2017 – Seeing the Six Hours of the Glen at 500mm or more (Jul 6)

Last weekend went to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International to see friends, watch the IMSA race, and to practice my motorsport photography. Hope you like the photos.Watkins Glen International is a beautiful natural terrain track located about 400 miles east from Boston in upstate New York in the Finger Lakes District. This region is also known for its waterfalls and wines. The track has 11 turns and is about 3.4 miles long. What’s great about the track, are the long straights, many corners, and the elevation changes (especially from Turns 5 to 7, where the descent is about 141 feet). The track is also a great place to see the race from many vantage points, including grandstands and at track level on the grassed natural terrain. Many people spend the weekend camping at the track to take in the full atmosphere. The track is also great for photographing the cars from the spectator-side of the fence, since the inside track fencing is low, although its useful to have a small step to give you a slightly elevated view over the blue inner crash barriers. Photographing from the spectator side of fence is a good way to get a fresh perspective, forces you to walk around more for different angles, and to use elements in your line of sight for creative purposes (you will see a lot of the blue colored crash barriers in the photos below).

For this race, brought two camera bodies, a 500mm (and two other lens), teleconverters, monopod, and rain gear. Even though I brought three lenses, my main photography goal was to practice my technique with the 500mm lens at different shutter speeds. Shooting at low shutter speeds means that your “hit rate” is low (at least for me it is). But when you get the shot at a low shutter speed the image “pops” with color and life, and you feel very rewarded that you were able to get the shot. Using one lens, especially a prime lens, is a great way to impose a restriction on what you can do and forces you to make a photo. So this blog is about seeing the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen through the “eye” of a 500mm lens (and sometimes at 1000mm) at low, and not so low shutter speeds. Now onto the photos!


2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_7793)Arrived at the track around 9.00 am and parked near camping area F at the top of The Boot, then walked down to the outside of Turn 9 (drivers right). At this time of day the sun is lighting the right-hand side of the cars as they speed up the hill into Turn 9, then into the straight to Turn 10. By the time I got to this location, the Lamborghini Super Trofeo qualifying sessions had started. Here’s a shot of the #50 US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracan LP620-2 being driven by Edoardo Piscopo or Taylor Proto.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_7928)Practice 1 for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSCC) started around 11.05 am. For the start of this session walked down the straight to the right of Turn 9 to get shots of the cars exiting this corner. There was a Chevrolet sign behind Turn 9, so waited for a Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R to enter the frame with the iconic blue crash barriers in the foreground and background.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_7951)As the cars exit Turn 9, their is an opportunity to catch the cars speeding along the straight. Here’s the #90 VisitFlorida Racing Multimatic/Riley LMP2 being driven by Marc Goossens or Renger Van Der Zande.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8157)Rain hit the track before the start of the 1.05 pm Continental Tires Sportscar Challenge (CTSCC) practice. Water was still on the track when the cars started this session, so thought of where I could go to capture the water spray coming from the rear of the cars. This shot of the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R with Matt Bell or Robin Liddell was taken through the fence at the outside of Turn 8 (drivers right) near the apex of the corner.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8203)Sun greeted the track for the 1.50 pm CTSCC GS class qualifying session. For this session walked to the inside of The Boot for shots of the cars “going through the trees”. This shot of the #69 Motorsports In Action McLaren GT4 driven by Jesse Lazare or Chris Green going through Turn 6 was taken near the base of “sole” of The Boot.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8217)At the apex of Turn 6 with the #76 C360R McLaren GT4 being driven by Paul Holton or Matt Plumb.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8303)The WTSCC cars were on track for their second practice session at 3.30 pm. For this session went to the The Boot near the outside of Turn 6 (drivers right). At this time of day the sun would light the front of the cars as they go down the Chute. The #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR being driven by Patrick Pilet or Dirk Werner and its sister car in the background.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8365)Looking down the Chute, you can get back-lit shots of the cars exiting Turn 6.


