Living the Dream – A Photographer’s Story: Qatar

03/29/2014 @ 4:47 pm, by Tony Goldsmith20 COMMENTS

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Our friend Tony Goldsmith, you have enjoyed his work from last year’s Isle of Man TT, is back with a new column for Asphalt & Rubber.

Finding himself made redundant at his regular job, Tony is currently on an adventure of a lifetime: picking up a camera and becoming a full-time photographer in the MotoGP Championship. 

Tony will be sharing with us his journeys, thoughts, and of course his pictures from the 2014 MotoGP season, which we hope will serve to be an inspiration for others hoping to achieve a lifetime goal, as well as providing some insight into what goes on behind the lens in the premier class of motorcycle racing. Enjoy! – Jensen

Imagine if just for once you didn’t have to stick to your usual nine-to-five job. Instead you were able to do the one job you’ve always wanted to do, but any number of things (it’s usually money) have stood in the way.

This is exactly the situation I found myself in six months ago when the company I had worked at, for the last 14 years, decided to close, making everyone redundant.

This decision did not come as a surprise; in fact, I had been hanging around for the last few years hoping that it would happen, as I had a plan. Fast-forward six months and I have just finished photographing the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar. The plan is starting to unfold.

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I suppose the seeds were planted in the build up to the 2007 Isle of Man TT, when I purchased my first digital SLR camera. Back then the full extent of my ambition was to have a picture published, and to get my hands on a white TT media bib.

Never in my wildest dreams would have I have imagined that seven years later I would be about to photograph a full MotoGP season. But here we are, one race down and seventeen to go, or in my case fifteen to go as Argentina and Japan are going to push the budget too far.

My planning for this season started as soon as the 2014 schedule was announced, in fact it’s how I filled most of my remaining days in the run up to my leaving date. It’s also pretty much all that I have talked about for past six months which has probably driven my friends crazy.

One by one though things started to fall into place, first the hotels were booked, then the flights. New equipment was purchased, after all, if I was going to do this I was going to do it right.

Throughout the planning stages one thing above all others concerned me about the coming season…..driving in Qatar. I had read some pretty damming reports on the standard of driving there (all of which were true), one Telegraph journalist referred to one of the roundabouts as “The Roundabout of Certain Death”.

I decided to contact experienced MotoGP photographer Scott Jones whom I’d met at Laguna Seca in 2013 through a mutual friend to see if he wanted to carpool. To my great relief Scott offered to do all the driving, my job was to try and keep him sane with interesting conversation. Hopefully Scott will have recovered by the time MotoGP rolls into Austin.

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I arrived into Qatar late on Tuesday, jumped in a cab to go to the hotel which didn’t go very well as the driver had no idea where it was.

After 10 minutes on the phone to his friends, none of whom appeared to know where it was either I suggested (as best as I could, as I don’t speak Arabic) that he ring the number on the booking confirmation I’d given him. Turns out the hotel was new.

I met up with Scott on Wednesday and we headed to the track to collect our credentials and photograph the official unveiling of the new Moviestar Yamaha livery as well as the pre-event press conference. The serious business getting underway on Thursday.

One thing that I hadn’t properly considered before hand was the timing of everything. While I obviously knew it was run in the evening, I didn’t fully appreciate the impact that would have on me.

Each day we would leave the track after the final session, and Scott would drop me back at my hotel. I’d then work until three or four in the morning, up at eleven(ish), work some more then back to the track at three to start again.

Having already made a contact like Scott has made settling into the predominately Spanish and Italian speaking MotoGP media center so much easier. By the end of the weekend with Scott and fellow US based photographer Andrew Wheeler (whom I’d also met before), I felt like I’d been part of it for years and I thank them both for making me so welcome.

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As for my results from the weekend photographing MotoGP at the Losail Circuit is a challenge. Firstly and most obviously everything is run at night under floodlights, which is a real test of your equipment. Secondly the huge run-off areas made shooting on the outside of turns almost impossible, or at best very limited.

