This graphic image showing the point of impact of an Australian Camaro historic racer is a forceful illustration of the dangers of motorsport. From a car photographer’s viewpoint, shooting motorsport requires you to be ever vigilant, ideally with several addition sets of eyes. One set for shooting and two others to keep you aware of what’s going on around you. We’ve heard of an FIA TV cameraman being hospitalised by a flying wheel in the pitlane earlier this year too, so I thought it might be useful thing to comment on the current situation.
The accident above injured the photographer, requiring some minor treatment at the local accident and emergency department. He was very lucky indeed and was just moments away from being killed. Had the car gone over the barrier, he’d be dead. Had any part of the barrier or car wreckage become detached and hit him, he’d be dead. So, how did it happen that he got himself into that position? I don’t know the photographer, or how experienced he is in that environment, but my best guess is that he saw the whole thing in the viewfinder, became transfixed on getting the shot and hitting the shutter, but not realising that he’d just passed the point at which he should have started sprinting… Too late.
When you see that scene in your viewfinder, you have a split second’s decision to make on how long you have to continue shooting, where the car is heading. And if it’s heading your way, where are you going to run to? In this scenario, where it’s headed right at you, you simply cannot afford to stand still. Get moving. And don’t turn your back and run, you risk being hunted down by the out of control car. Ideally, you want to be running at an angle of ninety degrees to the car.
If the car is out of control and you don’t know where it might finish up, keep watching and if possible, look at the driver’s eyes, where he’s looking. If he’s looking at you, that’s a bad thing. Chances are he’s heading your way and that ‘target fixation’ has locked in. ‘I really hope I don’t hit that guy with the camera” will guarantee that if he’s looking at you, he’ll be headed your way. Run.
Finally, that situation is no place for camera bags. Ideally, wear cargo pants with pockets for memory cards and invest in a belt system like this one by Think Tank Photo. That way, you’re not wasting precious moments gathering up expensive gear, you’re on your toes and running.
Final thing? Wear lightweight shoes with good grippy soles, especially on wet grass. Pre-planning all of these things and being constantly looking for your ‘Plan B’ exit route are what will keep you safe.
I’m sure you will have tips of your own for keeping safe when shooting motorsport, feel free to add that in the comments below.