Jeff Smith from Action Sports Photography Australia has become an integral part of the Queensland Superkart Club over recent years. Jeff supplies the club with some fantastic images that are posted on social media, included in club’s newsletter and supplied to outlets like KartSportNews. If you haven’t already, make sure you give his Facebook page a like – see it HERE.
The Qld Superkart Club conducted an interview with Jeff to find out more about the man behind the lens.
Q: How did you get into photography?
A: Photography was one of those hobbies that I have always been interested, but in my younger days my financial priorities didn’t extend to indulging myself in any serious camera gear. To be honest if I had started off in the days of film I would have probably sent myself broke. Like anything photography takes time and practice. The digital age has certainly helped in that regard.
About 10 years ago I was asked to take some photos of some guys in karts with a “State of the Art” at the time, 6-megapixel pocket camera at Gold Coast Motorsport training centre. The photography “bug” bit hard. After that experience feeling that I could do better I went out and bought myself my first basic DSLR with a kit lens. And so it has gone on from there. At last count I have four cameras and a plethora of lenses of different sizes.
What do you enjoy photographing the most?
Hands down Motorsport of any kind is probably my favourite niche, although I do dabble in wildlife (birds mostly) and to a lesser extent landscape (mostly nightscapes) photography.
All forms of photography have different challenges to overcome. I have always been a motorsport fan, doesn’t matter what type of motorsport. For me Motorsport is tactile. I enjoy the assault on the senses with the speed, colours, noise and the smell of race fuel and rubber. Coupled with that of course is the element of risk associated with being inside the fence close to the action. Nothing better than capturing action on the edge.
How did you become involved with the club?
Just lucky I guess. A few years ago now Club President Tim took a bit of a gamble and asked if I would be interested in taking some shots for a Club Round and I have stuck with the Club since.
The Club members have been a great bunch of people to be associated with and don’t seem to mind me poking a lens in their general direction. Particularly, Giovanni (Johnny) La Spina, he loves to get in the frame. Keith Taylor owns a Ford Focus RS so we have a bit in common, Peter Nuske has always got that cagey smile and Jon Bothamley and his team have always got something going on.
Seriously though, the Karts with their size, speed and type of racing present a different challenge in getting them in the frame than other forms of motorsport. For example if I was at a Go-Kart track I would be much closer to the track and positioning of the camera would be a lot less restricted than at a car racing circuit. I remember the first Superkart event I went to I had the wrong setup and my positioning was all wrong so it was a learning experience that has helped me get to the point I am today.
What are your future plans?
Action Sports Photography Australia (ASPA) has started to take on a bit of a life of its own. This year we have renewed our Karting Australia accreditation, gained a State Media licence with Motorcycling Australia and reached Silver accreditation with Australian Motorsport, so there are a lot of potential event options, COVID dependant of course.
I have covered the Leadfoot Festival in New Zealand as accredited media for the last three years along with the ASIA DREAM Cup (motorbikes) at Suzuka in Japan and it has given me a taste to improve to the point of getting to some of the great international events like the GOODWOOD Festival of Speed and the Isle of Man TT.
Unfortunately, though with the virus those events are off in the distant future. For now, I will content myself with trying to capture a Superkart sharp at 1/20th of a second and just maybe a National Round of the Superkarts at the Bend this year. If anyone from the club is going let me know.
Some of your favourite pictures and a short caption as to why
I have got so many shots that I like and you didn’t say Superkart Shots LOL. Here are a few that Club Members haven’t seen. My first Lightning bolt. My first Australian Superbike meeting. My first Leadfoot Festival Program imagem The Harris Motorsport Nissan Flames match the car. My first image used by Hoosier Australia. My first speedway Poster.
Tell us something interesting from your side of the lens?
Photography is a bit like motorsport in a way. Believe it or not photographers are just as passionate about what they do as any racer on the track. Where drivers are looking to constantly improve performance, in the same way photographers are doing just the same. We are constantly tweaking something looking for sharper images, faster frames/second to catch a point in time or more megapixels of data to present images in the best way, just like racers look for more horsepower.
It can be just as expensive as well. It is not uncommon to find photographers at the track on any given day with about $10k-$15k of gear just to chase “a shot”.
How would you describe your “Style” of photography?
Not many people realise that each photographer has an individual style. I try not to be too predictable and I like to mix up my shots a bit. I like to get a bit of a balance between the track action and what is happening in the pits to develop a bit of a “flavour” for what is going on. Not all of the intensity of a race meeting is happening on the track so I try to capture that action with some candid shots between races.
On the track I have a tendency to fill the frame with a single subject (trying to break that habit) and am continually trying to perfect the motion blur with a lot of panning shots. I have certainly been lucky to have had a few good photographer mentors over the last few years. A good mate of mine, Peter Buchanan for instance has helped me enormously in improving my skill set, one is never too old to learn.