Tips – 2013 Nurburgring 24 Hrs (Photography lessons learnt)

Had a great time experiencing and photographing the Nurburgring 24 Hrs for the first time. Found the race to be exciting and challenging to shoot and the fans and organizers very friendly and helpful. Lessons learnt included

  • Expect all types of weather from overcast, rain, to sunny skies; and temperature changes
  • Bring appropriate rain covers to protect your camera gear
  • Make sure you wear the right clothes to stay dry and warm, best to wear all weather clothing that breathes and is quick drying (polyester) and layers (base layer, middle layer, and Gortex shell)
  • Mud (and lots of it). Best to wear water resistant trail shoes or boots to protect socks and feet from getting wet and for better grip (gaiters may also help to keep the water out of your shoes)
  • In Nordschleife expect a lot of hilly terrain, mud, and few food and drink vendors, except at entrance to spectator regions where there are food and drink vendors and WCs
  • Have fun and enjoy the photography opportunities you get day and night, since the rain and mud are part of the Nurburgring 24 Hour race experience

Nordschleife (will add representative photos of shots from viewing points below)

  • Catch fencing made it difficult to get unobstructed shots
  • Find hills to shoot over catch fencing, cut-outs in catch fencing (usually taken by people at camp sites or busy with spectators), shoot from fan scaffolding, shoot “through” catch fencing wide open, or place lens close to mesh opening of catch fencing so center part of lens unobstructed
  • Catch fencing meant most shots were restricted to front or rear car shots, with few panning opportunities (at least for parts of the track I visited)
  • Below are my thoughts on track locations for photographic opportunities. Also included a link from Race Tours UK for additional information on these locations (http://www.racetours.co.uk/Nurburgring%2024%20where%20to%20watch.htm)
  • Hatzenbach – Drive to highway B257 and park at Hoheichen car park then walk up hill (alternatively can take track from Hatzenbachstraße in Nürburg to enter other end of Hatzenbach). Location has food and drink vendors and WCs. Opening in catch fencing as you walk up hill from car park to shoot front of cars as they exit a left hand curve and accelerate down hill. Walk up hill to spectator hill area which is good place to shoot over catch fencing for front car shots with 300mm with or without extenders. Opportunity for panning shots with 50 to 100mm, although catch fencing makes this challenging. Good spot to capture camping atmosphere of race
  • Flugplatz – Drive to highway B257 and park at Hoheichen car park. No food and drink vendors and WCs. From car park walk about 1 to 2 km along muddy path parallel to straight. Due to catch fencing, not any opportunities to shoot cars, except for one spot about 1 to 2 km along path where track elevated and can get front shots of cars coming down hill, but need 300 with 1.4x or 2x extender. Not really worth the walk for this shot
  • Breidscheid – Best to go to this location on practice days since less crowded, less traffic, and more parking spots. Drive along highway B257 towards Adenau, and before intersection with L10 turn left next to a Chapel, and drive up hill to Breidscheid car park. Walk past camping area to spectator hill overlooking track. Has food and drink vendors and WCs. Great location for unobstructed front and 3/4 front shots of cars coming down hill and turing into left hand corner, rear and 3/4 rear shots of cars entering left hand turn, and for distance shots of cars after down hill left hand turn. Best to use a 300mm with or without 1.4x extender. Difficult spot to pan, but can get panning rear 3/4 shot of cars entering downhill left hand turn. Can walk further up hill to get elevated wider shots of track
  • Brünnchen – Probably best to go to this location on practice or qualifying days since less traffic and more parking spots. Took guesthouse shuttle bus to this location (can drive to this locations car park via highways B258, then B412). Walk from car park up shill for a couple of hundred meters to hilly grassed spectator area for great views of cars exiting left hand corner, coming down hill, then past you down another hill to right hand corner and straight into the distance. Has food and drink vendors and WCs. Great spot for front and 3/4 front car shots; and distance rear, 3/4, and side car shots. Found 300mm good for this location. Walk up hill for another few hundred meters to an opening in catch fencing which allows rear and 3/4 rear shots of cars going downhill
  • Eschbach to Wipperman – Walk from Brünnchen to Eschbach and Wipperman over hilly terrain along path that parallels track for about 2 kms. Due to catch fencing, need to shoot from openings in catch fencing or ask spectators if can shoot from their elevated scaffolding set-ups for some great front shots of cars going down hills, up hills, or along straight. Used 300mm for these shots. Also great place to capture camping atmosphere of race track
  • Hohe Acht – Continue walking to Hohe Acht, which is highest part of track. Food and drink vendors and WCs in this area. Beware that need to walk up and down some steep and muddy hills, so watch your footing. Due to catch fencing, need to shoot from openings in catch fencing or ask spectators if can shoot from their elevated scaffolding set-ups for great front shots of cars entering right hand corner and going along straight. Also, from safety car entrance to track, can get low rear and 3/4 rear shots of cars entering right hand corner with spectators in background. Used 300mm for these shots. Also great place to capture camping atmosphere of race track
  • Caracciola Karussel – From Hohe Acht, walk about 1 km down a steep hill to Caracciola Karussel. Great place to watch cars come uphill, go through a tight and banked hairpin corner, then exit downhill. Due to catch fencing need to shoot though openings in fence at apex of hairpin or on left side of hairpin (facing hairpin apex). Due to speed of cars, best for panning shots, and not for front or 3/4 front shots. Used 300mm, but 70-200mm would be better for this location. Also, probably best to shoot from this location in morning, due to sun’s direction

