Fast and Furious on water

NZ HydroPlanes GT

Whenever you decide to photograph a new subject, especially motorsport events, it always helps to understand your subject. This will provide you with good insight into where the best place will be to capture the action. 
For me this weekend offered a subject I had never contemplated watching let along photograph….It  was the NZ GT HydroPlanes.

Lake Karapiro, is a little under a 2 hour drive from Auckland.
The venue is actually synonymous with New Zealand Olympic rowing greats and is the home of NZ rowing, but for one weekend only this peaceful, tranquil setting was the home for the NZ Hydroplane GT Nationals.

Now I’m not terribly technical when it comes to Motorsports, and I can assure you that I’m not an honouree petrol head, however theses hydroplanes where something to behold and I encourage anyone to at least go and see a race if you get the chance.

Each boat had to be lifted into the lake by a crane. Their hulls are extremely streamline with the rear section being not much more than a metre in height.  These craft basically rise out of the water and are driven directly by a 3 or 4 bladed prop. The engines are huge with most running methanol and packing upwards of 2000hp.  I understand from talking to a pit crew it’s the most demanding motor sport for engines.

So what did I do in terms of photography?
Well the first challenge was the weather, Sunny with the sun directly in my face…nevermind a quick rummage through my bag I decided to pop on the Polariser.

Next was my positioning.
Due to very strict safety standards I had to positioned myself in the main stand. Not an issue as this provided great coverage of the course as well as  the corners.

First challenge: The composition
These boats generated huge wakes behind them, so i opted to get away from my large zoom and run with a mid lens (135mm).  The idea being that i also needed to capture the water spread as they came around the corner.
Next I opted to go with tripod.  These Hydroplanes moved at incredible speeds (160mph + ) so by using a tripod I could fix my X axis which allowed easy pan of the subject as they came down the course.

Camera Settings
As with most of my sport shots, I opt for Aperture priority, so 1/250 – 1/300 was a good setting to work with. My ISO was set to 400, but I compensated the light sensitivity by reducing the exposure by 1.5 stops.

For focusing I decided to go with a single focal point directly on the craft (5AF) which reduced the chances of getting blowout due to the whiteness of the water which surrounded the craft.
For the wider shots i selected 19 AF.

An amazing fun day, which provided an excellent opportunity to photograph something completely different.

Big thanks to the GP Lucas Oil team Pilot Ken Lupton who was friendly and happy to answer my novice questions