Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yeehaw - This was my first Rodeo!!!

Last weekend a friend of ours asked if we wanted to go with her to a rodeo, which was happening in Salinas, CA (about an hour from our home). We had the day open and we all thought it would be fun to experience a rodeo for the first time. And, of course, I looked forward to bringing the camera and seeing what I could capture. (And no - I did not attempt to fly the drone over the rodeo!)

This was a family outing, and I didn't want the emphasis to be on the photography, so I decided to bring only one camera and one lens. I decided that, since I did not know how close we would be to the action and what we would see, I would bring the Canon 28-300mm lens since it gave me a wide range to shoot with. And knowing that there was going to be a lot of fast action, I did splurge and bring the Canon 1DX.

We got to the rodeo around 2pm and found our seats, which were located about 40 rows up and pretty close to the center of the ring. At this point, I was wishing that I had brought the Canon 100-400 lens to let me zoom in a little closer to the action.

(Canon 1DX, 28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 400, 1/1250 sec, f/5.6) 
I zoomed the lens all the way to 300mm and started shooting some of the bucking broncos. And with a little bit of cropping, everything worked out pretty well. I made sure to keep my shutter speed high to freeze the action.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 400, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6) 

The fast shutter speed did freeze the action. When I saw this image and some of the others, I was wondering how these guys take this kind of abuse. I'll bet this guys back hurt more than mine after a full day of shooting!

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 210mm, ISO 100, 1/80 sec, f/16) 
After the riders were done, these ladies came out and performed some really amazing tricks on the horses. At this point, I slowed the shutter speed to 1/80 sec to get some motion in the horse's legs. I panned at the same speed as the horse to freeze the the ladies and the horse. (And for those of you wondering how I got them tack sharp at such a slow shutter speed, I took a lot of photos and grabbed the best - and I have practiced this too.)

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 500, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6) 
Having never been to a rodeo before, I was surprised when they announced some stunt motorcyclists. But, since I have always wanted to shoot photos of these guys, I was happy to see them there. I started taking photos of these guys from our seats, but as you can tell, the background was pretty distracting. I was trying my best to make this a family day, but I just couldn't help myself and quickly excused myself and ran down to the lowest seating to get a better angle.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 135mm, ISO 500, 1/5000 sec, f/5.6) 
Getting down low, and having some nice clouds in the background, made the shot so much better!

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 150mm, ISO 800, 1/8000 sec, f/5.6) 
I could have cropped out the lights and tree tops from the bottom of this photo, but I like the way that it shows the height of the jump.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 50mm, ISO 500, 1/5000 sec, f/5.6) 
I grabbed this wide shot, during the finale, when they were all three jumping at the same time. As you can see, I only got two of the riders in this shot, and it was taken at 50mm. If I had been shooting with the 100-400mm lens, I would not have been able to shoot this wide shot.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 500, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6) 
Then it was back to the traditional rodeo events, and I was back in my seat (for a little while anyways).

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 100, 1/40 sec, f/20) 
I photographed the first couple sets of these steer wrestlers at a really fast shutter speed. The photos were fine but seemed to lack the drama that I was seeing in front of me. So, I decided to slow the shutter down once again and pan with the riders. This was a little tricky, because I had three subjects in the frame and, at times, they would be going at different speeds. This was one of my favorite photos from the day.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 500, 1/1000 sec, f/5.6) 
My daughter asked if we could get up and walk around. To me, this meant that we could go explore together, and to her this meant that she could go shopping for a new sweatshirt or hat. After she and I sucked down a corn dog, we found some open seats that were low and right by the action. I grabbed some more photos from this location.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 320, 1/1250 sec, f/5.6) 
This bull had no intentions of leaving the area, so some cowboys had to rope him and give him some direction.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 320, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6) 
I photographed a bunch of the bull riders, but since most of the action was right up against the gates, it was tough to isolate them from the background. I like this shot with the bull's face in the dirt, eyes wide open, while being surrounded by a whole lot of cowboys and cowboy hats.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 260mm, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, f/11) 
In between the bull riders, there were women performing in the barrel racing. It was a fun challenge to change all the camera settings (to slow the shutter) for these riders and then quickly change them once again for the bull riders.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 320, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6) 
The last event that we saw, before heading back home for the evening, was the freestyle bull fighting, where these guys did their best to tease the bulls while staying in one piece.