Locations didn’t get to shoot from, but plan to next time

  • Adenauer Forst – One of the most picturesque and remote parts of track. Can be accessed by a track off Kallenbachstraße in Adenau. Kallenbachstraße runs into Altes Poststraße before joining B257 in centre of Adenau. However, this track is long and steep ……
  • Metzgesfeld – Accessed by car via a steep track that runs all way down to Brunnenstraße and B257, approximately 400 m south of Breidscheid bridge. From Metzgesfeld there is a rough trail that leads to Adenauer Forst and well maintained trail down to Wehrseifen. This location is good spot to shoot cars going around an apex of corner with Nurburg castle in background
  • Wehrseifen – Accessed by car via Breidscheid campsite, then walking track. Good spot for photography since does not have catch fencing. Wehrseifen hairpin is also in this area
  • Bergwerk – Walk from L10 down track to this area, which is not a designated spectator area, hence, no food and drink vendors and WCs. This is location where Nike Lauda had his accident
  • Pflanzgarten – Take guesthouse shuttle bus to Brünnchen or drive to car park via highway B258, then B412. From car park, walk left to Pflanzgaretn area. This spot gets very crowded, best to go on practice or qualifying days. Make this a priority for next visit, since great spot to get front shots of cars racing up hill, then getting airborne as they go over the hill. Would probably need to shoot through catch fencing wide open or put lens up to mesh opening of catch fencing so center part of lens unobstructed. Some openings in catch fencing for obstructed shots, but these spots are busy.

GP Part of Circuit (will add representative photos of shots from viewing points below)

  • Can visit all of covered and uncovered Grandstands during race
  • Lot of opportunities to shoot over catch fencing from grandstands for front or rear shots and for panning, albeit from elevated vantage point
  • Non-covered Grandstands great for front and rear or panning shots closer to cars and at lower vantage points
  • Below are my thoughts of grandstands visited from a photography perspective. Also included a link from Nurburgring.org.uk for additional information (http://nurburgring.org.uk/gpviewing/index.php)
  • BMW M Power Tribune (pit straight) – Covered stand, with food and drink vendors and WCs. Good place to watch pit action, although catch fencing and race car control boxes obstruct photography. Okay for a couple of quick race atmosphere shots. 300mm or 70-200mm good for this spot
  • Bilstein Tribune (run down to Yokohama S) – Covered stand, with food and drink vendors and WCs. Great stand for side panning shots of cars decelerating before turning into Yokohama S. At night can get shots of brakes glowing. If raining, can get great shots of rain trailing the cars wheels, red brake lights trailing rain from back of car, and front lights piercing rain. 300mm or 70-200mm good for this spot
  • Mercedes Tribune (bottom of Yokohama S) – Covered stand, with food and drink vendors and WCs. Sat at top of stand on far right hand side facing track (need to get here a few hours before race start to get good seat). Great place to watch pre-race activities, grid girls, and cars being put in place on starting grid, Red Bull motorbike acrobatic show, and to our left was where Michael Schmacher started his F1 race car run around the circuit. Right in front of us was front straight and great spot to get front shots of cars racing down straight at race start into Yokohama S, as well as cars exiting pits. Hard place to pan since cars decelerating into Yokohama S. 300mm with 1.4x extender worked well
  • Tribune 5a – Uncovered stand, with WCs. Great place for side and 3/4 panning shots as car pass on straight. Opportunity for panning shots of cars passing each other. Can get front shots of cars racing down straight. Used 300mm, but 70-200mm would also work well here
  • Tribune 5b – Uncovered stand with food and drink vendors, Ring card people, and WCs. Great spot for front, rear, and panning shots of cars entering, going through, and exiting Ford Kurve, with alot of elevation changes. Can get rear shots of cars going down the downhill straight after Ford Kurve. Used 300mm, but 70-200mm would also work well here
  • Tribunes 6 and 7 – Uncovered stands with food and drink vendors, and WCs. Great spot for front, rear, and panning shots of cars entering going down the downhill straight after Ford Kurve. Good location for panning shots of cars passing. Can also get far rear shots of cars going up hill through Schumacher S. Used 300mm, but 70-200mm would also work well here

