Photographing on the Road Course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Yesterday I was back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway photographing the practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. This has now become a yearly tradition where I can get out and make some images on the road course. One of the hardest sports to break into has been auto racing. For some reason that door just has not opened up yet. I will keep knocking though as it is fun to get out and shoot these drivers pushing the limits. This year I made it to a few new spots on the track as well as a few favorites from last year. Just for fun I thought that I would break down each position that I found one by one in case you ever want to shoot out on the course.

Turns 12 & 13

For some reason I have always started my rounds here. Next year I may rotate around the track in the other direction, but once again I started at the end of the course and kind of made my way around it backwards. This is a good place to shake out some of the cobwebs from not shooting racing in a while. In all reality not many of the photos that I make here I will keep. I think the backgrounds are a bit boring, and the angles are not the best. With that being said I like starting here as I don’t have the pressure to keep very much from this position.

Turn 7

This would be a great location that I would spend more time at, but the safety bales at the end of the long straightaway just get in my way. If I was a bit taller or had a stool to stand on I think that I would spend more time here. As you can see from the photo above you get a great view down the long back straightaway of the cars coming at you. I like this view to tell a bit of the story of raceday.

Turn 8

Last year I made some of my favorite photos of the day at turn 8. This is a good spot to get a little closer to the cars, and by moving just a bit from side to side you can make a few different looking photos at one turn. I stayed here a long time last year, so I did not stay too long this year. I made a few photos that I liked, and I moved on.

Turns 5 & 6

This was the final spot that I photographed from last year. I like this location for the background, and the way that it can allow the cars to stack up with a layered look to them. Once again here you can get a few different looking shots just by moving up and down the fence. This is a great spot to shoot from near the end of a session as you have a couple of nice shady spots to relax in while you wait for the next session to start. It was from here that I sent out some images from the first practice session yesterday.

Turns 1 & 2

I call this section turns 1 & 2, but it is mainly about turn 2. From my location at turn 5 I could see over the berm, and I noticed the Angie’s List signage as a backdrop. Because Angie’s List is the primary sponsor of the race I wanted a few photos with the signs in the background. I made my way over to the area before the second practice session began. When I came over I noticed about six photographers piled up straight on with the turn. The Indy Lights cars were running, and I knew that wasn’t the shot I was looking for. I moved down a ways from the turns to get a look back at the cars coming off of turn 2. That gave me the background that I wanted. This is a great spot to make a few photos on race weekend.

Turn 4

Just over the berm from the last location is the short straightaway just off of turn 4. Here I did a lot of panning with a 70-200mm lens. I used my 400mm on a crop frame body for all of the other locations. Here I traded lenses with a friend to do a little panning. I have some ideas of what I can do to make a better panning picture after looking through my images from this location. I love how the grandstands turn into smooth lines in the upper corner of this picture. I need to get more of that in some of my panning at the speedway next time. This is a great spot to get a little closer with an unobstructed view though to pan a little. I am not 100% sure, but this might be the only place on the track where you can do this.

The Pagoda

My last stop on the day was in the stands right next to the pagoda. I had an idea for some panning pictures, but I only had my 400mm lens with me. It is the old 400mm lens so it is a heavy beast, and not ideal for what I had to do here. I made a couple of decent photos, but I think that you could really do something great with a 70-200mm or a 300mm lens on a full frame body here. That photo I talked about above with the stands melting into smooth lines could be possible here.

Photographing the Cars With the Canon 7D Mark II

Last year after the open practice session I talked about what a great job the Canon 7D Mark II did tracking the cars even as they came straight at me at high speeds. With a forecast that called for heavy rain the entire time I would be there I decided to only take one body with me. I grabbed the Canon 7D Mark II, and put it in my bag. I thought that I would take advantage of the 1.6x crop factor that the body gives me. Once again the camera did not disappoint. I was shooting cars moving at high speeds through a fence that was 10-20 feet in front of me, and the camera kept up with whatever crazy idea I had next. If you are just starting out in sports photography I would say this is the camera you should get. The 1DX performs much better in low light situations, but in good light the Canon 7D Mark II is a great camera.

Those were my shooting locations from yesterday. I think that my shots improved overall from last year, but I really have some work to do with racing. At the track I am always thrilled with my images, and then when I get home I realize that they are a bit boring. I only shoot a couple of racing events each year so I need to increase that number a bit this year in order to try some things out to make the photos pop a bit more. With that said I had a great time yesterday for most of the day, and it only cost me $10. Shooting at the track on the road course practice day will continue to be a tradition for a few years to come I hope.

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About Pinola Photo

I am a sports and lifestyle photographer based in West Lafayette, IN home of Purdue University. I cover sports for Big Ten teams as well as other colleges. You can follow me on twitter @pinolaphoto. You can also view my website at www.davewegielphoto.net

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