Here is the past twelve months in a nutshell. More than 117,500 photos taken across 18 tracks in 3 states, 39 events and 37 written articles, this year has been my biggest year shooting motorsport and car culture. With so much covered, I thought I’d share with you the highlights of 2023, and some of my favourite photos of the year.
Phillip Island Historics
We’ll start at Phillip Island, my favourite track to shoot. The Victorian Historic events have been on my radar for a while, but I’ve always missed them for one reason or another. This year I headed to the Phillip Island installment, which lines up conveniently with the Adelaide Motorsport Festival, so plenty of cars come internationally for both events. My aim was to find a few cars to spotlight and talk about. I’m pretty shy so I’d have to go out of my comfort zone and interview some owners and drivers. Thanks to working alongside Jack Houlihan and others for a couple of days at Street Machine Dag Challenge 2022, I knew a good way to go about it and I ended up interviewing 8 people and spotlighted ten cars from the weekend, so I was proud of that.
Return to Calder Park
It was great to see Calder Park returning to circuit racing calendars this year, but seeing a large field of NASCAR’s and AUSCAR’s racing at the National Circuit and doing laps of the Thunderdome was something truly special. I love NASCAR, particularly the old school cars, so seeing them roar on the Thunderdome, a racetrack I have photographed more than any other was awesome. Speaking with the drivers showed that this wasn’t going to be a one off, and the future of Calder Park is on the up.
World Time Attack Challenge 2023
Need I explain why WTAC is a highlight. It’s one of those events that you can be there for five minutes, and you’ve already decided to come back next year. You’ll see and experience things that you would have never imagined seeing. Shooting and writing for DownshiftAus, I was a busy boy, covering the time attack action, drifting and the Stylized show. Barton Mower and the RP968 team crushed the lap record, as Luke Veersma took the International Drifting Cup by storm. I got to meet and speak to Mike Burroughs from StanceWorks, Jeremiah Burton from Donut Media and got to photograph the Drift King himself, Keiichi Tsuchiya. Oh yeah, and there were plenty of cool cars to drool over too.
Keep it Reet Battle Royale 2023
Ever since 2020, one of my goals has been to cover an entire season of drifting, and I finally was able to this year, shooting and writing about each of the four rounds of Keep it Reet’s Battle Royale season. Being invested in each round and seeing the championship play out before me, whilst making sure I covered all the big stories was a rewarding and cultivating experience.
Street Machine Drag Challenge 2023
The day before the Street Machine team headed to The Bend’s new dragstrip, Simon Telford called me unexpectedly saying they had a spare spot for an extra team member for their annual Drag Challenge. Obviously, I couldn’t say no, and before I knew it, I was shooting at the brand new Dragway at The Bend, photographing some of Australia’s fastest street cars! After check-in on Monday and the first day of competition on the Tuesday, we headed to Mildura for the 1/8th mile, then to the familiar Heathcote, then down to another 1/8th mile track at Portland. The racing would be rained out at South Coast Raceway, but the drive from Portland back to The Bend was spectacular, and I got to try some proper tracking shots. The highlight of the week was definitely Mark Whitla breaking into the 6’s and smashing the 200mph barrier, the first to do so in Drag Challenge history. It was an awesome week, and I learnt so much from the team of photographers/videographers at Street Machine.
LZ World Tour Australia
Less than a week later, I was covering Australia's biggest drift event, The LZ World Tour, for Drift Games. We started at the new Keep it Reet factory, revealing Adam's Australian 180SX, Mukka Motorsports 6-Rotor RX7 and the fresh wraps for Mad Mike's MX5 and the Keep it Reet Skylines. Things got a bit out of hand when LZ, Jason Ferron, Mad Mike and Benji Sneddon decided to all do burnouts, smoking out the factory. It honestly felt like being part of an old Hoonigan Daily Transmission episode. Onto the competition, and without doing a single qualifying lap, Mitch Larner would win the Last Chance Top 16 battles on the Saturday. On Sunday Adam LZ would win the main event, except his name would be Cam Marton, with Robert Arbolino second and Jordan Sanderson third.
