Vintage Car Racing Photography

The Art of Vintage Car Racing Photography

Image 26. Porsche RSK

Porsche RSK
Track: Laguna Seca
  • Location: Turn 2
  • Camera: Nikon
  • Lens: f2.8 70/200mm with a polarizing filter
  • Racked out to 135mm
  • ISO: 720
  • Shutter Speed: 1/250 second
  • Aperture: f9
  • Monopod: yes

Image Notes:

This one was captured in the late afternoon. The sun is below the hills to the tracks West accenting the horizon line along the side of the RSKs. I planned this image by going through the group run times and picking the corner I thought would work best with these early Porsches and this light. 3/4 Front view of the lead RSK, so I used a faster shutter speed to hold detail.

Image 27.  McLaren F1

McLaren F1
Track: Laguna Seca
  • Location: Turn 5
  • Camera: Nikon
  • Lens: f2.8 70/200 with a polarizing filter
  • Racked out to: 200mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter Speed: 1/320 second
  • Aperture: f9
  • Monopod: yes

Image Notes:

A bit creative. I wanted the backlight to turn the pavement and runoff gravel to a silver. The cars to be outlined but still have detail in the shadows. You can see the driver’s eyes.

Tips for Capturing Great Shots

  • Keep looking for other photographers; if there are another two or three shooters, move on. Photographers often travel in packs and, at the end of the day wondering why all their images look alike.
  • Fog, overcast, rain, late-day sun, early day sun all give you a chance to capture a unique image.
  • Set your camera to M. Set your f stop to get the depth of field you want and the shutter speed to get the motion you want. ISO is set to Auto. Keep track of your ISO so that your images are not overcome with high ISO noise. Concentrate on your image, not camera settings.
  • What does your background look like? Does the texture enhance your image? Ugly signs? Porta-potties?
  • Go up the hill so you are looking down into the car?
  • Which camera placement will let you capture a row of cars at speed setting up for a turn.
  • Use a good polarizing filter to intensify background colors, pavement color, and remove reflections from the windshield, allowing the viewer to see the driver. Some cars use a “plastic” windshield that may give you an intense purple or pink color when using a polarizing filter.

Panning Tips

In photography, panning means swiveling a still camera horizontally from a fixed position.

For our use, it means to follow a car through the arc of a turn keeping the center or focus cursor on the same point of the car.

As an example, you place the cursor on the driver’s helmet as he/she first enters the turn, and using Follow Focus to maintain focus, you pan the camera keeping the focus curser on the driver’s helmet. Because the camera is panning/swiveling at the same speed as the car, you mimic a still image. This allows you to capture a sharp image with a much slower shutter speed. Only the area being followed by the curser will be sharp other areas will blur from the motion.

All this, “keep looking” for that unusual image. Remember that these are fast, powerful cars, for the most part being driven by o’l men and women who may not see you, especially if you’re in an unexpected location capturing that image of the weekend. Please don’t count on them seeing you. Stay alert.

This may be a good time to point out I am not putting together a direction manual on How to Photograph Vintage Race cars.

Rather I want to show you examples of how I approach a vintage event. What lens combined with what f stop at what shutter speed and what time of day produces a given image? How does light affect the image?

Hopefully, you will read the captions combined with the Notes and arrive at a starting place for your photography. Two items should be clear to you:

  1. Understand the Exposure Triangle
  2. Spend time practicing your panning technique.

Any questions grab me at a track or email [email protected]

Equipment list.

Z 7 Nikon body

f4 24/70mm Mirrorless lens.

F1.8 85mm Mirrorless lens

F.2.8 70/200mm Mirrorless lens

1.4TX for a z7

F5.6 200/500mm Nikon lens

Z Camera adapter to standard Nikon lenses

Three camera batteries-all freshly charged.

Battery charger

Six 64GB XQD Cards

Card reader

Various USB cords

Ear plugs

Extension cord for the hotel room

Dozen ThinkTank Red Whips

MonoPod with a simple ball head

Extra quick release pads for ball head

ThinkTank AirPort roller bag

ThinkTank Retrospective 30 shoulder bag

Various rain covers for camera, lens and bags

MackBook Pro 13 inch lap top for hotel editing

Two 5TB External hard drives



Minimum four bottles of decent red wine


Three $100.00 bills to be used in emergencies only

Media credentials

[Photo credit: Dennis Gray]