Open Dutch Championship 2011

Last weekend the Open Dutch Championship 2011 was held on the TT Circuit. On a very sunny Saturday they practised and qualified, determining the starting grids on Sunday. Sunday started a lot gloomier though, in the morning -while warming up- it was simply poring. So far I hadn’t attended any of it; my plan was to go and see the races on Sunday afternoon, but with weather like that I was having second thoughts.

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World Championship Ice-Speedway 2011 in Assen

Early in March, at the end of the Ice-skating season the track is handed over to those daredevils on motorbikes and tires with huge spikes and the Ice-Speedway truly finishes of the track in the days to come.

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Caro Emerald and Waylon at the TT Festival

Wednesday evening June 23 the ‘TT Festival’ began in Assen. Three evenings of fun, fair and music to entertain the masses that are attending the TT Races on Saturday and the training and qualifying sessions before that. Wednesday was dubbed Soul Night and they had three national soul acts on the main stage. The first was local singer Roan whom I did not see. The next two artists were more up my alley.

The second act of the evening was Caro Emerald with band. They play a mix of ballroom jazz, mambo and a bit of jump’n’jive. Swinging, joyful summer music. Caro’s name is rising quickly in the scene with the album ‘Deleted scenes from the cutting room floor’ doing very well. Internationally her star is also rising when her version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ was discovered in America.

The was a large crowd on the ‘Koopmansplein’ where the main stage was set and the mood was very good. The band played a great and cheery set (any band including a piece of Ennio Morricone filmscore in their live act is a good band in my books), all the hits and singles were played and of course as an encore ‘Bad Romance‘ just had to be played and was received incredibly well by the audience. Fantastic gig.

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After Caro’s encore the stage had to be rebuilt for the next act and the audience was entertained by a DJ set playing some goldies oldies that underwent a dancebeat update and some popular singalongs. But a quarter to twelve it was time for the next act: Waylon, a Dutch soul-singer who participated in ‘Holland’s Got Talent’ (finished in second place) and eventually got signed to Motown. He has a great band with him and though the music isn’t really up my alley, I must say I was impressed. He has a great voice and won the audience over easily.

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Superleague Formula qualifying and knockout finals on TT Circuit Assen

In preparation of the races on the TT Circuit of Assen on Sunday May 16, the Superleague Formula held Qualifying sessions and knockout finals on Saturday May 15. A day earlier there were already some practice sessions and a demonstration in the town center of Assen that was well attended.

Photographing these cars (or any for that matter) is a lot different then photographing motorcycles. Motorcycles are a lot more dynamic in corners as to cars. Also the cars a bigger and getting them interestingly on a photo is not that easy. It might work better if you shoot them from the front, but there were lots of gates preventing decent shots from that point. Luckily we were able to get on the top op the hospitality house so I could shoot some cars a little more from above and vary the shots a bit more. I’d like to try again sometime, but I’d like some different angles to shoot from.

But it was great to see these racemonsters racing over the circuit near my hometown. The noise these car make is insane.

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Superleague Formula additional program on TT Circuit Assen

On Saturday May 15 the Superleague Formula racing championship would be qualifying, but around those qualifying sessions were held additional races.For me it was a great way to practice photographing racing cars. When we arrived the Dutch Mustang Challenge had just begun. Curiously among the mustangs were also some BMW’s racing. I guess they helped fill up the field as there weren’t that many cars. The best looking Ford Mustang didn’t even race by the way, it was displayed on the middle area, looking awesome

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After these races we got on the photo shuttlebus (driven by my dad ;)) and relocated. It beats walking, I can tell you that. At the new location I was better able to track the cars and shoot them while they were  ‘slowly’ going around the corner. The race that started now was a supercart race. They may look small, but these little buggers go up to 240km/h (150m/h)

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The last event I saw was the Dutch Supercar Challenge race. Roaring engines, air-tunnel designed cars and as pit-stops were mandatory, so standing above the pitlane was a fun place to be. Didn’t get many racing images and certainly not many interesting ones, but a view from the pit is -for a change- quite interesting.

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Jelle Paulusma at Bevrijdingsfestival in Assen

On May 5 we (the Dutch) celebrate our liberation here in the Netherlands. On this day 65 years ago WWII ended for us, though nowadays we celebrate liberation in a broader concept. Part of this celebration is music festivals all over the country with some interesting and well attended versions in Groningen and Zwolle. However as I had other work to do today, I chose to visit the one in my town: Assen. This version is somewhat smaller then it’s neighbours, but three names on the bill were very interesting: Krause, Jelle Paulusma and Sandy Dane. Unfortunately Krause had been cancelled. Apparently the organization had mistaken her  for a DJ instead of the electro/discobeats band that she is. So the cancelled her and the chance to finally see her perform live was shortlived. The other two names however were still on the bill.

