Camera in hand, the plan is to get the best possible shot. Whether it is capturing that perfect sunset, a child’s first steps or Gary McElhinney filling the road in his MKII Escort in the Hills of Donegal, it is so important that we don’t do anything that may spoil the moment just to get the shot. Would you appreciate something spoiling the perfect sunset, would you let the child fall over just to get the picture? So why should it be acceptable to stand somewhere dangerous to get the photo of a rally car?
Over the last number of years rallying has had its fair share of troubles, with accidents and fatalities that rightly have restricted movement and access to spectators and media on the stages. We are all aware of the insurance crisis within Irish Rallying; we are one major incident from rallying as a whole being in severe dire straits. Only one insurance company would quote Motorsport Ireland for insurance cover this year and premiums have been driven sky high. Over the last few years the insurance companies have introduced conditions, such as maximum stage length.
Governing bodies on both sides of the Irish Sea have come under pressure to rethink their safety procedures and this has lead to increased work load for organisers in the lead up to events. Increased work needs to go in to safety plans; this has required more marshals on the stages but it is becoming more difficult to get volunteers to come forward, and some older hands are walking away at the increased demands being placed on them.
The media for nearly two years were almost seen as the enemy by the governing bodies, and were seen as the cause of a lot of the problems on the stages. The problem (I believe) was anyone could grab a camera or video camera, pull on a bib, and they were considered ‘media’: this lead to everyone one with a camera being regarded as irresponsible and a trouble maker because of the actions of a few.
Thankfully both governing bodies have changed their outlook this year. The MSA (British Authority) have reinstated a media accreditation criterion after about three years of nothing! They have very strict guidelines in place, and when you sign up to these you need to have personal insurance cover. Motorsport Ireland has had a similar media accreditation in place for the last number of years but it seems to be more strictly adhered to this year. Both authorities also have the right to rescind accreditation at any stage throughout the year, if you are found to be contravening the guidelines or acting inappropriately. This year all properly accredited media will have their numbered official bibs and paper work, so there should be no confusion as to their credibility.
Perception of the media
Most media are there for the love of the sport and they want to help promote it in as positive way as possible, not treat it as some kind of cash cow as some would have you believe! Most camera bags have equipment in them that would take a minimum of €5000 to replace and it takes time to sort and process the photos taken, but as I said it’s a labour of love for many. Most are lucky if they cover their costs on the day. In the main marshals and officials are reasonable and they have the best interests of everyone concerned when they ask you to move, but sometimes their manner can cause friction. No one likes to be shouted at, or spoken to, in an aggressive way, and thankfully these ‘characters’ are few and far between. By no means are all media angels either, and the demands some make are unreasonable and unsafe in accordance to the plans that have been agreed by the officials, and it is only right that they are moved to a safer area.
“Rallying would survive without photographers” was a quote from a recent rally related forum. In my opinion, this is a very short term view as the guy taking the photo maybe supplying your local paper and Jimmy from ‘Jimmy’s Cabs’ (that you have on the back panel of your rally car) may see his business getting a boost because of that photo and be prepared to give you the price of a couple of tyres, or help with the entry fee for the next event. Or the photographer may be capturing images for a rally magazine or paper who needs a photo to help advertise the latest gearbox or suspension that you are using and the company want everyone to know see the results you are achieving using their products! Imagine for a moment if no rally photographs or TV footage existed: the only way to see a rally was to physically go and watch one. Do you think the sponsors would be as keen to spend their money backing a particular team or crew? Somehow I doubt it…..In response to the earlier statement, someone said “Rallying would survive without as many photographers”. This is very controversial and not without its merits but no one should be prevented from applying through the proper channels for media accreditation. If they meet the criteria as stipulated it is only right that they get a chance. I have seen some images that have been uploaded by non-accredited photographers, and its shows with a good eye and a little imagination some fantastic images can be produced. Taking all this on board, sometimes taking a step back and checking to see if you have an escape route if the unavoidable happens, you can see a more spectacular backdrop or different aspect that will add atmosphere to the image.
It is said a picture can paint a thousand words and sometimes the joy and despair that can be captured in service, or at the ramp can far outweigh the action on the stages! So remember use a little imagination and at all times think of not only your own safety but that of others around you. Happy snapping!!!!