The Isle of Man TT is widely acknowledged as the most demanding motorcycle road race on earth for both rider and machine. For a motorsport photographer, the 37.75-mile course offers a wealth of opportunities as well as unique challenges. The opportunities are obvious: stunning scenery, spectacular jumps and spectators literally within arms-reach of the riders as they blast through towns and villages.
The challenge of successfully photographing the Isle of Man TT is not solely about technical ability or gear. Although that obviously helps. As with most things in life experience plays a major part. A bit of location planning and local knowledge doesn’t hurt either.
Once a location has been picked it’s not unusual to find yourself hiking through fields, clambering over centuries old Manx stone walls or wading through mud and water to get to your chosen spot. Once there you may have to deal with barbed wire fences. I have lost more than one pair of jeans to the barbed wire fence. Thankfully nothing more, although I do recall one near miss after finding myself dangling by the seat of my jeans.
After going through all that effort you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings and plan an escape route, preferably one that doesn’t involve barbed wire. Whether you’ll have time to use the escape route should something happen is a different matter.
A 6 lap TT race is completed in around 1 hour 45 minutes and you will have at best 6 chances to get your shot. The average MotoGP race is run over 20 plus laps, lasts about 45 minutes and the photographers have the opportunity to capture images from multiple locations and angles during a race.
If you plan on shooting from more than one location and want to cover the start and end of a race, you may miss a lap or two whilst negotiating the island’s busy roads. The pressure is therefore on to make sure you nail the shot first time. After all your editor is not going to care that you missed the race winner because you were being chased out of a field by a herd of cows!
I count myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to photograph MotoGP over the last few years. However, there really is no place I would rather be than perched on a hedge, camera at the ready. Straining to catch the sound of a screaming engine in the distance, hoping the damn cows stay on the other side of the field…