Report From The Trenches – Manuel And The Canon – Part Five


Report From The Trenches – Manuel And The Canon – Part Five

Well, it has been a week since the motor sport workshop up at Barbagallo raceway, and you’ve been able to read some of the things that Manuel Goria told us about the techniques of shooting. Now here’s the final bits of advice regarding the physical business of chasing cars.

a. Where do they race cars? At car race courses. Some are good places for pictures, and some are awful ( guess which category Barbagallo falls in…). When you are in the good looking place, show the good looking place a lot in the pictures. When you are in the dump, concentrate on the car and blur or fuzz out the backdrop. You may need to use a longer focal length for it. Get up high and get down low.

b. The race course organisers and the industry rely on photographers and videographers to advertise their events and draw money to the sport. But they can be strangely partisan when it comes to who gets access to the place. Video crews get more favour than still shooters in the pit areas.

c. Work is required – it is not just a case of plopping down at one point and watching automotive art pass in front of you. Manuel walks about 20 Km per race finding new positions and scenes of activity.

d. Get close to the fence. If you are lucky there will be a hole in it that you can see through, or at least enough image coming through wire mesh spaces to allow you to optically bypass it. Vertical fence elements are easier to avoid than horizontal ones. If someone would cut a hole in the barrier…

e. Lousy weather is always a possibility. Racing cars and wet weather are spectacular, even when they are racing safely. But the business of keeping the camera equipment operating is part of the problem for both manufacturers and users of professional equipment.

The expedients that others adopt – rain sleeves, ponchos, raincoats, housings, etc. are a nuisance to Manuel. He does without them. He is largely waterproof and has come to depend upon the higher-end Canon professional bodies and lenses to have a similar degree of water-resistance.

Other photographers in other divisions of the sport would do well to take note. Water penetration is one thing, dust and dirt strike is another. Anyone who has ever shot pictures at the speedway knows what I am talking about – a shower of gravel is bracing but no good for expensive gear. Likewise for  the shooters who do the drag races, burnout comps, and drift events. Our sensors are delicate things and there is a lot of particulate matter in the air in these situations. No wonder Manuel says that they have Canon and other makers’ service representatives at the big car races to do sensor cleaning each time.

f. You think the cars are fast? Consider how fast the photographers have to be in reviewing, selecting, editing, and enhancing their images at the events to get them to the publisher’s desk in time for consideration. The amateur has a week to produce a masterpiece – the artist a lifetime. Manuel and the rest of the workers get about a half hour after standing around all day in the sun or rain.

Better him than me…

Now for a final note on this event – a note from the point of view of a neutral observer*. I think the paying customers got fantastic value for their money this time.

Leave out the lunch and the give-aways and the chance to shoot with a zillion lenses and the free prints that Sheryl was offering for the best images of the day. ( Up to A2 if they wanted…). Leave out the special prices on Canon gear that Saul promised – and people could take him up on that for a week. Leave out the fact that the Porsche owners were pushing hundreds of thousands of dollars of toy cars around the track all day. The real value was Manuel.

He is a true professional in several ways. He is in a tough business. He can do that business to a high standard, repeatedly, and to order. He can profess – that means speaking and teaching his knowledge. And bless him, he does. No hiding back trade secrets for fear of people finding out how to take his job away. No mystery talk to make himself look exotic. Just plain speaking, well organised, and to the point. It was a pleasure to listen to him.

Note: I have no idea whether he is an award-winner, international icon, or superstar ambassador. We weren’t told that. He was not covered in gold medals like a wine bottle or a North Korean general. He did not puff himself or his business nor ask us to subscribe to his politics, religion, or emotional state. He just showed us how to take good racing car photos.

That makes him the best photo lecturer I have seen in about thirty years.

*Not that neutral. I got lunch out of it…

Heading image: every one of those lens or body caps represents a photographer out there in the boiling sun taking pictures of race cars. Canon and Camera Electronic know how to have a good time.

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