N24 2018: The 24 finest

Now we can write a report about N24 about who won what at which stage by which driver during what risky overtake but I know that there are plenty of motorsport news reporters who have done that before us and possibly better than we would if we tried now. Wangan Warriors still consists of a group of car enthousiasts with a couple of passionate photographers among them and I’d like to show that I’m one of those.

This post will contain 24 of my best images of the recent 24 hours of the Nürburgring. No, it will not necessarily be my technical best images but just the pictures that represent this race for me and reflect my experience. I will tell a little bit about my motivation and thoughtprocess of certain shots, the circomstances we’re in during such an endurance race and what kind of impression it left on me as a photographer.

I remember a time where black and white was something I felt most comfortable in. I developed my style in black and white earlier than I did in my colour pictures for some reason. For quite some time I was experimenting with my colour editing and it now leaves me in shame when I look back at some of that work. Not in a bad way because it shaped me as a photographer of course.

As you can tell a lot of my pictures are quite telephoto. The reason of that is that for more than 50% of my pictures I use my Canon 200mm 2.8 as one of my main lenses to walk around.

With this lens I try to challenge myself each time to come up with creative compositions and getting the sharpness to perfection. With a 200mm prime you’re always at least 1,5m away from your subject which gives you the opportunity to work a little voyeuristicly. Not that I’m a creep or anything but I rather take pictures while the subject isn’t aware of me. That came out wrong. You get the point.

At this point I mean with ‘subject’, the people. I’m always keen to capture some human emotion, aware or unaware, facial expressions, moments that were only there once between me, my camera and my subject.

I’ve owned a Canon 5DMKIV for a little while now and this was the first time I was using it for motorsport work. The way it autofocusses in darkness gave me a complete new reason to live. How dramatic that may sound. I was annoyed sometimes that I couldn’t get shots like this very easily with my trusty old MKII. Now the the focus is spot-on every time and I must say it’s a new luxury to work with.

The other 50% of my pictures are captured through the glass of a Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens. Now I can encourage anyone starting in photography to purchase a 50mm lens right away whatever the brand or type it is. You really learn to compose and look closely by taking away the ability of zooming.

The pit walks are always overcrowded and very hard to capture properly. I do try and stay until the very end of it because for some reason that really gets my adrennaline up for the start of the race.

The marshals can be quite brusque at this point trying to clear the track. I usually try and take some of my ‘cockpit portraits’ when all the people are gone but media personel nearly got kicked off the track while they are clearing the starting grid.

This is always a magical moment. It brings a smile to my face knowing we’ve got 24 hours of time to capture this race in the best way possible.

As I was saying… I shoot a lot with just a 200mm prime lens and cheat here and there with a 1.4x lens converter. This focal lenght is seriously more than plenty at a racetrack such as the Nordschleife. It’s also a lot easier to cary around because walking around with loads of gear is hard work.

Some turns are really close and as we sometimes call it ‘danger close’. I do like the luxury of that and especially the North loop has countless fun turn combinations which can be captured in numerous ways.

The fascinating thing about the Nürburgring is its landscape, the steep banks and blind corners. In photography you can use this to your advantage by changing your perspective and having a low point of view you can create the idea that racecars dive into the unknown.

I’m very happy when I can shoot in sunsets. I believe with the right light you can create better images which stand out from your regular flat daylight pictures. I did do a little reasearch of where the sun came up and where it went under at the Nürburgring because I wanted to be at the right place at the right time of course. Sadly the sunset at the ‘Ring wasn’t what I expected it to be.

We had some bad weather coming in and clouds were already covering the horizon and the golden hour was cut short. I spent the sunset at one single corner because I saw that light changing at a quick pace and I wanted to make the best of it. It’s the curse of this place. Unpredicable and unreliable but yet so romatic.

Sunset goes into night time and it’s always a new challenge for me to get a different shot. I didn’t really see the opportunity to do my longer shutterspeed shots which I usually include in my set of pictures. The trackside fans at the N24 often think you’re there to take their picture and send it to them right away without questions asked so I decided not to explore the track during the night and stay near the pit area and away from the party people.

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not the best at the panning technique which I’m not even ashamed of. Whenever I do challenge myself of doing so, I always get at least a couple good results out of it even though it’s with a little bit of luck. I’ve got some nice comments on the above picture and that’s basically the best reward for a picture you don’t really have in total control.

During the night I sauntered through the pitlane to capture some pit romance. However this is really a matter of being at the right place at the right time it can be hard to capture the chaos it sometimes throws at you. All the teams rushed to the pit for the much needed tyre swap, when the bad weather and storm covered the German Eifel.

The first 12 hours of the race were dry and the second 12 where continuous rain. I mean non fucking stop. Now I can handle a rain shower but every man has its limit.

The calm returned to the pitlane when most teams did a driver and tyre change. It was time for me to get some rest, recharge my batteries and have some late night dinner, or rather breakfast, at this point.

I asked around where the sun would rise and I know when you look down the long straight you can see the sun rise beautifully but I really wanted to include the sunrise in some track pictures. It seemed like we would have an hour or so with a bright interval of the weather. That didn’t really last very long and I accepted the fact that there would be no sunrise in my set of photos. I decided to make my way to the carousel despite of the fact that it was dark again and pouring down rain showers as if we didn’t have enough already.

Even though you try and cover yourself and your gear from the rain, at some point your soaked and the fun of shooting slips away little by little. I decided to sit it out and wait for a miracle of the rain to pass which of course didn’t happen. That really defines this race for me. Will there ever be a complete dry Nürburgring 24H race? When shooting this race you have to accept the fact that you’re submissive to the elements of nature and just put up with whatever it throws at you.

The final stage of the race brought some unexpected scenes after a red flag and a battling top-2 with a bitter sweet ending. I was happy to have captured another Nürburgring 24H race and even though I’m just a very small part of this grand event, I’m proud to be just that little part of it and hope I will be for a very long time to come. These are also milestones for me as a photographer because I never really pursued a carreer in motorsport photography but I grab every change I can to capture big events such as the N24. On to the next one. Cheers!

-Rens Adams
Rens Adams Photography