Yesterday, I was in Le Mans (France) to assist to the official practice session of this most famous endurance car race: les 24 heures du Mans. This was an obvious reason to bring along a photo camera in order to click the shutter onto this colorful and very active show. It’s technically very demanding for the photographer, but it’s a nice opportunity anyway. I had already visited the place twice, but I’m still attracted to it.
Some of my figures:
- More than 600 exposed pictures
- 160 images after the first sort at high speed (to remove the obvious errors and gross misses) with around 80 which could be first choice pics.
- Less than 10 very good images.
- A few images which could be a little original.
Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge them
In the end, I can forecast who will win on Sunday:
Peugeot: End of the practice session:
Audi R15 in a unusual maneuver:
With the acquired habit, I can give a few recommendations to those who would like to try their own hand at it:
- Prefer the official practice sessions: All the cars are out, it is possible to walk around nearly everywhere around the track (during the race, your ticket will stick you to a specific location), the public is relatively limited and quiet.
- For the duration of a session (from 16:00 to midnight), you can easily walk from nice spot to nice spot from “Maison Blanche” to the “Dunlop bridge” for a good variety of situations.
- Monopod (or tripod) highly recommended).
- 80-200mm: very useful, 100-400mm: perfect range, but the limited aperture may be a strong constraint.
- Car speeds are very high. Even in the best conditions, under 1/500s, the photos may not look sharp enough; the faster cars will even ask for 1 or 2 stops over what you can allow for a GT car (the slower ones). Peugeot and Audi are really fast; Porsche, Aston Martin, Lamborghini may somewhat feel underpowered while driving at their max.
- Beware of obstacles: cranes, wire mesh fences, pro photographers are everywhere and you will need a large aperture to soften them out, but look for the openings in the fences which have been created for the pro photographers (look down a little).
- Autofocus: in continuous, 3D or AI-Servo mode. Or drop down to full manual and anticipate on the car position.
- Keep your eyes peeled: nearly every year, I witnessed a car leaving the track in front of me; But you will not have time to set things up. Shoot until the car is stopped or the card is full. You’ll sort later.
- Be aware of the signals used by the track stewards to anticipate interesting events: blue flag for overtaking (more dynamic shots), klaxon every time a car enters the pit area, etc.
- Have fun and remember to look, not only shoot photos.