Camaro Harem at the Evergreen Speedway
To help kick off the 10th season with the Jet City Rollergirls, I joined Camaro Harem at Evergreen Speedway for their annual team photo shoot. I had never worked at a race track before, so I was definitely looking forward to this shoot.
Upon arriving at the speedway, the first task for me was to figure out where we would setup. I knew that we wouldn’t have access to the track due to scheduled races happening at the same time as our shoot. I was given the option of using a very cool Camaro inside a garage where I would have absolute control over the lighting, or I could setup the pace car next to the track outside where the sunlight was fading in and out. I went with the outdoor option, because I wanted to have the elements of track in the background.
The cloud cover changed regularly throughout our shoot, but the sun was in a relatively consistent position. I had the speedway team park the car next to the fence with the sun up high and slightly behind on the right. That would ensure that the skaters wouldn’t be staring into the sun and squinting.
I placed one speedlight up high on my right to essentially wrap the sunlight around the subject to give me more illumination. I had two speedlights to my left serving as fill light for the sun’s hard shadows. Lights were positioned so that hot spots on the car were kept to a minimum and so that I could move in closer without casting any shadows on the torsos of the skaters.
I was very happy with how the speedlights balanced out the sunlight and created some dimension in the photos. The sun gave me a cool rim light on the car and the skaters and cast some nice shadows on the ground. The speedlights filled the shadows just enough to look like reflected light.
I opted to photograph the entire session with my Fujifilm X100T to take advantage of its electronic shutter, its ability to sync with flashes at any shutter speed, and its built-in 3-stop neutral density filter. I wanted to be able to work at any aperture setting while still being to manage sunlight with my small speedlights. I ended up shooting at f/2.8 and either 1/500 or 1/1000 depending on cloud cover.
I attached the WCL-X100 wide-angle converter to make it easier to get the car into frame while working at close distances. I really like the 28mm FF equivalent field of view of the wide converter. It’s wide enough to fit a lot into the frame without any distortion, but it doesn’t look like I shot with a wide-angle lens.
The wide angle also worked very well for medium environmental portraits of the skaters. I really wanted to show the track in the background and part of the car in the shot. The focus is still on the skater, but you have context as to where we are. I did have to get much closer than I normally do for portraits, but the slight wide-angle made for a more dynamic look.
The main challenge of the session was, oddly enough, not the sun but the noise and smoke from track. There was a drift race happening at the same time as our shoot. The cars were incredibly loud (I couldn’t hear myself yell when they drove by), and the smoke from squealing tires kept blowing through our staging area. Even with those distractions, we had a blast on the shoot and got some great portraits.
The sunlight also changed regularly throughout the shoot. A storm had blown through the night before, and there was some residual wind moving clouds around. Sometimes the exposure shifted by a full stop while I was photographing a single skater. Thankfully, I was able to adjust shutter speed pretty quickly to compensate or just waited to handle it in post.
Here is the gear I used for this shoot:
- Fujifilm X100T.
- WCL-X100 wide-angle converter.
- 2 Cactus RF60 speedlights.
- Nikon SB-600 speedlight.
- Cactus V6 wireless transceivers.
- Lumopro and Westcott light stands.
- Paul C. Buff boom.
I love that all of my camera gear and lights fit into a Think Tank Photo Speed Racer, and my light stands go into a cheap Nike baseball bag. It’s very easy for me to carry everything in one trip and setup and breakdown equipment very quickly. I usually don’t have an assistant with me, so I have to be able to do everything myself.
Thank you to the staff at the Evergreen Speedway for working with us on the shoot. And thanks to Camaro Harem for inviting me out to photograph their season 10 photos. I had a great time working with everyone, and I’ll see you on the (roller derby) track in November!
You can see more photos from the shoot here: http://photography.dannyngan.com/camaroharem-season10.