Hello, Internet! This weekend I was invited to visit the Nostalgia Drag Races at the US60 Dragway in Hardinsburg, KY. I will be the first to admit that I know very little about current cars, and basically nothing about the forefathers of these machines. To be surrounded by the people that build and care for cars that are older than I am is like walking into a convention for fans of a show you've never seen. It was glorious.
The people were welcoming, and they loved answering questions about their cars, even if sometimes they had that pitying look in their eyes for the poor ignorant fool with the camera.
And each time I do an event like this, I get to learn more about photography, too.
When doing an event shoot, my first instinct is always to make the most of the technology on my camera. I have a fast shutter speed, I have a wide aperture, and I have excellent ISO (and basically unlimited 'film'). I've gone to a few drag races, now, and I still make this mistake. Maybe it's not immediately clear why it's a mistake. The true pro photographers, people that photograph races for a living, are already shaking their head. If you shoot at the fastest speed your camera's capable of, you will freeze the action in place. Everything will be crisp, clear...and boring.
By 'tuning back the tech', shooting with a slower shutter speed, anything that moves will blur even in bright sunlight. Inevitably I try to avoid this just out of habit. But freezing all of the action in a scene of a gorgeous car ripping down the drag strip at 190mph means the image suddenly becomes just a car sitting on a long parking lot with people in the background looking in various directions. Some are looking back behind the car, some are distracted by other things in the stands, and maybe a few are looking at the car. But who cares? They are not what you are photographing, but now that they're perfectly clear, the viewer is watching them as much as the car that is just sitting still in the middle of your image. To make the car look like it's actually roaring along, I drop the shutter speed and do my best to follow the car with my camera. If I go too fast or too slow, I'll blur the car along with the background.
But if I can nail the speed just right, that finely-tuned machine from yesteryear will shine while it blurs the world behind it. And all it took was tuning my own machine, and learning to keep up.