Car Life>> The Irish Guy.

I don't know what this post is meant to be.

I actually had this story wrote and just about completed when I selected it all and hit backspace. You see, being a creative sort (I use the term creative lightly) I'm quite particular about what I write for you. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the greatest person with spelling or grammar, but the actual subject of what I write about, I care quite a lot about. I've spent pretty much my entire life watching and being involved in motorsport and roughly the last eleven years photographing it. It's only been since April this year that I finally turned professional. Professional is quite an ambiguous term, especially in photography
circles these days. I define a professional (beyond its dictionary
definition of a person engaged in a specified activity as one's main
paid occupation rather than as a pastime) to be someone who understands
the game, who can relate to a client and also acts in an appropriate
manner. Unfortunately, there are a lot of hobbyist photographers claiming to be professionals doing untold amounts of damage to the industry at the moment. When they get bored and move on, it's the rest of us that will be left to pick up the pieces.

My story is a simple one. I first used a camera in anger way back in the nineties to shoot a local rally event. It was my first time using a camera, let alone trying to capture the speed of some ex-WRC cars thundering along the local backroads. I distinctly remember the excitement of heading to the lab to collect the prints after school one day. The photos were, in retrospect, fairly *** but there was one shot of an Impreza and it looked like the world was turning backwards for the motion blur. The pan was purely accidental but I was hooked on taking more images and more specifically taking better ones.

I spent a few years fooling around with film cameras before I bought my first digital point and shoot. It was a 2.0MP Fuji model and needless to say the results didn't exactly set the world on fire. I graduated to a bridge DSLR after that which became a reliable camera for small shoots but nothing else. You have to remember these were the days when DSLRs were still in their infancy and as such were very, very expensive.

My first 'break' came when I was still in school. I was asked by a relative stranger at the time but now a long time friend, Derek Troy, to come along and try my hand at shooting this new form of motorsport called 'drifting'. This was 2002 / 2003 as far as I can remember and drifting was just starting to take off in Europe. It was a far cry from what we have today, guys were arriving in their E30 BMW's with full interiors and no cages and sliding about on a small karting track. The event was known then as D1 Drift Series Ireland and would later become Prodrift Series.

Prodrift was where I developed my career and started pushing the boundaries of what I knew and what I was capable of. I worked with the Prodrift team for nearly seven years and I owe the crew there a lot of gratitude. They let me try new things which up until then, no person in Ireland had ever tried before. There were no expectations or pressure to deliver but I pushed myself as hard as I could as I genuinely wanted to give these guys the best I could possibly come up with. It also comes down to that I didn't want my name associated with crap work.

One of the only downsides to shooting drifting for seven years was that my portfolio lacked variety. It's only since I've finished college last year that I've been able to slowly expand the different disciplines and styles in my own portfolio.

I spent four years completeing a Bachelor of Arts in Design (Visual Communications). Most people thought it was strange that I chose to do a graphic design course instead of a photography course. I had always been a keen fan of graphic design and even though I'm qualified as a graphic designer, I still don't consider myself one. However, I learned a lot about graphic design which I could transfer to photography. It also meant that I spent time around people who had little or no interest in motorsport. It's a very dangerous thing to be surrounded by likeminded people as you're not really getting honest feedback so this was an ideal place for me. I had to learn how to portray motorsport and automotive static photography to those who had absolutely no interest in the subject. I knew that if I could catch their interest, then catching the interest of a petrolhead would be a breeze.

One of the key things I learned was to implement the human element into my photographs. People may not connect with the cars or the action, but they will always connect with another person. I know I harp on about this quite a lot but it's mostly to remind myself not to forget the men and women behind the visor.

As creatives, we will always struggle with our own work. By this I mean that no matter what we do, in our own eyes it will never be good enough. If you see faults in everything you do, don't feel let down and most certainly don't give up. It's perfectly normal. It's just your inner struggle to improve, you should be more concerned if you think your work is flawless and can't be improved upon.

Having worked closely with the guys on Speedhunters, I can tell who has shot what without the watermarks. A great thing about the Speedhunters crew is we all have our own style and no two of us approach things in the same way. We all have our own methods and workflows. One of the most difficult things I found when developing as a
photographer was trying to find my own sense of style. It's something I still struggle with today but I'm hoping that with time it'll come naturally.

Knowing your audience is something that is very important ton know about as a photographer. If your client or audience are hardcore Volkswagen owners, don't show up with pictures of a drift car. You need to know what they want and why they like it. I'm always buying magazines for different marques and styles so I can understand and appreciate the merits of each.

When I was in college, money was tight. I had no transport of my own. I had to make my own way to events by asking for a ride to events. I was lucky that two very close friends were competitors and one always had a spare seat so I could get to the event. My father also has an old 1974 Ford Escort which I shoot a lot and try out new ideas on the whole time. To echo John Brooks 'You piss with the *** you've got' Don't make excuses, just get out and shoot.

I remember once reading about Ansel Adams when he was teaching a photography class. I can't remember the exact wording of it but the story goes that a student asked him what settings he used for a certain image. 'Four seconds at F8' Adams replied almost instantly. Another student asked the same question about another picture to which Adams replied straight away with the settings used. The students then spent some time looking at their favourite images asking him and furiously taking notes as he called out these settings from the master. Eventually, one student asked how could he remember the settings so vividly. Adams replied simply that he didn't. He just made them all up. The point to this story is to not get bogged down in the numbers game when it comes to photography. Each situation will always be different, just know what does what and you'll be fine.

