Indy 500 Pole Day


Standard Member

Here's aresome photos I took at Pole Day for the Indy 500 a couple of weekends ago. I'm a bit of a beginner and only the second time taking photos at a race with a DSLR (first was the night before), and I'm glad it wasn't in the days of film as there would have been a lot of waste.

Any comments please feel free (but please be kind...)

All photos were taken on a Canon EOS550D with a Canon 55-250mm IS lens.

It was very bright and sunny (hot too - 87 degF (30 degC) air and 120+ (50) track) so my thinking was to set the ISO low to try and get as large an aperture as possible becasue I was shooting through the catch fencing so wanted to minimize depth of field to try and blur it out as much as possible.

I set the ISO at 100 and used Shutter Priority to let the camera sort out the aperture for correct exposure.

With hindsight maybe I should have tried full manual and experimented, as some of the shots seem a bit overexposed (to me atleast). (I had taken Bryan Peterson's book with me on the trip but only read part way though on the flight out. Didn't get to the Blue Sky Brothers until the flight home!)
Also would have been tricky as it was so bright I could hardly see the pictures on the screen to know what the exposure was like anyhow. Plus I wear glasses, and only had sunglasses with me (oops) which made it even more difficult to see the screen.

I was also using single shot. Maybe multi-burst have been a good idea, or would it have just doubled, trebled or more the number of bad shots?

We started off in the grandstand on the outside of Turn 4, so probably about 20m away from the cars which were doing about 225mph.

Starting at 1/200 sec, with a bit of trial and error ended up at 1/400 or even 1/800 which still generated some motion blur on the wheels.

Of about 40 photos taken here, there's one which I think is a good one.

1 - 1/200sec, ISO 100, f1/9, 185 mm

IMG_0009 by sjbrum, on Flickr

We then moved to the grandstand on the inside of the main straight, to try and find some shade. Still about 20m away and I probably took 80 or so pictures here, and got a handful of good ones. One of the biggest difficulties I found was that because of the speed of the cars, I was struggling to keep the car fully in frame, or bad timing would sometimes leave a well framed car partially behind a post in the catch fencing.

Probably my favourite photo this one. I think the panning worked, and the yellow of the car looks good. Maybe a bit overexposed though?

2 - 1/400sec, ISO 100, f1/9.0, 135 mm

IMG_0022 by sjbrum, on Flickr

The next is an example of one where I only caught part of the car, and a fence post. So annoying, especially as the car is quite sharp

3 - 1/400sec, ISO 100, f1/5.6, 154 mm

IMG_0021 by sjbrum, on Flickr

Another one I quite like is of polesitter Ryan Briscoe, who qualified with a 4-lap (10-mile) average of 226.484 mph.

4 - 1/400sec, ISO 100, f1/10.0, 135 mm

IMG_0024 by sjbrum, on Flickr

Another one which I got a post and only just in frame in an otherwise good shot, this time at 1/800 sec and still a lot of motion blur on the tyres.

5 - 1/800sec, ISO 200, f1/9.0, 214 mm

IMG_0039 by sjbrum, on Flickr

Anoth shot which I like, shmae the car's a little blurred, but it also a Brit, Mike Conway.

6 - 1/400sec, ISO 200, f1/9.0, 208 mm

IMG_0063 by sjbrum, on Flickr

A quick visit to the Hall of Fame Museum with loads of fantastic cars from 100 years of the Indy 500, included a fabulous Lotus 38 as raced by Jim Clark 1965 winner (although the car carries number 6 which he raced in 1964 when he DNF'd)

7- 1/100sec, ISO 400, f1/6.3, 18 mm (18-55mm lens for this one), built-in flash

IMG_0096 by sjbrum, on Flickr

We then moved on to a grass mound inside the exit of T2 for the fastest 9 shootout. Probably a bit closer, maybe 15m away. Before the cars came out there was a fly-over of a C-17 Globemaster.

8 - 1/800sec, ISO 400, f1/10.0, 250 mm

IMG_0097 by sjbrum, on Flickr

Another 30 or so shots, but struggled with posts and framing. Also the sun was behind which reflected off the engine covers. Thus is probably the best one, shame about the photographer in the shot.

9 - 1/800sec, ISO 400, f1/10.0, 250 mm

IMG_0108 by sjbrum, on Flickr

I then found a spot a little closer probably about 5m from the catch-fence. Sadly no brilliant shots from here, as one of those pesky posts was in the best one.

10 - 1/400sec, ISO 400, f1/8.0, 200 mm

IMG_0134 by sjbrum, on Flickr


Active Member
Unfortunately motor sport photography can be very frustrating especially shooting something like the Indy 500, those things move fast!

I think the main tips I would give is use AI servo instead of single shot and use manual mode if you can. At most of the distances you have in those shots a crop sensor body you would be able to get all of the car in focus even at f/5.6 and keep the ISO down to 100 and 200.

At least you came away with some keepers, 2, 6 and 9 are the best for me and a good first effort.

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