Lens Guides

Steve Chesler: Trackside with the Sigma 100-400mm

The new Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary lens is a lightweight yet formidable companion for auto racing photography for pros and amateurs alike. I had the opportunity over the last month or so to photograph a variety of auto racing events, from the Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International to several of the famed New England short tracks in Connecticut. I wanted to shoot exclusively with the Sigma 100-400mm as both a pro photographer with credentialed access, as well as as a spectator shooting from public areas of the tracks, to show the versatility of this compact and affordable yet powerful lens.

© Steve Chesler | 2017 With it’s lightweight and outstanding Optical Stabilization, I was able to push the limits of hand holdability and panning blur with the Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary lens while shooting the U.S. Vintage Grandprix at Watkins Glen. 1965 Shelby Cobra 240mm 1/100sec, f11 ISO 100

I began my journey with the 100-400mm with a tour of two of New England’s storied short tracks at Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut. I started the weekend at Stafford to shoot the Wheel Modified Tour from the infield with a press pass. My objective was to test the hand hold ability, while using relatively slow shutter speeds to blur the background while keeping the cars sharp. The long focal length of the lens allowed me to get some great shots along the front straight away and then zoom out as the cars approached me in turn one, all while staying safely behind the concrete barrier. The outstanding Optical Stabilization system of the 100-400mm lens allowed for some impressively low shutter speeds to capture the action.

© Steve Chesler | 2017 Whelen Modified Tour Race winner Ryan Preece (Top) and Dare Stock driver Zack Robinson (Bottom) carve their way through turn one at Stafford Motor Speedway. Hand holding the lightweight Sigma 100-400mm lens allowed for some exceptional panning shots. Top #6 160mm 1/125sec, f9 ISO 400. Bottom #14 165mm 1/50sec, f11 ISO 400.
© Steve Chesler | 2017 The long focal length of the Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary lens was an asset in the pits, lending itself to driver portraits without intruding on their workspace. Justin Bonsignore climbs in to his Whelen Modified prior to qualifying for the Stafford 150. 100mm 1/125sec, f5.6 ISO 400

The next evening I headed down to Waterford Speedbowl as a spectator to test the 100-400mm from a public perspective. The lens’ compact size made it easy to shoot through the fence at the end of the front straight away without being an obstruction to the other spectators in the area. A monopod, although helpful, was not necessary to get head on shots of the cars. The straight on perspective showcased the lenses auto focus ability to track high speed subjects, and the compression of the long focal length made shooting through the catch fence easy, rendering it virtually imperceptible at the lenses widest apertures.

© Steve Chesler | 2017 3921- Shooting through the catch fence at the end of the front straight allowed for dynamic head on shots of the cars. At the widest apertures, the fence is virtually invisible. Top #51 400mm 1/500sec f6.3 ISO 800. Bottom #42 400mm 1/800sec f6.3 ISO 800.

Rounding out my auto racing adventure, I headed to the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes Region of New York for the U.S. Vintage Grandprix at Watkins Glen International. With such a large track, I was wondering if the 100-400mm would have enough reach. Not only was it enough, the results were outstanding in terms of compression, sharpness, focus tracking and compositional variation with it’s versatile focal range. The variety of different types of cars at this event was mind blowing. To see more images from Watkins Glen visit my Instagram page @cheslerphotography or my Chesler Photography Facebook page.

© Steve Chesler | 2017 Ferrari #81 400mm 1/500sec f6.3 ISO 200
© Steve Chesler | 2017 2007 Lola B07/18 LMP1 400mm 1/640sec, f6.3 ISO 200
© Steve Chesler | 2017 1995 Ralt RT41 400mm 1/500sec, f6.3 ISO 200

1954 Lancia D24/5 400mm 1/400sec f6.3 ISO 400

© Steve Chesler | 2017 1954 Lancia D24/5 400mm 1/400sec f6.3 ISO 400
© Steve Chesler | 2017 #717 400mm 1/320sec, f10 ISO 100
© Steve Chesler | 2017 1965 Mustang 290mm 1/125sec, f11 ISO 100


One of my favorite freelance assignments is when I get to photograph cars for RM Sotheby’s Auctions. Most recently I had the pleasure of photographing a 1926 Ford Model T. Using the Sigma 100-400mm lens, I was able to get the compressed perspective that RM Sotheby’s desires along with the close up detail shots required to document the unique characteristics of the vehicle. With a minimum focusing distance of 63 inches, I was able to fill the frame with those important details.

© Steve Chesler | 2017 The above photos of the 1926 Model T show the compression effect of the Sigma 100-400mm when zoomed in. Top: 340mm 1/400sec, f6.0 ISO 500 Bottom: 400mm 1/1600sec, f6.3 ISO 500

In Memory of Ted Christopher, NASCAR Modified legend who was tragically killed in a plane crash on September 16, 2017.

© Steve Chesler | 2017
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