THERE is nothing written in the rule books that says you can’t be the best at something just because it is a hobby.
Take Peter Roebuck for instance.
The “70-odd” year old has been a passionate hobbyist photographer for most of his life; since he was eight.
In June of this year, he beat all-comers to claim the Speedway Photographer of The Year Award at the Speedway Australia annual awards presentation.
It’s estimated that there are still more than 1200 photographers snapping pics of fast-paced cars at speedway tracks around Australia.
Some of them work full-time for big newspaper houses and magazines.
Peter is a volunteer.
He does it because he loves it and the tracks he visits benefit from that love.
He makes no money from his efforts, although he still makes his images available for publication.
If you stumble across a speedway story from a WA meet in a paper or magazine, the chances are that the accompanying image has come from Peter’s camera.
As previously mentioned, it’s not a new hobby either.
He’s had a love for fast cars and photography for a long time.
“I bought my first camera when I was eight – a Kodak Starflash,” he said.
“I had a newspaper round just to buy a camera. I started snapping at everything.
“Those days, you had to take the undeveloped film to a chemist and wait at least a week to get your photos back in the post.”
A decade later, Peter was given the chance to gain some experience at a photographic studio where his mother worked.
He learned how to take portrait shots.
When he got the chance to visit the Forrestfield Speedway through an invitation from the guys next door, he jumped at it.
He loved the hot rods back then already, so it was a no brainer.
When he got to the track, he noticed that there was no one taking shots of the cars.
He saw an opportunity and he took it.
And he hasn’t stopped.
Peter’s wife Christle is considered a speedway widow.
All sports have them – footy widows, golf widows… the ladies married to men who they never see because they are out pursuing their other loves – usually a sport.
Peter admits that while the thrill of being close to the cars as they travel around the tracks at speed fuels his love, it did nearly make Christle a real widow one day.
“I get close enough to shake hands with the drivers as they go past,” he said. “I did get cleaned up at Forrestfield a few years ago though.
“A car went through the fence and the gatekeeper standing right next to me was killed in the incident.
“I was standing next to him and behind him slightly. All it cost me was a week in hospital – a broken foot, smashed-in nose, concaved cheekbone, broken jaw and some smashed teeth.
“That day was the only time my wife had been to a city track in years. And she was there at the hospital when I woke up.
“When I came too – laying there and she was looking down, I said ‘I hope my camera is ok’.”
That accident hasn’t put him off though.
Peter and Christle travel around WA visiting regional speedway tracks when they can; it’s their way of being able to see the state.
The couple just returned from a trip to Shark Bay that coincided with 30th Far Western Speedway Championships.
And be assured that his trusty Nikon camera and lenses (Peter’s brand of choice) were packed among his other essentials.
These days, there is no trip to the chemist required for negative processing though.
Peter has very much adopted the digital age, although he admits to being self-taught.
“Back in those days you had to know what you were doing,” he said of the past eras.
“There were no automatic cameras; there was no auto-focus. You had to pick a spot and have good reflexes more than anything else.
“Even the digital cameras that first came out where not as good as the ones you can get on your phones today. Those first ones that came out had an ISO rating of around 400 and an aperture of about 4.5.”
Whether you know what that means, it’s not important.
These days nearly everyone has access to a camera and knows how difficult it is to get the perfect shot – even in perfect light when the subject is standing still.
These are things that Peter doesn’t have the benefit of when taking pics at the speedway.
But that hasn’t stopped him becoming the best in Australia.