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 320, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6) 
Ouch!

(Canon 1DX28-300mm lens at 300mm, ISO 800, 1/1600 sec, f/5.6) 
See...if you ever have a bull charging you, now you know that all you have to do is jump over him!

_________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
_________________________________________________________________________________

And stay up-to-date with all my photos and videos on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Flying Over Niagara Falls (a new video made with the Phantom 2 Vision+ drone)

When I first got my Phantom 2 Vision+ and took it for the first flight around my neighborhood, I could only imagine the cool places where I could shoot video and stills. At the time, I had no idea that I would create videos (since I am really a still shooter at heart) in cool places like Italy and San Francisco. And a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to attend meetings at Niagara Falls, and all I could think about was "I need to fly the drone over the falls!"

For a couple of evenings last week, I had a chance to take the drone over the falls and capture the beauty of this amazing location from the air. You can click the image below to see the video.


For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you know that I also brought my Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 28-300mm lens. And even though I used the Canon along with the Phantom, I kept thinking that the DSLR shots were really nice but not unique enough. So many people take photos and video of the falls, that it is difficult to show Niagara in a unique way. While flying the drone over the falls, I was just blown away at what I saw on the display of my iPhone (which is used to see a realtime view of what the camera on the Phantom is seeing). I was literally shaking with excitement. And...yeah...I was also shaking with the thought of losing the drone in the falls. It is really easy to fly, and honestly did not feel too much trepidation about flying it over the falls. The people watching me fly it around were much more nervous about me losing the drone than I was.

For those of you wondering about legality of shooting over the falls, it was hard to determine if there were any hard fast restrictions. On the Canadian side of the falls, I was asked to bring the drone down, and told that it was not allowed. But on the US side, I never saw any rangers or security. In order to be safe and stay within the FAA restrictions, I kept the Phantom under 400 feet in altitude, kept it within sight at all times, and avoided flying over crowds. Really, the worst that could have happened is, I would have dumped it into the river and had a very short video of it tumbling off the edge for it's last flight ever.

Once I captured all of the video footage, I went through each clip to find the ones that were the most interesting. This amounted to an hour of footage. And then on my 5 hour flight home, I spent most of the flight pairing down the one hour of video (in iMovie) to 5 minutes. This was not easy!

After reviewing the video over and over again, I made minor adjustments to some of the clips and then needed to add the music track. I went to Audiojungle and listened to numerous audio files to find a suitable audio track. Once I found the one I liked, I purchased it and then added it to the video. Since the song was shorter than the video clip, I actually had to loop it twice.

And then it was complete and ready to share with all of you. I really hope that you have as much fun watching the video as I did capturing it!

If you want to try one of these yourself, here are the links to what I used.

DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (which includes the camera and gimbal)
2 extra batteries (each one lasting approximately 25 minutes)
HPRC Travel Case (with wheels)
3 of the Lexar 32GB 633x microSD cards (which come with a USB 3.0 reader)

You will have SO much fun!

_________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
_________________________________________________________________________________

And stay up-to-date with all my photos and videos on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Flying Over San Francisco - How I made the video with the Phantom 2

I have received a lot of questions about my new video called "Flying over San Francisco", People want to know how I shot it, how the camera stayed so steady, what technology I used, and the legality of shooting in these locations. So...I am writing this blog entry to answer your questions and tell you how I made the video.

