Supercross closes out season in Las Vegas

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in a pretty cool project for ESPN the Magazine. To make a long story short they hired 25 photographers around the world to all shoot a sporting event on the same day (May 7th). My editor asked if I would be interested in covering the Supercross championship race in Vegas. I couldn’t say yes quick enough!

This would be a fun shoot for a few reasons. First of all I had never shot a supercross race before so it was gonna be cool to shoot something new and go into it and exploring all the different shots to take. The second thing that was going to make the assignment cool was the only directions given to me by my editor was to get cool looking shots. That essentially gave me free rein to go nuts and try all sorts of random stuff to produce one or two cool pics for the story.

One of the first spots I set up was a small tunnel the riders would race through. My goal was to get one rider silhouetted in the shade while another rider was properly lit behind. Below is an example of a resulting photo from this idea as rider Brian Foster trails another rider through the tunnel.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 200iso, f5, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, rider Tommy Weeck loses control crashing into some trackside advertising blocks as a corner worker runs out of the way.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 400iso, f5.6, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

The below shot of riders racing through a hairpin turn was an idea I wanted to build upon later during the race when all the riders were together but I never got back to that spot so the below photo is all I have from it.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 200iso, f5, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

I then headed for the roof to see what kind of angles I could find up there. The hardest part about shooting this sport was all those annoying advertising blocks all around the course. I hate distracting backgrounds and those things killed many of my ideas. By shooting from the roof it would be my best chance to have some clean backgrounds.

The first thing I noticed from the roof was I could get some decent shadow pics.

Below, Ryan Sipes leads Dean Wilson through a turn during qualifying.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 160iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

Even better though was I found a spot where I was perfectly lined up to get riders going in different directions in the same shot. Below, Kyle Partridge flies through the air as Tyler Bowers takes a turn far below him.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 160iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

Below, rider Thomas Hahn does a pretty impressive tail whip over a jump.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 160iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

After falling in a turn rider Ronnie Goodwin was almost run over by Jake Oswald (643) as he ran across the track to his bike, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 160iso, f4, 1/2500th, Manual

The late afternoon light peeked in the corner of the stadium lighting up the face of Lee Smith as he took his warmup lap before the race.

Nikon D3s, 400mm with 1.4 convertor (550mm), 1250iso, f4, 1/2000th, Aperture Priority

A sliver of the setting sun splashed across the fans in the crowd which made for a cool pic, below.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Whats a race without shooting some slow shutter speed pans! Below, Dean Wilson flies through the air as the crowd streaks behind him.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 100iso, f4, 1/15th, Manual

I set up a remote camera with a fisheye lens at the base of the finish line jump. It was a tough shot because the bright lights are pretty overpowering in the shot but it still gave me a few cool shots. The below shot was pretty cool I thought.

Nikon D3s, 10.5mm, 6400iso, f3.8, 1/640th, Manual

Below, Andrew Short flies over a jump. I liked the black background on this shot.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 5000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

More pan blur action, this time my victim would be Michael Byrne as he flew through the air, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f5, 1/13th, Manual

After a few minutes shooting pan blurs I decided to do the exact opposite concept and focus on the crowd with the bikes streaking through the frame. Here is the resulting shot.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/100th, Manual

I would once again head to the roof to shoot an overall shot of Sam Boyd Stadium with the sold out crowd. Earlier when I had been up there the stands weren’t filled yet so that was my main reason for going back up.

Nikon D3s, 10.5-17mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Also while on the roof I attempted a really slow shutter speed to shoot the field of riders racing down the straight away on the first lap with the crowd streaking past, here is that resulting frame, below.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/13th, Manual

Most people know me as the photographer who gets all the crash shots, well this night I really wasn’t living up to my name, well until the last race of the evening. I was set up in a spot just trying to get clean shots of riders flying through the air. I didn’t think the spot I was in would have any chance of action happening there but out of nowhere I would watch through my lens as rider Mike Alessi would come down from a jump and nose his KTM 350 right into the ground like a lawndart…

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

To add insult to injury the bike would drive over him as he slid on the ground.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

Alessi would be ok and I would finally have my crash for the day.

The winner of the race would end up being Chad Reed (below) who is lit from the orange glow of some pyrotechnics as he celebrates over the final jump.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/800th, Manual

But the big winner on the evening would be Ryan Villopoto who clinched his first supercross series championship, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

I love the below photo as he pulls up to his celebrating team as one of the crew guys holds a sign that simply says “Champ!”

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f2.8, 1/640th, Manual

And that wraps up my first time shooting Supercross. I had a blast and can’t wait to do it again because this time I will have a much better understanding of the sport so I am not running around aimlessly waiting to see what happens next.

I recently started a Facebook page for my photography. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing as well as my favorite photos from each event, as well as some old favorites from the last 20 years!

4 Responses to “Supercross closes out season in Las Vegas”

  1. Derek says:

    Hi Mark, Were these all shot available light or did you include some flash?

  2. @Derek, no flash used in any of the shots in this blog posting…


  3. phototyke says:

    good to see you shooting Supercross/MX ,as usual great photos, look forward more dirt photos!

  4. fish eye says:

    Very nice pictures !!

Leave a Reply