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Le Mans: A Shoot that nearly Ended Me

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Some photoshoots we love, and others we merely get by…..  this is one that I loved that almost ended me.

To say that racing is an important aspect of my life would be the equivalent of saying that I enjoy breathing air.  I love the speed, the sounds that the cars make at speed, and just for the intention of using the word “speed” in a sentence 4 times, speed.  This is why when a phone call came in with a photoshoot at the 24 heurs du Mans in France (better know as Le Mans), I decided that in no way would I turn it down.  With this said, I had already scheduled a week in the Caribbean that would get me home the day before I needed to fly to Paris.  On top of this I had a photograph in Texas two days after the race.  Most people in their right minds would cancel on one of these, or skip the race all together, sadly I am not like most in this regards.  In hoping to make life easier while in Le Mans I brought my assistant Mike with me to cover in parts where I needed a break, after all, the race we were to photograph is 24 hours long.

 Peugeot 908

After a great trip to the Caribbean I returned home, repacked, and went to bed, this is the last time I would sleep until I returned home………….

In the morning, Mike and I flew out to Philadelphia, excited, but already loathing the flight that would come next.  We both knew this would be a demanding photoshoot, but when tested, I always photographed better.  After about an hour in Phili we boarded the plane that would take us to Charles de Gaulle in France.  Now sitting on a plane for an extended period of time is bad, but when your seats are broken and don’t recline, and your in flight TV’s don’t work, and your laptop plugs are the wrong size…..well you see where this is going.  Needless to say, no sleep.

When we landed, it was 7:30am and a day later in France.  Wanting to have an idea of what we were getting into, I decided it would be best to go straight to the track from the TGV station in Le Mans (after sitting for so many hours, I needed to walk).  We checked in, got our credentials, and walked the track most of the day trying to think where we would photograph the coming morning.  Afterward we retired to the Novatel to rest, for a 24 hour long photoshoot awaited us.  Unfortunately with this rest came no sleep for someone (identity hidden for protection) has the ability to shake paintings off the wall with his snoring, impeding any chance that I had at sleeping.

dunlop

Then came race day, and for no sleep, I was surprisingly sprightly, it was though I was able to walk on adrenaline alone.  I felt the excitement building as the teams readied, and the track was cleared, and as expected, was photographing well.  As time went on, and the light fell I got a bit tired, but started a regiment of double shot cappuccinos to keep me awake.  I would say “alert” but in all honesty I was like a wired drunk that was very coherent, but not really comprehending much.  I could take a picture, but not much else, and thankfully my camera will not let the shutter fire without a memory card to write to, for I found this out once every hour or so.

Silk Cut Jaguar

With the light returning in the morning after a long rainy night I thought the motivation to stay awake would also come back to me, and I was horribly wrong.  With only a couple hours left in the 24 hours race I started collapsing, quickly followed by the shakes, and then, cherry on top of this pile, throwing up.  My lack of French (even after 4 years of it in school) didn’t help, and my assistant and I decided it would be best if I got back to the hotel.  With only an hour left in the race, Mike acted as a crutch getting me to a cab and it was off to the Novatel, for my condition was getting worse quickly and walking the track wasn’t helping.  I can remember little of this time, but know that halfway back to the hotel I asked the driver to pull over so that I could be sick outside of the cab, and he did.  The next thing I remember was being woken up by the cab driver after being sick and passing out in a random rose garden in the front yard of someone’s house on the road home.

Fortunately I was able to keep some fluids in my body after a while and when the race was over, Mike and I headed back to the airport to return home.  Oddly I was genuinely happy, for it was like escaping a nightmare, the irony in this statement being that I would of course had to sleep to do so.  Nonetheless we made it back, with great images and a story to boot.  That evening I would retire at home for a good night’s sleep, in my bed, the last place I slept a few nights before.

Le Mans Pits

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wow, now that’s dedication.

    June 10, 2009
  2. Shooting a “normal” full day race is tiring, that sounds dreadful. But, still sounds worth it. Hopefully some day I am able to work that race, too!

    November 19, 2013
  3. Incredible story! When you get once in a lifetime opportunities its amazing how the little things such as sleep and your health don’t matter anymore! The lengths we go for our profession people will never understand.

    November 20, 2013
  4. Dude. Are you sure that you were drinking double cappuccinos and not something, *ahem, harder? :)

    The images look fantastic, though. Great work!

    -Joel

    November 20, 2013
    • HaHa! Funny thing… I didn’t have a single drop of alcohol the entire time I was in France

      November 21, 2013

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