How to Shoot a Race: A Photographer’s Guide

When I embarked on my photographic journey in 2017, I was clueless about using my camera. Shooting seemed like an intricate dance of trial and error. My early photos were plagued by blurriness, out-of-focus subjects, and missed frames. But through relentless research, countless hours of reading, and dedicated practice, I’ve reached a level of confidence where I can now effortlessly capture the shots I desire at any race. If you’re itching to dive into race photography (or any other sport, for that matter), then join me as I share my guide on How to Shoot a Race!

Planning Ahead

Before venturing to a race, meticulous planning and strategizing are paramount. Dive deep into understanding the racecourse, identifying those pivotal spots that offer dynamic photo opportunities. Take note of lighting conditions, potential obstacles, and accessible points to ensure you’re thoroughly prepared.

For instance, at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, I prefer waiting until late morning or early afternoon to shoot at the Corkscrew. This allows me to avoid the foggy conditions that dull the colors and lighting. Moreover, with the sun’s rays angling towards the Corkscrew for most of the day, the cars are beautifully illuminated from the front when shooting from inside the track. However, if you’re seeking more dramatic photos, try shooting against the light at Turn 5 during the late morning and afternoon. The resulting backlit shots will leave you awestruck! Just remember to exercise caution and avoid shooting directly into the sun.

Knowing when and where to shoot is a skill you must master. It’s not rocket science (well, mostly), and you can employ tools like SunCalc to conveniently plan your lighting conditions. Yet, part of learning how to shoot a race is discovering the spots where the real action unfolds. Some of my most breathtaking shots were captured where racers were compelled to slow down and navigate tight turns. At Laguna Seca, Turns 2, 3, 5, the Corkscrew, and Turn 11 present phenomenal opportunities to seize action-packed shots. In fact, it was at Turn 11 that I captured one of my all-time best photographs! Learning the art of shooting races entails being in the right place at the right time. With practice, you’ll soon be freezing remarkable moments through your lens.

Gear Selection

The adage “the gear doesn’t make the photographer” still holds true, but having the right equipment is vital for capturing high-quality race photographs. A DSLR camera with a fast burst rate and excellent autofocus is highly recommended. Opt for a versatile telephoto lens that allows zooming in on the action while maintaining clarity. Don’t forget spare batteries and memory cards to capture critical moments without interruption.

My kit includes a Canon Rebel T5i DSLR with some handy attachments and accessories. I use a Neewer Battery Grip with space for two high-density batteries to ensure I have enough energy throughout the day. For close-action shots, I rely on a Canon EF 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 USM Lens with the EW-78B II lens hood and a 72mm Circular Polarizer. When shooting from the grandstands, the Canon EF 75-300mm F4-5.6 III lens with a screw-on lens hood and 58mm Circular Polarizer is perfect.

This Canon EOS 5D MkII with the EF 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 USM lens is the perfect starter kit for shooting races!

Fast memory cards are a must. I use a Sandisk 64GB Extreme Pro SD Card with a read/write speed of 200Mb/s to avoid buffer issues when shooting in continuous mode. It’s great for short bursts in RAW format and even better for JPEG shots.

The best part is that you don’t need to break the bank. Older DSLRs work just fine, and there are affordable options on the used market. Check out B&H Photo, Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, and swap meets for cameras, lenses, and accessories.

Also, you should carry only the essentials. Opt for a small camera bag or backpack. It’s lightweight and perfect for getting interesting shots while hiking around the track. Your back will thank you!

Lastly, remember to carry sunscreen, water, ear protection, and cleaning tools. Always have a microfiber cloth and duster to keep your lens dust-free. Wear a hoody, sunhat, sunglasses, and ear protection for added comfort and safety. I can’t tell you how many times the incredible-sounding Mazda 787B nearly made me deaf as it flew by!

The tinnitus starts up again whenever I look at this image!

Now, get ready to capture breathtaking moments. With the right gear, the race is on, and endless possibilities await. Embrace the adrenaline and let your lens do the talking.

Using Different Shooting Modes

Photo © by KewlTek Photography

Let me tell you, the combination of Continuous Autofocus (AI-Servo or AF-C) and Continuous Shutter (or Burst Mode) is an absolute game-changer when it comes to capturing the heart-pounding action of a race! I can’t emphasize enough how powerful this duo is. With my Canon DSLR’s autofocus mode set to AI-Servo, all it takes is a half-press of my shutter button to lock onto a specific point on the race car I’m aiming to shoot. It’s like magic! Once I’ve set my focus, I can keep that car razor-sharp even as it zooms by at breakneck speeds. Now, pair that with Continuous Shooting mode, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for capturing that perfect shot or a jaw-dropping series of shots! It’s pure photography bliss!

