A Day at The Races

What to do on a Sunday… The weather had been really bright and warm. My son in law asked if I would like to go to watch him race in the British 4x Series at Harthill in Cheshire. My sister in law was visiting and as she was into photography we decided to take him up on his offer. Besides, I hadn’t done any sports photography before, bit out of my comfort zone, but I did have some good pointers from Adrian Dennis during a talk he gave at the NEC and as I had tried some of his techniques I thought I would go along and give it a shot.

IMG_2814 - CopyIf you know Adrians brilliant work, you will appreciate my efforts below, if you have never seen his work, then follow the link here and have a look, you will see why he was awarded Sports Photographer of the Year for 3 year running. Click Here

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We set off early, I put the post code into the sat-nav, and off we went. You have reached your destination, What destination? we were in the middle of no where, down a country lane.  The venue is  here somewhere, but where? I decide to turn around and go back the way we came. My sister in law said. “look up there, looks like a race track, turn here, the road goes all the way up” fine, I turned and the road swept round in the opposite direction. So having the race track behind up now, I was going along the thinnest bumpiest country lane you could ever wish not to travel, when the gods smiled down on us and we managed to find somewhere to turn.

Going back the way we came we decided to take the next turning left, which I am glad to say, finally got us to the venue. So where was my son in law.  I told him we would easily find him as he has a big green van with a pull out awnning on the side. Easy to spot? Not when you have hundreds of vans with awnings parked everywhere. Sitting wondering what we would do, the  light suddenly came on in my little grey cells (as Poirot would say) Phone him! Well needless to say we had driven right past him, and now he was at the other end of the field.

Anyway,back to my day at the races. I went over what advice Adrian had given and this is how the day panned out.

Make sure you are warm and have some snacks, nothing worse than being cold, wet and hungry, Adrian had said. It was a really nice day in Whitchurch where I live, so I took along a thin jacket and a bottle of water….. First big mistake made. When we got to the race track, the wind was blowing hard, I mean very hard. The clouds came over and it was dull and cold. We were freezing.  Its a good job my daughter was coming later on, and she brought food, hot drinks, my winter coat and a hat.

Next mistake, was thinking I could take my wheeled zimmer with all my equipment on, up to the top of the hill on my own.. Good job I had my sister in law with me, as she did a lot of pulling, while I did a lot of letting her pull, not just the wheel zimmer, but me too! Well, we made up to the top of the hill, even though I was out of breath and ready for a sit down before I had even started.

But I kept saying to myself, ‘once your up there Lucy it will all be worth it’

Next mistake, Do some research, Adrian advised. We spent half an hour walking around trying to find the best places for some action shots.  All this time practices were being carried out by the riders and all I kept thinking was, oo……… I missed that shot, oh my, (or words to that effect) that was a good shot pity I missed it. Should we have got there earlier….. as the saying goes…. The man from Delmonte says.. YES

Next  mistake of the day: Finally got to a good spot, away from the other photographers (as Adrian advised)  good position to get some shots of the riders as they came over the humps. But I had to help my sister in law first. I had helped her with her camera settings in the car before we made the epic journey up the hill. I had two cameras, one set for still action shots the other for panning.  Except I hadn’t set the panning camera up and had to waste time getting it sorted in the cold wind, while my sister in law is clicking away!! In the end I gave up, so no panning shots.

Camera set, Tv;  1/4: 5, 1/500 sec; ISO 200; Continuous shooting; RAW & Jpeg; AIservo; single point focus; Canon zoom lens 75-300

Finally, all set up, good position, the riders are coming. I had been keeping an eye on where they were likely to do the jumps. Camera set on the tripod, camera on and ready to go………here they come………  pressed the shutter………. and the red battery light came on………. +_)(*&^%$$£@?><,

fall-4120IMG_4119But I am glad to say, the rest of the day went well, I really enjoyed the day. There were a few accidents, which brought a lump to my throat, as last year my 16 year old grandson was racing here and broke his back in 5 places during a race. He was very lucky, had his back pinned at Stoke hospital and had to wear a body brace for a long while. He did not sever his spinal cord and has made good recovery.

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My son in law came in 4th in the final, so he did very well, he wore a yellow top so that I could identify him:

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There were some really high fliers and for the first time at a sports event, even having a shaky start, I would say a good day was had.  I learned a lot, and would like to go there again, now I know what to expect……. maybe I can class this visit as my research, after all that’s one of the things that you have to do in order to be successful…. I enjoyed the day but I am no Adrian Dennis, below are my efforts..

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