All of this started a couple of weeks ago, just after I returned from shooting in Sardinia. I was spending a lot of time in San Francisco, since my daughter was staying in the hospital there. One afternoon, while my daughter was resting, my wife (who had been staying for almost a week in the hospital with my daughter) really needed to get out for a little bit, so we drove over to the Golden Gate Bridge. I had the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ in the trunk of my car and I really wanted to fly by the bridge. We parked at the base of the bridge, I powered everything up, and sent the flying camera up and away. The winds were howling and my wife looked at me like I was crazy. Once the Phantom was in the air and hovering near the bridge, I looked down at my iPhone (which gives me a realtime view of what the camera on the Phantom is seeing) and it was obvious that the motorized gimbal could handle the movement. I was totally amazed at what I saw on the screen! I captured 9 or 10 different video clips and a bunch of still images from different angles, and then brought the Phantom back to me.



Once I got back to the hospital, I downloaded everything. My wife, daughter and even some of the hospital staff were all impressed with the unique perspective of the video. At that point, I was inspired to get more footage.

Over the last couple of weeks, I continued to make trips to San Francisco (about an hour from where I live) to shoot video of my favorite spots in San Francisco. Knowing what this device could do, I set out to try and get different views of the city. At the same time, I was also careful to fly safe and legal. Right now, it seems like the rules are all grey, with the technology being way ahead of the law. But from what I read on the Internet, I needed to stay under 400 foot altitude and away from heavily congested areas. But, as you will see from other video clips, I did fly over people, but stayed away from "heavy congestion". I kept thinking, "what constitutes heavy congestion, vs. people in the area."

During my second trip to SF, I wanted to go and shoot more video of the Golden Gate Bridge, but from the north side, facing back to the city. As I drove across the Bay Bridge, I looked west to see that the Golden Gate Bridge was completely covered in fog. That wasn't going to happen.

But, since it was perfectly clear at the Bay Bridge, and this was a rare time to see both the new segment and the dismantling of the old segment, I decided that this would be my first stop. I got off at Treasure Island, which exists in the middle of the two spans of the Bay Bridge. I flew the Phantom towards the bridge from a distant location and decided that it was just too far away. I wanted to keep the Phantom in my vision while shooting the video. So, after driving around the small island for a while, I found a closer location where I could launch the flying camera and see it the whole time.


This sequence was pretty easy to shoot, since the Phantom maintained it's position, using GPS, and I just had to pan while in place. Honestly, the hardest part was using the controls to do a slow and steady pan, without any jerky motions. This took numerous tries to get a useable clip.


Once I knew that I had good footage from the Oakland side of the bridge, I moved to the other side of the island to get video and stills of the San Francisco span of the bridge. But after a lot of searching, I determined that there was no close and clear view of the bridge from that side. I found a parking spot on the southwest side of the island, and launched the Phantom straight up to determine the quality of the view. I was happy to see that the bridge was close by and at a nice angle from me. It was on one of these exploratory flights that I came up with the idea for this sequence. I pointed the camera straight towards the trees and sent the Phantom 2 Vision+ straight up in a slow and steady rise. You will notice a little bit of left/right motion as I get past the tree level. That was from the winds, which increased once I was over the tree cover. I tried this shot many times, but could never avoid that wind change.

(You might be wondering how many batteries I had with me, since each lasts about 20 minutes. I only had 3 batteries, but on my way up to the city, I made a stop at an electronics store and bought a $40 inverter for the car. This let me charge the batteries while I drove from one location to another. This proved to be an excellent purchase, as I never ran out of fresh batteries. Since I never ran the batteries below 30%, I could get a reasonable recharge in 30 minutes.)


This middle sequence was actually the last one that I took. I was just about done editing the video (using Apple's iMovie), when I felt that something was missing. I really wanted to include a shot with the colors of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. Since my daughter had another procedure at UCSF, and we were heading back to the city once again, I packed the Phantom for this one last shot. As it turned out, the weather was really nice on Saturday, giving me a great shot of the park.

Since this was a weekend in Golden Gate Park, and the height of tourist season, there were a lot of people at the Conservatory. I have flown the Phantom quite a bit for the last month, and feel confident in my abilities. I was a little worried, not about safety as much as the noise of the Phantom disturbing people. (For those who have not heard one, they sound like a loud cluster of bees).