But let me give you a word of caution— that shutter button can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Once you start clicking away, time seems to fly by, and before you know it, you’ve amassed thousands of photos! Believe me, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the adrenaline rush of the race and end up with a memory card bursting at the seams. So, while this combination is an absolute dream, be mindful of your trigger finger and keep it in check. Quality over quantity, my friend!

So, buckle up and embrace the magic of Continuous Autofocus and Burst Mode. It’s the ultimate ticket to freezing those exhilarating moments and immortalizing the thrill of the race! Get ready to capture shots that will make hearts race and jaws drop!

Timing and Anticipation

Timing is everything when learning how to shoot a race! Anticipate the decisive moments by observing the racers and their patterns. Be ready to press the shutter at the peak of the action, whether it’s a thrilling overtaking maneuver or a celebratory victory moment. Patience and attentiveness will greatly improve your chances of capturing captivating images.

I often only shoot the very beginning stages of a race, or the end, since that’s when most of the action will happen. For example, I’ll wait at the exit of Turn 2 at Laguna Seca at the beginning of a race, since everyone will be jockeying for position into the turn and out of it! Sometimes you can get some off-roading action there! Other times, I’ll wait at some sharp corners near the end of the race, since that’s where some racers would go a little too fast and end up in the gravel traps! That’s how I got those awesome photos of the Panoz LMP-1 Roadster-S scrambling to get back on the track after overshooting Turn 11!

Other times, I sit back and watch the race without even using my camera until I notice something interesting. A few years back, I saw one of the Kremer-Porsche K3 race cars spitting massive flames before it plunged down the Corkscrew. I hurried to a vantage point where I can fully see where the flames would appear, and just shot as many photos as I could. That’s how I ended up with my favorite photo series of all time!

Learning how to shoot a race is an exercise in patience, timing, and anticipation. Once you learn how to be at the right place and at the right time, your photos will be incredible!

Photo © The Phoblographer (Cool Name!)


Now here is where the real work begins: Post Processing! This is where you will spend most of your time if you want your photographs to stand out. But the first thing you should consider is whether or not you will be shooting in RAW, or JPEG format.

RAW format is basically this: a digital negative where you can edit the look of a photo, but without losing the original photo. Basically, when editing a RAW photo, you’re actually editing a copied instance of the photo. RAW format is perfect for making multiple edited copies and tweaking as many settings as you can to get the look you want. However, RAW format takes up a lot of space and memory. You can actually hit the image buffer on your camera much more quickly, making you miss that shot!

JPEG format is a lossy format that has much less editing capabilities than RAW, but also takes up less space! It’s easier to handle for beginner photographers, but professionals will lament the limited editing capabilities. With a faster memory card, you’ll be less likely to hit the image buffer of your camera too. Did I mention JPEG is the most common image format on the web? With JPEG, you won’t run into problems publishing your photos on Instagram, WordPress, or other platforms!

Editing your photos often boils down to what programs you can use. For my own photos, I use Adobe Lightroom. Its editing, cataloging, and export capabilities allow me to quickly collect, edit, and publish photos! But, if you’re just starting out, you can use free programs like Darktable. Darktable has a lot of the same capabilities that Lightroom has; like the ability to read RAW format. It’s also open-source, which means it’s completely free to use! While both Lightroom and Darktable seem very complicated, there are a lot of tutorial videos on YouTube that can teach you the basics and allow you to quickly learn how to edit your photos from the races!

Final Thoughts

Learning how to shoot a race with a DSLR camera presents an exhilarating opportunity to capture the speed, passion, and intensity of these exciting events. By planning ahead, selecting the right gear, mastering the essential techniques, and using your creativity, you can produce stunning photographs that not only document the race but also convey the emotions experienced by both the racers and the spectators. So grab your DSLR, head to the next race, and let your lens tell the captivating story of the race like never before!

The Mystery of the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe

an AI-upscaled image of the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe

The Mystery of the Gullwing Eleven

Lately, I’ve been captivated by the sleek designs of 50’s race cars, particularly the Lotus Eleven. Blame my friend for this obsession. We’ve discussed his desire to restore a Lotus Eleven for months. The elongated hood and rounded fenders have an undeniable allure. One day, after our conversation about a modified hardtop Lotus Eleven, I couldn’t resist the temptation to search for coupe variants. To my surprise, a Google image displayed an aluminum-bodied Lotus Eleven coupe with gullwing doors.

