I live in southern California
and would always pick Laguna Seca over Riverside.
Why? Because Laguna Seca is one of the most photographer
friendly places to take auto race photos. I'm referring
to the race track itself. At only 1.9 miles in length
(1969-72) it was easy to get to various parts of the
track. Because it was situated in hill country with
a hill in the middle of the course finding good locations
for photographing the cars is a no brainer. This photographer
usually worked around the corkscrew but there are
several, if not many, good places to photograph at
Today there is no Riverside.
Big mistake. Great loss. It was a great place to watch
road races but difficult to photograph. This trend
of road courses inside oval tracks like they have
done at Fontana and Indy is like the multi-use stadiums
that cities built for baseball and football. They
were adequate but never great or even good. As for
taking good race pictures forget it. If you're
in the stands then you are just to far away. If you
are in the infield then the land is to flat to get
good photos and I'm assuming you can GET onto the
For me photographing auto races
is more than pictures of the cars. I don't use long
telephoto lenses. The long lens for me at Laguna Seca
was a 135mm (using a 35mm Nikon F.) I always prefer
to put a subject, whether it's a mountain range or
a race car, into it's environment. That means showing
the cars within the race track. Most of the photos
you see at this site they were shot with the normal
lens. Several with a 28mm lens. Most of the race car
photos were taken with the 135mm, but not all.
What's important to me is people
and place. People make any photograph more relevant.
They give photos size. Take a look at any photo
on this page. By using a normal lens you not only
get the cars but the track and people. People give
the photo scale and by including parts of the track
you give definition of place. Why photograph a car
going into or through the corkscrew if you don't show
Here are some tips for Laguna
Seca or any other race course.
1. Get there on a Saturday,
better yet on Friday, and walk around the entire track,
inside and out. Locate places where you want to photograph
and mark them on a map. While doing this determine
where the Sun is. It's best to have the Sun behind
you coming over your shoulder. At a minimum never
have the Sun in front of you. Determine the best time
to be at each location. If you are using a zoom lens
determine the best focal length for each location.
Zooming the lens in and out while trying to get the
photo will result in no photos and time wasted. After
doing this prep work you should have photo locations
marked on the map, the time of day and the best focal
length to use. While at each location practice taking
photos. Practice, practice, practice.
2. Get plenty of photos in
the paddock area. Do this on Friday or Saturday morning.
This is where you can photograph the drivers without
the helmet mask on. Get plenty of photos of the cars
being prepared by the crew. Don't be afraid to get
the names of the crew members.
The paddocks is a great place
to take those people pictures. Everyone has a camera
and no one is going to be upset when a camera is pointed
at them. Just do it. A race course is a public place.
Take advantage of it.
The paddocks is where you take
those long lenses and stuff them in the bag. There
never is a reason to be using a long lens in the paddocks.
This is where the normal lens is king. You may need
a wide angle lens but always ask yourself is this
3. Race day. This is when you
concentrate on the race and the cars. Get that map
out and determine your first location. And while you
are walking the course take pictures of the spectators.
They're always fun to shot. Like all the race fans
in the trees at the corkscrew.
That's it. Almost.
The Other Big Tip: Always remember
that you are photographing HISTORY. It never dawned
on this photographer, and it should have, that he
was photographing history. But he was. The photos
at this site are 30 years old. If you photograph a
race car driver just before he is to reach greatness
and he is killed, liked what happened to Peter Revson,
and you have photos of the driver then you have captured
history. If you have photos of an important race car,
like the Chaparral 2J, on the track, then you have
history. The problem is you never know.
As I have said: "I should
have known better." When I went to Laguna Seca
for the first time in 1969 I had only recently returned
from Viet-Nam where I was a photographer in the Marines.
I KNEW I was photographing history when I was over
there. In 1969 at Laguna Seca I watched Bruce McLaren
win one of his last races. A short time later while
testing the 1970 McLaren Can-Am car he was killed.
You don't see any photos of Bruce or his car. Why?
I forgot I was photographing history. Don't you forget.
Web Sites To Visit:
Alexander. Alexander has authored numerous books
including At Speed, Forty Years of Motorsport
Photography and Driven. His work has
been exhibited in museums, galleries, and as part
of an exhibition of sports photography at the 1996
Summer Olympics. Be sure to visit his gallery
of racing photographs.
Friedman. I never heard of David but I probably
have viewed many of his photos. He is very good.
Found David's site listed at a Porsche site. Take
a look and read what he has to say about photographing