Michael Dorman: Hotrods & Hurricanes

May 15, 2017
Photographer Spotlight

When Autoweek Magazine Art Director, Emily Trexler needed a photographer to cover the first west coast Race of Gentlemen in Pismo Beach, CA, she knew exactly what to do. She headed to Wonderful Machine where she found Los Angeles-based photographer Michael Dorman's profile. Once she saw his personal project about the racing culture of the Bonneville Salt Flats and how nicely those pictures complemented his lifestyle work, Emily knew Michael was the right photographer for the story.

An event that showcases classic vehicles racing on the beach, The Race of the Gentleman always features plenty of food, alcohol and a festival-like atmosphere. 

Micheal Dorman, Autoweek, The Race of Gentleman, Reportage, Pismo Beach, Wonderful Machine, Photographer, Photography, Los Angeles, Typhoon, classic cars, Hotrods, Vintage cars, Harley Davidson

The planning and pre-production for the shoot involved many calls between Micheal, Emily, and Mark Vaughn, the author of the Autoweek Article. Together, they discussed how Michael should cover the event. It was the first year The Race of Gentlemen was being held in the west, so they were looking for Michael to capture the spirit of the event from the fun, So-Cal perspective he's known for. The group then corresponded with the event's coordinators to iron out the logistics, credentials, and schedules.

Everything was all set for the shoot, and the event was planned well in advance to align with low-tide days to give the racers the most amount of beach to tear up. At the time, nobody knew what was in store for them.

Micheal Dorman, Autoweek, The Race of Gentleman, Reportage, Pismo Beach, Wonderful Machine, Photographer, Photography, Los Angeles, Typhoon, classic cars, Hotrods, Vintage cars, Harley Davidson

When the day of the event finally came, the beach was hit by Hurricane Songda (technically a typhoon). The racers and spectators were pounded with rain and a storm surge that pushed the tide almost all the way up the beach. Despite the adverse conditions, the racers all elected to go for it and raced their classic hotrods and motorcycles up and down the beach for eight hours. 

We were treated to a wonderful display of vintage racing and I got the opportunity to capture some amazing images. I love working on days like that. I guess I’m one of those people that enjoys shooting in challenging situations. The more difficult, the more rewarding.

Micheal Dorman, Autoweek, The Race of Gentleman, Reportage, Pismo Beach, Wonderful Machine, Photographer, Photography, Los Angeles, Typhoon, classic cars, Hotrods, Vintage cars, Harley Davidson
As one might expect, the storm put a damper on the event and made photographing especially challenging.

It never stopped raining and it was a constant struggle to keep the lens clean and free from water and sand, the camera buttons on both bodies were freezing up from the grit being washed into them. Through it all, my Sonys took it in stride and kept chugging along, even after I saw other photographers have their bodies/lenses lock-up or die altogether. 


Micheal Dorman, Autoweek, The Race of Gentleman, Reportage, Pismo Beach, Wonderful Machine, Photographer, Photography, Los Angeles, Typhoon, classic cars, Hotrods, Vintage cars, Harley Davidson

Micheal's favorite part of the shoot was definitely the camaraderie amongst the racers. He mused that the whole situation could easily have been a miserable experience for everyone, but the positive energy in the salty air was contagious. 

The enthusiasm and excitement on the part of the racers and the event staff made a challenging situation fun.

Micheal Dorman, Autoweek, The Race of Gentleman, Reportage, Pismo Beach, Wonderful Machine, Photographer, Photography, Los Angeles, Typhoon, classic cars, Hotrods, Vintage cars, Harley Davidson

By the end of the event, Micheal was thoroughly soaked and sandy, but he came away with memory cards full of images he was proud of. 

The event's organizers and the client couldn't have been more happy with how the pictures came out. The photos were published both in print and online for Autoweek. Micheal has also received industry recognition for this project by Communication Arts Magazine. Look for his photos in the upcoming Communication Arts Photo Annual issue.

See more of Micheal at dormanstudios.com and check out our other great Members on our Find Photographers page!

Tags: autoweek michael dorman reportage photography