Nakai-san Builds RWB Australia #9 and #11
October was full of surprises, and being able to photograph Nakai-san work was definitely not what I was expecting. I have been in awe of Nakai-san's work and RWB Porsches since I first discovered them on Speedhunters in 2017. It's one of those things that you always dream of experiencing, and then when it actually happens, you can't believe it.
Favourite Photos of 2023
GLE Racing had cracked a brake disc during qualifying at Winton, and I was there soaking up the brake change with my camera, getting plenty of shots, but this one is my favourite, with a bit more of a complex composition than my standard photo. The tools and parts in the foreground are cool as the curved bonnet lead the eye back to the mechanics.
With the rain that had come before this year’s President Cup, the track surface started out a bit muddier than usual, with the support categories flinging up mud. I deployed my 150-500mm lens, but the track had been smoothed out, so I decided to get some close ups of the Sprintcars, during their qualifying runs. That was when Ross Jarred spun right in front of me keeping his foot in it, and I got the whole sequence. Right place, right time, right lens.
With the darkness upon Heathcote Park, it was time to use my flash to experiment with some slow shutter pans. At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing, but now I know that the flash lit the rear of the car and the concrete wall, as there was enough light for the ¼ second pan to work.
Another one from Holden Nationals, Grant Salter from Gripshiftslide took this shot, focusing on the hand on the handbrake. I love that shot, so now I’m always looking for working hands and details like that. At Holden Nationals, I got the shot I wanted. The team of this car opened the door so I could get a photo of their driver, focusing in on the hand, and getting one of my favourite monochromes of the year.
I know, I know, this is the typical Phillip Island photo, but the 2007-08 FPR Falcons are some of my favourite race cars of all time, so seeing one in the flesh was completely unexpected.
There are always lots of photographers at the end of the race getting snaps of the top three drivers, and particularly of the winner. It is often squished but I try and stay out of the way of those shooting for clients, magazines and the racing category itself, as most of the time, I am shooting just for myself. So, I have to look for different angles. I particularly like this candid of Josh Buchan after his win on the Saturday at Phillip Island, with his Hyundai i30N Sedan forming part of the foreground.
When panning at slow shutter, and the car is quite close to you, you can get a lot of weird stuff, but on occasion, you can strike gold. Trying to focus on the number on the side of the GT3 cars, I captured Yassir Shahin/Garnet Patterson as their Porsche went over the top of Lukey Heights using a shutter speed of 1/4 of a second.
Similarly, focusing on the helmet this time as Ryan Howe accelerated out of Turn 4 during the Australian Formula Open round at Sandown, this time at 1/10th of a second.
Searching for different angles for the final race of the Superkarts weekend at Phillip Island, I found this view of the marshal post at the top of Lukey Heights at Phillip Island . Straight away I knew I'd edit it into a black and white silhouette, I just had to wait for a Formula F5000 car and for the marshal to step away from the fence, so he would be completely visible in the photo.
For the LZ World Tour, I wanted to try something different. I mounted my camera to the top of fence above Calder Park's infamous 'Wall', getting a bird's eye view of the action. As only a couple of my photos showed the entire car, next time I need to angle the camera slightly higher, or use a wider lens, as this was taken at 23mm.
When I took this photo, it made me remember why I love motorsport. Motorsport cannot be orchestrated or scripted, the craziness of competition happens naturally. I couldn't plan in my head to compose the photo like this: the bokeh from the fence, Chris Temby sending it wider than anyone else, the high sun, one wheel off the ground and Mitch Broome in hot pursuit. Sometimes the only thing you can do is put yourself in a good photo spot and just take photos as the cars come by. Then stuff like this happens naturally because motorsport is awesome. All you have to do is be there to witness it.