Isle of Man TT – Finally a Race Day.

Sunday morning it was almost a surprise when at sunrise, there was actually sun. The forecast wasn’t great but the first Superbike Race was set to go!

Although there is a law that always the government to close down the roads for an event, this is rarely done on a Sunday and like today, the roads weren’t closed until afternoon after people had gone to church and returned.

I have been up at the Grandstand / Paddock area several times but the energy is different for race day. There is an excitement, a nervous energy in the Parc Ferme. The mechanics are making final adjustments, the pit crews in their Nomex suits are filling the gas tanks and others are bringing tools and tires to the pits.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Superbike Race

Fuel is loaded manually by each rider’s team.

In practice riders are sent out in pairs. On race day they go one at a time at 10-second intervals. There are numbers on the grid for teams to stage their rider´s bikes. Many of the drivers do not appear until the final moments, trying to avoid the ITV4 TV reporters roving through the grid with microphones.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Superbike Race

#1 awaiting Davo Johnson on his chrome Norton 1000

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Superbike Race

Motos 6, 7 & 8, wait for Michael Dunlop, Conor Cummins and Guy Martin

Davo Johnson is #1 on is the crome Norton Superbike, patiently waiting for the start of the 2017 Isle of Man TT. The top 20 positions are pre-assigned based on prior performance. Numbers 21 and beyond are based not the weeks qualifying times.

Davo is reving is engine, the starter’s hand lifts from his shoulder and he is off! The 2017 TT has finally begun.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Superbike Race

The 2017 Isle of Man TT is finally under way.

One by one they roll up to the line, pause a few seconds under the hand of the starter and then the Superbikes roar to life.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Superbike Race

The nervous seconds on the way to the line. Dan Kneen, William Dunlop, Steve Mercer & Martin Jessopp. 

Today’s 6 lap event is 226.4 miles and requires 2 pit stops. Once all the riders are off there is a strange silence over the crowd in the grandstand. There are no big screen TV’s for the crowd to see the race, there is no electronic scoreboard and there are no beer vendors in the stands yelling Beer Here!

05-derek-shields-suzuki-iomtt.jpg

Derek Shiels burns out of the start gate.

06-daley-mathison-bmw-iomtt.jpg

Daley Mathison on his BMW 1000RR

There is the announcer on the PA with the same broadcast as people are listening to Manx Radio TT, there is the score board where the times and positions are written by hand and hung by Boy Scouts and in the pits, tanks holding the gas are gravity feed. While the machines are high tech, this racing in the rawest form.

IOMTT17 2617.jpg

Dean Harrison in for his first pit stop.

The view from the top of the Control Tower shows there is a very fine line between speed and disaster.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017RST Superbike Race

170 mph past the pits at the end of lap 1, flying between the pits and the Douglas Cemetery.

16-harrison-hutchinson-hickman-iomtt.jpg

Dean Harrison, Ian Hutchinson and Peter Hickman make up the podium for the superbike race.

17-hutchinso-winner-bmw-iomtt.jpg

This is TT title #15 for Ian Hutchinson on his Tyco BMW.

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 – Finally a Full Day of Practice

Even with the improved weather on Friday night there was a general tension around the races. The spectators had long planned to be here, some fearing they might not see any racing before they had to leave and the race teams worried about getting in sufficient laps to make sure their drivers and machines were ready. The only place you can really prepare for the Isle of Man is the Isle of Man.

I have been very fortunate in the my friend Rob has the week off of his day job to Marshal, was willing to pick me up in the morning and drop me off at a spot to shoot. I went with him to Glen Duff, about a mile from Ramsey. One of the challenges is finding a location where you can get several different shots.

From Glen Duff, I could walk along the back roads to Ramsey’s Parliament Square and then walk up to the Ramsey Hairpin.

In one of those rare circumstances, the plan as it were, worked out. Well almost.

At Glen Duff there is a long straight both coming and going and each with a canopy of trees. Listening to race radio, we could tell when the first riders went off and knew that in about 10 ½ minutes they would fly by. However there really wasn’t any need to pay attention to the time, the scream of the 4-cyclinder 1,000 cc Superbikes could be heard from more than a mile away.