“What?!” I exclaimed.

Indeed, a stunning Lotus Eleven with a sloping Kammtail roof and gullwing doors existed! I had no idea that Lotus Eleven coupes, referred to as Eleven GTs, were ever produced. There’s even a Lotus Eleven GT Breadvan! Intrigued, I delved into the image results, hoping to unravel the enigma surrounding this unique car. And thus, the mystery of the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe unfolded.

The de Havilland Connection

According to a 1974 exposé written by Rod Leach, published on, this particular car was discovered under a tarp at the old de Havilland Aircraft factory in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. Leach speculated that the car was likely incomplete. Its exact stage of completion remained unknown when a local dealer “rescued” it, subsequently stripping parts like the engine and bonnet. From there, the car changed hands among private dealers until 1974, when Leach met its then-owner in a workshop in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

Upon closer inspection, Leach was surprised to find the car in remarkably good condition despite the disassembled engine and missing bonnet. Impressed by its quality, he purchased it and entrusted Lynx Engineering in Rye, Sussex to make it roadworthy. Leach’s exposé elaborated on the challenges of getting the car operational, its participation in several races, and detailed descriptions of its construction. Notably, he praised the exceptional craftsmanship of the internal and external aluminum work, reminiscent of aircraft manufacturing standards. Every internal panel was precisely shaped and riveted in place, with the underside covered by a riveted undershield. The car’s edges showcased exquisite rolling and wiring, showcasing de Havilland’s advanced construction techniques. According to Leach:

The thing that impresses me most about it is the internal and external aluminum work, carried out to the extremely high standard one would expect in an aircraft manufacturing company. Unlike most Elevens, every internal panel is boxed and shaped to perform its particular function and then beautifully riveted in place. The whole of the underneath is totally enclosed in the riveted undershield, save a very small hole for the sump. The edges of this undershield are beautifully rolled and wired, and they still bear the original aircraft marking for the individual panels.

The Gullwing Exposé, by Rod Leach, 1974.

Leach drew a connection between the aluminum bodywork and the De Havilland aircraft factory, emphasizing their shared commitment to high standards. It is plausible that the car was constructed by apprentices at the factory during their off-time, although it was never conclusively proven. In the preface to The Gullwing Exposé, Victor Thomas (2003) mentioned Leach attributing the design and construction to Frank Costin, the original Lotus Eleven designer. However, Thomas noted that he failed to find anyone who could offer a firsthand account of the car’s history. Despite speaking with Frank Costin, no recollection of working on the car could be confirmed.

The mystery deepens, as Thomas states in the preface:

Two other sister cars were mentioned, but there have never been any signs of these. It was suggested to Rod that the GT Eleven was commissioned with the intention of it being raced at Le Mans.

Preface to The Gullwing Exposé, Victor Thomas, 2003

Could this elusive coupe have been part of an abandoned Le Mans program involving Lotus, Costin, and the de Havilland Aircraft Company? If so, why was development abruptly halted?

A Stillborn Le Mans Prototype? Or, a Special Construction for a Wealthy Customer?

Author’s Note: The following is pure speculation based on Rod Leach’s account, my observations of the car’s design and construction, and Lotus’ Le Mans racing history. I present a few theories regarding the car’s purpose and the reasons behind its abandonment.

Team Lotus last outing at Le Mans was in 1962. After enduring unfair treatment from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest regarding the Lotus 23 race car, Lotus withdrew from Le Mans. Victor Thomas described the Gullwing Exposé’s car as “a very pretty Gullwing Coupe fitted to an otherwise conventional Series II body.” Assuming the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe was based on the Series II model, it must have been built between 1957 and 1962, before Lotus’ exit from endurance racing. Could this coupe have been intended as a sister car to the Lotus Eleven race cars, featuring gullwing doors, a removable rear window, and even a pigskin leather interior with a cigarette lighter? Although it seems peculiar for a race car to have a functioning cigarette lighter, smoking was more commonplace and accepted during that era. Hence, my theory:

The Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe was a “Privateer Special.”

Privateer racing has been prevalent in the history of motorsports, wherein private racing teams acquire older factory race cars and compete independently. Some private teams even received limited factory support. While the Lotus Elevens remained competitive, rival vehicles were becoming faster. Lotus needed funds for developing new race cars. Is it possible that a wealthy race car driver commissioned the Gullwing Coupe project?