Camera gear

  • A second camera body with lens attached would have been great due to increment weather, since didn’t want to change lenses in the field. Will consider a small DSLR (e.g. EOS SL1) with my 28mm or 40mm f/2.8 mounted for wide shots of race track to capture atmosphere. Would complement 5DIII with 300mm f/2.8L which would be used for tight shots of race cars and track
  • Will bring circular polarizer filter for 300mm f/2.8L to reduce glare on cars
  • 5DIII and battery grip – Worked great. Having grip made handling the 300mm much easier
  • Having only two lens worked well, since limited my choices and made me use what I had
    • 300mm f/2.8L IS II and 1.4 and 2x extender III – With or without 1.4x extender was best combination since allowed you to shoot over catch fencing or “through” fencing wide open
    • 50mm f1.2L – Just got this lens since wanted to shoot shallow DOF shots for creativity. Used circular polarizer to reduce light for day shots when wanted to shoot wide open and/or to reduce glare on cars
  • Speedlite 600EX-RT – Ended up not using this at all, since found natural lighting better for car shots, even for night shots, since Speedlite freezes the wheels. Probably won’t take this next time (or may take smaller 220EX if need fill flash for near shots of people or cars)
  • Gitzo Travel Carbon Fiber Monopod and Really Right Stuff Monopod Head – Essential pieces of gear and great for traveling since compact and lightweight (take monopod out of bag at airport for x-ray since always gets questioned because carbon fibre looks unusual under x-ray)
  • Hoodman Loupe – Invaluable for viewing photos in field for composition and sharpness
  • OpTech USA raincovers – Despite con’s, will continue to use OpTech USA rain covers since other rain covers on market also suffer some of the con’s below, are not compact, and more expensive
    • Pros
      • Protects camera and lens well from rain
      • Cut-out for camera eyepiece
      • Compact so great for keeping in bag for unexpected rain
      • Inexpensive
      • Dry fast after use
      • Can be reused several times
      • “Disposable”
    • Cons
      • Blocks visual access to rear LCD
      • With 300mm
        • Difficult to turn camera/lens via lens collar from landscape to portrait position since plastic cover bunches up
        • Lens strap caused plastic to bunch up at end of cover
    • For monopod use, need to attach lens foot with plastic cover over it to monopod head, although, fit was secure
  • ThinkTank Glass Limo backpack – Worked great. Bag not too big and not too small. Carries 5DIII, 300mm, 50mm, and monopod attached outside well (although, need to make sure within airline carryon weight limits, since was slightly overweight). Narrow profile of bag perfect for going through crowds and climbing fan scaffolding next to catch fencing at track
  • Skin belt and module system – Due to increment weather, didn’t use this system since avoided changing lenses in field

Technique

  • Was happy with variety of shots taken from different locations, considering size of track, and how it takes about 10 to 15 mins for the cars to do one lap (if you missed the shot, needed to wait another 10-15 min for car to come back). Hence, usually stayed at each location for about 30 to 60 minutes. Overall, was happy with time spent at each location
  • Was happy with being able to consistently “get the car front or rear shot” using AI servo to track car and to anticipate when car would be at pre-focus point
  • My panning at slower shutter speeds was not as good as it could be, since getting lower than expected hit rate. Need to improve ability to consistently “get the panning shot”, especially when panning at slow shutter speeds. Also need to experiment more with slow shutter speeds to get the “wow shots”
  • Need to include more wide shots to capture cars in race track environment, people, and campground setups. In retrospect this was due to how didn’t want to change 300mm lens in the field to the 50mm since wanted to avoid getting water into lens rear element and inside camera
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2 thoughts on “Tips – 2013 Nurburgring 24 Hrs (Photography lessons learnt)

  1. I agree with all the statements above. Nurburgring has an amazing ability to catch you out whether you are spectating or driving. Still my favourite place on earth though……

  2. Thanks for the comments. I agree, the Nurburgring is a great place to visit and experience, and the challenges for photography make it all the better and unique. My wife and I are planning on going back again next year to the Nurburgring 24 Hrs. Also, really like your blog

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