I will be going to Road Atlanta in late Sept. early Oct for the 10 Hour Petit Le Mans. The race will begin during daylight hours and run into the night. I have never shot at night, or minimal experience. I have a Sony A65 with 2 lens. A 3.5-5.6/18-55 SAM and a 4.5-5.6/75-300 lens. I do not have an external flash either. I have shot blurred background pics during races and typically use auto focus for a specific location, and turn manual focus on. Wait for the car to get into the range/focus point and shoot adjusting the shutter speed to 80. What should I adjust as far a aperture etc. to get a good shot at night?

Thanks for any advice that is offered

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    A lot wider than the aperture on your two lenses. Have you considered renting some very fast primes? – Michael C Aug 26 '14 at 23:47
  • You should definitely go out and practice shooting at night when there aren't race cars. You'll learn a lot about available light, hand-holding your camera, noise reduction in post, etc. You don't need a flash, there's plenty of light out there. Go out tonight and shoot. – user4894 Aug 27 '14 at 15:15
  • possible duplicate of Night-time football game under field lights The subject is different, but from a practical standpoint, the problems are the same. (Moving subject, artificial lighting, long distance shooting.) – AJ Henderson Aug 27 '14 at 15:50
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    I don't think it is a dupe. Nice racing is different since there aren't any field lights. For the most part the only lights will be the car headlights which will be in motion. – Paul Cezanne Aug 27 '14 at 16:43
  • @PaulCezanne if it wasn't a track race, you would be correct, but the Petit Le Mans (according to inkista's answer) is a track race, so it will have flood lights most likely. – AJ Henderson Aug 27 '14 at 18:19

During your daylight shooting for the race, both the lenses would be fine, and you won't need any external flash as well. At night try focal lengths accordingly; see that the shutter speed, F/number and ISO matches the best to desired focal length. Let's say for example, you are shooting at your mid-range focal length of 18-55mm. That would be 24mm or around 35mm. Match the shutter speed with your desired Focal length, or double the shutter speed, in order to get sharp details. Also check the sweet spot of your lens aperture. My kit lens EF-18-55mm sweet spot at 18mm is F/3.5 and on 35mm is F/5.6. Also keep a check on ISO counts. The lower the ISO, the more grain-free details you get. ISO 800/1600 is fine but above 3500 grains can be seen no matter how costly your gear is. Or else you can try aperture-priority mode. First check if your camera has that option,if yes, choose the widest aperture and let the camera do the rest of the work. Be bold to be steady with hand hold. Secondly longer focal length lenses won't help you much during night photography. I suggest you trust your kit lens by getting close to your subject. All the best and happy clicking.

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enter image description hereEven though this is an old post and after reading the answers without any images to back up what is being said, I know there are people out here who might stumble on this very same question.

I am posting in hopes to help a newbi who might be wondering how to photograph a moving subject at night.

A 18-55 kit lens on a foot ball field with awesome lighting might work but most racing of cars the lighting is horrible plus the asphalt and or concrete will reflect the cars color, Sadly we all forget that before digital cameras we had to use high iso/asa films to get usable night shots of any race cars racing at night, even during the day most race car photographers used high iso/asa film.

This high iso/asa film left a grainy image as do our aps-c/full frame sized cameras do. Even full frame digital cameras have grain at high iso/asa speeds. Nothing wrong with that at all. It adds a depth to the images that has long since been forgotten. look at any old hot rod or car magazine and notice the grainy images that were the norm.

I shoot night race cars all the time between iso3200 and 6400 with a 50mm 1.8 lens at f1.8, the problem is the reflection of the cars color saturates the image, as our CCD/CMOS sensors are so sensitive to light the images do become washed out with the cars color. (if the car is yellow the concrete will have a yellow cast of color) I found that shooting with the saturation set to a (-) or all the way down will help minimize this effect.

Also start learning how to pan the camera with the car, I pan just a little bit faster than the car to yield a motion effect while still retaining the details.

Good luck on shooting. All images shot with a Nikon D200 hand held at f1.8 One other thing I have not herd anyone mention is that lower megapixel cameras absorb light better than high megapixel cameras do in part to the pixels being bigger and allowing more light in plus a fast prime lens 1.4/1.8. will get the job done.

"If your looking for real unedited images that is." I also hate editing or edited fake looking images my self.

enter image description here f1.8 @ 1/180th at -3EV handheld no flash iso3200 Nikon D200

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With night shooting, you typically need more light for a good exposure, so you'd actually want different lenses--ones with a larger maximum aperture so you could open up the aperture setting (use a smaller f-number) to gather more light, a higher ISO setting, or a slower shutter speed. When you're at 1/80s, though, you can't really go much farther down or you'll risk too much motion blur--especially with a panning shot--to get a clear shot of the car.

However. Since (from a quick spin on the website), the Petite Le Mans is a track race, chances are good when night falls, a lot of lights will come on, and that might give you more of a fighting chance--particularly if you increase your iso setting. You could still be up against it, though. Indoor and night time sports photography are two of the most demanding subjects when it comes to gear, because you generally need a lens that's long and fast, and while either can cost, in combination, the cost goes to a whole 'nother level. Maybe consider renting a 70-200/2.8 lens if you think that'll be enough reach.

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You should not use flash (on-camera or external). Unless you're at high ISO, it's not likely to be effective anyway, and it's likely to be a nuisance to the drivers if you're close to the track, and to your fellow spectators regardless of where you are.

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  • I am constantly amused at watching evening sports events were flashes are going off in the stands... as if it would make any difference in the field. If you are more than a few yards away from the subject, an on-camera flash isn't likely to be that helpful. – user13451 Aug 27 '14 at 16:49
  • @MichaelT A top-end flash has a guide number of about 60, which means that it produces enough light to shoot at f/2.8, ISO-100 at a distance of 20m (60ft) or so. OK, that's not going to help from the back of the stadium and I guess you're going to be farther than 20m from the track but it still has potential to be a nuisance to the drivers. – David Richerby Aug 27 '14 at 17:21
  • Its certainly going to be a nuisance, but its also a going to be a question of if you are down along the track or up in the stands. Note the seating area on the track map suggests that much of it will be a ways away from the track (see also the picture). A GN60 flash win't do anything at the distances the spectator seating is at... and glancing at those distances, I doubt it would even be very noticeable to anyone on the track. – user13451 Aug 27 '14 at 17:37
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    @MichaelT Actually, the closest part of the seating area to the track seems to be about 15m away, from Google maps satellite view, though that would be shooting at right-angles to the track, rather than into the drivers' faces. Also, move up to ISO-400 and your range with a GN60 flash goes up to 40m, putting a larger fraction of the seating area within range. – David Richerby Aug 27 '14 at 17:50
  • Thanks for the help. I really appreciate your knowledge and info. – George Payne Aug 28 '14 at 15:30

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