Our first Rally
– Marcel Sigg
This past Saturday we went to our first Rally. We went because we wanted to experience something new in motor sport, something different and because Gugu Zulu convinced me that it would be a good idea.
I met Gugu Zulu a couple of months ago. He was invited to a media day to drive a Legends car and I was taking some pictures of the day for my friend Kevin. As things happen, Gugu went to Knysna for the Hillclimb as a Legends driver and I drove there and back with him. Naturally racing and therefore Rally was frequently the topic of conversation during the 30 hours we spent on the road there and back.
Let me start by saying it was horrible. Everything was horrible. We got out of bed at the crack of dawn and immediately felt the cold front that had moved in overnight. The wind chill factor lowered the outside temperature well below zero and the wind was just adding to the level of discomfort. Not to be deterred so easily we dressed warm, we thought, packed a flask full of coffee, loaded the cameras and lenses into the Jeep and headed out towards Bapsfontein to see this Rally thing in person.
We’ve all seen WRC on TV. The images of Peugeot and Lancia flying through the air, defying all laws of science when they land side-on but drive away unscathed. It’s awesome stuff and this is what I envisioned we’d be able to capture in our own images.
We followed an online guide to a spectator viewing point, mistake number 1. The viewing point is actually a really nice vantage point as one could see a great deal of the Rally stage from one place. Fantastic viewing for spectators! As a photographer it wasn’t the best idea.
At one stage I thought some of them were going to get severely injured as they stood on the outside of a tight right-hander immediately after the railway bridge. In my opinion the outside of any turn is the most dangerous place to stand. The marshal, by contrast, blew his whistle when the contestants approached, sometimes.
The inside of the corner while safer and actually ideal for taking some action shots of the cars going sideways through the corner and kicking up a lot of sand also proved to be more of a pain in the ass for the same reason. All the sand that was displaced by the cars was blown back towards the inside of the turn by the really strong icy wind.
Maggi decided to go to the other side of the bridge where she captured some fantastic images, as usual putting that eye for angles and action to good use. I think she also avoided the sheer sheets of sand blown by the wind mostly, very clever this girl! I really like how the sky and in particular the clouds appear very soft in the image above while the car is crisp and clean. The beauty of the 18-105 Nikkor lens on a D90 body!
By contrast I sat on the inside of the dustiest place on Earth that Saturday and had to snap away between sandstorms and while trying to dodge spectators on the wrong side of the marshals tape! Did I mention this pisses me off? For the love of all things sensible, go stand where you are not a ten pin bowling pin for 1,5 tons of Rally car!
The 2nd mistake I made was choosing my Sigma 150-500 lens. While it is versatile and super quick I still felt somehow I was limited by the lens and in hindsight should’ve used the Nikon 70 – 300 instead. Why didn’t I change lenses since I said I packed them all at the beginning? The sheer volume of dust! It took 45 painstaking minutes to clean the camera body and lens body when we got home before I could remove the 150-500 to put it away. Only after the cleaning did we download the images to see what we had captured.
I moved away from the crowded viewing point, slowly making my way about a kilometer away but the big guns of the Rally had already passed us. Luckily a few guys had punctures which did allow me some extra time to walk to an uncrowded spot, again the shorter lens would’ve been better suited but I think some of the images came out quite nicely. I was able to stand in the road and shoot as they came flying towards me, getting out of harms way well before they were close! That I suppose is the advantage of carrying the 7 kg lens all that way.
Overall I was happy with the shots we got, some would’ve been better with the shorter Nikon lens but overall I’m happy and we learnt something! I suggest if you plan to do this, go in summer and be prepared for the dust.
The beauty of Rally, and all the dust, you really don’t need to be all that good at creating action. The fact that there is so much movement in the picture pretty much allows you to shoot what I call postcards. High shutter speed images that just about anyone can shoot with a semi-decent camera. Of course the flying cars eluded us on this occasion but maybe we’ll be back to capture the fastest brother in Africa flying his VW another time.