Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs

The weekend of Canada Day 2016 found me in the Gaspé part of Quebec, as part of the official media contingent for the Rallye-Baie-des-Chaleurs, one of the races in the Canadian Rally Championship series.  I was really stoked to be part of this, and drove up on Canada Day through all sorts of festive traffic in New Brunswick on my way to Quebec.

Mostly, I wanted to write about what worked for me, what didn’t work, and what I think I want to do differently next time.  The next rally for me will be Défi in Montpellier in September, and I am already thinking about what sorts of things I want to accomplish.

Before diving into this, the set of images I took from the event are available on my website at  If you’re looking for a copy of an image, just drop me an email.

Before photography, though, I need to mention my food and water situation. Mainly, the lack of it.  I seem to perpetually underestimate my food consumption when I do one of these.  Next time, more food in the car.  A man can’t live on delicious hotdogs alone.  Well, I guess a man can, but still.  I was filling water bottles out of streams and rivers between cars, which worked well.  Next time, large jugs in the car.  This just seems so dumb on my part.  I am an expedition photographer, so you’d think I’d know this by now.

Photographically, I think what I did worked out well.  The Nikon and Phase One IQ250 always perform exceptionally well.  There are times when I wish I had not traded frames per second for dynamic range, but when you get it right, it’s oh so sweet.  There are other times when a bit more reach would have been nice, but I think you get the reach you need by being patient.  I think I prefer being a bit short than not being able to zoom out when I need to.

One of the teams up from Mexico throwing up a ton of gravel in the first stage.
One of the teams up from Mexico throwing up a ton of gravel in the first stage.

I brought a fish eye but didn’t use it much.  In fact, I didn’t use a wide angle much at all, except for a bit of night time work with the 24-70/2.8.   I think next time I will bring even more radio triggers and set up some extra cameras.  Jaanus Ree does some cool stuff with laser triggers that sounds intriguing.  There were some other photographers shooting video through a variety of means, and that’s something I want to explore as well. The sound is what I really think makes rally ‘rally’, and perhaps an external recorder with an omnidirectional microphone would work well.

The ground was  really wet on the weekend, so shots I took during the rally proper didn’t have that cool dust factor.  The day before, during the shakedown, it was hot and dry.  Better!

Night time photography is always hard.  It is exceptionally so during rally because of a number of factors.  First, you are inevitably shooting at high ISO.  A big sensor helps.  If you are shooting at a car driving towards you, you will have a difficult time using autofocus because the glare will make your lens hunt.   You can get around this in a number of ways.  One is to shoot creatively.  Use strobes to illuminate the car as it goes by, instead of shooting head on.  I also like shooting the rears of the cars as they go by, because then you get tail lights, and the lit foreground from the car headlights.  It makes for a cool shot.  For focusing, I usually put my lens into manual focus.  Pre-focus for a set distance with a respectable depth of field, and then trap shoot when the car passes through it.

An example:

Joel Levac and Stéphanie Lewis, who won the event, ripping it up the first evening.
Joel Levac and Stéphanie Lewis, who won the event, ripping it up the first evening.

This would have been a tough shot for me using autofocus, so I prefocus on the ground and wait until the MINI was in the spot.  Pretty happy with this one.

Next time, more remote strobes!  I want to do cooler stuff, outside of line of sight.

I had a blast doing this.  I have a ton of respect for people involved in rally.  There’s just so much dedication involved.   The demand for concentration from drivers and co-pilots, and the relentless work ethic from team crews to keep cars on the track.  Insanity, and so awesome.  I already have my media accreditation for Defi and can’t wait.

Photo by Frédéric Senterre of PetrolHead HQ
Photo by Frédéric Senterre of PetrolHead HQ

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