I spent quite some time deciding what to pack when I went to the 24 Hour Race at Le Mans. For the few months prior to going I gave considerable thought to what I would to take with me and how it would be best to pack that which I needed.
Hours before I left the house I finalised my selections, packed the Canon digital gear with a long lens bias, and the EOS3 (its analog counterpart). I put the big Fuji and the GoPro in, and vacillated about the Hasselblad.
This left me about an hour to sort the other bits out, the tent, the bedding, the clothes, and the food. In the end I arrived in France without waterproofs or suncream, without the coffee pot I’d planned to take and without my field recorder, monopod, or sling. I was lucky to be travelling with more organised friends.
The Hasselblad also didn’t make it, as I was headed to the car the realisation that I might be walking significant distances with three camera bags, plus a bunch of other stuff, dawned on me and I decided to leave the ‘Blad behind.
The drive down was punctuated with stops for food and fuel where we would find ourselves surrounded by an assortment of glorious machines. One petrol station held a convoy of a Viper, a Mustang GT Fastback and a personal favourite of mine, an AC Cobra. Another included a Ferrari who’s owner had just been escorted to a cashpoint by the gendarmerie to pay a €1500 fine for speeding. (If you can’t pay they keep your keys). As we drove I shot chunks of the journey with the GoPro, suckering it to the roof, bonnet and windscreen of the car.
Anything that wasn’t actual motorsport got shot on film, so Friday’s pitwalk got the Portra treatment. The digirig has become a bit of a workhorse of recent, the temptation to break it out for fun stuff, or stuff where film makes sense has lessened. However, once the race began it became a welcome chance to reengage with it. I was reminded of the power, technology and most importantly the images it can produce. I borrowed a 300mm prime for the weekend and used it in concert with my 70-200 paired with a 2x teleconverter.
There is a moment, prior to going on one of these adventures, where I fantasise about the types of images I will be able to get, the quality and impact of the pictures is something that I’m rarely able to live up to. This is for many reasons, it is about skill level, attention to detail, equipment capability, luck, and finally, access.
Prior to visiting the Pantheon, (or basically most of Rome), I had all sorts of fantasies about the pictures I would take, only to find when I got there that it was packed with tourists, (like me). In the case of the race I found myself safely ensconced behind catch fencing, or on the wrong side of the track from the braking zone, or as one of the record number of 263,000 attendees, in a morass of churning race fans.
On Tertre Rouge we found a spot where the racing line kicked cars onto a part of the track that we could see from over the fencing, and then set about trying to nail the pan. With different classes of car travelling at different speeds it took some time to get just the right amount of movement, and to pick out the top players, the favourite cars and to burn slowly in the French afternoon heat.
The noise and speed make for quite a spectacle, and yet the punishing length of the race can render that spectacle almost mundane. As we moved around the track we spent some time in the Grandstand, at Porsche curves and journeyed to both Mulsanne and Arnage to see the sun come up in the third quarter of the race, shooting most of the time digitally and slotting in some shots of the action with the GoPro.
After trying to catch up with some of the missed sleep during the race the mooch home across France provided another chance to get out in new surroundings with the EOS3 and the GW690, and to shoot more stuff with the GoPro.
I been surrounded by pro-leica talk of recent, and noted their heavy presence at lndwlk, so much so that I felt out of place without one. I had begun to drink the cool-aid, to believe the hype. When I spotted the shot above I was super excited to grab it with the GW690, before finding that between the minimum focus distance and the railing in front of the viewfinder I was out of luck.
In the end I took it with the rather lovely 50mm f/1.2 and the EOS3. My favourite photo of the trip was the one below, shot not on portra, and not on any of my SLRs, but on Superia, a film no longer available on the 120 format, and shot on the big Fuji rangefinder.
Once again the point is proven, fastidious and deliberate dedication to a particular modus operandi, technology or style, can breed stagnation, and that the phrase horses for courses goes beyond the just camera. (Even as continuous experimentation diverts the accumulation of expertise). A mix of mental focus and mental bokeh is what is required…
The GoPro video is still in bits on my desktop, but a fair swathe of the pictures from the trip are here should you wish to see more. I’m very excited about a new adventure, complete with a new diversion, but more about that next month.