Thursday, April 22, 2010

#100 Neil Hodgson...Thank You for the memories


During my tenure shooting and covering the AMA Superbike series I was fortunate enough to be involved. For me, it was truly international. It had many fans both here in the USA and abroad. Race tracks were full of fans, really full. The racers were all characters, good (Ben Spies) and bad (Matt Mladin) guys, and then some other crazy characters. It was a great time to be a photographer and in simplicity just being there. One person during those AMA days that truly made it me for was Neil Hodgson. Who announced his retirement today following another accident in the UK which re-injured an old injury caused during some down time here in the US. I always enjoyed covering Neil, mainly for Motorcycle Racer in the UK and for that I am grateful to have been a part of his journey here. I was always thrilled to meetup with Neil and the Ducati gang, and then the Honda gang during a race weekend. Neil's sense of humour, with and courtesy were always countered by his stylish and aggressive riding on track. A joy to chat with and a thrill to photograph. Thank you and good luck Neil!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One last thing. Valentino Rossi and one from me!

I never cease to be amazed...Valentino Rossi Andrew Wheeler Automotophoto Qatar MotoGP winnerI have had many images used by Yamaha over the last 7 years I have been working in the motorcycle racing world, however, this is the first time an image of Valentino Rossi shot by yours truly has been used...Actually I'm thrilled. More to come in 2010.

Rossi, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Hayden and Spies. Arabian Knights part two, out for the camels..

Weird. The night racing was cool, a lot of fun.However, for me it made me feel like I was being forced to live through real time jet lag. I knew it would be weird, however, for someone who really does have a hard time grasping time and continuum it threw me a wobbly.I had a a great week exploring, going shopping, dealing with the worlds hottest parking lot (in the mall that contained Carrefour) and meeting some really really kind, and courteous, locals. On Thursday we headed to the track early afternoon so that I could pick up my credentials. It is always a thrill to go and pick up my "official pass" as I have never taken any of this for granted. This year however, I do not have to ask for the "vest" at each race. I have been given my own personal bright orange "MotoGP" vest to take to each round as I travel. I am officially photographer 058. Back to Thursday. It's pretty much a day of re-acquaintance, snagging a locker for your gear and making sure you get the desk that'll be your office for the weekend. Thursday afternoon is the 125 and Moto2 team shoot and then we're done.
Friday starts late with the group shot of the MotoGP riders as the sun goes down, then it's kicking tyres for a couple of hours before we get some track action. With the 125's heading out with it just getting dark, we're treated to really nice comfortable working conditions. Moto2 and MotoGP bikes hit the track and then we're done. Time to drive back to Andrew's Arabian Palace and call it a day with a nice can of non alcoholic Moussey..Saturday rolls around and I have already decided that we need to visit the Islamic Museum of Art (image above shot at night). What a trip! If anyone goes to Doha to cover MotoGP you must, I insist must, visit this fantastic museum. Chock full of truly interesting artifacts, books, sculptures and just about everything that takes your breath away. For me, the only sadness I has was the fact that Emily wasn't with me. So much stuff to see and absorb. We could've stayed longer but we had sandwiches and food for later on that night to purchase. So we headed off to the City Centre Mall, and the worlds hottest parking lot and bought food.Did I mention you really have to visit the museum?Saturday was the usual race deal, with of course Casey Stoner snagging pole position, and the usual suspects being up front. Ben Spies managed 11th in qualifying but that would eventually change as the race on Sunday progressed and he'd make up 6 places to finish fifth. Casey would crash out giving Rossi the win. Nicky Hayden did a bang up job to finish fourth battling with Dovizioso who would finish third after the man who likes to hurt himself, Jorge Lorenzo. Ben battled with Pedrosa and passed him up the inside right in front of me at the first corner. Not your usual Qatar race to be honest. So fortunately Casey wasn't hurt by crashing, but it did mean we didn't really have a snore fest race from Qatar with someone running away in the lead. Valentino Rossi ran out of gas on the cool down lap and made a local super happy as he rode his scooter back to parc ferme. I almost got annihilated by Dovizioso's crew as they became crazy dudes over his third place finish...With that, hours of editing took place and we left the media centre as some ungodly hour after 4am. Watching the sky, daybreak happen made me feel sort of panicky. Weird I know, but I had been up since 9am the morning before because I really cannot sleep past 8am and so being awake for over 18 hours (we still had to get back to "The Palace") was making me feel a little freaky. Insomnia freaky.Monday rolled around and so we thought we'd visit "the souq" during the day, have some lunch and wrap up our Arabian adventure....I walked around the souq during it's "siesta time" so most places were closed. I decided to have some lunch. For me it was Couscous Royal, semolina, steamed vegetables, mutton, chicken and merquez sausages. Yummy. Whilst we were sat eating we saw Arabian horse mounted police and a little while after were joined by Gordon Howell of Pole Position Travel for a Turkish coffee. We sat around and had a chinwag before deciding we need to head back to base, finish packing and get ready to leave. As we walked through the souq taking our final photos we were invited to sit with two local Qatari's to have our photo taken. I'm still amazed at the courtesy and kindness I have witnessed during my week here. Needless to say I haven't felt so sad about leaving a destination since leaving Spain, which happens every time I leave Spain...I did mention to my wife Emily how much fun I had in Qatar, to which she answered, we're not living there..but she is coming with me next year!!I simply cannot wait to come back. Contrary to what others said about going to Qatar I found the extra day or two to be helpful (even allowing me the time to replace my power supply for my laptop that decided to go "phht" and give up the ghost!) but it also allowed me to get some sort of feel or insight into the people and culture.Valentino Rossi Qatar Andrew Wheeler AutoMotoPhotoI can't wait to catch up with the museum in 2011. Oh and the camels...? Whist we were heading back to our car in the souq, Gordon Howell shouted out "watch out for the camels!!" to which I went yeah yeah.....! Low and behold...Next race for me. MotoGP from Jerez...