Ian Hutchinson made it a point to be the first out on practice. We don’t know his strategy, but it might have been start first in practice, finish first in the race. When he flew by the sun wasn’t quite high enough to light the area of the jump but not too bad, as the Brits would say.

_X2_0038

Ian Hutchinson on his Tyco BMW 1000

My body is not capable of turning fast enough to get both an on-coming and departing shot of the same rider, but it would be beautiful to ride here, for me something closer to the posted limit would be just fine. The consensus was they were hitting about 100 mph over the posted speed limit of 50.

_X2_1172.jpg

Heading into Ramsey

After watching the first 2+ laps at head-spinning speed, I headed to Ramsey. I was in luck that a young, local photographer from Peel had a car and offered me a lift (ok, I sort of pleaded for a lift).

_X2_1815.jpg

Sidecars coming through Parliament Square

One thing about the local photographers. Without exception they have been great and incredibly willing to help. That’s the good news. Some of the help, however I was incapable of implementing. Such as: you know there’s a spot by the Sulby Straight. Then there is a stone will and about 30 yards from the end there as a stone missing from the top and it’s great, you can just rest your long lens in there and get a shot. Yeah, right! (I have probably screwed up the description anyway).

Louis dropped me off close to Parliament Square in time to grab a sandwich and get shots of the sidecars coming through.

While I was there I met one of the Traveling Marshals (TM). There are seven TM’s around the course. They are former racers who have had medical training. Once called they can me at a crash in minutes to administer first aid. If any TM needs to move, then they all move to the next position so they never lose coverage.

_IX_0075

Traveling Marshal – Steve Grainger ready to go, when needed.

One of the iconic images from the IOMTT is the Ramsey Hairpin and of course it was on my list. I knew I wanted to be on the outside of the turn, so i could get images of them coming and going – I was also hoping for a shot similar my Lanzarote shot from 2 weeks ago.

IMLA17  2021.jpg

The Ironman Lanzarote Hairpin at Haria.

Rob had given me directions and on the drive up he showed me a road I could walk up, but it would take me to the inside of the turn.

As I a was walking out of Ramsey, I stopped and asked 3 different people justo be sure I was heading the right way. Each time, I said – I want to shoot where the are riding left to right and be on the outside of the turn. The directions were all consistent, but I was sure that was where Rob had said I would be on the inside of the turn. I was not doubting Rob’s expertise, but I was doubting my memory.

After about a 30 minute walk I was there. Right there on the INSIDE of the turn and when the road is closed, it is really closed, I couldn’t cross. Fortunately Rob and sent a text to the Deputy Sector Marshal that I was coming and he brought me across on a red flag! Thanks Andy! Great fun to shoot and spend my afternoon with you and your crew.

_X2_2171

James Hillier on his Kawasaki Supersport at the Ramsey Hairpin

_X2_3338.jpg

Guy Martin who was having a tough week, looked back to see if anyone was coming.

_X2_2428

IOMTT Favorite Michael Dunlop on his Suzuki 600 Supersport

_X2_4332

Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes taking off in a turn in their Honda powered sidecar

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 – The Engines are Roaring

After a very dreary Monday and Tuesday morning, everyone was only mildly optimistic about having practice last night. By mid-afternoon there was still a light rain in Douglas and fog up on the mountain. And then – the skies cleared. I mean REALLY cleared not a cloud in the sky.

I headed up to the Grandstand area about 4:30 in anticipation of the 6:20 practice session. I had time to see a few friends, grab some coffee (the first order of business) and a bite to eat.

I asked more than my share of questions about where I could be and where I shouldn’t be. At one point one of the Marshals told me, the best one to ask about that is Paul Phillips. I of course said, but I am Paul Phillips. With a smile, he pointed to the other Paul Phillips, who is one of the main organizers at the TT.

It is only natural that I want to be close to the start. The question was how close? Well it was close enough that I could feel the exhaust on my jeans. I was in the grid area right before the individual riders rolled out to the starting line, where they were sent off on their practice run two at a time.

The grid was high energy, organized chaos. There were drivers, mechanics, officials and guests, all wanting a final word with or look at the riders. I wanted to see the look in their eyes right before the flipped down their face shields. I have seen that look before at the start of races. Trying to stay relaxed and yet, the intense concentration for what comes next.

