Dom Romney on Wheels or Water
Dom Romney may very well have been born in the wrong country. A native of the United Kingdom, Romney currently lives in Stansted, north of London, and is huge fan of American racing cars of all types. Heavily influenced by his father’s car collection and love of hot-rodding, the younger Romney grew up with it in his blood. Since then, experimental built-for-speed vehicles, classic muscle cars, nitro-based fire-breathing monsters, vintage restorations, and plethora of drag races involving almost anything resting on four wheels have all been photographed by Romney.
Starting off as a film shooter, he first began photographing news for Northcliffe. At 19, he left to become a professional freelancer. Although only 21 now, this wunderkind has been shooting semi-pro and professionally for five years already. His first digital camera was a Canon 20D.
Shooting cars isn’t his only subject matter, but it is his passion. Romney also shoots moody portraits of athletes, an area he wants to move into more heavily. One of the remarkable things about his portraits of drivers, in particular, is the conditions they are often taken under. “One of the big things the magazines struggle with is getting decent pictures of the drivers,” Romney explains. “A lot of them in the continuous ranks are quite young. They’re the up‑and‑coming guys who are moving on to doing F1 and British touring cars, so they haven’t really got pictures of them.”
Romney created his own guerrilla-style solution by creating a makeshift studio at standard press event. Bringing in a 1.5 meter roll of white paper, he positioned it at the back of a pit garage. “Very noisy, very dirty places,” he says. His photographic gear consisted largely of simple light stands with just a couple of flash guns. “Literally, as the guys finished doing that stuff for the press, I was dragging them off to one side to grab a quick head and shoulders shot in the back of this garage as they’re trying to warm up the cars and putting new tires on. It looks like it’s in a studio and it’s shot in quite a studio style, but it’s actually in the back of a dirty garage in the middle of a race track. It was trying to make the best of the far from ideal situation.” Readers can find behind-the-scenes shots and more info here.
Despite Romney’s self-professed deep love of cars, his favorite shot of the many he’s taken is a portrait of a triathlete. Taken in a lake at sunrise, Romney built his own waterproof housings for his flash units and PocketWizard radio triggers. While we can’t condone risking the functionality of PocketWizards with water, his ingenuity on creating inexpensive housings is impressive, and the shot he calls his favorite is nothing short of iconic. See his blog for more info on this shoot in particular, and some other great images taken that early morning. “It’s just lit with tiny, little strobes in plastic boxes,” he explains. “You’ve got this nice, barely morning light you can’t really get any other way.”
The flashes Romney relies on are three of the original model Canon 580’s. He controls them with PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 radio triggers. He uses Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera bodies and Canon L-series lenses.
Fast cars and sports portraits aren’t the only subjects for Romney. In a particularly impressive night series, he got close to the action with jet ski riders showing their moves. Romney was in waist-deep lake water firing Elinchrome Ranger lights at f/4 at 1/2500th of a second. “The Hypersync is really quite a valuable tool for me, or anyone if you’re shooting sports,” he says.
Along with portraiture, in the future Romney plans to incorporate 3D work into his more commercial photos. He is also experimenting with adding limited animation to some of his images—a return to his college roots where he worked with video.
No matter what subject matter Romney tries his hand at, cars will never be far from his lenses. In 2009, he won the MSA Young Motorsport Photographer of the Year Award. If it’s on wheels or water, on either side of the Atlantic, Romney will be freezing the action and making it look gorgeous.