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24 September 2014

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You are in: Isle of Man > TT > My TT: The Photographer

Ron Clarke

My TT: The Photographer

Ron Clarke used to be a mechanic in Norfolk. Following his passion for photographing bikes and his wife’s belief in that passion, Ron ditched his career and moved to the Isle of Man to pursue his dream.

I used to work as a mechanic in Norfolk for Jim Russell, the racing driver. I got into scrambling bikes as a teenager in the ‘sixties and my father used to tell me, “Boy, grow up!” but now I’m making my business out of bikes.

It was all because of my wife, Angela who unfortunately died in 1975.  She’d always believed I could make it, photographing bikes professionally and her belief inspired me to move to the island and give it a go.

Taking photos at the TT has unique challenges. At Brands Hatch, a rider might pass you twenty times but during the TT, they only come past six times; only once, if they’ve hit trouble! That’s why I take plenty of shots during the Practises.

"It’s the skills, the bravery, the guts of these guys."

Ron Clarke

I photographed Molyneaux once at Ballaugh Bridge then scooted round to Ramsey, only to discover he’d conked out at Kirk Michael!

Evening Practises can be a problem due to the light. The sun goes down west and if you’re at Glen Helen, the light goes quickly.

You need plenty of experience of panning and following the riders, getting your eye in. They can be doing 200 mph or coming at you from a blind corner so you have to be spot on with your focus.

I sell photos commercially to the riders and the enthusiasts, the papers. It’s difficult today because there are so many people getting good shots with digital cameras and they’re just giving their shots away.

If I hadn’t got the passion for the bikes, I’d have packed up long ago. I’m 65 now and ready to retire but when the season starts and you get talking to riders and see the skills they’ve got and when you’re able to capture that on film, it gives me a buzz.

Joey Dunlop

Joey Dunlop by Ron Clarke

There’s something in these guys. It’s the skills, the bravery, the guts of these guys. I took one of the very last photographs of Joey Dunlop. He loved his family. But if he’d given up racing, where would he have got that buzz?

I’m a Christian and I believe our lives are mapped out for us. We all have to go down that road. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow and that is your time.

People care about each other in the racing world. I didn’t do the World Super Bikes last year but when I turned up at Brands Hatch, an ex-world champion’s wife asked “ Where’ve you been, Ron? We’ve missed you!” You wouldn’t get Schumacher’s wife missing little old me!

The riders talk with their fans. That’s the family, that’s why the TT and motorcycling fraternity has such a following.

last updated: 11/06/2008 at 15:26
created: 11/05/2007

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I have recently been given one of your photogrpahs to restore not sure when it was taken but your stamp is on the back 7 Padnal Littleport. Any info woould be great.

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