Photographing Motocross Sports

Dirt Bike in the Air

…and now for something completely different. Every once in a while, I like to push myself out of my comfort level and try something new. A few weeks ago, a photographer friend of mine posted an image on Facebook of a motocross racer and said he wanted to try to shoot something like that. My neighbor’s two kids race their bikes at a track not far from here so I coordinated a shoot during a practice night.

For someone who shoots houses for a living, trying to shoot something that moves very fast is a change of pace, to say the least. I got there just before the sun set and quickly found I had to boost my ISO to at least 800. I knew I wanted to show some motion in the wheels so I thought a shutter speed of 1/125th would work. I was shooting with the 70-200 f/2.8 lens and thought I would start at f/5.6, but that went out the window right away and I was shooting wide open at 2.8 the whole night.

Motocross Rider at Sunset

After the sun set, I had to boost my ISO to “HI” which on my camera body is only 3200. I started shooting in RAW, but switched over to JPEG because at 6.5 frames per second, the buffer time was taking too long. My Compact Flash cards have a 30 Mb/s transfer rate. If I shot sports professionally, I’d probably have the 45 Mb/s cards. One last tip if you’re shooting fast action: make sure you set your camera’s focus drive to “AI Servo” (aka Continuous Focus for Nikon). This tells your camera to track motion.

ATVs Jumping

Despite all the knowledge I brought onto the track, the vast majority of my shots were craptacular! I had trouble nailing the focus in the low light conditions. But hey, that’s what trying something new is all about, right? I might go again…maybe during the day to see if I have better luck. You can see the rest of the gallery HERE.

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