I also had to get to grips with my new equipment, and I did have one or two teething problems including a mysterious “L” appearing in the cameras display, which turned out to have locked the shutter speed, thankfully I managed to figure out how to switch that off.

The Grand Prix of Qatar was not my first time shooting a MotoGP weekend, as I had been fortunate enough to receive single round accreditations in the past. However, this time was different, I wasn’t away for a weekend with friends. I was there as a professional to give this my best shot, and prove to myself above all else that I was good enough to be there.

Looking through my results from the weekend I achieved what I set out to do. They aren’t perfect, and if I had the chance to do it again I would shoot the races from different locations, but overall I’m very happy with the results.

My thoughts now turn to Austin in two weeks, but before that I have a trip to New Orleans followed by a short road trip to Texas to look forward to with my better half.

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Photos: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / TGF Photos – All Rights Reserved

Tony Goldsmith is an Isle of Man based freelance motorcycle racing photographer specialising in the Isle of Man TT races. He has also covered selected rounds of the British Superbike Championship and MotoGP. His online archive is available at www.tgfphotos.com and he can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Comment:

  1. Stoked to follow this journey Tony! Great photos too.

    See you in Austin buddy.

  2. Ksw says:

    Tony,
    Congratulations! Don’t sell yourself short mate.
    Images are amazing!
    See u in Austin

  3. n/a says:

    Close-ups of all bikes throughout the season, okay?

  4. Pascal Bompard says:

    Nice work, Tony. Good on ya for making the leap of faith. Already enjoying seeing MotoGP through your eyes.

  5. Paul McM says:

    Tony has talent! Kudos!

    Love the shot of the five bikes in the corner. That’s a classic. If you click and look at the larger version, you can see Valentino’s eyes looking up the track. He rode a great race — I didn’t see any mistakes.

    I also love the photo of the Qatar skyline. The goofy shaped skyscrapers look like something out of a sci-fi movie.

  6. Foz says:

    Superb! Well done – and a great success story.

  7. L2C says:

    The B&W photo makes me imagine that in a parallel universe, Rossi is a trucker who dreams about racing motorcycles. It’s one of the best photos of Valentino I have seen. It’s a great one.

    Looking forward to more, Tony.

  8. L2C says:

    Living the dream indeed.

  9. Thanks everyone for the kind words, I hope you all enjoy a little insight into what goes on behind the camera, hopefully my writing will improve as the season unfolds as well.

    Jensen and Kevin, I look forward to catching up with you in Austin.

  10. Nice, Tony. Good start to the season. I enjoyed your TT stuff and the cultural shots add to the feeling of the event. It added a lot to the Qatar series.

  11. KSW says:

    If you’ve not looked at Tony’s gallery, start here. It’ an example of how taking chances pays off.
    Tack sharp, composition, the lot.

    http://www.tgfphotos.com/p209482776/h13e72c1a#h13e72c1a

  12. paulus says:

    Best of success with your dream.
    Well done for taking the chance… enjoy it.

  13. Lance1098 says:

    Tony congrats to you for getting to live your dream. The first entry was terrific looking forward to the new photographers perspective on it all. Give us some inside on both your photo choices, equipment etc as well as life on the circuit. Looking forward to it all.
    Much success.

  14. Gutterslob says:

    Take a bow, sir. Take a bow.

  15. dc4go says:

    Great work Tony you are the man!! Thanks for the AMAZING shots!

  16. Pat says:

    I hate you.

    Now that I have THAT out of my system I’ll admit I’m just envious. Great shots, especially under difficult conditions! Love that photo of Rossi.

    Keep up the good work – best of luck to you this season.

  17. smiler says:

    So Dan not doing any work for A&R this year?

  18. Nice work, Tony, and nice to have you as a fellow A&R contributor. I’ve almost recovered from driving in Qatar, but I hope the shaking hands will be gone by the time we get to Texas…

  19. Great reading and a fantastic set of images fella, enjoy the ride.

  20. Paula says:

    Hi Tony, I have just looked at your photo’s, (they are on Rachel’s FB) and what amazing photo’s they are. Well done and I really hope you go far in your career. Well done again .