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Photographer’s Diary – The Right Stuff

Mercedes at Daytona. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Mercedes at Daytona. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster

“I am an artist. The track is my canvas. The car is my brush.” – Graham Hill

I have been capturing the artistry of motorsports with my cameras for over 45 years now and that quote from Graham Hill conveys exactly how I feel when working at a racing event. In my case, the action on the track and in the pits is my canvas and the camera equipment I use is my brush.

I have always considered camera equipment like a racing mechanic considers his tools – you merely use the tool best suited for the job. I have used many tools over the years, starting with manual exposure Minolta cameras back in the days of film to using the latest digital cameras and lenses to capture motorsport in the modern era.

After years of trying different digital systems, I think I have found the perfect motorsport photography tool, and it is made by Sony.

At this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring I had the pleasure of trying out Sony’s newest rig – the A9. I rented one for Daytona and fortunately, Sony was on hand at Sebring loaning out some of their newest equipment to shooters and I got to try some additional gear from them.

Armed with the Sony A9, a small and compact mirrorless camera with big time features, I put their camera and lenses through the paces, shooting on the track, in the pits, in bright light, dim light and almost no light.

I must say, I was suitably impressed. Their equipment performed perfectly and allowed me to virtually ignore the gear and concentrate completely on getting the shot – which has always been my goal in taking photos. You focus on the subject, and using the camera is just the means to transform your vision into reality.

The Sony system makes this task very easy, for regardless of lighting conditions it was up to the task, as some of the accompanying photos illustrate. I used their 24-70mm lens extensively in the pits and their superb 100-400mm out on the circuit.

What really impressed me was the camera’s low light capability. I have always preferred to shoot using just the natural available light and seldom use flash, even after dark at endurance races. In this regard, the Sony was outstanding, able to capture action on the track in very low light while maintaining a low noise, crisp and colorful image. Just incredible is the best way to describe the results.

My photos speak for themselves. Sharp and crisp images were obtained in all manner of lighting conditions and the whole rig was well balanced and comfortable to carry around and use. When lugging camera gear around an endurance race for hours, size and weight certainly do make a difference and in this regard the Sony gear shined. Couple that with the ease of use and some of the features of the A9 (like being able to shoot at up to 20 frames per second, with the autofocus being able to keep up!), I can honestly say I am hooked.

It certainly looks like Sony has built the “right stuff” for motorsport photographers and I am looking forward to putting their gear to work at more races this season.

They have developed the right brush for the job.

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Jack Webster has been shooting motorsports since the early 1970’s, covering Formula One, CanAm, F5000, TransAm, GrandAm and American Le Mans races, among others. In addition to his photography, he has also worked on racing teams, both in IMSA and IndyCar, so has a complete knowledge of the inner workings of motorsport. Both his photography and writing can be seen here on racingnation.com