Like almost everywhere else I have flown this, I turned out to be the attraction as opposed to the distraction. Lots of people were coming up to me, wanting to see the display, and astounded at what I was capturing. And lots and lots of questions. The most common questions were "how long does the battery last?" and "how far away can it be flown?" As for the answer to the last question, The farthest that I have flown was 2300 feet away, and then it lost connection to the controller. This happened over the ocean in Sardinia, Italy. And the best part is, when the Phantom loses connection, it uses GPS and flies itself home to where it took off. Brilliant!!! I have had this happen 5 or 6 times now and it works amazingly well. They even tell people that if you lose site of the device, to turn off the controller and let the Phantom bring itself back.



I was teaching at a camera store in San Francisco one evening last week, and left home early to make a couple more stops in the city. This time I went to Coit Tower, to try and get some shots from high above San Francisco. Just like the tree shot, I pointed the camera directly at Coit Tower and did a slow climb, eventually going above the tower and seeing just the city.


Once I had the "climb" shot completed, I switched batteries and sent the Phantom up once again for some different views. One of the harder maneuvers for a new "pilot" is flying around something while pointing at the subject. I am still not great at this, but managed to get a useable sequence for the video, and actually once that I am pretty happy with. What a beautiful view of San Francisco from this altitude!


The closing shot of the video, was taken at Lombard Street, otherwise known as the "crookedest street in the world". I was standing at the bottom of the hill, so that I could get a good perspective, and see the height of the Phantom. I did numerous passes up and down the street, both at low and high altitudes. I figured that I could not have a video of San Francisco without this famous tourist attraction. The last shot was fairly simple, with me maintaining the Phantom's altitude and just backing away from the street. I like the way that it shows the details of Lombard street with a context of the surrounding buildings.

Oh yeah, one other question I get a lot is "How much does that cost?" When I tell people that it costs $1299, the next question is usually, "How much is the camera?" When I tell them that the $1299 price includes everything (other than the mobile phone I am using to remotely view the camera), they are pretty impressed. I look at the Phantom as something that costs half of what many of my lenses cost, and it lets me get photos that are impossible with any other camera or lens. And, flying this thing is a whole lot more fun than using a traditional camera.

As I mentioned, I did all the editing in Apple's iMovie, mainly cutting down the clips and merging just the best sequences. I then purchased the music from AudioJungle and voila!

If you want to try one of these yourself, here are the links to what I used.

DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (which includes the camera and gimbal)
2 extra batteries (each one lasting approximately 25 minutes)
HPRC Travel Case (with wheels)
3 of the Lexar 32GB 633x microSD cards (which come with a USB 3.0 reader)

You will have SO much fun!

_________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
_________________________________________________________________________________

And stay up-to-date with all my photos and videos on my Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Photographers Responsible Use of Drones - And How I use my DJI Phantom 2 Vision+

A couple of nights ago, the TV show "60 Minutes" ran a story about consumer drones. And then, this morning, I turned on the television to yet another story about drones, and how someone in Seattle felt that she was being spied on. As an owner of one of these devices, it made me think about social impact of this technology. Any time a new technology comes out, we see mixed emotions in the news. Look at the introduction of Google Glass, where you had some people excited about the wearable technology and others worried about the potential negative uses of the device. Now, with the wide spread interest and increasing sales of consumer drones, I see four different reactions from people:

* There are people who become curious and want to know more about how this technology can be used to enhance their lives or business.

* There are the people who become paranoid and worry about the repercussions of these new devices.

* There are the early adopters who want to purchase the device right away to experiment with it.

* There are the disinterested people who ignore the technology.

As a photographer who teaches others, I thought I would be the first to try and set our own standard for the use of these devices.



The word "drone"

First of all, lets start with the term drone. I really hate calling these "drones" since that term has such a negative connotation. When we hear the word drone, we usually think of military devices used to spy or attack our enemy. They have many other names for these consumer devices, including octocopters (which have 8 props) and quadcopters (which have 4 props)...but I think we should call these flying cameras.

Regulations and privacy

Agencies around the world are trying to figure out what regulations might be required for these flying cameras. I find it interesting that so many people worry about a "camera in the sky" when we are surrounded by aerial cameras. As we walk down the street, through the mall, around our office park, we are constantly on cameras. If people were really concerned with being on camera, nobody would ever go to Las Vegas! I don't think there is any space in Las Vegas where you are not on camera.