Rain was forecast for the morning sessions, and on my way to the track was thinking about about where to go for shots of the cars with contrails of water spraying from behind them? Arrived at the track around 7.30 am and parked at the inner parking area near camping area F, then walked to the outside (drivers right) of the Inner Loop at the end of the Back Straight. Here you can catch the cars turning right from the Back Straight into the Inner Loop, then along the short straight up into the Outer Loop.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8539The first part of the WTSCC 8.00 am practice session was overcast and dry. This shot of the #90 VisitFlorida Racing Multimatic/Riley LMP2 driven by Marc Goossens or Renger Van Der Zande was taken from the start of the Inner Loop near the right-hand corner from the Back Straight.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8518)At slow shutter speeds its possible to get shots of the cars appearing to “go through objects” since as the shutter opens it captures the car first, then as it closes it captures the obstacle. In the photo above, you can see the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT being driven by Ryan Briscoe or Richard Westbrook partially obstructed by a white smear, which were actually white painted tires.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8427)Rain started to hit the track towards the end of the WTSCC practice session. I love shooting in the rain, since it can make the ordinary photo, look special. I always say to myself “this is what I live for” when I’m photographing in the rain (I guess some people may call me crazy). This shot was taken next to the outer safety vehicle gate near the start of the short straight of the Inner Loop.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8615)The rain was very heavy for most of the morning Prototype Challenge race that started at 9.20 am. Here’s another example of how a standard rear shot of a car, can look very special in the rain, with the red lights appearing to look like “afterburners”.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8665)

2017 Watkins Glen (Racing in the dark)
The Prototype Challenge cars faced difficult driving conditions during there rain interrupted race and made you appreciate the skill of the drivers.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_8908)In contrast to the morning sessions, sunny skies greeted us for the CTSCC afternoon race. Here’s a shot of the #99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage being driven by Rob Ecklin Jr. or Al Carter along the Back Straight passing behind a “I Love NY” sign.


2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_6864)

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_6879)Arrived at the track around 8.30 am and parked at the inner parking lot near the outside of Turn 8. From there walked along the outside of the front straight to the Seneca Grandstand that overlooks Turn 1. From the top of the grandstand on the right-hand side you can shoot over the catch-fencing for photos of the front-straight and Turn 1. By the time I got to the grandstand the 9 am open fan grid walk was well underway, with a large number of fans in pit lane checking out the cars.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_6944)The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen started at 10.10 am under sunny blue skies, with the prototype cars leading the way down the front straight, followed by the GT cars.

2017 Watkins Glen (Eleven)The #25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM driven by Bill Auberlen or Alexander Sims leads the GTLM field into Turn 1. Six hours later the #25 BMW M6 would win GTLM class over the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT by 4.4 seconds. Was great to see the Forth of July livery on the bonnets of the BMWs.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_6996)Outright victory would go to the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, and Filipe Albuquerque.

2017 Watkins Glen (Flame on)Seeing the cars speed down Turn 1 is a sight to behold. In this shot the orange and red track markings look like “flames” coming from the back of the Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.

2017 Watkins Glen (Inbound)After capturing the opening laps of the race walked along the outside of the track to Turn 2 (drivers left) for shots of the cars speeding up the hill to Turn 3, then Turn 4. After watching the cars for a few laps realized it wasn’t going to be an interesting shot from where I was standing, since I was too high up from the track. In the corner of my right eye noticed the cars speeding from Turn 1 to Turn 2 behind the fencing, with the orange and red tracking markings in the background. For this shot to work, needed to capture the car heading straight at me, so attached a 2x teleconverter to the 500mm lens for a focal length of 1000mm. This way I could shoot “through the fencing” at a relative small f-stop of f/8 to blur out the catch fencing, have the front and middle part of the car in focus, and fill the frame with the car. After a few laps realized the cars with there headlights higher up on there front body work and with their lights on worked best for this shot. Here’s an “inbound” shot of the #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR driven by Patrick Pilet or Dirk Werner.

2017 Watkins Glen (DLY_7420)After lunch, walked back to the car, then drove up the hill to the inner parking lot near camping area F on the outside of Turn 9 (drivers right). Really liked the Star and Stripes livery on the #33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, or Mario Farnbacher.

2017 Watkins Glen (Electric lights)Colorful lights with the #26 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09.

2017 Watkins Glen (Abstract of color)Abstract of color with the #93 Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 being driven by Andy Lally or Katherine Legge. Not sure if its a bit too abstract, but I really like how all the lights merged at the rear of the car.

2017 Watkins Glen (Colors of speed)Colors of speed with the #90 VisitFlorida Racing Multimatic/Riley LMP2 driven by Marc Goossens or Renger Van Der Zande. I think this was my favorite photo from this race. Really liked how the yellow headlights from the trailing car, blue colored crash barrier, and the other colors merged behind the car.

Thanks for spending your time to check out the blog.

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