Isle of Man TT – Being Part of the Story

Being a new visitor to the TT can be a challenge. It is a long and complicated course and difficult to get around. Had it not been for the amazing generosity and willingness to help of the Manx, my experience would have been limited at best.

I did not arranged for transportation in advance. I didn’t even really want to rent a car, the thought of trying to find my way around the island in the midst of closed roads, right hand drive and not being able to pronounce the names of the roads I was supposed to follow would be more challenging than shooting.

I was and continue to be extremely lucky. I met some people the first day while I was walking around to introduced me to others and they were helpful beyond description. Also I couldn’t have gotten around without Rob Cummings, long time Isle of Man resident and former work colleague of my good friend Bruno Desrochers.

Rob gave me a tour of the course on his BMW and as a marshal, he took the week off from his day job and each race day he would drop me off on the course and then pick me up at the end of the day when the roads opened.

Monday, I wanted to go to Ballaugh Bridge. We had been there on our course tour, but I have to admit on Monday, somehow it looked different. With the overnight storms it was a challenge to get there. One of the main roads was closed due to an accident. This time it wasn’t some visiting moto tourist pretending he is racing, but during the storm a tree fell on a parked car.

Once the course is closed it is really closed. Even with photo credentials you cannot even walk across the street.   Only between races and if they are willing, the Deputy Sector Marshal (DSM) can escort you across the street.

There were a few other photographers there when I arrived. I set up with David Traynor who has been shooting the TT for more than 20 years and knew every spot on the course. During the morning all of the photographers moved around on the same side of the course to get different angles of the riders lifting off over Ballaugh Bridge.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Supersport and sidecar

James Hillier landing hard and compressing his read tire.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Supersport and sidecar

Most riders took flight on the bridge the sheep on the hillside seems pretty uninterested.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Supersport and sidecar

Over the Ballaugh Bridge accelerate and then a sweeping left. 

During the break between races, the DSM escorted David and I across the street and give us specific instructions. On the left, don’t go beyond the drain pipe and on the right go no further than the Ballaugh sign.

After shooting with my long lens to get shots of the sidecars lifting off coming over the bridge I moved to get wide shots. I was along the bridge next to the Ballaugh sign. I think it’s every photographer’s natural tendency to unconsciously move around to try to frame the shot and I am no different, but I kept glancing over my left should to make sure that I didn’t exceed what the DSM had told me.

You can hear the sidecars coming for at least 10 seconds before they appear. I would look up see them coming toward the bridge, count to 4 and then start shooting. While the Canon 1Dx autofocus is great, I don’t believe any autofocus is good enough to pick up something going 60 mph 10 feet from you. I set the focus to manual got it dialed in and shot!

I had lots of shot with nothing but bridge. But then sidecar #43, the Lawrance Brothers from New Zealand came be sliding along the wall. Miraculously not only did I get the shot but I got 3! In a truly remarkable moment, David Traynor who was still shooting long, decided to take a shot of me shooting.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Supersport and sidecar

David Traynor’s shot of me, well me AND the Lawrance Brothers.

Given the speed and movement of the sidecar, my guess is that the shots are within about 1/100 of a second of each other.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017RST Supersport and sidecar races

Lawrance Brothers #1

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017RST Supersport and sidecar races

Lawrance Brothers #2

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017RST Supersport and sidecar races

Lawrance Brothers #3

I didn’t flinch, I kept shooting and when I stood up the crowd on both sides of the street applauded. The DSM came across the road, put his hand on my shoulder smiled and said ‘bet that cleared up your constipation, eh mate.

I am sure there were a couple hundred people who saw it, a few showed me cell phone snaps of it. Someone offered to buy me a shot of brandy and a couple from the neighborhood invited me over for tea (I am sure it was TT Tea).

David posted it on Facebook and it has been shared over 850 times. I guess that counts as trending somewhere.

I have never had a desire, nor any intention of being part of the story at the TT, but sometimes it happens.

Check out a few of my other shots in Motorcyclist Magazine.

 

Isle of Man TT – Practice Day – A Short Night a Quarterbridge


I am still very much in learning mode here at the TT. Learning my way around, learning how to focus when something is coming at you at 160 mph and learning that you don’t ask for bug spray for mosquitos and flies, but you do ask for repellant for mozzies and midges. I am hoping as we get into race week I will not have to be learning quite so much each day. It’s been great fun everyone has been a great help. All in all everyone has been very polite and not once, at least to my face, referred to me as that Yank Photographer. Actually I think most are laughing at some of my questions and my accent.

