Shooting The World of Rallying

by | Dec 7, 2017

Today’s Post by John Larsen

For many years I watched television coverage of the World Rally Championship and thought it would be fun to spectate and a real challenge to try to take photos of this unique form of motorsports.

Eventually I would attend my first Rally of the Tall Pines that takes place annually in Bancroft, Ontario in late November and I have been back a number of times. Due to the timing and location, the public roads that comprise the rally routes are usually covered in snow making it difficult for the teams and exciting for the fans.

I feel that rallying is the most underrated form of motorsports as the driver and co-driver team do not get to practice for a couple of hours on the circuit. Instead, they venture onto the route the day before the event and cannot exceed the posted speed limits as the roads are open to the public. Driver and co-driver will take meticulous notes that will be used when running the special stage as fast as they can. This reconnaissance is called a “recce”.

Spectating and taking photos at a rally is difficult given the roads are closed while the event is taking place. Usually there are dedicated locations that the organizers have allocated for viewing. I have enjoyed a particular section at the Rally of the Tall Pines where hundreds of fans cheer encouragement and ring cowbells while the rally teams power slide their way through a twisty section of road.

To take photos I would recommend a 70-200mm zoom lens that will likely allow you to get panned shots as the cars are going by you and will also assist in getting closer images of the cars negotiating a corner.

Access to the pit area where the teams work on their cars is also a great opportunity to get photos of the drivers and co-drivers. A wide-angle lens will allow you to get shots of the cars and crew while a short zoom of around 18-135mm can provide the flexibility to take head shots of the driver/co-driver teams with their helmets on if desired. If this takes place late in the evening and into the dark it is a great time to try second shutter sync with your flash and a slow shutter speed as the cars leave the pit area.

Most rallies do not charge any admission to watch, although there may be certain grandstands or locations on the route that may carry a fee. This is an exciting and challenging form of motorsports to photograph and the atmosphere is very European. I strongly recommend doing your research to find a rally event near you!

Please note that the images accompanying this blog were taken without any media credentials.

John Larsen is this blog’s Senior International Travel Corresponden, whose website is