Stepping out into the salt lake is like standing on the moon, said Marcus Thomson.
With no horizon to orientate you in 47 degree heat, it’s easy to slip into what regulars refer to as “salt fever” – an affliction particular to participants in annual Speed Week races.
It also infected Thomson, a commercial photographer specialising in landscape photography and environmental portraiture. He found inspiration in the bleached, sandy palette and other-worldly inhabitants of Speed Week - a solo exhibition at SUNSTUDIOS Melbourne until January 30, 2019.
“The USA speed week is in August at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The salt lakes are quite famous and they shoot a lot of movies there because of its unique look. The temperature gets up to 45 degrees and there is a street party in Wendover at the casino every night of Speedweek.”
The Australian equivalent at Lake Gairdner salt lake, South Australia, can push to 47 degrees without power or water on site.
“This a very harsh environment as it is very hot and can get very windy. There is a lot of dedication to travel and to participate,” said Thomson.
“The people that race are absolutely dedicated to this sport and have often spent their whole life doing it.”
Titles are pursued for love and obsession with vehicles timed across nine miles of track. Results are impacted by the build of a vehicle, driving ability and changing conditions out on the salt lake, making results unpredictable and often surprising when professionals are pitched against amateurs and enthusiasts.
The high temperatures and speeds create challenges for a photographer as well as the drivers, with very fast capture and a lot of distractions out in the heat.
Despite this Thomsons’ series is ongoing and he is already planning his coverage of the 2020 DLRA race in Australia, and other tips abroad.
“I raced last year as well as taking photos and won a speed record in my class - so l think it has grown on me.”