Normally motorsports are focused on one thing and one thing only, the car on track. But there’s much more going on behind the scenes that are much more significant than just the car on track. The Pit crew play just as great a role as the driver. And in most cases the pit crew don’t get nearly as much attention as the drivers. I want to challenge this by making a photobook that shows only the pit crew in action as I feel they are the backbone to the whole event even taking place and normally aren’t even shown in traditional media.
I was photographing at Donington Park on the 1st November at the Britcar final thanks to my friend Josh Bailes. I was photographing a TVR club day at his workplace in Swindon (Neil Garner Motorsport) a few months back, just for fun and to get to know Josh better. I was talking to Josh at the end of the day when he mentioned the Britcar final at Donington Park in a few weeks, he asked if I would want to come along. Ofcource I said yes, I’ve never photographed an official race before, let along a night race. So I jumped at the chance to photograph the race. We spoke to Josh’ boss Neil Garner and sorted out arrangements for the race.
I would be photographing and representing for Neil Garner Motorsport. This is step one into how I got the access to a Media Pass. I would need to sort out some Public Liability Insurance (PLI) in order to have access to a media pass. The coverage needed to photograph at Donington would have to be up to £5m coverage. I’ve had PLI before and i’m used to the way it works and understand why it’s needed. In short, it covers me incase I cause a crash or cause any other damages to the circuit etc. It does not cover my own equipment however, it’s there simply to cover you as a photographer should you ever be in the wrong place. Thankfully it’s hard to be in the wrong place at a circuit like Donington Park with all it’s protective walls and barriers, so i’d be perfectly fine. It’s just something you need, just in case the worst happens. I’d also need a letter from the publication (in this case, I would be shooting for Neil Garner Motorsport) confirming that I am actually photographing for them. This is the letter they sent me.
On the 1st, I got to the track an hour early before the first practice session, to say hi to the team, sign on, have a coffee and work out the proceedings for the day. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I spent most of my time in the pits, talking to people and lurking in the back with my camera snapping away. It was cool that the dunlop tire changers were situated in the pit box next door, they would be the ones putting tyres on rims for all cars throughout the day. With a lorry full of slicks, they were well prepared.
Photographing in the pits was alot of fun, especially with unlimited access. Although it was rather challenging at times, especially due to the poor lighting. I would be stuck at 2.8 the whole time pretty much. It was hard to be unique too, I felt that what I was getting, would be what anyone with a DSLR could get most of the time. So I decided to get closer to my subjects. When the crew were preparing the car for the race, I would get up close and sometimes even lay on the floor with them, trying to get the expressions on their face. I thought it would be better to get close, yet try not to get in the way, as they all have a job to do at the end of the day. So I did, I thought it worked pretty well, rather than just being in the corner with my telephoto.
What problems did I face? Well I regret not getting everyone’s individual portraits at the end of the day. In my head I wanted to line up the subject along the garage door and photograph them with real moody lighting from the overhead garage light. I really wish I had done this. Some of the images are very repetitive, it was hard to get unique images in such a small and concise garage like the one at Donington. I could have taken my time and got better pictures. Most images were rushed if i’m honest. I didn’t want to get in the way, so i’d snap a few then back off out the back for a drink then go and get a few more pictures.
I feel like the images I took are fairly strong, yet could use some improving if I had the chance to shoot again. I think my pictures of the drivers in the car are stronger than the pit crews working. Why is that? I think mentally I thought the drivers were more significant than the crew, so I took more time and thought about what I wanted, looked for different ways of photographing them and got a better image as a result. I am happy with the images i’ve taken, I just need to work out the correct order for the book. As the low isn’t right at the moment.