Need For Speed
Tuesday February 5th, 2013
by Jared Gruenwald
UK-based automotive photographer Dom Romney shoots in the fast lane. Not your average fast last though—we’re talking bone-rumbling, stomach-churning, sensory overload F1 racing fast lane.
Dom was raised by what he refers to as “Petrol Heads, who were always building hot rods in the garage.” So it was only natural that when his interest in photography developed, he pointed his lens towards a car. High energy fuels his style, which you both need, and can’t avoid while trying to capture shots of race cars that can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour.
Dom recently traveled to the United Arab Emirates to shoot the highly regarded night race, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which is held at the Yas Marina Circuit. Dom’s no stranger to racing, but this one had his engine revving high.
According to Dom, there are two very distinct types of night racing. The first is the more traditional endurance race, where cars battle throughout the night relying on nothing more than their own front mounted halogens to illuminate their paths. This was not that type of race. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had more style, more glitz, and definitely more glam. The entire grand prix complex is lit to a state resembling daylight with thousands of high-powered bulbs—many claiming the track appears more alluring after the sun goes down.
This was Dom’s first trek to the Middle East, so a little extra time to explore and soak in some unfamiliar culture was definitely on the bill. After five days in the desert, he observed that Abu Dhabi has a very unique culture due to the heavy western influence on their strong Arab foundation. “It’s a strange place where Ferrari’s are as common as Chevrolets in America.”
Despite the difference in location, the shoot itself was pretty typical for Dom. Sporting events such as this all follow a fairly routine schedule. You show up a few days in advance to acclimate by attending the press conferences, then dive head first into the main event and post race celebrations. After all was said and done, this was a five-day commitment for a two-hour race.
Dom worked as part of a team of four photographers covering the race. This meant that organization and communication were of the utmost importance. The shoot days began in the blistering sun around 10am and ended around 12 hours later. One of the most difficult hardships to overcome was trying to sum up enough energy to compete with temperatures that soared well into triple digits. (Sun soaked metal benches are a photographer’s enemy!)
Aside from sun poisoning, the other major issue was accessibility. Because of the potential dangers involved with racing, tracks are designed to keep cars and spectators (including media) separate. This pretty much results in the photographer always battling the clock, especially when having to bolt with as much gear as Dom was carrying, including two Canon pro bodies and four lenses ranging from the beastly 600mm to the more compact 16-35mm.
After the race ended and the client discussed plans for next years race, Dom packed up and headed back home to the UK where his sporty, albeit lackluster in comparison, 2011 VW Polo 1.6tdi was waiting for him. And if all goes according to plan someday he’ll be in the hot seat driving from shoot to shoot in a 1958 Ferrari Testarossa Coupe.
View more of Dom’s work at domromney.com.