To Catch a Fly: Singapore Red Bull Speed Street 2011

Posted: May 3, 2011 in Formula 1, Red Bull Speed Street, Sporting Events
Tags: , , ,
Do you remember that 1984 film called “The Karate Kid”? I’m sure you do ’cause the guys at Hollywood just made a remake with the same title, same plot, but different people last year. If you do remember the film, I’m sure you can recall the scene where Mr. Miyagi, played by the late Pat Morita, caught flies using chopsticks. Classic ‘ey? Now what does this fly-catching scene got to do with this blog? Read on…

Last April 24, 2011, David Coulthard, a Formula One legend and former Red Bull Racing driver, awed onlookers by blasting his Formula One’s bestial power along Orchard Road, Singapore’s prime shopping stretch.  When I heard about this event, I told myself I have to attend this after missing the past two F1 races. Theres no more reason, it’s free for Christ’s sakes!

I packed my bag & brought along 135mm F2 DC & 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G. I was there 3 hours earlier so I was able to catch  a glimpse of the beast up close using the 135mm.

Then I proceeded to look for areas with no distractions & found a good spot right across Takashimaya. While waiting for another hour, I thought it might be a good time to do some test shots. I attached the 70-300 so as to be flexible with the focal length. It was daytime so there was no need for me for a fast prime. As I was aiming for a nice background motion blur called panning, I set my camera to shutter priority at 1/125, set my focusing to continuous mode, & shutter to burst mode at 7 frames per second. I shot some tests & found out that 1/125 is fast enough to create a distinguished background. I reduced my shutter to 1/80. Yep, the background is blurred alright, but not that artistic blur, so I reduced it more to 1/40. I did a few more & got what I wanted.

Then, the beast unleashed its roar. So just when I thought I was all set, I took some shots while the car was exiting slowly.

Then, in a blink of an eye, it disappeared… It was darting across Orchard Road like a fly sweeping through a room from one end to another. I shot in full burst mode, left to right, right to left, left to right, my camera was begging me to stop. As I looked through the results of my merciless attempts to catch the speed demon, within that seven frame set the cam handled, there was a maximum of two shots that showed a slight hint of the car in the frame. It’s either a blurred nose, or its abstract tail.

Yes, I set my cam beforehand. But what was my basis? A scooter for cryin’ out loud. I wanted to choke myself in between the rails in front of me, but before I thought of doing such an immature futile attempt to end my stupidity, I increased my shutter to 1/80. Again, the car was darting in front of me, took several shots, & got an improvement. Now I got 4 more shots with the car in it, but with the same abstract Picasso-esque subjects. I further increased to 1/125 & finally nailed two shots (out of a few hundred).

Back at the pitstop…

Then there was Mr. Suped-up Audi R8 LMS ABT driven by Malaysian former F1 driver Alex Yoong. Although a bit slower than Mr. Thunderbolt above, I still could not manage to get decent pics at shutter speeds lower than 1/125, so I stuck with the same settings.

I had experiences of events with challenging circumstances, but the Singapore Red Bull Speed Street was a different beast. I knew, from fellow shooters who had experiences with past F1 races, that Formula One is fast enough for a panning shot, I didn’t know it was crazy fast! It is a type of photography where quantity does not matter, as long as you get at least one shot out of a hundred. And once you get that keeper, it satisfies everything wanting you to pack your bags with a smile on that face.
  1. nice panning. 🙂 your patience in catching the big fly is all worth it. 🙂

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