From my homestay I had about a mile walk downhill to Quarterbridge. Easy walk, which unfortunately at the end of the evening the walk would be uphill. Except along the shore, I haven’t found many flat spots on the Isle of Man, you are either going up or going down!

Quarterbridge is just over a mile from the start at the grandstand and is the first turn on the course with a downhill right of more than 90 degrees. Roaring down Bray Hill at over 160 mph, braking, leaning hard and accelerating on to the short half mile straight to Braden Bridge and a quick flick on the round-about.

My plan was to shoot from Quarterbridge and then walk down via the back roads to Braden Bridge get a variety of shots and at the end of the session I would be able to walk back along the course on the way home.

Practice session #2- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Steve Mercer (17) and Ian Hutchinson (4) were the first pair to hit the course and some of the only drivers to couple a full lap before closure. Hutchinson had the fastest time of the night with 128.98 mph.

Practice session #2- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Michael Dunlop (6) was the second fastest of the night coming at 127.23, followed here by Gary Johnson.

Practice session #2- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Guy Martin (8) is paired with Aussie David Johnson on his silver Norton. 

Practice session #2- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Dean Harrison (9) looks through the turn and onto the straight toward Braden Bridge.

Practice session #2- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

My favorite race kit of the week is worn by Micheal Dokoupil

I had a great view of the first turn and a few minutes after I moved to the outside of the turn to shoot from a different angle, the session was ended due to rain and fog on the course.

Tonight’s practice is also a wash out, here is the current radar, with an appropriate massive green blog over Ireland and moving our way.

I am unsure about Friday’s schedule, also doubtful, but additional practices have been scheduled for Saturday and races on Sunday.

Portable Network Graphics image-B305322E2D91-1

 

 

 

 

 

Isle of Man TT – Practice Day 1 – All Dressed Up and No Place to Go.

Today, May 28 is a big day, rich in history in the world of motorsports. The Monaco F1 Gran Prix begins shortly dating back to 1929 about 5 hours later in Indianapolis there is the 101st running of the Indy 500. Pre-dating both of these major events is the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) where the initial lap record in 1907 was 38 mph. The courses each have their challenges are dramatically different, Monaco is just of 2 miles of twists, Indy is a 2 1/2 mile oval and the TT is 37 3/4 miles of twists turns and roads that haven’t changed much since 1907.

All are amazing motorsport events and each have pushed the technology. Speed at around 200 mph,it seems is one of the few things that they still have in common.

Intense competition and amazing driving skills are required all each event, but only at the TT will you have drivers that are not full-time professionals. The top 20 drivers are seeded and go off in numeric order, but the rest (about 60) are based on qualifying times.

The race is a way of life here on the Isle of Man. With a population of about 86,000, the TT brings in an additional 40,000 arrive for race week. International fans arrive all with a common bond.

I arrived a few days ago and had great plans on how to prepare, but I quickly realized that no amount of planning would have adequately prepared me to shoot the race.

Just walking around on the Promenade in Douglas, I met a few people who introduced me to others and so it went.

My dear friend and primary US driver Bruno referred me to his friend Rob Cummings who has been living here for 30 years. Rob picked me up late Saturday morning for a course tour. Of course the tour at the IOMTT was on a BMW K1200K – there is no replacement for seeing the 37.75 mile course on a moto, even though we were at most going half of race speed, even though we did hit 105 mph on the mountain.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

By late afternoon it was time for me to head back up to the Grandstand, pick up my final credentials and wait for the practice session to begin. And wait for the practice session to begin. And wait for the practice session to begin.

On an island not unlike Kona and Lanzarote, there are microclimates. There can be bright sunshine on one side and rain on the other. At IOMTT the decisions are simple, if the medical helicopters can’t see to land on the mountain, is no practice or racing.

Unlike with race days, which are scheduled Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when a weather cancellation will mean events are rescheduled for the next day. With practice however, there is no rescheduling and drivers, mechanics and fans need to wait until Monday night.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

From the onset there were doubts about whether there would be practice, technical inspection is a must before you can go out to the parc ferme.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

The bikes are lined up and the riders and team members are pacing waiting for word on the start.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

While most drivers are out in the open, TT favorite Michael Dunlop keeps his ride under wraps.

