Photography: Mosport

Remember when I used to feature car stuff here? No? Me neither, but the navigation bar tells me I otherwise. However unlike the past this  post should be slightly more interesting.

This weekend I went to Mosport International Raceway for the American Le Mans Series of racing as well as support races. Mosport is a track I know well, I’ve gone since before I was born, my parents used to go there to camp and watch races, and my father even used to race a BRG Austin Mini there. He has many great stories of back then and often tells me how the track has changed a lot over the years, it’s much safer now of course. One such story he tells includes flipping his Mini just before turn 5a (Moss Corner) in such a way that his roof never hits the ground and he lands on all four wheels. Of course in doing so all four corners of his suspension are crushed, his sub-frame ruined and a set of rims damaged. Up until this race he’d only participated in 30 minute events, this race however was his first 2 hour race and due to a lapse in concentration in around the 30 minute mark, the aforementioned crash occurred. He never had any great success racing, but the way he tells the stories you can tell he really enjoyed every moment of it and I think it’s because of that enthusiasm I became interested in auto racing at a young age. It’s been a passion of mine long before I knew about anime, figure collecting or even computers.

The hill behind turn two at Mosport International Raceway.

I suspect had racing remained as cheap as it was when he participated, I too would have started racing, in fact my father at one point almost bought me a go-kart however after attending a couple of karting events he decided against it. Not for safety reasons, but because of the petty arguments between families of the participating children. Somewhat unfortunate, but I can see how the competitive nature of these events would spur the worst in some people. Eventually, I did get a go-kart, but not the kind you’d go racing with. It was of the home made variety with just a little 5.5 hp Honda motor, cantilever chassis and did at best 52 km/h (~32 mph). Our neighbours at the time allowed us to use their field in which my father cut out a race track in the grass.

The infield at Mosport International Raceway.

Unfortunately, the costs of modern racing are exorbitantly high and are ever increasing, even in the smallest of series. Not only do you have to buy a car, you need to maintain it and most importantly outfit it with the proper safety kit, such as a roll cage, proper seat with racing harness, fire extinguisher etc… Additionally you need to outfit yourself with all the appropriate safety gear, helmet, fire retardant clothing, coveralls head restraint if required such as HANS device. All of this adds up considerably, and of course doesn’t include entry fees, transporting your car, accidents, broken or worn parts, consumables etc… etc… All of this means I’ll likely never get to actually participate in a real race, but that hasn’t stopped me from attending. (Or blowing up a motor….)

Having visited Mosport so much, one would think I have a lot of great pictures from there to choose from, and over a number of years. This however isn’t the case, photography wasn’t a hobby of mine back  just a few years ago, nor any of my family members. Because of this we only had your average P&S film or digital cameras prior to my dSLR. So, that means all these pictures are from after I got into photography, as such their quality varies greatly, so bear with me.

Nose of the #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder (Type 9R6) on the grid at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2006)The #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder (Type 9R6) on the grid getting prepped by the crew for the start at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2006) Cockpit of the #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder (Type 9R6) at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2006)

One of the really neat things about the ALMS is how close they let you get to their cars, sure some teams are a little more secretive than others with specific components but generally you’re able to nearly sit in the cars. Before the start of every race they let the crowd out onto the grid to get a good close look and even touch the cars. I’m positive that if I were a car owner, or driver this would be nerve wracking for me. I’d worry some idiot would trip and fall on my car or break something or adjust something that couldn’t be fixed in time for the race. Generally I don’t think anything too substantial could be done, but still it’s a great deal of trust on behalf of the teams, even if they are all there keeping a close eye on things.

The #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder (Type 9R6) pit crew stand guard on the grid at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2006)

While the grid walk is fun, it’s also a very crowded place and hard to get a shot without people, in fact it’s impossible without multiple shots and tricks in post-processing. This is why I prefer wandering the paddock instead, not only do you get to see the cars, but you get to see under the bonnet, the drivers, and the teams preparing the cars. You also get to see teams receiving their battered and broken cars after a wreck. All of which seems much more interesting to me than some parked cars. You have to pay attention though while you’re there, there’s always vehicles moving about and you don’t want to get in their way. From segways to ‘Ferrari’ semis from Texas.