Jelle Paulusma, formerly of Daryl-Ann, was a bit of an odd name for the festival, seeing as what kind of bands will draw an audience in Assen what bands won’t. And Paulusma is not one of those names (Assen isn’t well for indie acts that work well for towns like Groningen that have an active students-society). That’s nothing to say about the gig that Jelle Paulusma & Friends gave, because that was fantastic. A nearly completely acoustic concert (with only an electric slide guitar on a few songs), great songs and a great voice made it -at least for me- an absolutely terrific performance, but then I always enjoy the Paulusma gigs. The square was dreadfully void of a crowd and it was so cold…. I was shaking so much I doubt the Image Stabilizer of my lens would be able to correct all of my spasms and by the end of the gig my skin had turned about as blue as my denim jacket

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Sandy Dane was originally scheduled right after Paulusma, but as she wasn’t there yet, they switched her gig with that of the band that would originally perform after her. But I was, together with Krause and Paulusma, only interested in Sandy, who’s getting airplay on national radio and seemed interesting to check out. However being as cold as I was, I didn’t look forward to have to wait over an hour and chose to skip it. I’m very sorry Sandy and I promise to come to a gig next time you’re around, but as cold as I was, I just really wanted to go home :)

Superbike World Championship racing day

After two days of free practice and qualifying Sunday April 25 was racing day, time to see if qualifying to pole would actually get a win. Photography proved to be a lot more difficult too. There suddenly was a large crowd enjoying a fantastically sunny day and the races on the track and a lot of people wanted to be in the same spot as me. However, I soon realized that taking the same positions as I had during practice and qualifying also meant that I’d end up with the same kind of photos. And I wanted more racing photos during the races. Unfortunately there weren’t many ‘dogfights’ going on. At least not where I was during race one. I managed some decent photos, but decided I’d scout the track for different positions during the next two races that were scheduled between the first and the second Superbike race

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After some shots during the Supersport and the Parkingo Series I eventually settled on the hill in the ‘Strubben’ corner. It’s an interesting corner not to far from the start/finish line. You see the racers in a fairly slow set of corners, enabling the daring racers to make a move. It already delivered me shots of a crash during the first lap when all racers were still huddled together, fighting for some room on the track (and preferably before the others, thank you very much).  This race was a lot more exciting to watch than the first as there were more groups of racers instead of racers racing separately. All in all I was able to get some more interesting photos and I enjoyed the race a lot. Unfortunately my beloved Ducati’s were mainly guarding the rear this time, Jonathan Rea of the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team (bike number 65) dominated both races.

Superbike World Championship Practice & Qualifying

The main reason for buying the Canon EF 100-400mm lens was to do sports and I wanted to focus on motor-sports first, seeing as the TT Circuit is just a few kilometers away. The Easter races were a great first test, but this weekend was the moment of truth with the Superbike World Championship coming to the circuit. I took Friday of to be able to shoot some photos from various locations. The weather was great so I had all freedom to shot great images. Besides the Superbike free practice and qualifying there were also other racing classes such as the Supersport, Superstock and Parkingo Series, but I wanted to keep the images into the main class. the Friday qualifying of the Superbike ended a bit odd, as there was an accident that stopped the session at 3 minutes 49. The teams were allowed to complete the session and for the few remaining minutes all motors hit the track again. IN the very last corner of the last round, a diver unfortunately crashed his bike in the GT corner. I’ve added that one as a strip

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On Saturday I was fortunate enough to have been allowed the use of a press-pass, allowing me to get a little bit closer to the action. Photographing in these locations was a whole new experience. Being closer to the bikes also means they’re passing a lot quicker. But if you’re able to get them good, you really get them good. Tried a few locations where I’d normally not even be able to come even close to and I was able to try my luck on the press-side of the GT corner. That wasn’t half as easy as I once thought it was. Didn’t really get the results I wanted over there, but a few new experiences have been gained. The ‘Strubben’  area was a great place to work as well, although most photo’s I took there were of the other disciplines. I did get some great close-ups of the Ducati’s though and am mightly pleased with that :)

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While in the GT corner, I also shoot a free-hand panorama of the GT Tribune and the main tribune. Some errors in the tires in front but a nice shot just the same, I think.

Vanessa Peters in De Witte Bal

After the theater gig in Zwolle, Vanessa and band traveled to Assen for their next gig in De Witte Bal. A quick stop at my house and then off to the venue for soundcheck and dinner. The gig started at half past eight. Unfortunately the café wasn’t nearly full and with most people in the rear of the café it almost felt like a private gig for me.