You have to have belief in what you want to do. For every person that told me I could do it, I had five more saying I couldn't. If you simply like cars and see it as a way to get involved in motorsport cheaply then you are probably in the wrong game. This may look like a career of glitz and glamour but let me tell you, it's very hard work and it will kick your ass if you're not prepared for it.

I'm a nobody in this world. I'm going to spend a long time fighting to get places and I don't know if I'll even come out the other side. It's a terrifying experience but an exhilarating one at the same time. You'll have your ups and your downs but the trick is to keep the fight strong inside you. You'll soon find out if this is the career for you.

I don't know what this post is meant to be. I just hope that there is something here that you can take away that benefits you.

Normal service will resume shortly.




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Inspiring, period.



loved it, thanks for the inspiration


Love it! Makes me want to go out and shoot for sure!!


Very nice, one of the better posts in a while.


Inspiring words Paddy.

When I got involved in this photography game you and Ross were the two photographers I looked up to and still do. I've been fortunate enough to work alongside you both and pick up many tips and ideas.

I've been struggling a lot with trying to figure out where I want to go with photography, but this article helped me a lot.

Thanks dude.



Great write up Paddy, enjoyable read. some really savage shots there 2 BOI. keep it up.


Thanks for sharing that Paddy.

Very insightful as to how you started out.

Keep up the improving as it seems to keep getting better with every shoot you do.


looking good, except what is the story behind shots 4,5 and 7?


This post make me want to go out and shoot some cars, i wish i had a nice subject i could drive to a spot..

I really like these kind of post and bio.


Thanks Paddy. as an artist i can really relate to what you've written here, your bit about the flaws we see in our work really hit home, haha, Thanks man.


hey, I like this.

I remember when I was 15 and the whole drift madness started here. I asked my dad whether we can go to see what's going on and anyway it's my birthday soon and I would like to see it and everything. fortunately he said yes and we also took our camera. it was a poor little hp compact crap but i took hundreds of pictures. when I saw them at home the cars were tiny 5 pixel blobs in the middle but there was one picture I liked the most: a hachiroku drifting while the crowd cheering and the sunburst came through the clouds. the whole damn picture looked so great for me that it worth the whole day taking shit photos.

later I just forget about photographing but nowadays I think more and more about how cool would be if I could record what I see in and think about objects or situations.


Great post Paddy. As an aspiring career photographer it's nice to hear where people in the industry have come from. Keep up the great work, and push that human element. Those will be the stories people remember. But I'm sure you don't need to hear that from me.


Good Stuff Paddy. Keep her Lite Boi!


The best blog ever writing like jeroen said Inspiring period. thanks man


awesome read


Should be the intro to ' The Chronicles of Paddy McGrath '

Great work , seen your work for 8/9 years now and have worked with you though them its good to see you get the breaks that you deserve


'You piss with the *** you've got' Don't make excuses, just get out and shoot." So, so true. Even though I hear it all the time, I never really believed it until about a year ago in one of my classes, the variety of equipment us students had was ridiculous. One gal had managed to grab an 1Ds Mk III with several tasty lenses while on the other end of the spectrum, one guy had a used Canon 10D with the kit lens. But in his hands, that decrepit little thing produced what was easily the most memorizing images throughout the semester. Sure the 1Ds had perfect quality images, but they never really stood out as much as other photographers' works did. From there on, I truly believed all a photographer needs is "a camera". As others have already said, very inspiring stuff. Keep up the great work!


Any chance of photo 2 as a desktop?


wow...your photos are amazing... that second shot is beautiful. thanks for the inspiration


Thank you very much for the insight Paddy!!!

And keep these kinda posts coming Speedhunters!!!!


Nice read paddy, the story wit the numbers is so true.. its something that can be related to give people an idea of how good something is,, rather than looking at the real picture!


Wallpaper of the e92 bmw m3 please..!!




Wallpaper for #2 please!!!


Thanks for your insight Paddy. Keep shooting!


Thanks for this post Paddy.

Loving the human element in it! :-)


Nicely written Paddy...keep up the good work!


Absolutly brilliant


Brilliant Paddy, really enjoy reading up on other 'togs and writers. Keep up the good work mate!


Top man Paddy, when you shot the Rocket Bunny at Punchestown in Ireland I hadn't really appreciated the art of photography until then, keep up the good work.


Great write up boss !! Very inspiring and refreshing .

''You have to have belief in what you want to do '' ...... thanks for that ! ;)


You're an inspiration, Paddy. You're doing all the right things for all the right reasons. Keep up the good work!


I maybe Chinese, but my eyes are as wide open as bowling balls!! =D WOW Paddy! Nice one there!


Nice real world write up, loved it. Good Job, Paddy !


Nice words:)


Pretty inspiring and deep words. A wallpaper of the 2nd picture would be great, the Nürburgring looks beautiful there.


Would really like to see that shoot of the rally Impreza, you talked about...


Wonderfully inspiring words, Paddy.

I am intrigued by the statement:

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of hobbyist photographers claiming to be professionals doing untold amounts of damage to the industry at the moment. When they get bored and move on, it's the rest of us that will be left to pick up the pieces."

Care to expand on this in any way (in private if you prefer) - love to hear your concerns in more detail.