Motoring Photographer – Close to the Action
The ‘Live Action Arena‘ is set in one of the vast halls that make up the National Exhibition Centre, with a large spectator stand along the length of the hall holding some 1500 people. Needless to say, if you want the best ‘action’ shots you don’t sit in the spectator stand, you have to get a bit closer, and if I was any closer I’d be sat in a passenger seat! When I arrived, I had the obligatory ‘if anything bad happens, you’re on your own!’ speech from one of the marshals who then led me to my track side position. All that I had to protect me from speeding motors was a concrete barrier about a foot thick and a foot and half high, just enough to crouch behind leaving your very expensive camera gear and soft, vulnerable head open to attack from flying bits of tyre, dirt and whatever falls off the cars!
I crouched precariously behind the barrier, trying not to get in the spectators way whilst allowing myself enough room to move to get the shots. With the ever-changing lighting in the arena, I would have no hope of changing settings quick enough to capture the action, so I slipped the camera into ‘auto’ whilst I concentrated on self preservation. It’s no exaggeration that being this close to cars flying past at 60-70mph+, if anything goes wrong and it leaps a barrier, you’re very dead! Though, surprisingly, that wasn’t my biggest fear, what scared me the most was the much higher probability of a piece of metal, wheel or wing coming off one of the cars and finding a direct route to my head (or my camera, us photographers are very protective about these things!).
The biggest problem you face as a photographer covering any event is that you must get the shot, at all costs! Calling the editor and saying ‘I’m a little bit scared’ is not an option! Even though there was a strong possibility of a trouser accident, I set about leaning over the wall to get some shots and was greeted with a large face-full of flying tyre debris and a potent mix of tyre smoke & exhaust fumes. I can’t lie though, it is exciting, but you do start to realise how vulnerable you are when an out of control Petter Solberg starts throwing his WRC car at the barriers in a bid to impress the crowds. After knackering the clutch and stalling a few times, the crazy Norwegian went all out to impress the fans and clattered the barrier opposite me and then headed straight at me! ‘Where are the pictures?’ I hear you ask, by this point I’d already taken cover, a world rally car in the face would make a great picture but my hair didn’t look great this day so I thought I’d give it a miss and hid!
There was plenty of opportunity to capture the action from a safe distance. With a great selection of cars, buggies, supercars, stock-cars, motor-cross bikes, a monster truck and even racing taxis, there was enough to shoot! I love being around cars, I love the sounds, the smells and most of all, I love taking pictures of them. The occasional lump of rubber hitting me in the head is a small price to pay for getting this close to the action, a unique perspective that not many people will ever get to experience, even if they were crazy enough to actually ‘want’ to!
Just in case you are unsure how close some of these cars were, check out the video below and see for yourself! I still have the smell of burning rubber in my nostrils (and some of that rubber lodged in my head!)
Sitting on the edge
The danger didn’t stop there, watch the video below for more of the live action, I love watching cars be thrown around as much as anyone else but when they are being thrown directly towards you, things get serious!