bring it up to put the following images(the ones that I couldn’t shoot from a monopod, but did) into their proper context. So, having said that, here are some of my favorites.

Car #28, 1958 Lister (3800cc), Terry Larson(Mesa, AZ), 10th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:53.346 (Race Group 3A, 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc)
Cropped/straightened to about 5,000 pixels wide

Car #102, 1957 Aston Martin DBR2(3700cc), Gregory Whitten(Medina, WA), 17th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:07.341 (Race Group 3A, 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc)
Cropped/straightened to about 5,000 pixels wide

Car #14, 1934 Bugatti Type 59(3300cc), Charles McCabe(San Francisco, CA), 3rd Place, Best Race Lap: 02:04.421 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)
Cropped/straightened to about 5,700 pixels wide. The original, at 1:1, has so much detail you can make out individual chain links on the brake mechanism.

I sorely needed this practice. Remember, I am fairly new to DSLR use, and I didn’t shoot these type events with film in the past because of the expense. Sort of a Catch-22, you have to burn the film to get the skills to get the shots to get someone to hire you and pay for the film to get the shots… :) I found that for these cars which were probably doing 70-90 mph at this location near the entrance to turn 5, shutter speeds in the 1/50 to 1/80 range worked well. For me at least, the key to getting good shots was to pay very close attention to how I pivoted around the monopod. What I did was focus on pivoting the camera precisely on the axis of the monopod while swinging my upper body(and eye glued to the viewfinder) in an arc to follow the camera.

I found that I had a tendency to try keeping my face stationary and swing the camera around, but that doesn’t work well. The camera and tripod end up describing a sort of strange arc, shaped like half of a cone with the tip where the tripod touches the ground. Worse, the wide end of that cone is itself a compound arc with both pitch and yaw components. Based on my limited experience, I’d say if you want to pan using a monopod the key things to remember are:

  • Treat the monopod like an axle; the camera pivots on this without the monopod leaving the axis of rotation. Tilt the monopod away from the axis of rotation and you have trouble staying on target.
  • Tilting the monopod head up or down too far will result in you having to move the monopod off-axis to keep the subject composed. It’s handy to have some adjustment here, but don’t abuse it by trying to pan too far above or below your position.
  • Keep the shutter speed low, depending on the speed of your subject. The examples above have features which are blurred across almost 5% of the frame. Too much more than that and it gets really hard to keep the subject in focus – too much less and you lose the sense of speed.

Other than that, just shoot, look at your results, shoot some more, rinse & repeat. As I processed the photos on my large monitor at home, I could see my progress as I improved over a few hours of shooting. You can read about it, think about it, but practicing it is the surest road to improvement. 😀

Here are a few more pics from the day.

Car #68, 1925 Bugatti Type 35A(2300cc), David B. Duthu(Seabrook, TX), 10th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:13.200 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)

Car #7, 1924 Bugatti Type 13(1500cc), Goy Feltes(L-5380Uebersyren,), 29th Place, Best Race Lap: 02:44.214 (Race Group 4A, Bugatti Grand Prix)

Car #118, 1966 Ford GT 40(4737cc), 18-Nick Colonna(Palos Verdes Estates, CA), 17th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:46.368 (Race Group 5A, 1964-1969 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars)
The above is an example of a much higher shutter speed and a reduction in the sense of motion. This was inadvertent, as I zoomed way in to 400mm and set the shutter to 1/400 to zoom in on an accident scene at the opposite end of the track, and I got to talking with someone and forgot to reset it to a lower speed. Note that there is some motion in the wheels, but nowhere near the sense of speed as the pics using a lower shutter speed.

Car #128, 1968 Ford Mustang(4949cc), 28-Nick DeVitis(Sammamish, WA), 11th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:46.586 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)

Car #22, 1968 Ford Mustang(5000cc), Gary Goeringer(Nipomo, CA), 4th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.155 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)

Car #77, 1970 Dodge Challenger(5000cc), Ken Epsman(Saratoga, CA), 3rd Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.587 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)

If you want to see more, I have posted ~280 pics and a video in the main event gallery here and I have as of this writing made a first pass through creating a gallery of favorites or “Picks” here.

On a more personal note, I’ve toured Bruce Canepa’s automotive museum, and found him to be a very nice, friendly guy who is happy to show and talk about his collection. It was cool to see Bruce out driving one of the very few Porsche 917-K racecars and — no surprise — winning the Group 5A class he entered it in. It was interesting to have met and chatted with Bruce, then later watched him run two excellent races, one in the 917-K and one in the Dan Gurney #2 Mustang. It will be interesting to see what he makes of these pictures:

Car #2, 1969 Porsche 917K(4900cc), Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:31.747 (Race Group 5A, 1964-1969 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars)
Car #2, 1969 Porsche 917K(4900cc), Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:31.747 (Race Group 5A, 1964-1969 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars)

The 917-K is widely regarded as one of the greatest race cars of all time, and it’s one of my personal wet-dream cars; doubly so after watching the Steve McQueen classic Le Mans decades ago. The video below is some footage from inside the cockpit during this race:

Here is an older video showing the G-forces involved, with better sound:

Bruce also won the Group 7A class where he had entered this gorgeous Dan Gurney 1969 Mustang:

Car #102, 1969 Ford Mustang(4949cc), 2-Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.154 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)
Car #102, 1969 Ford Mustang(4949cc), 2-Bruce Canepa(Scotts Valley, CA), 1st Place, Best Race Lap: 01:45.154 (Race Group 7A, 1966-1972 Trans Am)
Way to go, Bruce!

Another bit of history was the Ol’ Yaller VIII that appeared with Elvis Presley in “Viva Las Vegas”. As the linked article mentions, it sold in 2009 for about $200K. The combined history and the sheer cubic dollars involved at this event boggle the mind. If you’re anywhere near Monterey in Mid-August, and have any interest in cars, this is an event you won’t want to miss.

Car #8, 1961 Ol' Yeller MK 9(5358cc), Chris Hines(Scottsdale, AZ), 5th Place, Best Race Lap: 01:48.635 (Race Group 3A, 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc)

I filled up all of my CF cards before Group 9A started. Note to self… get a couple more 16G cards before shooting at the races again. :)

I thought I’d try to capture some of the sound of the race using my iPhone4 to record some video. As with any lightweight video device it’s hard to hold steady and some sort of tripod attachment would help, but in a pinch it’s not too bad:

I’ve gone on long enough, hopefully you’ve found the tips that are buried in amongst all of the car talk useful. Until next time…


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