I love all kinds of motorsport, and I love bringing control of the light to my photos, so when Colin Brister of ImageMX announced one of his training days lighting motocross with flash I jumped at the chance.
Wash brook Farm Motocross with Speedlites
Early one morning I headed across from Oxfordshire to Washbrook Farm motocross track where Colin is the track photographer.
A small group of us gathered round the bacon rolls and listened to the safety briefing and training info from Colin. Colin uses Canon cameras, mostly EOS-1D models and a “well loved” EOS 7D. The key for me was the use of flash, something he’s been doing for many years to ensure that as an event photographer he can deliver great pictures that his clients buy.
I had an EOS 5 Mark III and EOS 7D Mark II with me, plus a few lenses, though I mostly used the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. I had brought along four radio Speedlites and an ST-E3-RT. I had the flashes mounted on a Lastolite quad bracket and grouped the flashes in the same group.
Fortunately the weather was a little overcast with the odd drop of rain, enough to avoid too much flying dust. Colin had arranged appropriate insurance cover for us to be trackside, and was soon showing us the approaches he uses to making great pictures quickly. As an event photographer Colin showed how he could use the same location and lighting to get multiple different pictures from the same spot – ideal to help sell more prints.
High-speed sync was the order of the day, with all but two of my pictures here taken with the shutter speed faster than the camera sync speed.
Starting with the 17-40mm wide-angle…
These two are the only ones where the shutter speed was slower than my sync speed 🙂
It was quite clear that the flashes would be working hard all day. I used my usual Eneloop batteries throughout the day and only needed to change them once.
Moving on to the 70-200mm
With the longer lens, the flashes and camera are further apart, but you can get the lights close to the riders. Having complete control from the camera is really helpful, and I mostly used E-TTL flash with manual exposure. I positioned myself close to the track edge to try for a longer shot of the riders approaching. Timing was key as the light is coming from the right of the picture and only slightly in front of the rider. You can see the light lifting the shadow under the front mudguard and in the riders face under the peak on the helmet.
At the far end of the track is a long corner, we could shoot from the inside, and from the outside 🙂 It was here that I had my most success and most of my best pictures.
Colin had recently acquired a Pixapro CITI 600 TTL flash, a battery powered studio flash and offered all the attendees the chance to try it. It offers more power than the combined flashes, making it even easier to darken the daylight.
Huge thanks to Colin for a great fun learning day.