In the mean time, I think that us photographers should do our best to create our own standards. We should not use these to spy on our neighbors or take photos or video in areas where we are not invited. But then again, these are the same rules we should follow with our  DSLR cameras. In other words, we should be good citizens, regardless of what camera we are using.



Fly where it is safe

I have been in numerous situations where I am flying my camera over people (like the crowds at the WRC rally in Italy), and I am very careful not to get too close to the people. At home,when I am with friends and family, I will often fly within a couple of feet of them, but I would never do that with strangers.


Where can we use these flying cameras?

Recently I flew my Phantom 2 Vision+ around the Golden Gate Bridge. Before doing so, I searched the Internet to see if there were any restrictions from doing this, and I found nothing. I know that all of the National Parks in the US have banned these flying cameras, probably more for the noise issues than privacy concerns. I am sure that there will be more restrictions to come, as the popularity of these devices increases.




I do know that, in the US, it is illegal to fly once of these devices within a 5 mile range of a major airport.

Demystify the technology

Wherever I fly my Phantom 2, I get a lot of people asking questions about the copter, the camera, the gimbal and the controls.


I always try to share information with them, so that they understand what I am trying to capture and how cool the technology really is.


When flying over the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, I had a lot of people wanting to come over and see what I was seeing on my iPhone display.

Promote the advantages over the disadvantages

We should promote the advantages of this amazing new technology, and try to make people understand that there are more good uses of these flying cameras than bad uses. As a photographer, I love the ability to photograph scenes that were previously impossible or near impossible. Our range of photo opportunities just got so much bigger.




In Sardinia, there are more sheep than people. I wanted to take a photo of sheep to add to my story, but could not get close enough to them to get a decent shot. But with the Phantom, I could fly up and over the field and get a wide shot, previously not possible for me.

And of course, there are the countless other good uses of these flying cameras, like search and rescue, farming, disaster recovery... I personally feel that there are way more positives than negatives when it comes to using these devices.

Commercial use

For now, it sounds like the commercial use of flying cameras is still up in the air (yeah - I just said that). I am personally not sure how this will unfold, as more and more professional photographers and videographers add these to their hardware collection.



Recently, while shooting a wedding, I was asked by the bride and groom if I could take an aerial shot of their wedding. I was happy to do so, with their permission. Now the big question is, can I legally sell them this image or not?

Be creative with this camera like you would any other camera

I have always enjoyed shooting photos that are different from everyone else's. Since adding the Phantom to my collection, I now look at aerial opportunities too. I view the flying camera just like another lens choice. I see the scene that is in front of me, and then determine whether it would be best from the ground (determining the best focal length) or from the air.


I was driving around the North side of Sardinia, when I saw this view from the freeway. There was no way to take a photo from the roadside, so I pulled over at the nearest turnout and sent the Phantom 2 up to get my shot.


I loved the color of the water in Sardinia, and I did take many photos using a circular polarizing filter with my Canon 1DX. But I was more impressed with the aerial photos looking back at the island. Is the camera better than my Canon DSLR? No way. But the vantage point was clearly more spectacular.

So...maybe you are one of the thousands of people who has either purchased a flying camera, or is about to make that purchase. The most important thing is to have fun with these amazing new cameras. Once you have tried one, you will be hooked!

For those of you wondering what aerial equipment I am using, here is my list:

DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ (which includes the camera and gimbal)
2 extra batteries (each one lasting approximately 25 minutes)
HPRC Travel Case (with wheels)
3 of the Lexar 32GB 633x microSD cards (which come with a USB 3.0 reader))

_________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The island of Sardinia - an aerial view using the DJI Phantom!

Last week I posted photos of the WRC race in Sardinia, Italy. It was a lot of fun to shoot photos of the rally car race, but I also had a blast traveling around the island to shoot photos and videos with my new DJI Phantom II Vision + drone.

