Good, Blurry photos at the Racetrack




Race cars are fast. At least that’s what race car drivers hope for. But how do us photographers convey that quickness in a still image? Of course the most common way is slow shutter speed pans. But photographers beware: the slower you drop your shutter speed, the lower the percentage of useable images that result.

This pretty much goes without saying, but let me shed some light on some of the things I’ve discovered in more that thirty years of shooting race cars.

To get the really dramatic effect we are after, we often have to drop our shutter speed a lot lower than we might expect. Often times 125th of a second just will not do it. A lot depends on the speed the car is traveling, the focal length of the lens you’re using, this distance you are from the car, etc.



Keep in mind that if you look at your photos and are trying to decide whether anyone will be able to tell if that is a porta-john in the background, the simple fact that there is SOMETHING in the background may be enough of a distraction to ruin the effect you are trying to create and you may need to drop your shutter speed even lower.

I spent part of a recent weekend shooting race cars as they passed under a canopy of trees from the roof of a trackside parking garage. The images that worked best were shot at 1/20th of a second to 1/30th of a second. Any faster shutter speed tended to freeze the branches to much, allowing them to obscure large portions of the cars. When editing these photos, be very critical. If there is NOTHING in the photo that is sharp, it is probably not what you are looking for. If there is vertical camera motion along with the horizontal blur, that tends to detract from the desired effect.

In short, be prepared to shoot a lot of pictures to get a single useable frame. I like the photo at the top of this article because even though it was hot at 1/30th of a second and exhibits a lot of pan blur, the main components of the car remain in focus and readable. On the other hand I’ve done something that is not usually recommended for photographers: at the bottom of the article I’ve included a lot a the mistakes I made while producing the image above. There was a time when a photographer would have to run quite a bit of pricey film through a camera to produce one good pan image, but fortunately, in the digital age, our mistakes cost us nothing but time.


Bad light/dark composition, too much image motion on car:
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Bad tracking, resulting in mishmash of an image, not to mention the pole:
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Not too bad, car not sharp enough:
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Again, trees don’t line up right, car too blurry:
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While I really like the rainbow, car is way too blurry:
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Not enough trees, car could be sharper:
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Too many trees, vertical pole, too much blur on car:
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Over-exposed, not enough trees, car too blurry:
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Car is too obscured by trees:
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.BCPIX.COM houses the ever-growing online photo archive of Florida -based freelance photographer Brian Cleary, whose fledgling video catalog can be found at pond5.com.

As always, the Photoshelter platform at bcpix.com provides for easy, searchable browsing, purchase and download of all the images.




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New York City Yellow




Several years ago I was in New York City covering the NASCAR Winston Cup series Championship Banquet when I big blizzard hit NYC dropping 17 inches of snow on the city in just a couple of days. The cold and snow trapped in my corner room at the Waldorf Astoria for a few days, as this Florida boy did not have the clothing nor the motivation to spend a lot of time out in the elements.

Still, watching the world swirl around the famous hotel from the window of my room was a fascinating way to pass the time. And, of course, anytime a photographer stares at anything for very long, he soon finds himself seeking out a camera to record the visual world around him.




Luckily for me, all my photo gears was in a travel case in the corner of my room, so I set about recording the parade of New York City life from my 11th floor window. I shot photos of a maintenance man clear a path on a sidewalk, rush hour traffic in driving snow, and hotel flags blowing in the swirling wind.

One of my favorites from these couple of days was an early morning shot of a group of taxis navigating the intersection below my window. I was struck by the relatively deserted streets on the grey morning with a drab minivan intruding on the scene as a gaggle of bright, vibrant famous yellow New York City taxi cabs went about there morning rounds.

To me this is another example of why photographers should always carry some sort of camera with them and always keep an eye open for great photo subjects in the mundane stream of life in which we exist.BCPIX.COM houses the ever-growing online photo archive of Florida -based freelance photographer Brian Cleary, whose fledgling video catalog can be found at pond5.com.

As always, the Photoshelter platform at bcpix.com provides for easy, searchable browsing, purchase and download of all the images.




