OK, I thought I replied to this on Tuesday but I must have clicked the wrong tab after typing. Douh! That's what just thinking about shooting ten days out of a fifteen day period will do to my mind! Two days down and eight to go starting tonight with three straight ahead (Thur-Fri-Sat).
John, that image was not HDR processed. I'm always looking for something different even if I have to change settings or a procedure I know will work. This was a FASTRAK NE Touring race and they decided to line the cars up on the front stretch and do driver intros (doesn't usually work this way). Anyway, I walked to the middle of the infield to set up to shoot the pano. This was merged from five images with CS4 Photomerge. The end result here should print well out to four or five feet wide with sufficient detail in the cars.
Five shot Pano Merge settings - D3; 70-200 VRI @ 82mm; 1/200; f2.8; shutter priority; ISO 1600; +.3 EV
I did minimal contrast adjustments before merging and again after merging.
Head On shot settings - D3; 70-200 VRI @ 70mm; 1/125; f5.6; NORMAL mode; ISO 1250; +.3 EV
After taking the distance shots I walked up to the front stretch to take a head on shot. They were still doing intros, so there were about six people walking around between the cars so I waited for them to get out of my shot. I was setting up to use flash to get some detail of the front row drivers. My plan was for a meduim high ISO (maybe around 1500) and minus one or two stops on the flash (SB-900) to try for a better lighting through the cars further back in the lineup. They finished the intros and I took a couple of quick ones and checked them out. I was not real happy with them. They were OK but I ended up deleting them in editing since I had a few like the one posted above.
OK, the flash shot did not work (just OK). At this point they are having the drivers fire the engines so I only had minute or so left. I turned off the flash as I was going for a lower angle and knew I did not want the race surface lit up. I changed the ISO to 1250 and lowered the camera to my waist and triggered a NORMAL mode shot to see what it looked like. This was one of those times when luck wins out over patience. The lights from the grandstands provided a nice rim lighting to seperate the cars from the background. The sky was just perfect. Usually I would look at the settings from the NORMAL mode shot (kind of a faux light meter reading) and then make adjustments to get the look I wanted but this was it and time was a wasting. The first shot had some of the white car's left fender cropped off. So, I lowered the camera back to my waist (not looking through the view finder at all), waited a couple of seconds for the focus dial to settle in and triggered off about six shots while moving the camera left to right a little in hope of getting both cars and the right amount of sky and track to have something usable.
In post (CS4 because that was the computer I was on) the only adjustments were a "despeckle" to clean up a little bit of the noise in the darks and a minor contrast adjustment then a crop for aesthetics.
While I said luck played a part (and it did) I am always looking for stuff like this. Before I had my knees replaced, it was extremely difficult to kneel down for low angle shots. Actually, it still is and I take a lot of shots from ground level up to chest high without looking through the viewfinder. I guess I have done this enough that it works well and I areally don't miss-compose too much at all.
Single front stretch shot (below) settings - D3; 70-200 VRI @ 70mm; 1/50; f4.5; Manual mode; ISO 2500; +.3 EV
About ten laps in, there was a red flag for an accident and they stopped the car on the front stretch. I am usually in either shutter or aperture priority but the lights on the stands at Sharon will really mess with those options from this distance. So, I went with manual to get the exposure I wanted. There is very little post work (only noise and contrast) on this image.