The sound was great and they played another lovely set with a lot of songs of the various CD’s and the odd cover (loved Jolene), but there really ought to have been more people there. The ambiance in a café is a bit different from a theater, but the band does both of them very well. At least it wasn’t very noisy in the café and I had a great evening all in all

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Paasraces at the TT-Circuit in Assen

The opening of the track season at the TT-Circuit of Assen was nearly here and I was a little worried as the past few days as the weather wasn’t very good. To be honest, it’s been pouring. But whatever the weather, on Monday the 5th of April with the Paasraces (Easter Races) the season would be opened. Thanks to the rain I skipped the training session on Saturday, but I really wanted to attend the races on Monday. Luckily the day started bright and sunny. The afternoon brought clouds, a little rain and lots of cold wind, but it was a lot better then in had been the past days.

After a morning training session the races started at quarter to one in the afternoon. They’d start with the sidecars, the the Supermono and after that the classics. These races were fun to watch, but offered little action. The sidecars were way too much spread over the track to offer any suspense. I guess the Classics didn’t want to chance damaging the old bikes. Once the 125cc class entered the track, with a fuller grid, it started to get exciting. The two Dutch Supersport races and the Dutch Superbike also were lots more interesting to watch with a few crashes, some overtaking and more racing in groups.

I tried out various places to shoot photos to avoid getting lots and lots of the same shots and test-shoot some ideas. It was a great practice and I hope I’ll be able to do some more at the end of the month with the Superbike races on their way.

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Oh, and since I ‘happened’ to have the panorama kit with me, I also took a panorama photo at the start/finish line. It was a bit of a quicky as the riders were awaiting to be let loose on the track, so I didn’t have much time to set it up. Because of that it’s a bit sloppy, there are a few errors (can you spot them? ;)). Currently it’s also available in a Quicktime-version over here.

World Championship Ice-Speedway in Assen

Every year in March the World Championship Ice-Speedway is held in De Bonte Wever (formerly known as DeSmelt). As I wanted to take up some other areas of photography besides concert photography and I do like action shots, what better way then to start here?

Ice Speedway is a complete different kind of photography though. First of all it’s cold. And I mean COLD! The races are quick, just three laps around an oval track so one mistake by a racer and he’ll almost certainly have lost. But as a photographer it also means you really have got to pay attention zooming and panning. It took me a couple of heats to find settings I could work with and even then quite a few photos completely failed. The strobe had trouble getting recharged in time due to the cold and finding the shutterspeed to work with wasn’t very easy either. But all in all I’m quite happy with the results and even managed to shoot a crash in a few shots (the rider got away only a bit shaken). Here’s the results

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My dad -a seasoned motor-sports photographer- was also there and will post photos on his site too.

Panorama photos of Assen

I recently posted a blog on my new Nodal Ninja 3 panorama head for my camera gear. However, I hadn’t really found the time to test the device. For those that thought (like me a while ago) that it was mearly a matter of installing the head, hooking up the camera and shoot… well it’s not really like that. Not at all. You need to do some work first to get the right shots.

In the past week I read reviews and tutorials, learned about the Nodal point (you set up the panorama head so the lens is rotating around it’s nodal point, this assures seamless stitching of photos) and fount the nodal point for a few of my lenses. I first tried a set of my livingroom and then went in search for the right software. This wasn’t that either. TheCanon Photostich program turned out not to work in Apple Snow Leopard, the freeware software Hugin made photos that looked like they were thought up by Esher of H.R. Giger and not like a panorama at all. Also the Photomerge option of Photoshop didn’t work at all, it could not make any decent panorama of the supplied photos. Eventually I found PTGui and that’s just incredible.

So now that I had a working setup and the means to produce a panorama, it was time to take the kit outside. I first did a simple walk just outside of Assen and tried a few with my 15mm fisheye and also one with my 50mm lens (different Nodal point, but I remembered what it was). However, I also wanted to try a few with buildings, so I headed to the center of Assen and shot some over there.

The way it works is really simple. Setup the tripod, make sure it’s level and shoot the photos all the way round. I shot 18 (at 20 degrees intervals) per photo. Back home I fed the photos into PTGui and that turned them into lovely panoramas. Here are a few that I uploaded to Flickr (check them there for large views):

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There are a few afterthoughts… I really need another tripod. My Manfrotto 055 is a great tripod, but way to heavy and large to easily carry around. Also a remote trigger would be better to make sure I don’t shake the camera when taking the photos. oh… and I had just thought that a macro lens in combination with a panorama head when I found the settings for the 100mm Canon macro lens with the Nodal Ninja set. So don’t be surprised if that lens is added to my collection at some point this year ;) All in all I’m very happy that the Nodal Ninja 3 works so well and I can’t wait for the summer to come and to find some wonderful locations to make more panoramas.