Moto Photo: The Outside of Redgate

When you ride a circuit you’ve been to before, as far as my understanding goes, you’re supposed to have already worked out the best thing to do at each corner so you can try and do it exactly the same every time thereafter. When you’re paid to shoot someone riding a circuit, following the same principle will mean you probably won’t be going back to any circuit any time soon. Whether this is a desirable outcome is up to you, but for now we’ll assume you’re still enjoying track photography.

If you’ve ever tried to get a shot of a friend or favourite racer from the outside of Donington’s Redgate corner, you’ll know that you have to stand a long way from your subject. I’d say it’s about the limit if you’re looking for a quality result (stitching on gloves and leathers visible) as long as there’s no heat haze. As this was a cold day in November the view was as clear as 90m of air ever is. On a normal sunny day it won’t matter what kit you’ve got, nothing defeats the wobbliness caused by air rendered as warm treacle.

It’s about the limit of me and my kit too. A 300mm lens on a 1.4x converter on a D300s, cropped probably another 1.5x in Lightroom, so the equivalent of nearly a 1000mm lens on a 35mm format camera, or looking through a pair of 20x binoculars. It’s a bit of a handful, and the distance means that following the rider requires an awkwardly slow panning movement. There would be better ways to get a similar result, all of them very expensive, and as I said to the marshall who queried my choice of gear, if I didn’t already have it I wouldn’t buy the same again. But it got the result, I don’t have to work like this very often, and usually physics constrains the outcome more than any equipment deficiencies anyway.

I prefer this shot, which is earlier into the turn. I like the long shadows and the background. I think it gives a far better sense of place, and the way the curb at the inside of the track appears from the left, with the rider’s head tilted towards it, has a much stronger narrative implication. You can imagine the rider looking through the apex to spot the exit, so there’s something about to happen rather than it just being a bike on a track.

On this occasion, I’d say that was the best way to tackle Redgate. But what about next time? To change it up I’d really have to do a lot of thinking so it might tell a different story, or hope for clear air and use super-expensive kit for the super-close crop… assuming, of course, there is a next time.


Jonny Gawler