Gumball 3000 Through a Lens

Hugo Pettit and Finn Pomeroy discovered a love for photography during their years of professional skiing and what was always a passion became a profession as they moved from being in front of the lens to behind it. Hugo’s passion lies in the still image with his preferred subjects being surfing, skiing and other action sports, whilst Finn has worked commercially with big clients in music, motorsport and snow sports. In July 2017, the pair was commissioned to cover the action-filled Gumball 3000 Rally – the most recognised car rally in the world. We caught up with Hugo and Finn and learnt more about their once-in-a lifetime experience, captured on the Leica SL and Leica M (Typ 240).

Now in its 20th year, Gumball sees 150 supercars - cumulatively worth over £60 million!  -partake in the week-long extravaganza of driving, live music concerts, action sports and spectacular car shows hosted in capital cities across the course, all attracting crowds of over one million people. Hugo and I travelled just under 3,000 miles from Riga to Mykonos in 6 days. Driving all day and mingling with some of the world’s largest music acts, Gumball certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. We followed the rally this year in a Land Rover Defender creating a film for Gumball and two other partners.

The entrants have 6 days to complete the drive, interspersed with nights of unbelievable parties and dinners. Crowds of people fill every city that the travelling circus pulls into, with fans desperate to get a glimpse of the cars they have swooned over on Instagram. It’s a level of euphoria that is hard to explain without witnessing firsthand, with hundreds of thousands of people lining the route, streets, squares, climbing trees and attempting to clamber over every security barrier. We were granted AAA for the entire event so had free rein to shoot as we pleased, which gave us a unique angle to cover the rally from.

Leica UK gave us a selection of cameras to capture this project. Looking for some variation, we chose the Leica SL and the Leica M240 – the latter is maybe not the first camera you’d reach for when shooting a fast-paced event like this, but it’s a camera I have fallen in love with over the past year and wanted to use to approach the project from more of a ‘lifestyle’ angle. I used the 35mm1.4 lens throughout, whilst Hugo primarily shot on the 50mm 1.4mm.

Both cameras offer something very different in how they operate but also in the final image. However, what they both do offer is an incredible dynamic range and the amount of usable data in the files is phenomenal.

We would start our day planning the route and arranging with teams/vehicles to meet at pre planned sections where we would spend a bit more time to set up shoots. Before the mayhem of the start in each city centre, we would shoot the cars parked out on the grid - a good chance to show the vehicles not swamped with people in an empty city background which is a rare sight! A lot of photographers pin all their hopes on the “golden hour” but at this time in the morning, light is gentle and really compliments the flow of the vehicles.

The cars are driving fast over the distance so persuading people to stop proved to be quite difficult. Some of the locations were so stunning that the drivers were much more understanding and we would work with them for a small period of the day, tracking shots and playing around with the scenery. Our other alternative was shooting out of the windows and boots of our Twisted Land Rover. We had built a harness system to allow access out of the car whilst moving so we could shoot on the move which was something that proved invaluable to us on a project like this. The days can be long and a lot of the time was spent chasing these multi-million pound supercars through some truly stunning areas, but when it all came together the prize was worth the chase.

Albania was a standout this year, not just for us as photographers but for the whole rally. The country’s Prime Minister had organised a convoy from one side of the country to the other with all roads closed and rolling roadblocks stopping the traffic. Vehicles convened at the border crossing from Montenegro and we set off, expecting the police to control the speed and keep everyone under control. But the police also set off at full speed, encouraging all the teams to test their cars and put on a show for the country where thousands upon thousands of fans had lined the entire route!

I had one window to shoot from and Hugo was out of the other as we were greeted with not just a beautiful country but quite possibly the best light of the trip as well. Our knuckles were white and memory cards filled many times over but I’m sure we won’t get to experience or shoot something like that ever again.

The journey was filled with many surreal moments, each seeming to surpass the previous day. It was almost as if you hold your breath at the start of the rally and suddenly drive into Mykonos after crossing 25 borders and it’s time to breathe again. The cameras were put through a lot and tested over the duration but never failed or let us down.

Only once in Mykonos were we able to think rationally, and get some shots with the Twisted, exploring the idyllic island and the many hidden spots that it has to offer. We hired a quad for tracking shots and spent our final day shooting across dirt tracks and beaches before it was time to pack up and start the 3-day drive back to the UK through the Alps.

Our images were and are being used across social channels worldwide. On a daily basis we would have a huge dump of RAW files before heading out for the night to capture some of the wild Gumball nightlife. An initial edit of image selects go out to clients immediately on a daily feed. With limited time on an event like this and not always the ability to set up every shot with lighting, the dynamic range in both the SL and M 240 was a fundamental key to the final delivered images at the quality we wanted them. The amount of data retained in the shadows is unbelievable and means gaining the right exposures and editing the final image for a client was made far easier.

The SL with the 50mm shot some of the sharpest images I have seen and when shooting detail shots for the cars, this was a game changer and something that can set an image apart. Post event we got the chance to sit down, re-edit the shots from the live event and do a more comprehensive select of images for our clients. It is the first year shooting with Leica on this event and I think in a crowded field of photographers you need something to help your images stand out. The kit may not be the final piece to this puzzle but it’s definitely a fundamental part.

If you want to view more of Finn and Hugo’s work visit their websites or Instagram.

Hugo: Website, Instagram

Finn: Website, Instagram

Discover the Leica SL System here.