Valentino Rossi Limited Edition Helmet Print (No Really)

There are only a handful left. Then that'll be it for this image file.Valentino Rossi Helmet Andrew Wheeler AutoMotoPhoto MotoGP VR46 RossiIf you have been following this blog and my trails and travels over the last few years you'll know that a print on canvas that I donated to the Riders For Health charity raised $8500 at auction during the Friday morning proceedings at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Rider for Health auction just before the racing events got under way. I have only been advertising the print on my Face Book Fan Page but now want to give those who aren't "fans" (I'll admit I'm not a fan of that phrase - gettit...) a last chance opportunity to own their own copy. Check out the link to the Valentino Rossi Helmet Print.

Now onto Arabian Knights, part two, the race and departure...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Rossi, Spies, Stoner, Lorenzo, Edwards, and Hayden. Arabian Knights part one, arrival.

This is my first trip to Qatar. It won't be my last.It's an odd thing how historically societal feelings can affect one's thoughts of going to a "strange land." I'll be honest I was a little nervous about coming here as all the google satellite maps made it look all dusty and even more mysterious. Then I started reading about the people and the history of Qatar. Having never been to the East this was my first trip to Qatar or anywhere on the Arabian Peninsula. The flight via Emirates was one of the most amazing flights, even in economy, I had ever been on. Don't get me started about how good the food was either.Arriving here late Monday night, another emotional twig being thrown into my mind's spoked wheel, I zipped through immigration where I paid my 100 Rials an received my visitor's visa stamp in my passport. Into baggage claim where someone had neatly paired my two suitcases ready to pick up and go. Through the alcohol detector (odd having ones bags x-rayed upon leaving the terminal...) and off to the Hertz counter. Signed all the forms, and then someone pushed my bag cart to the rental car, helped me load it and then walked me out through the gates. With my GPS all ready to go I found my accommodation in the centre of Doha. Being a little bit bothered that it might smell of smoke, I even brought my own Fabreez! What a twit. The apartment is huge. Two bedrooms, marble floors and 12' ceilings. Super comfortable and clean. (As an aside note to other photographers who have come here and said it's boring, can't wait to get out of here etc etc..hint: stop staying in hotels). The hotel security gurad even help me carry my luggage upstairs. Finally got to bed at 3pm. Next day, we'd go exploring and find a fort.I guess not too many people venture out of the city. It's a two hour drive north of Doha, out in the middle of nowhere and it's called Al-Zubarah. Restored back in 1835 on the remains of the original fort it sits out in the scrubland/desert and is "guarded" by a nice little old guy who lives next door. One Rial and you get the whole place to yourself. In fact, it is simply rather nice being there with the only other sound being the woot of pigeons. About an hour spent there, a brief picnic and it was back to Doha to do some food shopping in Carrefour. For Wednesday I had planned to go local. To keep it simple as later on Wednesday night another photographer would be joining me as my partner in crime at Andrew's Arabian Palace, joining me for the weekend's fun and games at "the races". So the plan was to head of to the Waqif souk, a reminder of Doha's heritage as a trading post and a sort of antique mall, no, not a mall that sells antiques just a place where one can eat, smoke sheesh and have a browse looking at gold and other objects. I had also planned to head to the Islamic Museum. This was not to be. My laptop power brick decided to end it's own life so with less than three hours of battery life. I had to go shopping. After five hours of discovering the back roads of Doha, and meeting even more kind helpful people, I found a store that sells Apple products. Oddly enough on the third floor for of the same huge mall that contained Carrefour. It was now getting dark. Time to get back on the plan and try to restart my day's plan of visiting "The Souk"..The first thing that hits you? The smell. It envelopes you. Coddles you. Wraps it's arms around you and makes you feel like you're being hugged. It's aromatic, erotic and sublime. Sandalwood, cumin, allspice and cinnamon waft around in the warm, slightly humid evening air.This isn't justa tourist spot. This is an actual working market, products such as 20lb bags of basmati and other rices stacked 10 bags high wait for their buyers. Fruit, pulses and other goods are being haggled over, "ten for that you must be mad" runs though my mind! Aware that it was getting later and not having Emily here to share this wonderful experience with, I decide it's time to take some pictures of the Doha skyline at night. After getting back onto the Corniche, the coast road and promenade around the inlet around which Doha is built. Doha had a huge pearl industry until oil was found, and the pearl business died out. Where the Corniche starts and near to the Islamic Museum is a massive Mother of Pearl monument, that pays homage to Doha's past. With that being the last shot of the evening, I switch on "Gladys", plot a route for home and join the crazy, but fun, evening traffic back to base.Did I mentioned I'm here because Ben Spies, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Nicky Hayden and those other madmen on their two wheeled machines that will be racing on Sunday at some stupid hour of the day? Oh no I didn't! More to come.