Mark bites the dust for his art and lives to tell the tale...
A look at my website will confirm I don't just shoot cars, I cover a wide range of genres. But I have shot in and around cars through my career. Early on I joined a facilities company specialising in the design and build of onboard camera systems for F1 and Motorcycle GP live TV coverage.
That involved SD transmission by analogue microwave links installed in a small helicopter which was towed on a trailer all around Europe. Whilst working at the launch of Jaguar Stewart Racing, I met Steffan Hewitt, Polecam's designer, and saw an opportunity to work with this unique product. I bought one of his first Polecam rigs 17 years ago and it has brought me a career as an owner-op which is still going strong today. I suppose because of that early start a lot of what I've done has been around motorsport. Even now I work on F1 launches for Ferrari, Manor Racing and McLaren, plus the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I've been doing that now for about 8 years - the start line camera. I shoot it now with a Toshiba IKHD-1H minicam on my Polecam, at the side of the track; it's all live, fibre back to the OB truck about 1 1/2 km away with footage shown on Large screens, ITV and a live programme on Sky. Because of all this work I do get a lot of car-related bookings via word of mouth, as well as a whole variety of work on other productions.
The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) pits drivers and production-based cars against some of the toughest and most varied conditions on earth. It's widely regarded as the most challenging motorsport championship anywhere.
The event I covered (and which covered me - in dirt!) was Rally Italia, which took place on the island of Sardinia over three days. I was shooting for NEP Finland. It was shown on WRC TV and the world feed went out to many countries as well as Channel 5, BT Sport, Eurosport and motoring channels.
The Polecam rig used for this event was fitted with a Toshiba IK-HD1H minicam and HD prime lens as well as a nanoFlash recorder. Getting this type of work is not down to Polecam skills alone - it's having the full understanding of how rallies work, and shooting to order for the programme from remote locations.
On the first day you're given a handbook with GPS coordinates of your camera location; then a 6 am load-up in a rental car to travel to the rally stage about 120 km away. There we drove along the rally track in our Nissan Qashqai to the first position. It struggled along the track, which was incredibly full of ruts, gullies, hills and rocks.
We set up with safety in mind, but I have to get the best shots possible, so I negotiate with the Rally Officials to find somewhere that's safe but will still get us great shots - not on the outside of a bend or anywhere where the rocks, or even cars might be flying.
A few test shots with the safety cars, then the first car can be heard, even though you can't see it, hurtling in from about a kilometre away.
I start the recorder and prepare my shot for the arrival.