Le Mans Photographer Guest Post – Andrew Hall
Continuing on from my interview with Photographer Jarrod Moore about covering this year’s Le Mans race, the next photographer to tell his story is friend and fellow Australian Photographer Andrew “Skippy” Hall.
Andrew or Skippy as he is known to many in the Motorsports world has over 25 years of experience as a professional photographer. He is Sydney based but travels the world covering some of the most iconic Motorsport events the world has to offer.
Now over to him to tell you his story.
The Le Mans 24hr is more a week long sporting spectacle than just a race twice around the clock. Steeped in history, glamour, and tragedy this year was the 85th running of the event.
It was Steve McQueen’s movie “Le Mans” that first fueled my desire to one day attend this iconic event. I finally made my first pilgrimage to La Sarthe in 2001.
The 13.689km ribbon of tarmac is hallowed ground spoken of in almost spiritual terms. A majority of the track is still a public road. The circuit may have changed over the years, mostly for safety reasons but the character of the race remains along with the legendary names, Mulsanne, Tetre Rouge and Arnage. The sound of the entire main straight grandstand crowd singing the French national anthem just prior to the race start is still one of those spine tingling moments in world sport. You cannot adequately describe the Le Mans event to someone who has never been, it has to be experienced to be fully appreciated, but a word of warning, if you go once you will want to go every year
What number trip was this for you to Le Mans? Number 16 this year
What Gear do you take to Le Mans? All FUJIFILM X Series Mirrorless camera bodies and a range of XF FUJIFILM Lenses both prime and zoom.
Who were you shooting for at Le Mans? Daily Sportscar website and a number of teams.
When does your race week begin? Generally the Monday before the race with the scrutineering of the cars in the main square of Le Mans town. This where the main setup shots of the cars and teams are done and it’s the first time the general public gets to see the cars so the square is packed with fans.
What is your favorite part of Le Mans? Several favorites, pit lane at night, especially the early hours of the morning and when we get a nice sunrise. The Drivers parade in the town on Friday is always crazy and provides some unique photo opportunities.
How does race day start for you? Race day begins very early, Whilst the race doesn’t start until 3 pm in the afternoon there is a 45min warm up session at 9 am and then the build up to race start begins at about 1 pm. So I generally arrive at the track about 7 am to beat the crowds.
How do you stay awake during the race? Keep moving and drink lots of coffee. The race does go pretty quickly and as long as you keep moving you are generally OK! The most challenging times are just before dawn and anytime you sit down in the media center to edit and send images! That’s when you can find yourself nodding off and head butting the keyboard of your laptop!
How do you approach your race day? You must have a plan! The team of photographers I work with divide up the tasks and photo positions so that we don’t all end up standing next to each other getting similar images, especially for the start. The plan is weather dependent as some photo locations need the weather to be fine, if it’s hammering down with rain, it doesn’t matter where you go or at what time, it’s all spectacular! This year we had hot and sunny conditions for the entire race week for the first time in about 5 years, which provided us with an amazing sunset and sunrise during the race.
Pit lane coverage looks to be challenging to cover, with having to wear a race suit and helmet and limited access to garages, how do you approach it?
Pit lane can be a bit of a scrum, especially during the daytime sessions with a lot of photographers in the pits, most of them know what to do in regards to safety and awareness, some do not! The best time for pit work is the middle of the night when most of the daytime warriors are sleeping! The lane is still very busy even in the early hours and with so many cars coming in an out you have to be vigilant, not easy when you are nearing 24 hrs with no sleep! I go into the pits with a specific shot list, driver changes, particular team pit stops and I coordinate my timings with the assistance of our team of journalists who can tell me when a particular driver is due to get in the car. You don’t want to just wander around the pits in a firesuit and helmet for hours in the heat! Access to the top teams garages is limited, shooting from the red line in forint of the garages is usually the only option but that still provides plenty of photo opportunities. Some of the teams further down the field are only too happy for the publicity and will often invite you into their garages to take photos, some of the Italian teams even offer you coffee!
What was your favorite shot from this year’s event? The Shot below
Where can people find you online?
Facebook – andrew.hall65
Instagram – @andrewh65
Twitter : @skippygimp65