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 a unique challenge.
The opportunities are obvious: stunning scenery, spectacular jumps and spectators literally within arms-reach of the riders as they blast through towns and villages.
It goes without saying that capturing a sharp image of a 200bhp motorcycle can be tricky even when they are not moving particularly quickly. In my opinion, the difficulty level at the TT is greater due to the sheer speed the bikes are travelling at.
The key to successfully photographing the TT has nothing to do with technical ability or gear, it is, as with most things in life, down to experience – although 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 the chosen spot. Barbed wire fences have claimed more than one pair of jeans in the past, thankfully nothing more in my case, although I do recall one near miss after dangling off a barbed wire fence 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.
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. 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.
If you plan on shooting from more than one location, and want to cover the start and end of a race, then 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 the 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 a handful of MotoGP races 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…
Photos: © 2013 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.