As many of you know, I have been shooting photos for more than 10 years, and almost all of those were taken with a camera in my hands or mounted close to the ground. After getting the Phantom II and using the remote control to shoot photos and videos from a high altitude, I was totally blown away! It is really liberating to shoot images from a perspective that was previously impossible. Well...I guess I could have hired a helicopter to capture some of the images, but that would be incredibly expensive and I doubt that they would fly in some of the locations that a small drone could cover. (Make sure to watch the video at the end of this blog to see the Phantom in action.)



This first photo was taken from out over the Tyrrhenian Sea, looking back at the town of Alghero. When I was walking around Alghero, I saw stores selling post cards with photos like this, and thought "Hey - I can get that shot with the Phantom II!"

I had previously practiced flying the drone at home, and was ready for the longer, more challenging flights in Sardinia. It was a little scary flying the drone so far from me that I could not see it anymore, but I still had visuals on my iPhone, and knew that if I went too far, the drone would come back to where it started. People kept asking me about the range of the Phantom, which appeared to be approximately 2,000 feet.



After shooting the distant shot, I decided to fly the Phantom in closer to get some other photos of the old city and the harbor.




I saw the opportunity to show off the clarity of the water from above the harbor.


I wanted to shoot some photos high over our hotel, and sent the Phantom up over 500 feet to get this shot.


Another high altitude photo taken high above Alghero. This time I think I was over 800 feet in altitude.  I could have gone higher, but I got a little nervous and stopped there. With photo opportunities like these, I found myself using the drone more than my Canon DSLR cameras.



In between shooting a couple of different stages of the WRC race, we stopped in this small town to get some refreshments. I saw this old church and had to run back to the car to grab the Phantom. And yes, everywhere I went with the drone, I was the center of attention. It was funny to hear people speak Italian around me with the word "drone" being the only word I understood.



We were returning from a long day of shooting, when I saw the evening light shining on the Basilica of the Holy Trinity of Saccargia. I called ahead to the car in front of us and and asked if we could turn around and grab some photos and videos of this well known church. They readily agreed.


On my last day in Sardinia, we made a trip to the North East part of the island, where I captured these photos. It was very different from where we were staying on the West side of Sardinia.


Amazing coast lines!


 There were some amazing yachts in this harbor.


This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. Just look at that water - so beautiful!


To see the video much larger (and in full resolution - and I recommend choosing 1080p resolution), click here.

I usually do not shoot video with my DSLR cameras, but with the Phantom, it is so easy to switch from stills to video, that I found myself shooting a ton of video. I put together this 5 minute video to show you some of my favorite aerial views of Sardinia and the WRC race. You can also see how amazingly smooth the video is, even when flying the Phantom in windy conditions over the water.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these photos and videos as much as I did capturing them!

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If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
_________________________________________________________________________________

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Photographing the World Rally Car Race in Sardinia, Italy

I just returned from a week long trip to Sardinia, Italy where I was photographing the World Rally Car (WRC) race. I was really looking forward to this trip for two reasons. Firstly, it was on the beautiful island of Sardinia, and I had never been there before, and secondly, because I had never photographed rally cars before, and always love shooting something new.

This blog post is all about the race, and next week's blog post will show you the beauty of the island, with many aerial photos and videos taken with the DJI Phantom II Vision + drone. So let's get to the race.

The first event that I photographed was the ceremonial start, which was located in the southern city of Cagliari. This event started at 9pm, which meant that the lighting was going to be low and the action was going to be fast.


I started shooting the race with my Canon 1DX and Canon 28-300mm lens, but soon realized that this was not going to yield me any good photos. The variable aperture of the long lens meant that I could not get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the cars clearly. I decided that my best shot would be right at the jump, with a wide angle Canon 16-35mm lens. Since the lighting was less than ideal, I cranked up the ISO to 5000 and I put on my flash and set it for high speed sync. (Photographer's note - High speed synch allows you to use your flash at shutter speeds faster than 1/200 sec without over exposing your photo or having your shutter appear in the image.)

