By Victor Varela
Photography and auto racing, they are an exciting and romantic combination that has resulted in some of the most impressive images of the sport for well over 100 years. When I think of motorsports photography, I bring to mind the iconic images from such notable photographers – Jesse Alexander, Louis Klemantaski, Bernard and Paul-Henri Cahier, Rainer Schlegelmilch and Keith Sutton. They are among the photographers who have amazed, motivated and inspired me to use my experience and knowledge of photography, to capture the world of motorsports.
I have been photographing race cars over the course of 30 years, my first being at the Formula 1 race held at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1983. Those pictures were not very impressive for my first foray into motorsports photography, as they were captured with very limited access to the race track – mostly behind a fence. But the weekend was significant in that I learned that I had to master my skills in photography and learn how to work at capturing images at a race track. In the coming years I would improve, both in front and behind the fence, at race tracks like Phoenix, Riverside (before it closed), Fontana and what I consider my home track, Laguna Seca.
I must admit that I have envied media photographers and the access they have to prime vantage points and locations on the track. They have access to the drivers, teams and the race cars that make a huge difference when trying to capture the type and quality of images that you see on the cover and pages of car and racing magazines.
Now getting credentialed is not easy and there’s a reason for that. Credentials are for working media professionals covering a race event for newspapers, motorsports publications, national and local TV news stations and media and internet sites that regularly cover motorsports. And it makes it even more difficult if you try covering any of the top-level motorsports events like F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, etc. They usually turn down a freelance journalist or photographer unless their request is accompanied by a letter from an editor from said media outlet. And even then, you might get turned down!
So, how does one apply for credentials when you don’t represent one of these media outlets? I’m sure there are several ways of trying to secure credentials. Some might work, but more than likely, you will be politely turned down.