Wortham, Texas – Holeshot in HDR – Freestone Raceway

Here is a photo from the AMA National from Wortham, Texas – Freestone Raceway.  I went on Saturday.  My first ever MX (motocross) race.  I was pumped as it was going to be a nice hot sunny day!  Unfortunately, it was hot…about 97 degrees!  Whew!  Lots of liquids this day!  So I arrived at 9 AM.  (3 hour drive form Austin).  It is about 1 hour east of Waco…deep in the Texas country.  Beautiful though!  Many farms and small towns.   I parked (free parking!) and walked to the track.  What an awesome track!  Great jumps and trees scattered around…the dirt looked wonderful!

I had nio idea what to expect photographically…will it be tough to move around?  Will I get great shots?  Will the crowds be too deep to get in close?  As I arrived practice was going on.  A great time to start shooting.  I was excited as I studied hard beforehand to make sure I had the correct settings for action sports.  I re-read sections of my David Busch’s Nikon D300 guide.  My last excursion to Del Valle was just ok.  So this was the key… (I am a Nikon shooter…so if you have another camera…settings like this may be similar?).  The standard settings are below…but these are helpful in/on camera settings:

1. Continuous:  “C”  (Continuous mode) – located by the lens barrel .  That way moving subjects can be tracked

2. Autofocus: “Dynamic AF Area” – here you have a choice of 9, 21 or 51 points.  Set it on 21 points.  9 points is ok, but 21 points will take less time focusing than 51 points so your focus will be faster!

3. Autofocus: “Focus Tracking with lock on” – set to LONG.  When shooting sports the tracking stays on longer and when something gets in the way (person, etc..), it causes no interruptions.

Now every lens has its sweet spot f/stop.  The 70-200 VR is at f/8.  But I really didn’t want to shoot it at f/8…I wanted a semi-blurred background, so I went with f/5.6.   Somewhat in between f/2.8 and f/8.  F/4 was an option, but decided on f/5.6 for the day.  Another key was just shooting in Jpeg only for sports.    I did a few RAW shots in the beginning and they just are not as sharp as the Jpeg’s (as jpegs write faster).  So for any sports…I’d say Jpeg rules!  I decided that I could make an HDR out of a Jpeg if necessary.    I also shoot on Aperture Mode – this lets my camera decide on the shutter speed that is need for the shot.  Nice!  My shots were wonderful!  I’d say 85% were great…of course cropping was needed as the action was moving…but sharpness was sweet!   I put up a bunch here…Talke Photography Mototcross …just look for the Freestone shots.  I would surely use these setting for sports again!   Sports photography is tough, but I feel as though I am a step closer!

I had a great time!  Shooting was a piece of cake.  I would shoot a curve or straightaway and move onto the next area.  I basically took me 90 minutes to move all around the track.  I wanted shots from all over.  Of course available light and the sun’s directions affected my shots, but overall…sweet!   I have put up about 175 shots from Freestone.  I took 2000 on Saturday (14.5 GB)!!  Whew!  I will get more up later in the week.  I’ll cap it around 300 pics.

I sure was a tough day with the heat.  I only shot with the 70-200 around my neck all day with lugged my backpack along as well.  What a work out!  After the practice runs you can hit the pits and see the bikes getting worked on and cleaned.  You may also go grab a few autographs as well!  I saw a line for my favorite rider…Ryan Dungey.   This kid has skills!  He is a rookie and just won the Supercross Championship.   I got his autograph and then was off to buy a Dungey T-Shirt for my daughter.  Success.

The first 450 race was set to go at 1 PM.   I grabbed a spot near the start so I can get a holeshot photo barrage!   A “Holeshot”  for those that do not know…is the first turn of the race.  It is key…if you get it, your chances of winning are increased greatly.    Here #24 Metcaffe grabbed the holeshot on this race.   Now the one thing I did beforehand is place my settings to RAW as I knew that I wanted an HDR of the moment.  So this was one of my few RAW shots this day.  #5 (on the far left) is my boy Dungey.  He came out of the holeshot 5th and won this race…also the 2nd race this day…taking the title at Freestone!!!  Congrats Dungey!!!!

Just an awesome day…I will gladly photograph MX anyday!   Even in such conditions!   Shooting sports is tricky, but keep trying.  Read you manual and study your settings!    Great photographs await you!   I promise!!!

Talke Photography Settings:

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR
  • Setting: Aperture  Mode
  • Focal Length: 200.0mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  1/806 – Single RAW HDR  (+2 to -2)
  • Aperture:  f/5.6
  • Gear:  Hand Held
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4, Photomatix, Viveza