The thoughts of Chris Gurton on motorsport, his photography, his work and his life in general. The thoughts, views and opinion's expressed in this blog are those of Chris Gurton and not necessarily those of any publication that he contributes to.

Behind the Fence

I often get told two things during a race weekend while I’m there taking photos by members of the public. That I am lucky to have a media bib because you can get great photos and that it is hard to get decent photos from the spectator area. One of these statements is true to a certain extent and the other is false.

Yes, I am lucky to have a media bib. However I certainly don’t take it for granted and I deem myself very fortunate, but it is not without a lot of hard work that I have been given the opportunities I have. On the flip side, being able to take great photos is down to your own ability, creativity and making the most of the situations and opportunities you get. I’m not saying my ability or creativity is great though. I made a conscious decision to really push myself harder this season, try new things, work on areas I wasn’t so good at and be more creative and if I didn’t improve then I would consider the situation at the end of the season and decide whether to continue or not.

I made a decision to push myself and improve my photography and work on areas I wasnt so confident with. One of those areas was within the pit lane. A place I now spend more time in than I used to.

There are a lot of great photographers I admire and are the driving force for me to push myself and explore new possibilities when it came to my motorsport photography. I am always learning new things and it’s great to continually try things to see what works and what doesn’t. I would rather have a handful of really great photos from a weekend than 200 average ones. I am never one to blow my own trumpet, in fact, an ex girlfriend told my mum the day she walked out on me that she hated the way I am not confident enough in my own ability. Maybe so, but I would rather other people judge my work and decide if it is any good or not. This season it seems the general census of opinion is that my work has and is continuing to improve and now I can return home on a Sunday evening and be really pleased with some of my images. Yes, I still take some duff shots and not all of my experimental images work. I just don’t share them.

This leads me on to the second of the two statements. You can get good photos from the spectator areas. You just need to explore a little more to find the right places. A good photo doesn’t necessarily mean a close cropped image of a car or bike. A good image is something that is pleasing to the eye. I like images that capture atmosphere, surroundings and the mood of the event even if I may not necessarily be as good at that than others. I like images that tell a story and show creative thinking. Yes, photography is subjective like all art forms whether it be pictures, sculptures or music. What one person likes, another may not so I am not saying you have to agree. But if you think you can’t get any good photos from the spectator side of the fence, maybe you need to think about whether photography is for you.

I set myself a little project to try and prove that you can take good photos from the spectator areas at circuits.

So with all this in mind, whilst at Brands Hatch for the Britcar, Formula 2 & GT Open Championships at the weekend, I set myself a little challenge. I decided to spend a little time in the spectator areas to see what I could come up with. Brands Hatch is one of my favourite circuits and probably the best UK circuit for the keen amateur photographer as there are many good places to photograph from behind the fence. Especially on the Grand Prix loop. I know this as I used to be one of the many spectators with my camera taking photographs at race weekends. It is where I honed my somewhat basic skills and learnt a lot about motorsport photography.

During a couple of the sessions, over the weekend, one of the GT Qualifying sessions on Saturday and the Formula Junior Race on Sunday, I went and stood on the inside of Druids hairpin to see what I could do. Despite the odd looks I was getting from some of the public and the woman who seemed convinced I was taking photos of her whilst I set and locked the focus on my camera I enjoyed myself. Working with the surroundings and capturing the cars from a different perspective, I feel I managed to get some nice photos.

Despite the odd looks I was getting, it was worth it. This is one of my favourite photos from the weekend.

I’ve put some of the photos together in an album on my Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page here.  I hope to add to the album throughout the season and I also hope that maybe I have helped quash the belief that you can’t get good photos from behind the fence. So for all those keen photographers out there, don’t be afraid to be different and try new things. Make the most of the places you can get to, the surrounds around you and do your own thing. Don’t get jealous of the guy next to you who has expensive brand new equipment and a top of the range camera and lens. A lot of my equipment is second hand and there are a couple of photographers I really admire who don’t have the latest or the really expensive gear and their photos are fantastic. Remember, it’s not the size of your lens that counts, it’s what you do with it.

But most of all, have fun and enjoy your photography.


One response

  1. A great post, Chris. I do agree that you don’t always need a media pass to get great shots – but some circuits are more of a challenge than others.

    I’ve also tried to use the environments more in my shots this season. Often using wide lenses when you’re far away can create a great sense of scale, and looks especially good at tracks with decent scenery.

    Have you been to Cadwell park before? This is probably the most picturesque track in the UK, as there’s lots of undulations and lush green grass and forests.

    July 19, 2012 at 9:35 am

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