Take splendid snowmobile pics with these marvellous tips

Darryl Gershman captures eye-popping photos in Beausejour, Manitoba

by Kyle Born

Snowmobile racer Jordan Wahl is jettisoned from his snowmobile during a spectacular crash.
Jordan Wahl was jettisoned from his snowmobile during a spectacular ice oval racing crash. “Jordan went up and over his sled and disappeared from view and his sled headed straight for me,” said Darryl Gershman. Wahl was able to continue racing that weekend. This is Darryl Gershman’s favourite photo. Photo courtesy Darryl Gershman

Everybody loves a good photo of themselves but not everyone has the ability to capture the perfect picture, especially when there are moving parts involved—like during a snowmobile race, for example. When stud sledders discover a stellar photographer, they typically want to stay within shooting distance of the photo pro.

Enter Darryl Gershman. For the past decade, Gershman has been the track photographer for the Canadian Power Toboggan Championships (CPTC) Raceplex in Beausejour, Manitoba. His photos speak for themselves (keep scrolling down if you need further proof). But this expert snapshot artist didn’t just roll out of bed with this exceptional ability. It took years of honing his craft by snapping a plethora of pics of disparate subjects. If you’d like to compile a portfolio of prolific photos, follow Gershman’s example.

Capturing diversity

Gershman’s photography background is eclectic. After purchasing his first SLR camera in the 1970s, he focused on nature and travel photography, photographing Indigenous communities, people and historic sites throughout northern Canada during his work as a travelling dentist, which he still does (although he is “almost” retired).

Darryl Gershman smiles while posing with his camera at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Darryl Gershman photographs all kinds of sporting events such as baseball, swimming, boxing, rodeo, snowmobile ice oval racing and ringette—as seen here at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Photo courtesy Caroline Wiley

He began photographing sports when his children were participating in swimming and baseball. His experiences led him to snap ringette, boxing and rodeo photos as well. His introduction to snowmobile racing came in March 1997, his family’s first winter in Beausejour.

“We heard the sounds of snowmobile engines from our kitchen,” Gershman said, “so we bundled up the two kids and went to see our first ice oval races. We planned to stay for an hour but we stayed for five hours.”

A side view of several snowmobile racers that are neck and neck with each other.
“The thing I love most about ice oval racing is what spectators may never experience—when I’m photographing from the inside of the track and watching the sleds race by me a few feet away,” said Darryl Gershman. Photo courtesy Darryl Gershman

Gershman’s home is just down the road from the CPTC Raceplex and its grandstand is visible from the backyard. A year after their introduction to ice oval racing, Gershman and his wife volunteered to work in the grandstand canteen at the CPTC track. Gershman began by flipping burgers as a cook for a few years before moving on to operating the track radar.

“With my wife and daughter helping me with radar, I would sneak out of our ‘radar van’ parked on the berm at turn one to take some photos of the races from behind the fence and in the pit area,” said Gershman. “These were all print photos for my personal interest.

“Then in 2006, armed with my first digital DSLR camera, the CPTC allowed me to go on the track and work with a couple of professional photographers who shot the races for CPTC. These photographers were very generous in sharing their photographic techniques with me.”

The best of the best

Gershman’s favourite snowmobiling photo that he’s taken himself came on the first Friday night under the lights in March 2017. The moment happened on the first lap of the first race. The Pro Champ 440 sleds were coming around the first turn when Jordan Wahl lost control of his sled.

A snowmobiler is thrown from her sled as it skips into the air.
Young racer Amber Stevens was upset but uninjured when she endured her third spill over a weekend of racing. Photo courtesy Darryl Gershman

“Jordan went up and over his sled and disappeared from view and his sled headed straight for me,” said Gershman. “Jordan caught a ride on Glen Hart’s sled and ended up in the bales around turn two. Fortunately, Jordan was able to continue racing the rest of the weekend. I think the photo looks dramatic.”

You’re not likely to find Gershman riding a snowmobile or leaning hard into a turn at the CPTC Raceplex. As enjoyable as that would be, Gershman is content to take in the sport from behind the lens. Besides, he’s not about to give up the best view at the track.

“The thing I love most about ice oval racing is what spectators may never experience—when I’m photographing from the inside of the track and watching the sleds race by me a few feet away,” he said. “That’s when I really see the speed of the sleds and the incredible skill of the drivers.”

Five children race snowmobiles around a track.
Darryl Gershman photographs children aged four to 12 years old for the Manitoba Mini Sled Racer’s Association. “These kids are taught how to race safely and show sportsmanship,” said Gershman. “Some of these kids move up to race on the big track.” Photo courtesy Darryl Gershman

Take these pro tips for outstanding snowmobile pics

Darryl Gershman has over 40 years of photography expertise. If you’d like to be as adept as he is, follow these helpful hints to up your Instagram game.

Action and candid shots:

“When I photograph sports I am looking to capture two types of images, game or event action shots and candid shots of the athletes, coaches, officials and fans,” Gershman said. “I try to capture high quality-images for the athletes because I am often at a better shooting position than their families or friends. I post most of my photos on Facebook so that the athletes and their families can access their photos.”

New vantage points:

“I have my usual photo positions around the CPTC track but each race weekend I try something different, although safety issues limit where I can go around the track,” said Gershman. “Just being on the track is a safety risk in itself but I have learned over the years what to expect.”

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