In the World Rally Championship their is Colin’s Crest in Sweden, and El Bronco in Mexico. At the 100 Acre Wood Rally here in America we have the “Cattle Guard Jump!” OpenPaddock’s professional photographer extraordinaire Doug Patterson trekked two miles (up hill both ways he tells me) to capture the action at the Cattle Guard on film. Here’s Doug’s description of the setting:
I’ve been going to the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood headquartered in Salem, MO since 2009, and I’ve loved the experience every single year. Over those past four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of the stages and image a variety of different elements. There are a number of great high-speed sweepers where you can see the cars flying sideways around the corners, some tight hairpins where you can get the camera right up close to the cars, and fabulous water crossings that look fantastic at night as the water droplets glitter in the light of the flash. There was always one location that I’d hear about and see the photos from every year, but never figured out where it was precisely, the famous Cattle Guard Jump. It’s on the Camel Hump stage two miles from the northern terminus. When the stage is run from south to north, the road falls away precipitously as the cars cross a cattle crossing location. This allows the car to get some serious air time!
This year, I finally made it to the fabled Cattle Guard Jump, and right in the nick of time. Thinking that I had plenty of time, since Higgins was still in the service park, I selfishly stopped and ate my late lunch in a restaurant instead of in the car and on the run as usual. Bad move. I got to the finish of the stage expecting to be able to drive up to the jump location and park. Unfortunately, the 000 had already been through and the stage was closed. Time to hike! Did I mention that the jump is two miles from the flying finish? Yeah. So off I go, loaded with as minimal camera gear as I could manage quick-stepping it down the stage before the 00 and 0 came by. Rally photography is hell on a fat man! Circuit photogs have NOTHING to complain about with their heated/air conditioned media centers full of food and beverage.
I did make it to the jump in time, albeit out of breath and a bit shaky. When Higgins came over the jump, all thoughts of the hike and the potential of hiking back evaporated! Seeing those rally cars flying through the air was magnificent. Oh yea! I need to photograph these! It was easy to be mesmerized by the sight. A lot of the front runners launched, flew, and landed straight. Some of the other vehicles …not so much. The Fords especially were nose-heavy, something we’ve seen in the WRC as well. The Foci would land heavily on their nose, pounding their front air dams into the mud and gravel. The Fiestas fared better, but still landed pitched downward. Some drivers came in sedately and cautiously, taking very little air. Others came in hot! Those that came in with a bit too much speed often left plenty of souvenirs for the spectators who were there.
The shooting location I chose gave me a great head-on view of the cars, but it also placed me near the landing point. It was a safe enough spot because if a car lost control, inertia would carry them down the stage and not into me, but mud splatters quickly became an issue. Note to self: bring rain gear for the camera next year. My primary camera was fine as I would turn and shield it with my body, but my secondary camera took quite a bit of splattered mud. Fortunately, it was all cosmetic, but it was an important lesson that I need to bring the entire camera bag. Not that I’d need all of my gear, but to use as a protective for the camera I’m not using at the moment. I certainly wasn’t the only one caught by the mud. Many of the spectators’ coats and media vests were splattered top to bottom by the time the last car came through. It was all worth it, though, and the Cattle Guard Jump will be a definite must-shoot location for 2014.