Virtual to Reality

After a long few months of the off-season the motorsport season is now literally just around the corner with most major racing series kicking off in the next couple of weeks. Luckily enough, I’ve been playing Gran Turismo 6 for the past few months and maybe surprisingly to some, using its photo mode feature to sharpen up some of my skills.

Gran Turismo 6 is the latest edition to the world famous racing franchise. The latest game features over 1200 cars (now including the popular GT3 racing cars), 37 locations with all new circuits such as Bathurst, Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Willow Springs – alongside classics like Spa-Francorchamps and the legendary Nurburgring. Another key selling point for Gran Turismo 6 is the inclusion of variable weather, day/night change and also ‘astronomical simulation system’ which allows the game to actually simulate the rise/setting hours of the sun and night time constellations of the circuit. The game is also being constantly updated putting in new features to expand the gaming experience. It also features a rather superb photo mode.

I know, it sounds a little odd at first but trust me, gaming and reality really do cross over. Fellow photographer Jamey Price has already written a rather excellent piece about how elements of Forza Motorsport 5’s photo mode can be influenced by real photography skills such as panning, compositional elements and much more – you can check it out here.

However, I’m going to look at it the inverse situation. How can photo modes like that of both Forza and GT6, influence what I can produce as a photographer?

I’m privileged enough to say that I’ve visited a lot of the circuits featured on the Gran Turismo 6 but having visited Silverstone more times than you can shake a stick it does become increasingly challenging to find new angles that people might not have seen before. How does GT6 help in this matter? Well, it’s free roam camera allows you to explore the circuit and try to find new things you might have missed in real life. I often found myself moving the camera right up to the barriers to get the most realistic angles and even using the same focal lengths and apertures as the equipment I own – just to give me ideas of what’s generally achievable. This leads me onto the next element…

Surprisingly enough, GT6 can be actually used to research circuits to find good spots to shoot from. In 2013 I visited a lot of new circuits including Monza, the Nurburgring, Spa-Francorchamps and the Circuit de la Sarthe – all of which feature on Gran Turismo. Much like the drivers often do, I actually scouted out a lot of the circuits just to give me an idea of the angles that I could possibly get and of things to look out for. Some angles I wouldn’t have even considered if it hadn’t been for the pre-race recce via Gran Turismo.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that video games can give a 100% accurate representation of what’s really there and nothing beats actual experience, but it certainly set me off on the right foot.

It’s also a great learning tool. Speaking from personal experience, I never picked up a real camera until after I’d toyed around with Gran Turismo 4’s photo mode.

I learnt a lot of the basic camera knowledge (aperture, shutter speed, exposure etc) through Gran Turismo 4 and more importantly learnt a lot about processing images. Back in the times of GT4 the graphics weren’t quite as pristine as they are now and featured a lot of jagged edges on the shadows and cars themselves. To the make the images look even better I used Photoshop to tidy the images up as well applying extra effects (no – not lens flare!) to emphasis particular elements. Even simple adjustments like curves would make a massive impact on the shots.

All of this was obviously learning that directly impacted my photography, so much so that it encouraged me to pick up a camera for the very first time and get out there shooting.

It’s been clear to see how the gaming industry has influenced other aspects of the motorsport world. Successful campaigns such as the GT Academy have taken virtual racers to the seat of a real racing car competing in the highest level of events. Other innovative projects such as Vision GT have encouraged worldwide car manufacturers to design cars specifically for the game. Big names like Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin and even automotive giants such as Ford and Nissan have taken part. Video games are becoming more of an influence on our real world cars more than ever before, and this trend is clearly set to continue.

I think it’s only a matter of time until we see young photographers appearing on the market that have been inspired by video games – driving isn’t for everyone after all. Perhaps we’ll even see the equivalent of the GT Academy for photographers in future. I’ll be watching with a great deal of interest…

All the images featured in this article were taken in the Gran Turismo 6 Photomode and have only been edited lightly – in fact in a very similar manner to how I edit my real photographs.

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