Auckland-based photographer, Brook Ready had been looking for something a little bit different for his portfolio, something that nobody else in New Zealand had covered and captured yet – quite a challenge given the rich pool of talent there, and the fact that Kiwis love to travel so much.
Having assisted some of New Zealand’s finest photographers for over six years, all the while honing his only photographic skills, Ready started to push his work out to the major advertising agencies and was keen to be in a position to offer them something that might catch their attention.
Ready was familiar with the infamous Bonneville Salt Lake events, and the amazing photographic opportunities there. The only problem was that they has been cancelled two years running due to rain and soft salt. But then Ready found a relatively unknown event in Australia, out at Lake Gairdner in South Australia. “I felt like I had hit the jackpot,” Ready says. It was a lot less publicised, a lot closer to home, and had a history of its own going back to 1990.” But there were risks for him. Namely, he didn’t know whether people there would be keen to be photographed or if there would already be packs of photographers at the event, “making it more like a catwalk frenzy than an event where I could capture interesting people," he says.
The aim was to capture portraits of the people that raced the machines they had worked tirelessly to create, and risk their lives on to break records with. Having never been to South Australia before, or into the Outback, Ready was in for quite a shock. Lake Gairdner is three hours away from any major town with the last sign of civilisation being the forgotten ghost town of Iron Knob. The last two and a half hours of the drive are along dirt roads, with no phone signal. “It was like Mars out there,” Ready says. “I got to lake and it was over 40 degrees. The bounce off the salt was so bright that there were guys wearing two pairs of sunglasses – one on top of the other.”
After the first day, Ready says that he was disappointed with the images he’d captured. “I wasn’t achieving the kinds of shots I had set out to get and had to have a pretty serious conversation with myself,” he says. A fortuitous meeting with an ABC TV reporter who was covering the event helped with introductions to some of the riders where they were staying. As relationships developed over the week, Ready made acquaintances with a number of riders willing to come out to the lake at the crack of dawn for him to get the light he wanted.
Preparation in the weeks leading up to the event, working out lens choice and compositions meant that he could concentrate on light, background and working with his subjects, instead of getting bogged down with the technical aspects. But by the end of the week, Ready was doing a lot more than simply taking photographs. Adopted by one of the teams, he had access to all areas of the racing and even pitched in on their volunteer day at the starting line, doing safety checks on drivers before their run. “It’s really important at these kind of events, even if you’re just observing, to pitch in, as without people volunteering they just won’t happen.” Besides being an amazing experience, and shooting a great deal of work for his portfolio, Ready says that it was also great practice for shooting on TVCs with similar conditions – he would get just 2–3 minutes for the shot as riders came off the salt from their runs. Any longer and they would start to boil in their leathers and get blinded by the light. Consequently, there was definitely pressure for Ready to get the shot, and get it quickly.
Ready plans to return in 2017, but has no allusions that he’ll be the only photographer next time. “After the attention my photos have received since I posted them, I’m expecting there might be quite a few more people with cameras turning up!”
About Brook Ready
Brook Ready comes from a marketing and advertising agency background in both the UK and New Zealand. Working as one of New Zealand's top commercial assistants for over six years, he is now in the early stages of working with his own clients. "I treated my time assisting as an apprenticeship, learning from incredible photographers both here in NZ and abroad. I have taken this and now make it into my own recipe in how I work, and how my work looks."
A fascination with real people, their environments, and the emotion that can be felt from an image, Ready says, "I really enjoy people, and I also enjoy the challenge of bringing a brief to life. It’s problem solving with art - what’s not to love?"