Making the best of MSA Accredited Media access.....

01st March 2018

This Blog explains some challenges to photographing Motorsport… and a couple of the solutions I came up with recently.

It was whilst photographing the first Resolution-IT Guernsey Rally that I used a little ingenuity to help myself get the shots that I wanted.

After the recent tragic loss of life on Scottish Rally sections the first challenge in Motorsport photography is to acquire permission to get close access to the track. The MSA has revised and tightened up how they allocate Media access with a process that can perhaps best be described as a classic ‘chicken or egg’ puzzle.

Accreditation is only offered to published photographers… forget it if you are a ‘Facebook Photographer’. Forget it if you are 'working' for a ‘Sponsor’ or competitor or simply running your own website selling pics. You have to prove that your work has already been published in ‘paid for’ media and that you have been assigned, by a publication, to take pics at this event.

This is where the ‘chicken or egg’ comes in. For your work to be accepted for publication it will need to be dynamic and immersive… this almost always requires you to be close to the action… but without accreditation you won’t be allowed that access… so how do you get published in the first place?

I’ve had many conversations over the years with enthusiastic amateurs who are VERY frustrated by this fact. I can only advise that they stick with it and a ‘lucky break’ might come along.

I’m fully aware and appreciate that I’m privileged to have MSA Accreditation. I certainly don’t take it for granted and I make sure I maximize this advantage where-ever I work… read on.

At the first Resolution-IT Guernsey Rally I was given MSA Media access to photograph the action from track side for four publications. Having attained this access it was important that I made good use of it and I’m sharing a couple of the ‘tricks’ I used to enhance my pics and make best use of my limited time - firstly making use of modern technology, then later in the day the technology couldn’t have been more basic!

The first example: I rarely enjoy having my own picture taken but on this occasion it was fun! Even with accreditation the access to photograph the Resolution-IT Guernsey Rally was still restricted and though it allowed me enhanced access I still needed to maximize that opportunity. The problem was that the competitors had just four runs through each section… so this limited the chance to take a variety of shots from different angles. This was compounded by my intention to vary my pics by moving between Sections (when the track wasn’t ‘live’). This movement between Sections meant that during the travel I'd not be capturing any action at all! Maybe a waste of valuable shooting time?

This is where a bit of technology helped me out - by doubling the shots taken at a single corner. Take a look at the ‘double’ picture above. These two shots were taken on one of the afternoon’s sections at exactly the same time by using a second radio controlled camera. By the way the photographer in the top picture is me... in my own shot. Clever, eh! Two different viewpoints for the price of one. Bargain!

The second ‘trick’ I used was as simple as it gets… at least once I had thought of it! Take a look at the picture below as it shows the problem.

The Rally stages ran into the early evening and as it’s February they finished in complete darkness. Eventually it was near pitch black as I don’t think electricity has reached the narrow back lanes in Guernsey yet! There certainly isn’t any street lighting!

So I was faced with the challenge of photographing the speeding cars with the only light coming from their powerful headlights. The problem was that flash photography isn’t permitted as it could distract the drivers. My first couple of shots after the darkness descended quickly showed that as well as coping with the speed of the cars and the high contrasts of the scene the side view of the cars were just black silhouettes. The photographs were unusable. Then I had a brainwave. I had a small LED cycle lamp in my camera bag. Would that be able to light the side of the cars?

I found a convenient twig high up on a track-side tree to attach the torch to and aimed the tiny light onto the road where I expected the cars to pass... then I continued shooting. Amazingly, and a credit must be given to the class-leading low-light quality of the Nikon D5 camera, this low level of additional light seemed to be just enough to do the job. This simple work-around enabled me to capture another range of pics adding variety to what was a long and tiring days’ work… but fulfilling too.

If you’re a photographer yourself you might be interested in the settings that I ended up using for the night-time pics. They prove to you that even with my added torch light it was still very dark! These two examples really misrepresent just how dark the scene was. But that's what photographers do... we enhance reality ;-)

Pics were shot with these settings:
Camera: Nikon D5 (the low light master!)
Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED at f2.8 and 15mm
Shutter speed: was at 100th sec
ISO 12800

It should be obvious (hopefully) which the ‘unlit’ shot is (above)!

Here are a couple (below) showing how just adding a little extra torch light to the shots turned them into keepers.

I’d love feedback to this short Blog with stories of how you have improved your chances of returning back to the studio with usable pics taken in challenging circumstances.