Behind the lens with Tom Loomes

Fresh from his first run at the Nürburgring 24 Hours, 2013 Renault MSA Young Photographer of the Year Tom Loomes walks us through his time at the circuit with British GTs and touring cars, why the Monaco Grand Prix is just one of several Formula 1 events he’d like to shoot, how some race events are more hostile than others, and what frequents his camera bag during his life Behind the Lens.  

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Tom, what got you into photography in the first place? Is there anything in particular that set you down this route…?

“I honestly can’t pin down what got me into photography. It’s been a hobby since my teenage years but I never took it seriously until I took a college course, and even then it wasn’t until I was into the last stages that I combined it with motorsport to do what I do now.”

Have you always been an enthusiast of motorsport? If so, do you prefer historic or contemporary motorsport?

“My dad is motorsport fan so naturally I grew up to be one too. I’m quite glad he had a general interest in all forms of motorsport and not just one single series. Growing up in the 1990s I got to see the British Touring Car Championship, GT racing, the DTM and endurance LMP all at my local circuit, Donington Park.

“I love historic and contemporary motorsport equally, but while it is amazing to see cars from the Group C, Super Touring and late ‘80s Formula 1 eras out on track, the real competition – and with it competitive emotions – will always be in modern racing.”

Behind the lens Tom Loomes-08

The manner in which motorsport is shot has changed considerably…

“Actually a large part of my inspiration comes from looking back through books of photographers from the ‘60s and ‘70s (they would pretty much stand on the apex of any corner to take photos). While they got shots that would be impossible today, I feel I wouldn’t be able to take that risk with modern drivers or machinery. I’m very pleased with the access I have, but if it changes in the future I’ll just have to go with it. You work with what you’re given!”

What is you favourite aspect of motorsport photography? The drivers? The cars? The atmosphere…?

“This can change from race-to-race and series-to-series. Some series – that shall remain nameless – have quite hostile crowds, while others have none at all. Other events, like the Nürburgring 24 Hours have an amazing crowd, I envy the fact that they get to sit back and watch the race while I have to work! The atmosphere is generally my favourite part about a race weekend: if it’s good then it reflects in your images.”

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How far are you willing to travel for good images then?

“I cover the full season of the British GT series so that involves going all over the country, usually a two or three-hour trip to get to most circuits on the calendar. I’m more than happy to go anywhere though for a good race.”

Lugging a significant amount of equipment with you, I imagine…

“I shoot with a Canon 5D MkII and three lenses, the 35mm f/1.4L, 70-200mm f/2.8L and my latest acquisition, the 300mm f/2.8L. Along with the main gear I carry about 36GB worth of compact flash cards, a spare battery, lens cloth, chamois leather (great, cheap rain cover), a couple of energy bars and a drink. I try to carry as little as possible because the races are long and I like to walk the circuit a lot.”

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You’ve a very circuit-based portfolio. Have you ever considered shooting on the rally stages?

“I actually attended my first rally at the end of last year, which was the final World Rally Championship round in Wales. Since then I’ve done a few local rallies during the weekends when I’m not at a circuit and I’ve made plans to do some of the European rounds of the WRC again later this year. I’m involved in a very exciting project that should see me do a lot more rallies in future.”

Are there any events you’ve shot that stand out in your memory, for good or bad reasons?

“I’ve just returned from the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which was not only my first visit to the Nürburgring but also my first 24-hour race. That’s an experience I’ll never forget.

“Although I didn’t know it at the time, the British GT event at Silverstone last year will remain in my mind, since it was the last time I saw Allan Simonsen. I’m always saddened by the loss of a life in this sport but Allan was the first driver that I actually knew. He was a pleasure to work around in the British GT paddock and will be sadly missed.”

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Tell me about the future. What events do you hope to shoot in the years to come?

“Hundreds! I’d love to do the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Dakar, Pikes Peaks, Petit Le Mans, Sebring 12h…let’s see, the Safari Rally if it ever returns, MotoGP at Philip Island, the Bathurst 1000, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Spa, WRC Spain…oh, and TUSCC Laguna Seca, Goodwood (both the FoS and Revival) and perhaps some AMA Supercross events too.”


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