Typically I see athletes before they enter the water for a triathlon, but here within a few seconds they would be reaching well over 100 mph, with the front wheel of their motos popping up as they shift gears and get more power.

After all of the first group of riders had left the line, I started to make my way down pit lane to find a spot to shoot. Ultimately, I was near the end of the pits leaning out, just a bit against the steel guardrail that separated the course from the pit lane. As the riders came by on their 2nd lap, I could feel the guardrail vibrate against my leg.

Although just a bit too late, I quickly put my ear plugs in. Being there was a total sensory experience. The colors streaking by, the sound and the vibration.

Earlier in the day I had met prior TT champ Milky Quayle and asked what two bits of advice he had for me as a first time TT Photographer. Milky smiled and said:

  • Hold on to your hat; and
  • Buy a race radio!

Both were spot on advice. The race radio is one that only receives one station and has the live updates and is about the only way to know what is going on out on the course.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Even for the practice sessions the grandstands were filled.  An estimated 40,000 visitors are expected for race week.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

The first riders off were the ‘newcomers’ signified by the orange vest.  They were led around the course by a marshal for a controlled speed familiarization lap.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Although driver Tim Reeves is a TT veteran, his passenger Mark Wilkes is new to the TT.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

TT favorite Micheal Dunlop chats with another driver prior to the start.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Right off of the start line, the engine whines, the driver shifts gears and keeps his weight back for traction and the wheel pops up.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

As drivers enter the track for their second session the intensity does not diminish. Concentration and sweat!

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

Guy Martin is known for his ‘look’ and concentration.

Practice session #1- Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017

With the course map over his shoulder there is little time for visuals when at 140 mph you are traveling at more than 200 feet / second.

As expected the evening ended with several riders exceeding 120 mph for an average lap speed.

Tonight I am off to the Quarter Bridge where I think they will slow down a bit for me, well for me and hard right hand turn.

Isle of Man TT – Practice Day 2 – More Rain & The Castletown Classic

After a mild and dry Sunday, the rain moved in overnight and continued through the morning. I used the time to get caught up on some work which needed attention, but thought most of the day would be indoors and there was little chance of shooting tonight. Shortly after 11:00 Rob called and asked if I wanted to go watch the Castletown Classic Races.

This is a Pre-TT event, put on by the organization that produces the Southern 100 Road Race, which is described as Road Racings Biggest Secret. It was certainly a secret to me.

Even early in the day Rob didn’t think the TT practice would be a go, due to the wet roads and ultimately he was right.

Although the TT riders didn’t get a practice session in, I did! I wore my Photo vest and brought my credentials, but unfortunately my TT Credentials were not of any help in Castletown.

I wasn’t able to get an ideal position, but was able to work on framing and tracking the bikes that are substantially faster than the bikes I typically shoot. It was overcast and fairly low light, but I was using my Canon 1Dx Mark II and a 100 to 400 lens. Just because I was practicing, it didn’t mean that I had to practice with every lens! I shot at 2000 ISO and I knew that if I couldn’t get the shots with this camera, it wasn’t the camera’s fault, it would all pilot error.

I tried a few different locations, partially up a tree, behind a stone wall, but mostly I was behind a wall of orange-vest marshals.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Castletown Classic Races

After so many years of racing, some of the locals prefer just to ignore the motos and the noise.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Castletown Classic Races

My view from behind the stone wall. The riders were slowing for an uphill right turn, but still that wall seemed pretty close and certainly unforgiving.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Castletown Classic Races

Hoping that a slow shutter speed can provide some of the illusion of what the driver’s see at high speed.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Castletown Classic Races

Every time I see the sidecars race, the theme song to Stars Wars plays in my head.

Isle of Man Tourist Trophy - 2017Castletown Classic Races

The sidecar ‘Passenger’ is a critical part of maintaining balance and speed.

IMG_5856

Plate for the Van parked next to us. Since Guy wasn’t there, it must be a super fan.

IMG_5861

Now this is a classic side car!

IMG_5864

I wrapped up the day with some proper fish and chips!

We are all hopeful the weather will clear tomorrow.  My morning plan is to find a spot on Bray Hill to shoot for tomorrow.

I have also been invited to shoot some behind the scenes activities with a couple of the teams, it will be fun if it works out.

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