Perhaps the most recognizable driver at the TT is Guy Martin, who’s thick accent often needs sub-titles to be understood.

One of the things I am most looking forward to is watching the side cars races.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

IOMTT via a Galaxy Far Far Away

No race related activities today, just everyone hoping today’s sunshine holds through tomorrow and beyond.

Marrakech – 1 More Adventure

One of the hazards of trying to squeeze in so much great stuff in a limited amount of time is the risk of both physical and mental overload.

The tour in the Atlas Mountains was amazing and both visually and intellectually stimulating and sometimes it takes a bit just to appreciate both the significance and the magnitude of what you have seen.

I did get out in the evening for a great dinner, in spite of being a bit lost!

After another peaceful breakfast on the terrace Mustapha arrived at 9:00 and we sat and talked about the day.

First on the list is the Ben Youssef Madrassa – an Islamic college that was founded in the 14th century and current facility was constructed in the 16th century and housed 130 students.   The school was closed in 1960, not bad – operating for 400 years.

The Madrassa was reopened in 1982 and is said to be one of the best examples Islamic Architecture.

Here are a few snaps from the morning.

Travel in Marrakech tTravel in Marrakech tTravel in Marrakech tTravel in Marrakech tTravel in Marrakech t

From there we headed to the tannery. Although I have been told of the many tannery scams in Marrakech and someone approached me I walked back to the car to meet Mustapha. He rescued me just in time!

We drove to the tannery with again had been operating in it’s current format for hundreds of years. Each process of cleaning, preparation and dyeing is done in permanently constructed ‘vats’.

Travel in Marrakech tTravel in Marrakech t

From the cleaning to drying in the sun, either on the rooftop or in the courtyard.

Travel in Marrakech t

There was a full array of natural pigments used in the dyeing process.

Travel in Marrakech t

The tannery is run as a co-op for 60 families, who’s ancestors came down from the Atlas Mountains to tan and make their leather products.

The tannery does have the reputation of being pretty foul smelling, so much so that upon entering you are handed a fistful of fresh mint to hold by your nose and mouth. I have always said that I am a lucky guy and once again it proved true, the cooler weather had the smell hovering right around Minnesota State Fair livestock levels.

Of course after the explanation of the tanning process and a bit of history is the showroom and push to sell you something / anything.

No pressure Mr. Paul, we just want to show you all that we do here! If you believe that, they’ve got you.

I will say the work was really nice and at least based on prices that I have seen are not too unreasonable. We moved away from the handbags, cushions and slippers, none of which appealed to me and on to the jackets.

As luck would have it, I have been looking for a jacket. I tried on several and although they had the cut and style of a moto jacket, the leather was so soft, I doubt that I will ever wear it will riding. We went back and forth on the price and I relatively sure I probably paid too much, but it felt good to me.

Our final stop of the morning was the Jardin Morjelle. Originally created over a 40-year period by French Painter Jacques Morjelle, is truly like stepping into and an oasis in the desert.

As Majorelle traveled he expanded the garden surrounding his workshop with plants he would acquire around the world. Subsequent to Majorelle’s death the property was acquired by Designer Yves Saint Laurent and was his residence.

Jardin Majorelle is now a public museum and one of the most visited spots in Marrakech.

It’s popularity made photos without a throng of people a bit challenging.

Travel in Marrakech t

Travel in Marrakech t

Travel in Marrakech t

I hope these few images convey a bit of the peace and cooler temperatures of the garden, oops Jardin.

After a stop for lunch and coffee we headed back to Riad El Mansour. Mustapha dropped me off and before I headed down the street remembering LEFT, RIGHT, RIGHT, I stopped and met Omar the Spice Merchant.  He invited me in, which I knew was a set up for buying something and likely over priced.

Travel in Marrakech t

Travel in Marrakech t

Travel in Marrakech t

Another great day!

More soon,

Paul

The Marrakech Express

I am not an anxious traveler. I can adapt to most situations and if the hotel didn’t look exactly like I was expecting, within a day or so, I can pretty much feel at home. If things don’t go quite right I try not to let it detract from my adventure.

