Manuel Goria arrived in Australia in 2004 with a degree in Veterinary Medicine and a long standing love of fast cars and photography. [Article courtesy of Olympus]
Following his passion for motor sport, he began taking pictures at local car races and within a couple of years his skills had earned him a position shooting at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix.
By the time he celebrated a decade living in Australia he’d become a team photographer in Formula E for Dragon Racing, Renault, Venturi NIO and Techeetah. In 2016 he took out the Western Australian Sport photographer of the year.
‘How lucky was I?’ Manuel says. ‘Motorsport and photography are my two great passions. I was very lucky to be able to live and breathe both as a profession.’
But when the season ended in 2018, he realised that after nearly ten years it was a time to review his work-life balance.
‘Even, a dream job comes at a cost and for me it was being away from home for months at a time, missing my family. Changing direction wasn’t an easy decision, especially with the continuous work offers and invitations to keep going.
‘The scariest part was the fact that motorsport was pretty much the extent of my photography work. I’d never set foot in a studio, but I knew I needed to find something that I could learn and that would enable me to keep providing for my family.
‘I was lucky to have a great couple of photographer friends here in Perth that were ready to help, and that made the final decision a lot easier.’
Barely a year later, COVID-19 changed the world and Manuel’s new direction turned out to have been exceptionally well-timed – particularly for a photographer flying all over the world to cover international motorsport.
When he was a kid, his father had an Olympus camera, and the young Manuel’s aptitude soon meant that he would become the family picture-taker. For most of his professional career he had used the same heavy cameras as his colleagues, but when he pulled back from full time motorsport, he found himself coming back to the marque he’d started with.
‘I was tired of massive bodies and lenses. I wanted to move to mirrorless but at the same time to not compromise on quality’, Manuel says, adding ‘the obvious choice was to start by trying out cameras and seeing what was available. The good people at Camera Electronic (WA) allowed me to borrow different gear for weeks at a time.’
After trying a couple of different brands, each of which would have allowed him to use his existing lens collection via adaptors, he settled on an Olympus system. ‘I wanted smaller gear, not just a smaller body attached to massive lenses. When I tried the OM-D E-M1X, I was super impressed.
‘I went to the beach with my dog so that I could try out the tracking system. I wanted something fast and I couldn’t believe how easy the camera was to use and how sharp the results were. Plus, with the Micro 4/3 and 2x crop sensor, the lenses are so small!
I went back to the store and said, “I want more!”’
Given four hypothetical photographic scenarios and asked which Olympus bodies and lenses he’d use to tackle them, Manuel started by saying that he uses his OM-D E-M1X and an OM-D E-M1 Mark III bodies equally, simply selecting the lenses he needs for the task at hand.
Scenario one: Motorsport race day, what do you take?
‘Everything!’, he exclaims. ‘On the OM-D E-M1X attach the M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4.0 IS PRO that allows me to shoot at 600mm equivalent. On the OM-D E-M1 Mark III, I use the M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO – all of which fit comfortably in a small backpack.
Manuel has a hint for aspiring motorsport photographers: watch your backgrounds. ‘Carefully visualise your shot,’ he says. ‘Your background is as important if not more so than the car itself, I see so many great action shots ruined by cranes and portable toilets in the background. Depending on the lens you have available, try to find a spot where you can comfortably fill your frame. There is no bigger mistake than thinking “I can crop in later”.’
Scenario two: Photographing a special car
‘I try to stick with primes for that kind of work, particularly the M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO or the M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO. Assuming I have space to move around, these allow me to use a shallow depth of field for those interesting details special cars have.’
Scenario three: Wedding day
‘A wedding is not much different from a race,’ Manuel says. ‘You need variety, and you have one chance to get all your different shots. So I bring everything, except for the 300mm.’
Scenario four: A portrait sitting
‘Shooting with the Olympus in a studio and instantly seeing the image on my viewfinder on the monitor was a game-changer for me. I couldn’t go back to shooting with anything else. I always use the 12-40mm f/2.8. It is a very sharp lens and allows me to shoot both groups and glamour.’
Finally, asked how he keeps his work looking fresh, Manuel says, ‘I constantly research new techniques to both give something different to my clients and to keep my brain stimulated.’