American Society of Media Photographers – Sony Blog | Zach Bolena
Zach Bolena is a pro Sony motorsport photographer shooting for premiere motorcycle racing series including MotoGP, World Superbike, and MotoAmerica as well as industry related motorsport manufactures.
My fascination for motorsports started at a young age but it was not until later in life when I started racing and really experienced the competition, speed, and adrenaline first hand. Needless to say I was hooked from this point on. When I suffered an injury racing I went back to another passion of mine with photography and video.
The passion I had for photography and racing combined with my on track experience made it feel like a natural transition to shoot this sport. I started off with video and some photography for teams I knew racing in the U.S. pro MotoAmerica series. Even though I love video the additional gear I had to carry along with the long hours of sifting through footage and editing made it an easy choice transitioning to photography. Though I still spend time editing photos it is a much easier process.
(caption above: Marc Marquez sitting in pole position on the grid)
A friend of mine recommended me to SC Project when they were seeking a photographer for a photoshoot. SC Project is an Italian motorcycle exhaust manufacturer supporting many of the top MotoGP, World Superbike, and MotoAmerica teams including support for the current six time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez riding for the Repsol Honda team.
(caption for photo above:I love being able to freeze time while also displaying the speed of the bikes.)
I shoot with three full-frame Sony bodies (a7III, a7rIII, a9) and rent an additional a9 to have the flexibility on track of immediate access to the 400 2.8 that usually stays on one the entire weekend and the 70-200 2.8 or the 100-400 on the second one.
I’ll usually get to the track the day teams are setting up which is usually the Thursday before the 3 day race weekend starts to get a few setup shots and scout vantage points on track. I can visualize the final edited photo I want to get and will look for shots I can get with a specific lens focal lengths and aperture.
(caption for photo above: Turn 9 at Circuit of the Americas works great with the 400 2.8 blurring out the background and capturing the rider coming over the hill with the heat coming out of the exhaust.)
Besides scouting shots on the track there are many other factors to consider when planning out shots over the race weekend. You have to plan your shots around the schedule and decide where you want to be and when you want to be there. Where the sun is throughout the day can make a big difference in getting a good shot or not.
In the pits you have to really be on your toes and mindful of staying out of the way of bikes coming and going as well as staying out of the crews way when every second counts. If I enter a team’s garage I always ask if it is ok to come in and shoot. Sometimes I will ask for a good time to come back and get specific shots when they are not busy. Sometimes when factory teams are working on the engine and parts they may not want photos of their proprietary technology.
(caption above: The pits can get very crowded very quickly with the riders, crews, and media)
Other factors to take into account when shooting MotoGP and World Superbike is how many times they race during the weekend. World Superbike races two times over the weekend, one on Saturday and again on Sunday which increases your chances of getting those shots where the riders are pushing hard to get those tenths of a second on the track. This can give you more opportunities to get shots from different vantage points on the track over these two race days.
MotoGP has three different classes that race over the race weekend. The Moto 2 and Moto 3 classes are used as stepping stones to advance the best riders that will eventually race in the premiere MotoGP championship racing on the most advanced factory machines in the world. Since there are multiple classes this gives you a good opportunity to capture some great shots. However you will have to plan which teams and classes you want to capture on track and in the pits.
The MotoGP classes only race on Sunday so you have to get your shots between the race, free practice and qualifying. Many of the best shots usually are during qualifying and during the race since the riders are really pushing their bikes and skills to the limit battling it out for the win.
My love of capturing the beauty of motorcycles also happens in the studio. I usually start with a concept where I can envision the end result.