Gary Reid – “Shoot to Thrill”

Last post we took a look at contributing Photographer Gary Reid. This post we dig a bit deeper and talk to Gary about his passion, favourite shots and the artistic journey he is on. “Shoot to Thrill” looks at the man behind the lens.

TT: Thanks for your time Gary. Let’s get right into it. What is your preferred camera and lens?

GR: Nikon brand since I bought my first SLR film camera in about 1970, a Nikkormat. Since starting to take digital images in 2004, I have used Nikon D100, Fuji S3 Pro, Nikon D300, Nikon D700, Nikon D3S and now Nikon D4. At the moment I favour Nikon’s 80-400mm f4-5.6 lens, but Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 is one of Nikon’s best ever. I also own wide angle lenses to make the most of opportunities to shoot wide. Dirt track speedway is very hard on my gear. My black Nikon often looks a golden shade of VR clay with dust throughout the night. Regular cleaning and maintenance is necessary. I do NOT change lenses on race night, but rather take a second camera with a different lens so there’s less risk of dust getting on the sensor

TT: What is the main technique you use to shoot racing at VR (Valvoline Raceway)?

GR: I have gone through a variety of techniques in the 14 years I have been shooting at VR. Nowadays I tend to use flash most of the time – in the pits, for portraits and on cloudy race days and I shoot in RAW format

TT: Roughly how many images do you shoot in an entire meeting across all classes?

GR: In the early days with my first digital camera, I rarely shot more than 150 images per meeting (quality over quantity was the rule). With the advent of fast frame rates (10 frames per second) and cheap storage (files in general are bigger with today’s better sensors), I now shoot an average of about 900-1000 shots per night covering all classes. When there’s more daylight, of course, I shoot more images

TT: How long does it typically take to review and edit your shots?

GR: RAW files need to be processed. The fastest way is by batch. Then I have to select and process again in many cases to get the best result. Getting images on my computer screen to view takes about half an hour. Selecting and processing for publications and websites can take a couple of days or longer depending on my family activities

TT: How long have you been photographing Speedway?

GR: I photographed road racing bikes in the early 1970s and got to meet Bill Meyer (Sydney Showground Speedway photographer) at Sydney’s Amaroo Park. He offered me a job and I took shots for him at the speedway for a couple of seasons. After that I got married and did plenty of other things away from speedway. There were no Sprintcars back then. After watching Parramatta City Raceway (now Valvoline Raceway) highlights on Television I started to go to PCR in 1993. II used to stand by the finish line and get as close as I could to the cars. The noise and spectacle was something that captivated me. But 2 laps into the A Main I couldn’t see a thing as my eyes were crying due to the methanol fumes and dust. But I loved it. Fast forward to 2001 and I asked Steve Green if I could shoot one night and see if I still liked it. He said yes and I have been doing it ever since. Nowadays I shoot all divisions that race at Valvoline Raceway – anyone who dons a helmet and race suit is a hero and no matter how fast or slow they go, they deserve a record of their performance

Gary Reid catches this classic shot from the dirt mound at the back of Amaroo Park of Road Racer Ron Toombs in 1971

TT: What drives you to photograph Speedway?

GR: As I said, I love the spectacle and to be on the infield and even closer is mindblowing. I love photography and speedway, so to combine the two is a dream come true. I look back and think how lucky I was to have shot at the Sydney Showground all those years ago. I also shoot events for speedway groups like Peter White’s book launch of “100 More Aussie Legends of the Speedways” and end-of-season presentation nights – it’s all very rewarding

TT: What is it like being on the infield all night?

GR: The infield may be the mecca, but it can be hard work as you spend 5 hours or more standing more or less still in the elements of wind, dust, cold and heat. When it rains during the night, the racing stops, but it’s not easy walking across a wet clay track with a large bagful of camera gear. And the rain cost me a very expensive camera repair one night !

TT: Do you sell your images?

GR: I sell my images privately if someone wants to purchase prints or other souvenirs like coffee mugs. But I do not have a website and I don’t have a Facebook account. I am still kept busy supplying images for websites across the world, local publications like Oval Express and Speedway World, and industry divisions to promote their racing

TT: Where did the interest in photography begin?

GR: I took my first photo with a Box Brownie at the West Wyalong Show in about 1963. It was the finish of a trotting race. My interest lay dormant until I met some of my fathers’ friends who were racing motorcycles and after I went to my first meeting at Oran Park all I wanted to do was take racing photos. That was about 1968 and things were different back then. I just jumped the fence and stood on the dirt mound over the top of the hill at Amaroo Park one day and got some good racing shots. A year or two later Bill Meyer was in the same spot and we got talking. The rest, as they say, is history

TT: What is your biggest memory in photographing Sprintcars?

GR: My biggest memory is probably the worst memory – the crash of Scott Darley on 18 October 2008, otherwise the first World of Outlaws event in 2004. On the other side of the coin the biggest disappointment was the washout of the first $50,000 to win event in 2001 that had live cable coverage

Remembering NSW's Scott Darley

TT: What is your best Sprintcar shot ever taken?

GR: My personal favourite shot might surprise a lot of people. It’s one of Steve Kinser at Parramatta City Raceway with a stunning Sydney Summer sunset as the backdrop.

I will also share with you some other shots I like (see below)

Gary's favourite Sprintcar Portrait : USA Driver Jason Meyers

Favourite Atmosphere shot : Australia Day at Valvoline Raceway 2013

Best Sprintcar Crash : Adrian Maher

Classic Oldie: Short Circuit Sidecars at Dubbo way back in 1971 - complete with a GTS Monaro in the background

Best Ever Bike Shot: Australia Vs England test match at Sydney Showground Speedway 1973. (left to right) Arnie Haley, Bob Valentine, Eric Broadbelt, John Langfield

Gary captured horsepower of a different kind in action

Sprintcars are not the only means of racing that go four-wide !

TT: Who is your favourite Sprintcar Driver and why?

GR: I don’t really have a favourite driver, but Donny Schatz in full flight was a sight to behold at PCR

TT: And just to wind up, what are your overall plans for next year?

GR: Valvoline Raceway has about 30 nights of racing and as usual that will be my main focus. I am always on the lookout for a better way to capture great images and if that means a new camera or lens, then I will upgrade. But I will say, as my arsenal has grown over the years, I have found it capable of meeting nearly every situation

Gary is a long-time supporter of Torque Tube and we deeply thank him for his ongoing contribution to this website and Speedway in general.

Gary can be contacted on greid@pacific.net.au

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