The Audi crew works on the R10 with the front fascia removed at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2007)

The #3 Corvette Racing car sits just outside it's paddock garage at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010) Dyson Racing's Lola B09 86-Mazda in the paddock at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010)

Enough with the still life shots, lets get some action…

The #40 Doran Design Ford GT of Robertson Racing enters turn 8 at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010)

Corvette Racing's #4 car passing around turn 8 at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010) Jaguar RSR's XKRS travels around turn 8 at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010) Drayson Racing's Lola B09 60-Judd in turn 1 at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010) Black Swan Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car wraps around Moss Corner at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010)

Gunnar Jeannette in the Oreca FLM09 car of Green Earth Team Gunnar on Mario Andretti Straightaway at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010)

Not actiony enough I don’t think, racing always needs crashes, it’s what everyone is sadistically hoping for isn’t it?

The late Dino Crescintini's #74 Mazda6 after a wreck at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2007)

Charles Putman (96) connects with Jeff Altenburg's (72) Mazda6 down into turn 2 at Mosport International Raceway. (SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship 2006) Charles Putman (96) connects with Jeff Altenburg's (72) Mazda6 down into turn 2 at Mosport International Raceway. (SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship 2006)

The #48 Marquis Jet Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car being hauled back to the paddock after a shunt into the barrier caused by the #8 Drayson Racing Lola at Mosport International Raceway. (ALMS 2010)

Auto racing photography presents a number of challenges over my usual figure shoots. Of course the objects are moving, but in addition to that my viewing angles are limited, my lenses not always suited to the distances and the lighting is uncontrollable. This past weekend for example was a very sunny weekend, and the races all took place with the sun high in the sky creating very harsh shadows, fairly undesirable, and in addition to that as the sun set in the west, I started to get the dark side of the car causing me to over expose the surrounding scenery. I really do wonder how the pros do it, what filters I should buy, or settings to use but all in all I feel I got some decent shots over the few years I’ve been shooting. I do have plenty more I could include, but not all of them are from Mosport, perhaps in the future I’ll do another post with sort of a ‘best of’* from the race tracks I’ve been to and have bothered taking pictures at, such as Mid-Ohio and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.


(* I wouldn’t call this current set a ‘best of’ as there was somewhat of a narrative going on in my head as I wrote it.)

Moss Corner, Mosport International Raceway (2010)


  1. soulstaker says:

    oh man, that R10 is sexy.

    • Aka says:

      I wish Audi was still in the ALMS, same with Porsche. I know there are Porsche RS Spyders in the series, but it feels like the series has been neutered and all the factory teams backed out.

      Personally though, I prefer the Aston Martin in the LMS series it just seems like a sexy car, too bad it’ll never win because it’s not diesel powered.

  2. Very nice shots, Aka! That last one reminds me of Gran Turismo 5. =P

    Do you plan on going to CSCS or ImportFest? I think CSCS is on the 27th.

    • Aka says:

      I had no plans to go… I’ve been to ImportFest before a number of years back and it was sorta meh. It felt more like a big event for advertising more than anything else. I’d likely prefer CSCS to ImportFest, but I’m not really a fan of drag racing. The time trials and drifting could be interesting though.

      You going? Participating? 😉

      • Yeah, I’ll most likely be going to CSCS on the 26th – I keep forgetting which date it is. A bunch of us from will be attending, although I don’t think I’ll be tracking my car – I don’t really feel like tracking my daily, but who knows, maybe later on in the future. I’ll be there to take some pics and show support for the rest of the guys and gals though. ^_^’

        • Aka says:

          I would definitely recommend against competing with your daily driver. I’ve blown up an engine at the track in my daily once before, it’s not fun. And it’s embarrassing.

          I stopped with the car forum thing, I found the information to be anecdotal at best, and many of the people just didn’t jive well with me. Though, once I figured out who to ignore it did get better.

          One of the track days I went to (after blowing up my engine), I was just there for pictures and whatnot, I got a ride in a fairly old Subaru Legacy rally car. I think that was the safest I’ve ever felt in any car ever. I was strapped in with the 5 point harness, full rollcage all around, in the bucket seat, sitting low because I was in the co-driver seat, and had the most casual conversation with the driver while he wipped around Shannonville. I could feel everything that car was doing in the seat of my pants, it was great. At the time I owned a ’99 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS, and it certainly didn’t have the same feel, cheapest brakes and pads, cheapest tyres etc… My current Saabaru 92x Aero is much better in this regard, but the seat allows for too much movement.