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Making the best of a bad situation






A few years ago, while covering a motorcycle race in Kansas, I set my iPhone 3 on a ledge in the media center while I was preoccupied with something else. As I reached to retrieve it, I clumsily knocked it off and it landed flush and face down on the tile floor. I gingerly turned it over, hoping for the best, but was chagrined to see that the screen had not fared well in the fall and a spider web of shattered glass extended from one corner across the face of the phone!

“Damn!”, I thought, but at least the phone was still functional. Then the thought occurred to me that I now had in my possession a very unique photo opportunity. How often do you get a piece of damaged current technology to photograph? Usually you are too distraught over the damaged item to think of using it as a prop in a photo shoot.




Before sending the phone off for repairs, I laid it on a white background and tried to get as creative as I could with a square piece of shattered glass. I took a couple of selphies of myself tying to look alarmed and emailed them to the phone. I shot a few frames of objects that I could imagine smashing an iPhone and sent them along too.

Displaying the pictures on the screen, I snapped away, creating what I felt was something positive out of a bad situation. Since then I’ve tried to use this same line of thought when dealing with various unfortunate situations in my life. For instance, recent crumpled fender on my new Kia turned into a few stock photos of auto body damage.

So if I can’t make a few dollars out of these images, at least I can look forward to looking for the photographic silver lining in the bad luck that life sends my way.



View my “Smashed iPhone” gallery by clicking here

BCPIX.COM houses the ever-growing online photo archive of Florida -based freelance photographer Brian Cleary, whose fledgling video catalog can be found at pond5.com.

As always, the Photoshelter platform at bcpix.com provides for easy, searchable browsing, purchase and download of all the images.




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Sunrise and Birds Video from BCPix.com



One of the things that differentiates we photographers of today from those of days gone by is our ability to instantly switch from still photo mode over to high def video mode.

On a recent sunrise shoot on the beach in Florida, the temptation to record the huge ball of a rising sun as waves and birds swirled chaotically in the foreground was too much to resist. In post processing I sped up the scene a little and was very happy with the results.




Another thing that we modern photographers can do is actually upload the clips to one of many stock video sites (my site of choice is Pond5.com) where they can be sold and we can share in the profits, similar to a stock photo site.

I do suspect as we progress into the future that stock video will go the route of stock photography, in that an over-saturation of videography will eventually drive the market price way, way down, but I also feel that the skills and equipment required to produce usable stock video may lengthen the time it takes for this revenue stream to dry up.

In there meantime, I’ve found the stock video clip market to be a fun and worthwhile way to earn extra income while at the same time expanding my horizons.

BCPIX.COM houses the ever-growing online photo archive of Florida -based freelance photographer Brian Cleary, whose fledgling video catalog can be found at pond5.com.

As always, the Photoshelter platform at bcpix.com provides for easy, searchable browsing, purchase and download of all the images.




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Full circle view of a 500 year old Oak Tree



My recent photo expeditions have included an old photographic technique that is fairly new to me: 360 degree panoramic photography. In my journeys I have begun to build a collection of 360 degree panoramic photos that included the traditional cityscapes and interiors (click here to see my panoramic gallery), but I’ve also tried to think of ways to put a slightly different spin on my wide angle views of the world.

With this in mind I recently set out to document the 500 year old Fairchild Oak, not far from my home in Florida.




My technique involves a rotating tripod head which passes through 3 rotations: a level view, a looking-up view and a looking-down view. 12 photos are taken during each revolution. The 36 frames are then loaded into a software program which stitches the images together into a single, 2 dimensional view, which produces the images like the one above.

Another cool product of this technique is the resulting 360 degree interactive view which which the viewer can emerge himself in, zooming in and out and moving through the image to explore various detail. Click on the images below to see me 360 degree interactive view of the 500 year old Fairchild Oak:

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So essentially you end up with a couple of different unique views of your subject. A cool old/new way to photographically explore the world
around you!

BCPIX.COM houses the ever-growing online photo archive of Florida -based freelance photographer Brian Cleary, whose fledgling video catalog can be found at pond5.com.

As always, the Photoshelter platform at bcpix.com provides for easy, searchable browsing, purchase and download of all the images.




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