On May 5th I started out with a flight to Las Vegas, was picked up at the airport by my friends Bruno and Chris, who had driven in from Ramona, CA and had my motorcycle in their truck. After finding a convenient spot to unload, I headed out for a ride around Lake Mead and they went on to St. George, UT where Chris would be racing the Ironman St. George 70.3 on Saturday and Bruno would be driving for me as I shot.

Although the weather wasn’t the best, it also wasn’t the worst and we got the job done!

Sunday May 8th I headed from St. George to Zion National Park, up by Bryce Canyon through some amazing terrain and ended my day in Torrey Ut.

Monday was perfect weather and the night before I decided I would head down toward Telluride. Another amazing day. I didn’t have a place to stay but I was sure I could find something.

Tuesday morning had some rain and light snow at elevation and based on the radar maps it looked like it was snowing at Monarch Pass where I had planned to ride so, I adjusted and headed north to I-70, rolling into Boulder early evening.

My BMW is still in Boulder with a friend, I flew home, shot the Medtronic Twin Cities 1 Mile on Thursday evening, and Friday morning headed to The Woodlands TX for Ironman Texas.

Sunday back on an early flight to Minneapolis, with a couple of days to reorganize and finish the images from the last events.

For more than a month I had my reservations to Lanzarote. I knew when I was leaving, when I was returning and the route. I also knew that as long as I was in the neighborhood, so to speak, I wanted to visit Morocco. I had never been to Africa and thought it could be amazing. The day I was leaving for Lanzarote, I finally made my air travel reservations to Marrakech.

Still I waited to find a place to stay hoping that someone in Lanzarote would have a recommendation. No luck, back to Hotels.com for a look. I found the Riad El Mansour, five miles from the airport and nominal walk to the old city.

Prior to arriving, I received an email asking when I was arriving and for 15 euro, they would have their driver pick me up. All good so far.

I did manage to find their driver Mustapha, among the 100 other drivers waiting there. He gave me a quick highlighted tour on the way from the airport and said – now I take you the way you will walk to the hotel so it will look familiar. Again, all good. And then we stopped!

Parked the car in what I can only generously call a chaotic street and stopped right between the melon cart and the banana cart.

Travel in Marrakech

As we grabbed my bags he quickly pointed out the small sign beneath the canopy that had the logo of the hotel and said, See this is how you know you are in the right place. Left, Right, Right – remember Left, Right, Right! The next 50 meters were so filled with people and vendors that cars could not travel in.

Travel in Marrakech t

LEFT! The street narrowed to 3 meters, there were kids playing and a few doorways.

RAK 306

RIGHT! A moped whizzed by from behind, with no one else in site. Walked under a shadowed structure built to connect the buildings on both sides.

RAK 304

RIGHT! Ahead is a dead end, and a shadowy dead end at that.

RAK 301
OK, I am now starting to re-think my low anxiety approach to travel. Just beyond the plant, we finally stop at a large carved wooden door and he rings the bell. We are welcomed by Abdess “Mr. Paul, it is so nice to meet you!”

I find that I am stepping not into a hotel, but to my eyes back in time and into and Indiana Jones Movie. It is amazing structure between 200 and 300 years old with only 6 rooms and a very peaceful interior courtyard.

Travel in Marrakech

I am in the Azure room. I mean with only six rooms you can easily use names instead of numbers

Travel in Marrakech

Azure Room

Travel in Marrakech

Azure Room

After a much needed nap, I headed out to explore the big square, the souks and the old city. After a few hours of wandering through the chaos, I returned to Riad El Mansour.

Peace and serenity, just a few meters from the chaos.

Time now for dinner and upon recommendation of Wadi at the hotel, it was Left, Left, Right and then a 1 minute walk and another right to Latitude 31. Again peace, serenity just a few meters from the chaos. This time with amazing aromas, in an open air courtyard with impeccable service and extraordinary hospitality. Latitude 31 was immediately on my favorite list.

Before turning in for the night, I asked what time breakfast was served. Mr. Paul, you are on holiday, when you get up, I will make you breakfast!

RAK16 067

If you are going to Marrakech – contact me, I will share the details of where I was. Not only did they enhance my trip but in doing so, they enhanced my life.

More soon.

Paul