          Anyway… Do you know what the turnout will be at CSCS?

          • Not sure what the turnout will be like, but usually it has a fairly good turn out with an assortment of cars. It’ll definitely be more interesting than Importfest, that’s for sure. lol

            I was just at the VW freedrive event yesterday and it was pretty fun for a short track in the parking lot. =P It got my blood pumping now I feel like going to the real track and drive around.

            Definitely sucks when you blow your engine, I’ve seen it a couple of times at other shows. Sure, it’s fun (and funny) when watching it happen to others, but I can’t imagine how I’d feel if it happened to me.

  3. Tier says:

    I really like those panning shots, they look great and the cars look crisp and sharp. What I especially like, though, is the teeth on the nose of the Green Earth Team car. That’s an awesome ride, fruit and foliage and starfish and crocodile teeth.

    I don’t follow auto racing much, but I will happily admit that whenever I come across a video of a spectacular crash on a raceway, I’ll take the time to watch it.

    • Aka says:

      I like the panning shots as well, and I have a bunch, but I felt the post would be boring filled with just them. I think I also need to buy a monopod to take better panning shots, get less verticle movement and only have to focus on horizontally matching the speed of the car. Then I think they’ll be crisper. Additionally a faster camera where I can take more shots in a shorter time.

      Gunnar Jeanette in the Green Earth Team car also has a polkadot helmet. It’s a very odd combination of things to be on a race car I have to say, it’s far from my favourite colour scheme or paint job. But it is interesting.

  4. radiant says:

    NICE! That action shot with the crash is +1!

    Really like the last “GT”-style shot! 🙂

    Tell me about your skills in getting such clear and crisp panning shots!

    • Aka says:


      The only skill is taking a lot of pictures. Seriously, I have hundreds of shots from each race I’ve been to, and only a few really turn out.

      That said, there are a few tips I guess that’ll help. Like everything shutter speed and aperture play a big role. You want the slowest shutter speed you can get, but on a bright sunny day that might be something like 1/4000th of a second which is going to get you a parked car no matter how fast it’s going. What you need to do is drop down the aperture so that you can use a shutter speed say around 1/80th or 1/100th of a second. Normally tightening the aperture would get you more depth-of-field and detail in the picture but in this case it’s just used to reduce the amount of light in the exposure. The longer the shutter speed you can manage the more apparent movement you’ll get in the shot. However if you get too long a shutter speed you’ll also get your body movements blurring the shot. What many people do is use what’s called a monopod, like a tripod but with just one leg. This reduces some of the movement in the camera allowing for longer shutter speeds and more apparent movement in the shot.

      Since the weather and speed of the cars are always changing, the settings in your camera will always change as well. What might work great at one moment may not at the next, a cloud could pass over head, a car could go faster/slower than it did the previous lap, or the previous car. If there’s an accident and you’re setup for a fast moving car, you might just get a blur of a car instead of a crash. You’re constantly changing between settings and trying to anticipate the action, but it’s almost always luck that gets you a great shot, it’s just being there and being ready for it.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Ashlotte says:

    Know exactly jack about racing, but damn if I don’t like looking at cars! :p

    Only even vaguely near track I know of off-hand is Daytona and stockcars hardly look as fun as the ones you shot…

    • Aka says:

      Cars are definitely works of art. Well, except all the boring crap.

      Daytona doesn’t only have NASCAR, they do the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, with Prototype and GT cars. This years took place January 28-31st. As the name suggests, it’s a 24 hour race, which generally aren’t the most exciting due to everyone being on the safer side due to the length of the race. But it’s still not NASCAR.

      That said, I think it might be interesting to go to a NASCAR race if I could get close enough to the track. Reason being, the cars go around so many times, the likelihood of me getting a good shot would be better lol. Though I’d prefer Watkins Glen or Sonoma, as they’re both road courses, ovals suck.

      Some other races also in Florida, the Rolex series is in Homestead, the series I saw at Mosport the ALMS they race at Sebring for 12 hours. I’m sure there’s lots of SCCA stuff down there as well, and the Indy cars race at St. Petersburg, but that’s a crap track. So there’s a bunch of stuff you can hit up if you were interested.