Willowbank Raceway through the lens
Discover Ipswich caught up with a photographer who has been capturing spectacular action trackside at Willowbank Raceway for two decades.
Dave Reid of dragphotos.com.au shares some memories of his work throughout the years and some of his incredible images from a library of more than a million – and still growing.
How did you become involved in drag racing photography?
I started shooting motorsport back in 1998. One of my mates was heading out and gave me a camera to snap shots of him at the track, from that moment I was hooked.
How long have you been shooting the action at Willowbank?
The first event I shot was a Test N’ Tune event back in 1998 and the first major event was Drag Combat, now known as Jamboree – the biggest sports compact drag racing event outside of USA. I remember rocking up to the event with an 8mb memory card that I had to put on GE finance that cost $800, now a single photo is bigger than 8mb!!! It’s crazy how far technology has come.
What is it about drag racing in particular that you love?
Drag racing is one of the sports that is just addictive, as much as we don’t want people getting hurt we all love that big explosion or the huge wheel stand that makes the sport so spectacular!!
The sport is also a giant family and the Drag Photos team has made a lot of great friends through the events. Other motorsports are great and we shoot them as per request but our love is drag racing.
What changes have you seen?
Over the years there has been a lot of changes – some good some bad – changes with safety, management, and photography. At the end of the day we all have to adapt to the changes and push forward. One of the challenges is making a track that is a straight line, interesting… week in and week out, lucky with Willowbank Raceway we have some of the best sunsets out of all the Drag Strips in the World, so that is a huge bonus.
What are some highlights?
There has been a lot of great moments, from friends reaching new personal bests or racers beating world records, but I couldn’t do it without the team around me. I have some of the country’s best photographers that shoot alongside me – Clarkie, or Mr. Attention to Detail and Bez, my Mr Consistent. We all bounce ideas off each other – plenty that don’t pan out as they should but when you manage to pull off that killer shot it’s all worth the hard work.
With all the highlights there is always the low lights, most of which are watching people you know in a crash. I will never forget watching Phil Lamattina’s huge crash where his top fueler snapped in half in mid-air, although the shots were spectacular and he made a full recovery, it is always scary to watch.
Do you have an all-time favourite photo?
With more than 1.4 million photos archived, there are just too many to choose from, I love the detail shots or the shots that the racers are so much in the zone that they don’t even realize you are taking a photo. Each track has its own uniqueness, we try our best to just make the most of all the opportunities to give the fans and readers something to just look at in awe.
What would be your top three tips for those wanting to photograph some of the action trackside?
Practice, the old faithful rule of ‘practice makes perfect.’ We are in the digital era, it’s a lot cheaper to take the photos, if you think something might work… give it a shot, worse case you delete it and try again.
My number one rule though is don’t try and be a superstar panning at ridiculously low shutter speeds. Yeah, they look cool but when something crazy goes wrong and a car explodes or crashes and all you have is a blurry mess, the excitement turns to frustration really fast!
Last but not least isn’t just based on photography but life in general, be a good human, be as kind as you can be and the rewards will flow through. There is too much negativity in the world, so just enjoy life, be kind and be that person that people look at and want to be like!
Never been to the drag racing? Come and see what it’s all about. Full details at willowbankraceway.com.au