Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Times, they are a-changing

Up to now, this blog has been a mixed bag of photography-related tips, techniques and procedures, a journal and a showcase of some of my photographic work. I've decided to focus my blog(s) on more directed topics, to provide my readers with a more useful experience.

This blog will remain as my journal. What that means is, I will share what I've been up to. A good example is the post that follows, where I talk about my visit to the Minden Ice Races, I'll show a few selected pictures and give you links to where you can find others. If you are a photographer (not all of my readers are!), you might be interested in the techniques used to capture these pictures and to manipulate them in-computer. If so, I will provide a link to a new blog that focuses on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom and other procedures, the technical "How" side of things.

I'll also provide connections to my galleries and to the gallery that contains the images that I have for sale. I plan a third blog which will feature one image and offer a discount code on a regular basis, but I have to figure out how to do that, and to get the other one, the technical one, up and running.

I chose to use WordPress for the new blog.  I want it to contain searchable topics and to make them clearly visible. So far, it's eluding me somewhat. Still, I can post there, but that's going to change in appearance.

This means that I have to prepare my blog posts more carefully, and in multiples. For example, I want to tell you about my visit to the Muskoka Wildlife Centre and show you some very neat animal and bird pictures, but I can't yet because I have to finish writing up the techniques I used, and give you some tips about shooting in the winter and with flash fill. That's what I meant above: if you're not a photographer, you don't give a damn about flash fill, you just want to look at pictures. So I'm separating that stuff.

I plan to post every couple of days. I hope that people will make it a habit to drop by regularly. I think you'll find it interesting. Onward and upward!

Ice Racing: a truly Canadian sport

For 6 weeks, the Canadian Automobile Sports Clubs (http://www.casc.on.ca/) sponsor weekend ice racing on a track constructed at the Minden Fairgrounds. They can only race when there is enough ice -- and local contractors maintain the track all week. I learned that the studded tires on the race cars chew through as much as 5 inches (25 cm) of ice in a day.

They throw up a cloud of ice dust which, depending on whether there's wind, and on the temperature, can be so thick that you can't see the cars. Imagine driving in it! The only car who has a clean look is the race leader.

I call this image "Leader of the Pack" (Vroom, vroom!), and it has an alternate name, "Sometimes when we Touch". There's a lot of touching.
See the orange light on top of car 113? They all have bright lights in back so the car behind them knows where they are in the ice fog!

There are several classes: rubber tires, street studs (you can still use studded tires on the street in Northern Ontario), racing studs (big mean ones). There's front wheel drive, rear wheel drive, all wheel drive classes. You have to watch the cars with the big racing studs flip sideways in a corner and drift around it, then hit the throttle and straighten it out for the straightaway.

Sometimes you think they're not going to make it, but somehow they pull out of their slide:

w-w-w-Wipeout! Well not really, he made it. You can see the track in front of him and where he wants to go is straight towards the camera. He's moving dead sideways in this shot!
Here's another image showing a pack of cars coming right at me

Like it says in your rear view mirror, "objects may be closer than they appear". This is the other way around because I'm using a long lens.
They're moving pretty fast: I'm guessing they reach over 100kph on the straights. Remember, they're on ice! How they make it through the corners, I'll never know (sometimes they don't! Check it out)

The driver walked away from this one. He ploughed into the embankment virtually head on. He said he'll have a ton of black and blue marks from the restraint system, though!

I was lucky to get this shot. I had been playing with the shutter speed of the camera and it was really low: 1/10 second when this happened. I took 4 shots, this is the only one that sort of came out. The best part is that Jimmy, a pro photographer who shoots these and other racing events, was standing right near me and said he had his hands in his pockets and didn't get any shots! Ha-Ha.

There are really two ways to shoot action scenes like this: at really high speed to freeze the or at slow speed and pan with the car, or track it.

To read about shooting action scenes, visit my technical blog at this link: http://faczen.com/wordpress/?p=33

I was having some focusing issues with my camera. It had to do with the format of the pictures I was taking: JPEG or RAW. You can read about that in the technical blog at this link: http://faczen.com/wordpress/?p=19

And finally, I've put some galleries of images up so racers can visit and buy pictures. The best way to see a whole bunch of ice racing pictures is to go here: http://photography.to/iceracing. I got an amazing number of quality images at these races. How do I decide which ones to put up in my galleries? Tough call!

Catch you later!