It’s always a pleasure to visit new countries. 2021’s World Rally Championship calendar consists of 12 different events. We will be traveling from the low temperatures in Arctic circle to +30 degree Celsius in Africa. 2021 calendar is exciting for several reasons. One of those is the fact that we will be able to travel to new and beautiful locations on different continents. In this post I’m going to talk you through my work on an event.
The first and most obvious thing with traveling to a new country is – surprise, surprise – the fact that it’s completely new and I probably have no knowledge about it. So, before making my first steps it’s recommended to explore the web and talk with people who have experiences to share. The idea of that is to get some more insight how to act, what to prepare for etc. It’s always good to ask and find out rather than sit in the darkness with eyes shut and discover everything once I’ve arrived. It could make life much more difficult there, on the location. It helps quite a bit when I learn some facts about the culture, manners and history about the country that I’m about to travel. While doing that I also show to the locals that I respect them and their values. So, bear that in mind.
As a rally photographer I need to do all the necessary bookings myself. This includes airplane tickets, accommodation, car hire and any other relevant things. This also depends on the location. In addition, I need to check the weather to have an idea what to expect and what to pack. Sometimes it’s easy and t-shirts and shorts will do, but weather can be tricky, so usually a mixture of clothing has to be taken with. Fortunately, I don’t have to carry it on my back.
Once I have arrived and sorted out everything, it’s time to have a proper sleep and get ready for the recce. Now, at covid era, the rallies are a bit shorter, but on a normal event it takes minimum two to three days to do the recce. Some of you may ask: what is a recce? Well, it’s a shortened word from the word reconnaissance. Not only the rally drivers are the ones who drive the stages before the event to make notes. Photo- and videographers do the same. We do it to see how do the stages look like and what are the conditions like. The other and obvious reason is to find the most interesting locations on the stages. Recce is a hard job that takes a lot of energy and commitment – mostly due to spending long days in the car. I usually drive hundreds of kilometers and that drains the energy levels. So, it’s vital to have good company, quality music and food to keep the mind fresh. Recce is also the time when I see the most of the country, the people etc. There’s always something new behind the next corner! It can offer me sights which I sometimes never witness again. So, one has to keep the eyes open for fun little details. I remember once doing a recce in Argentina and seeing 3 parrots sitting on top of each other – you don’t see that often now do you?
After doing the recce, it’s time to relax and work on the notes. I need to choose the best locations according to my needs and make a plan for the event. If the roads are new and have different characteristics to them, it takes time. Also, when there are a lot of options. Then it will come down to choices and boy, it could take hours … On Wednesdays we tend to work in the service, but because of Covid-19, it’s not possible at the moment. So once all that’s in place, it’s time to have a rest and start the event.
The racing days are normally very busy filled with the execution of the plan I’ve made for the event. A lot of photo shooting, driving, editing etc. Usually, I start the day before sunrise and arrive back to hotel after sunset. Normally all goes well and there are no miss-ups, but sometimes things happen and it’s vital to be able to make changes to the plan. On those moments I have to be a quick thinker and flexible in many ways. Sometimes I’m lucky and the changes I make work out, but sometimes they don’t and life happens. On those moments I tend to remind myself a quote said by my friend Colin McMaster: “I’m here for a career and not for an event!”.
While working on a rally or any other kind of motorsport event, I’m always in a hurry. I constantly have the feeling that I’m always late with something or somewhere. It’s that feeling that follows me through the event. It thrives and drains me at the same time. I have to be fully motivated, aware of surroundings and have to do list on my mind. It’s a lot to cope with, but it comes with experience.
During the event I don´t have much time to appreciate the local possibilities. Or perhaps only in the evening when I’m able to have dinner in a local restaurant. But bear in mind that, it’s not an opportunity that is always available ... a pizza in a hotel room is not a stranger to me. In that moment it’s also very handy to search the web for shops and restaurants. Nowadays it’s so simple to find a place of interest and with all the reviews it’s relatively easy to understand what’s good and what’s not.
A friendly suggestion: do not leave the hotel without a proper breakfast. You simply need energy to be able to work plus it’s also vital for your brain to work in order to be creative!
After a long and hard day’s work it’s essential to have some rest. Usually, I get around 5-6 hours of sleep during an event, but it’s dependent on the circumstances. I have had events with an average sleep of 2 hours per day.
And that’s pretty much the routine for the week. Sunday is a different day with a load of work. The deadlines of newspapers and magazines for the new week are brutal. Sundays tend to stretch themselves a lot … but once done, I always try to get a dinner on the last day on the location. It’s a wrap up and prize of the work done. This also gives me a good positive vibe from the whole experience.
Mondays are for traveling back home. Those days are often long and exhausting, but there’s a way to make it work. I use that time to do all the necessary paperwork etc. Whatever is needed to be done, gets done. I have noticed that time flies while being occupied and I get enough dopamine from ticking off the things from the to-do list. The bottom line – wherever you are and whatever you do: there are always ways to do something useful for yourself. It’s a cliché, but a very handy one from my experience.