Even pushing the ISO as high as 10,000 and using the flash, there were not many good photo opportunities at this event. More than eight hours of driving, getting us back to the hotel in Alghero at 1am, and this was one of the few photos that I considered a "keeper".

But I knew that the rest of the rally would be during daylight hours, with better conditions for shooting.


The next day we were up early to head out to the second stage of the race. The light was much better and the action was really great, with the drivers pushing the cars hard through every turn.

There were three big challenges to shooting this rally.

1. Since the rally is spread out all over the island, there were many times when we had to drive 3-4 hours to get to our location. This meant that we had many days where we were up at 4:45am and in a car driving for more than 7-8 hours to shoot for one hour.

2. It was really hot, with temperatures often reaching close to 100 degrees F.

3. It was REALLY dusty. As it turns out, the dust on Sardinia is a really fine silt that gets into everything. It is going to take a while to get all this dust out of my cameras, my lenses, and my lungs.


Thankfully, I decided to bring the Canon 28-300mm lens, which was a good choice for this rally. With the this focal range, I could shoot wide at 28mm or zoom to 300mm without having to change lenses. And, in these conditions, the last thing I wanted to do was expose the cameras sensor all the dust in the air.


This is one of the videos that I captured with the DJI Phantom II Vision + drone. You can see how much debris is coming off the back of the cars, and flying into the air.


This photo shows all the dust along the race course, and also shows you how close the fans get to the action. Some of the fans were really crazy, and would get within a body's length from the cars.


This driver lost control of his car and came straight at me as I was shooting. I was not worried since, as I was looking through the camera, I could see him lock up the brakes and gain control of the car. I think he came within 6 feet of me and some other photographers.


Once the leading cars all passed through, I decided to put on my circular polarizing filter (to darken the environment and give me a longer shutter speed) and do a little motion panning. This photo was taken at ISO 100, f/22 at 1/30th of a second.

The next day, we drove way out into the mountains to photograph the cars coming off the big jump. I knew that this would likely yield the best photos of the rally, and I was excited to capture this stage of the race.


My first photo position was at the top of the jump. I wanted to get some good action shots, but also wanted to include all the fans that made the long trek to this remote location.


I photographed the first 3 or 4 cars from this position, and then moved to a forward facing position.


Wow! These guys catch some serious air!


You will notice the well placed Lexar banner in the background. Since I was shooting photos for Lexar, I made sure to position myself in a location where I would have the car in mid-air and the banner in focus in the background.


I grabbed this shot, right as this guy nosed the car into the ground.


This car got the best air of any of them, and I was happy to capture this photo at the crest of the jump.


I was shooting pretty tight on the cars, when this helicopter appeared over the crest. I quickly zoomed out to show how close the chopper got to the crowd. These pilots are really good!


I framed this shot to highlight the car and also the photographers. This shows the first photo position, where I was shooting from the top of the jump.


Another shot showing the rally car and low flying helicopter.


I walked along the road (in between rally cars) to get to different photo positions. Typically, the cars were spaced about 3 minutes apart, but since this was fairly far from the start, the timing was not guaranteed. For this shot, I had to jump up into the bushes, as this car was oncoming. And yes, I got completely covered in the trailing dust!


I tried to stay on the up-wind side of the road, but this was not always possible. And then, when I was shooting on the down-wind side, I would do my best to shoot and then try to run away from the bulk of the dust.


After shooting all the close-up shots on the previous days, I wanted to get into a position where I could shot a wider, longer shot of the cars.


After one of the rally cars passed by, I took this photo to show the dust cloud left in it's wake.


I saw this fan with his Sardinian flag, and had to get a shot.


After the race was over, we packed up and loaded up the car. But there was a stand serving cold beer and sandwiches. We had to stop, since we were very thirsty and had not eaten lunch. They had two choices of sandwiches, sausage or horse meat. I chose the sausage (although I did try a piece of horse meat - just to say that I did). After we were done eating, I saw this fan walking back to his car. He was completely covered in the Sardinian dust, and I just had to snap this shot.

Stay tuned for the next blog entry with some photos and videos of the island.

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If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.
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