Greenfield Dirt Track, 2021
Words & Photos: Charlie Davidson
I got into photography messing around with my dad’s cameras as a kid. When I moved from Lincolnshire to Leeds I started out as a club photographer, sometimes it was fun, sometimes it really wasn’t. From there I shot loads of music festivals and events, and some fashion for online alternative brands. Working for those brands is where I really developed my darker style. I started to focus on shooting motorcycles in 2017.
Photography is a side-hustle/hobby at the moment, I work in admin at Bristol University in the day, and at The Old Duke, a pub in Bristol, a few nights a week. I try to do one shoot a week that fits in around my jobs. I have phases where I get really booked up, but nothing quite stable enough for long term yet. I’m looking to phase out the 9-5 because I love doing photography so much. I’ve had some great opportunities so far, I did some work for Triumph a couple of years ago.
All my family are into their vehicles, but my dad’s side are particularly into bikes. I used to have a Puch 50cc when I was little, then when I was a bit taller my dad used to let me ride his Honda XR250. I then went onto his Husaberg FE 550E which was probably not the best bike for an inexperienced 13-year-old to ride at first. I didn’t get to ride much after leaving home.
Initially, my mum didn’t want me to ride on the roads because her brother was killed on a bike in the ‘70s when he was 18. Despite this, I still really wanted to, so a few years ago I got my licence in secret and told my family afterwards. After a series of absolute bangers from Gumtree, I felt I’d served my time in lay-bys, and finally bought my first nice bike, a 2010 Harley 883 XLR, which I’m keeping stock.
I bought a second 883 earlier this year, a 2001 which is going to be a Frisco-style hardtail chopper.
When it came to this shoot, I have been in contact with George at Greenfield for a while, and really wanted to get involved in some way because it’s something so cool and exciting near where I’m grew up. I saw there were races that weekend, so it was a last-minute thing. I finished at the pub at 2am, slept a bit, then set off on the five-hour journey from Bristol that morning. I’m so glad I did, and thank goodness the races started in the afternoon.
I didn’t know what to expect, or have much time to think about it beforehand. I was expecting it to be intense, but it was actually fairly relaxed, though probably not for the people racing. I was overwhelmed with how friendly and lovely everyone was. The DTRA feels like a really supportive environment, and all the racers and all involved are passionate.
I was told by a few people to keep an eye out for their friends who were racing. I knew Charlie Stockwell was building something amazing and it’s a beauty.
Leah Tokelove is my favourite rider, she is one determined and fearless woman! I met her on the day and she’s just lovely, too. She rides beautifully and you can see this is what she is meant to be doing.
If I had to give advice to other photographers shooting dirt track I’d say just get in there (safely, of course). It’s vibrant, loud, and wild, and there’s a bunch of people who are so dedicated and who love doing this, so try and get some of that energy. It’s not just about the track and riders, it’s about all the people who are there, so walk around, see it all, and get talking to people. Try different techniques, angles, and different places on the track, there’s enough heats and rounds to experiment on the day because you don’t want a load of the same thing. If it’s a sunny day, make sure you have lots of space for golden hour.
Kit wise, you’ll need a telephoto lens, if you don’t have one; hire off a company or from an individual. There are enough local photography groups on Facebook of people who will want to help you if you’ve taken part in their community and have helped others, ask nicely and look after it. Also, fast 120MB/s SD or CF cards with loads of GB.
I would like to thank George for letting me come along. I think it’s awesome what he’s done with Greenfield. Also, it was lovely to meet the fellow photographers. The DTRA is an amazing organisation and I want to shoot at their events again.
Charlie, below, is a 29-year-old part-time photographer from Bristol, UK.