Sports Car Racing Photos IMSA Mazda Prototype Challenge
Michael ONeill Wedding Portrait Fine Art Photographer Long Island New York

Sports Car Racing Photos IMSA Mazda Prototype Challenge

Another one of the most exciting series in all of motorsports is the Mazda Prototype Challenge class in IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) racing. To quote the IMSA Class Specifications: "…The Prototype Challenge (PC) class is a spec class featuring open-cockpit race cars and technology such as a carbon fiber chassis, carbon brakes and sequential gearbox….". These carbon fiber chassis race cars weigh in right at 2,000 pounds and their engines produce 500 HP. Top speeds are in the 175 MPH range. The one pictured here is the number 13 Elan DPO2 Team Perfect Pedal machine being driven by Gary Gibson. This motion blur image was captured as he was accelerating out of the turn known as "Big Bend" on the legendary road course at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, CT. The image was captured during the running of the Mazda Prototype Challenge during the IMSA WeatherTech Northeast Grand Prix weekend in July of 2017. Yes, I know that section of race track is actually level. I gave my camera a little tilt as I made this motion blur image to add a little more drama to the photo. Photographing racing machines using a motion blur technique is not an easy thing to do. The ability to freeze the action of the machine against the rapidly passing background makes for a wonderful image that highlights the speed of the car, but it is not an easy effect to execute. I get asked all the time by photographers how they should set up their cameras to achieve these results. What shutter speed do I use? What f stop? What ISO? What focal length lens? etc, etc. The fact of the matter is that there is no single answer. A lot of parameters come into play. How fast is the vehicle is moving? How close are you to the vehicle? How far is the vehicle from the background beyond it? All of these variables come into play when doing a motion blur shot such as this one. "Panning" the camera with the vehicle is an acquired skill…one that is required of any great racing photographer. The vehicles rarely move at a constant speed. They are usually either accelerating or decelerating making smooth, constant-speed pans all but impossible. You have to get into a rhythm with the cars as they pass through the area where you want to make your shot speeding up or slowing down your camera pan as the vehicle passes through your zone. I tell photographers who are trying this for the first time to go out on a local road and practice with everyday traffic moving by at 60 MPH. After a few thousand attempts they will start to get some consistent results. Then they are ready to graduate to the race track where the cars move at 100, 150 or more MPH. Just when you think you’ve got this skill set dialed in you should take to the road courses where motorcycles are racing. The smaller "target" makes for an even greater challenge. Enjoy!