The 2000 Le Mans race was not a high water mark for Porsche. The factory sent no prototypes, so there was only a clamor of GT2 and GT3 911s to carry the banner. Audi, without much competition at the top, finished 1-2-3, and there were no Porsches at all in the top 10. Not the best year to pick to make the pilgrimage across the pond to see the 24 hour struggle. So why show an image from that particular year?
One of the frustrations of shooting races was that many of the most interesting images never got to see the light of day in publication. Either there was no victory/no story, as in this case, or a shot had to be selected for other reasons—like whether there was a particular competitor included in the image, how it would fit with the headlines on the page, whether or not an otherwise less interesting image better told the story of the event, and so on. Those are not a constraint in this column, however, and it gives a chance to focus on an interesting technique, that of combining dramatic blur and sharpness in a nighttime image.
Long Shot in the Dark
The trick is that the camera’s shutter speed, set to manual or shutter preferred, determines the blur of the ambient lights of the track, which can be quite colorful. At perhaps a tenth of a second, a moving camera tracking the car will reproduce streaks and blurs of color. Something not so well lit, like the rear or side of the car (don’t want light going into the driver’s eyes, you know) can be lit by a flash. My now-ancient SB 800 Nikons, at their full power slowest, fire at around a thousandth of a second, and at their fastest, over a forty thousandth. This means that dark objects close enough to the camera to be lit by the “strobe” can effectively be frozen while the track lights are turned into blurs and streaks, perhaps along with well-lit parts of the car. It often helps if the camera is set to have the strobe fire at the end of the exposure, an alternative on many cameras. This is a trial and (a lot of!) error situation, but can produce exciting images when it works; digital, with its immediate feedback, makes it a lot easier than it was on film.
About Leonard Turner and “The Last Turn”
With a background in photography spanning more than 5 decades, Leonard Turner was Porsche Panorama’s chief photographer for some 40 years, shooting several hundred covers for the magazine and countless feature spreads involving racing, new car introductions, portraits, technical illustrations, and a plethora of other topics. In the course of doing this, he has traveled widely over the United States and Europe, visiting the Porsche factories and shooting at many venues, including a portfolio of the world’s greatest race tracks.
Leonard’s photographs have been published in many books including Porsche: Portrait of a Legend; Porsche Specials; Porsche, the 4-Cylinder, 4-Cam Sports & Racing Cars; Sebring, the Official History; Carrera RS; and Porsche: Prototype Era 1964 to 1973. His magazine credits, other than Panorama, include Autoweek, Road & Track, Automobile, Christophorus, and Excellence.
It was with this background in mind that we asked Leonard to open up his archives to share with you here on FLATSIXES.com. His personal files, both digital and film, contain tens of thousands of images of Porsches, Porsche people, and events they shaped and which shaped them. Our plan is to share one of Leonard’s images with you every other week, and the story behind it, in this newest feature, “The Last Turn” here on FLATSIXES.com.
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