The 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (Sebring, Florida, USA) would be a special race since it would be the last time the ALMS race at this track before next years merger with Grand-AM to form the United Sportscar Racing series.
Sebring International Raceway location (Sebringraceway.com)
Of the race tracks I’ve been to I think this is one of the best for amateur photographers since you can get very close to the race track, has low catch fencing, and a variety of vantage points. For this trip I took the Canon 5D Mk III (and 5D MkII as back-up), 300mm f/2.8L IS II, 1.4x and 2x extenders III, 40mm f/2.8, 28mm f/2.8 IS, Speedlite 600EX-RT, and Gitzo travel monopod. My goal was to maximize my focal length options with a minimal lens selection to force me to use “my legs for zooming” and to reduce the weight I carried. With this lens selection I covered focal lengths of 600, 420, 300, 40, and 28mm (in retrospect, could have used a lens in the 100-135mm range). For plane carry-on, used the Think Tank Photo Airport Communter backpack and PacSafe shoulder bag and for onsite use used the Think Tank Photo Airport Communter backpack and Skin belt/module system.
The goals for this trip were to
- Improve my technique – A) Learn to use back-button auto-focusing in AI-servo mode, B) Use slower shutter speeds for panning to increase background blur, and C) Hand-hold the 300mm lens for panning
- Improve my composition – A) Capture a wider variety of images to document whole event by not spending too long at each location, B) Shoot as low as possible, and C) Try to capture images that are different from others
- Enjoy the experience and have fun!
Sebring International Raceway track map (Sebringraceway.com)
Left it to the last minute to make this trip since I waited until Audi Motorsports confirmed they would attend the race, since this race is no longer part of the FIA WEC. It also turns out that this will be the last time LMP 1 cars will be racing in Sebring due to rule changes following the ALMS and Grand-AM merger. I think the sign below says it all.
Hopefully it won’t be the last time the LMP1 class will race at Sebring (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/9, 1/400, ISO 100; Gurney Terrace Pit Box)
Used this day to scout the track for places to photograph and to get back into the photography groove since it had been a few months since I seriously used the camera (I think I hibernate over the winter). Drove through Gate 1 and parked in the general parking area near the Walkover bridge behind the Party Zone.
Turn 7 (inside turn, morning)
For the morning shoot walked over the Walkover Bridge to the inside of Turn 7 to photograph the WEC Practice Session #1. This is a great place to shoot in the morning since the sun is at your back and illuminates the cars as they travel around Turn 7 and onto the straight to Turn 8. Their are also high and low vantage points for photography and opportunities for side and 3/4 panning.
DeltaWing LM12 – P1 class, DeltaWing Racing Cars (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/11, 1/250, ISO 100; Inside Turn 7, lower side of viewing mound, morning)
Audi R18 e-tron quattro – P1 class, Audi Sport Team Joest (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/18, 1/200, ISO 100; Inside Turn 7, lower side of viewing mound, morning)
Turn 1 (inside turn from Audi Corral, afternoon)
For the afternoon shoot walked to the Turn One Club Hospitality area. Walked through the Audi Corral car park entrance to the end of the car park next to the track and towards the left found a small grandstand which enabled panning shots as the cars exited the inside of Turn 1. This is a blind turn from a photographers points of view since you don’t have much time to react to the cars exiting Turn 1 and have a narrow range to pan to avoid posts near the track. To the left of the grandstand found a viewing mound for panning side shots as they head down the straight from Turn 1 and rear shots through Turns 2 to 3. Also, since this location is very close to the track used the 28mm lens for some wide-angle panning shots. Here I shot Porsche 911’s in the GT3 Cup Race #1 and the ALMS Practice Session #2 (which I found more challenging due to their higher speeds, especially the Audi R18).
Porsche 911 – GT3 class, Truspeed Motorsports (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/16, 1/100, ISO 100; Inside Turn 1, grandstand to left of Audi Corral, early afternoon)
Porsche 911 – GT3 class (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/8, 1/800, ISO 100; Inside Turn 2 to 3, viewing mound to left of grandstand near Audi corral, early afternoon)
Audi R18-etron quattro – P1 class,Audi Sport Team Joest (Canon 5D Mark II, 28mm f/2.8 IS, f/22, 1/50, ISO 100; Inside Turn 1, grandstand near Audi corral, early afternoon)
Ferrari F458 Italia – GT class, Risi Competizione (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/10, 1/320, ISO 100; Inside Turn 1, grandstand near Audi corral, early afternoon)
Aston Martin Vantage V8 – GT class, Aston Martin Racing Gulf/Hackett (Canon 5D Mark II, 28mm f/2.8 IS, f/22, 1/50, ISO 100; Inside Turn 1 to 2, grandstand near Audi corral, early afternoon)
Aston Martin Vantage V8 – GT class, Aston Martin Racing Gulf/Hackett (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/22, 1/100, ISO 100; Inside Turn 1 to 2, viewing mound to left of grandstand near Audi corral, early afternoon)
Turns 2 to 3 and 3 and 4 (inside, night)
For the Practice Session #3 at night shot between the inside of Turns 2 and 3 and 3 and 4 (from viewing mounds) to get shots of the glowing brake drums as the cars decelerate and turn into Turn 3. Tried shots without and with the Speedlite (normal and 2nd curtain sync). Found panning shots with the Speedlite using normal sync didn’t work very well since the resulting images were of cars that appeared “frozen” since the wheels were not blurred. Had better luck using the Speedlite and 2nd curtain sync since the cars appeared not “frozen” due to the artistic effect of the light trailing the car.
Oreca FLM09 – PC class, BAR 1 Motorsports/Merchant Services LTD/Evident Capital/MBRP Performance Exhaust (Canon 5D Mark III, 300mm f/2.8L IS II, f/2.8, 1/10, ISO 400, Speedlite 2nd curtain sync; Inside Turn 2 to 3, viewing mound at night)