The preface to the Lotus Eleven exposé hinted at the car’s potential commission by a private party for participation in Le Mans. It is also conceivable that two additional sister cars were commissioned, although no evidence has surfaced to confirm their existence. The confusion might have arisen from other Lotus Eleven GTs racing during that period, including the “Breadvan” Eleven GT.

The presence of a more refined interior suggests the car was intended for road use. It was not uncommon for racers to drive their cars to the track and back home after a day of racing. Could the Eleven Gullwing Coupe have been designed for this purpose? Unfortunately, the car’s origins and builders remain shrouded in mystery, as no documentation or surviving individuals associated with its construction have come to light.

Nevertheless, a question lingers: Why was development ultimately abandoned?

The ex-Normand Racing Lotus 23B made its first appearance in South East Asia in January 1964. © Rewind-Media 2022

Reasons for Abandonment

Multiple possibilities exist for why the development of the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe was halted. The simplest explanation could be that Lotus had already progressed to building faster race cars, prompting the private party involved to withdraw from the project and purchase one of the swifter models. The presence of the iconic Ford Cortina taillights, which suggest a production timeframe around 1962, coincides with Lotus racing and selling the Lotus 23B to privateers. Perhaps the private party redirected their investment toward the 23B instead of the Gullwing Coupe?

Another possibility is that the car was initially intended for a private individual who withdrew from the project, prompting Colin Chapman to consider completing the car for sale. This scenario might explain why the car was discovered unfinished at the old de Havilland factory. Once again, the Cortina taillights could provide insight into when the car was constructed and why its development was abandoned. In 1962, Lotus withdrew from endurance racing due to its strained relationship with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest regarding the Lotus 23B at Le Mans. If the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe was being built during the same period, its abandonment might have resulted from Lotus’ shift of focus to Grand Prix racing.

The last possibility I consider is that the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe represented an “evolution” of the Lotus Eleven GTs, optimized for road use and potentially offered for purchase directly from the factory. The inclusion of road-legal components like the Ford Cortina taillights and creature comforts such as the radio and cigarette lighter supports this notion. Lotus’ decision to withdraw from endurance racing after 1962 could have resulted in this car becoming an unfortunate casualty.

The Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe sitting among other notable race cars, including the Lotus 23B and the Lotus 2-Eleven. Image found on Twitter.

A mystery that may never be solved

Regrettably, the origins, purpose, and builders of the Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe may remain forever obscured. However, the car’s existence is a source of delight. With its timeless aesthetics and polished aluminum finish, the Gullwing Coupe is undeniably captivating. The fact that someone discovered this abandoned race car and completed its construction speaks to the enduring enigma surrounding the car and Lotus’ expertise as a race car manufacturer. The Lotus Eleven Gullwing Coupe, gullwing doors and all awaits the day when new information may emerge, bringing us closer to unraveling its mystery.

Folsom Cars and Coffee

When I first moved into this area…

…I was already looking to car shows in the area. I wanted keep my photography skills sharp and this website up to date! There were whispers of a car show that had a little something for everyone nearby me. So I did some research to see what was happening in my neighborhood. That’s when I found out about Folsom Cars and Coffee!

This event is held every Saturday during the summer season, and this past holiday weekend’s event was so close to where I live now, I couldn’t pass it up! So unpacked my camera equipment, got my vintage Minolta 45mm lens mounted, and went on my way early that Saturday morning!

Something for everyone

When I got there, there were already several different cars of various types from all over! When I arrived, there was already a row of Corvettes on display. In fact, a 1996 C4 Grand Sport had parked across from me and I was immediately smitten. I remembered all those hours of playing the original Gran Turismo and racing the Corvette Grand Sport on Trial Mountain!

Also parked next to me at Folsom Cars and Coffee was an incredibly rare Lotus Elise Type 72; an Elise designed to celebrate Lotus’ early championships with the John Player Special cars. All around me were an incredible variety of driving machines. I was instantly taken back to the glory days of Blackhawk Cars and Coffee, when I first really started haunting car shows and honing my photography skills! I simply couldn’t believe that a car show with this kind of variety was now in my backyard! While it was a bit of a challenge to get everything with my vintage Minolta 45mm lens, I really enjoyed myself just playing with the camera settings and chatting with fellow car enthusiasts!

Folsom Cars and Coffee ended up being one of the highlights of my weekend. I am definitely coming to the next one!