Pro Team: John Rourke

Pro Team: John Rourke

Pro Team: John Rourke

Our Pro Team is a fantastic group of talented photographers. This time we introduce automotive, travel and lifestyle documentary photographer John Rourke. John is often found on a plane, in the pit lane or his camper van en router to capturing the visceral moments of life.

What is your earliest memory of handling a camera?

“My grandparents had loads of old folding cameras and Box Brownies kicking around in boxes, I used to play with these from the moment I could grab them. They never had film in but I used to find them fascinating.

“My mother always had cine cameras so I guess I’ve always had it in my life. I think I was around 6-8 yrs old, when I had a small plastic 35mm camera in a kids toy set. I loved it, but I was only allowed one film a month and not allowed to waste it. I remember when the first TR7 came out, my uncle got one and stacked it into a lamppost. He needed images of the crash so my dad took me to shoot it… I guess that was my first official job. It took months to see those shots but I was hooked forever.”


Was there a single event that made you decide to become a professional photographer?

“I always messed with photography but art college and uni really defined it as an outlet for me. While I was working as a graphic designer, in design agencies, I found it was often quicker and easier to shoot images and videos for the agency than to source reliable photographers. The demand for photography forced me to change from designer to photographer from then on.”

What is your favourite location to capture?

“Oh, there are so many! Anything wilderness, road trippy etc. I have spent months and months in Japan over several years and I still can’t get enough of it. Anyone working in any creative way needs to go to Japan. It’s just awe-inspiring, it should be in every college trip list. From the culture, people, landscapes, cityscapes, design, it’s a sensory assault and I really can’t stop going… I would live there if I could find a way. I can talk about Japan for weeks… YOU JUST MUST GO, it will change your life!”


Social media – love it or hate it?

“I use Instagram a lot, Facebook just seems dead these days, it’s great for questions on what’s wrong with my van or camera-related issues etc. Instagram though has always been a great showcase for images. I use it a lot for inspiration, and also to check out places and locations, I tend to only follow photography related subjects these days, sadly people have started using Instagram more like Facebook these days, diluting the photography, and the constant advertising is just awful. I think we are all waiting on that next big platform.”


Favourite camera you have ever used or owned, and why?

“Digitally I do love the GFX system, Medium format is so good to work with, we just need sexy glass, but really all my favourite cameras are film cameras. Like a lot of photographers, I have a bad addiction to cameras. My weakness is still film. It’s where I started. I can’t decide which is my one favourite but these are my top 3 (there are so many more!)

“My Graflex Speed Graphic 5×4 camera with a 178mm ‘Radioactive’ f2.5 Aero Ektar lens (probably my No.1 camera) is just awesome. I sometimes use this in the pit or for very special clients. The only issue with using this camera on shoots is that everyone wants to talk about it so you get nothing done. Shooting film gives me the same feeling as when I draw in pencil, you slow down, you look more, and the whole process is more tactile. The bigger the negative the more immersive the process. I’d love to ‘upgrade’ to the Graflex Super or RB series, I’m constantly on the hunt to feed my camera addiction…

“XPan Mk2 with 45mm and 90mm f4 lenses. I’ve had this forever! It’s one of the most amazing 35mm cameras ever made. It’s just a shame it’s a powered camera. This shoots 2 frames of 35mm side by side as one image, it’s naturally cinematic, widescreen vibes on film. Images are instantly awesome! This is always in my bag (again the GFX has an ’XPan’ crop mode which is stunning to work in.)

“Finally, my M6, 28mm and 50mm lenses, an amazing camera that will still work long after the zombie apocalypse!”


What’s in your kit bag?

“I do take quite a bit of kit on trips, more than average, I hate the idea of being somewhere and wishing I bought something to get the shot. I often carry a full set of zooms, but I also take a set of primes. Primes just have that cinematic look. Basically, I have to take it all…

Typical Race Gear List:


  • Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
  • Peli Air 1535 case
  • MACBook Pro15” 2TB HD/2.9GHZ/i9/32GB Ram/Late 2018 Model
  • iPad Pro 128GB (makes a great 2ndscreen when editing)
  • Photomechanic


  • iPhone XSMax 512GB and Moment Case
  • Smooth 4 Phone/GoPro gimbal
  • Rode Microphone
  • Mavic Pro 2 Drone & Filters
  • XT3 For the sports and action images, anything where I need fast AF and frame rates
  • Zooms: 10-24mm f4, 16-55mm f2.8, 50-140mm f2.8, 100-400mm f4.5, 1.4x TC
  • Primes: 16mm f1.4, 18mm f2, 23mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4, 56mm f1.2, 90mm f2
  • The 16mm, 35mm and 90mm are my absolute favourites!

(This camera (the XT3) is never in the bag, it lives on my shoulder with a 16-55mm f2.8 ready to shoot, even on the plane.)

  • GFX50s For the art, details and portraits. (Totally love this camera for everything!)
  • Zooms: 32-64mm f4
  • Primes: 45mm f2.8, 63mm f2.8, 110mm f2
  • The 110mm is the KING!
  • Adapted 50mm f1.2 for those bokeh moments
  • X100F for candid work and travels.
  • Wide & teleconverters


  • XPro2 back-up body and studio portraits. With the 16mm this is an epic beast for the travels…
  • Formatt Hitech Filters – CPL, Various ND, ND Grads
  • XPan Mk2, 45mm & 90mm f4 lenses, Ilford HP5 & FP4 film


  • Samsonite spinner or PeakDesign Travel Duffelpack 65L
  • The Elinchrom ELB400 and one HS head, Rotolux Octabox and grid.
  • I really should upgrade to something more powerful like the 1200w for the pit!
  • A lot of Rohan travel clothes for on the road living.
  • Race clothing, 3-layer fireproof suit, helmet, etc
  • Peak Design’s Capture Clips and Plates are on everything.

Name 5 essential items in your photography bag.

  • The back-up camera and spare batteries!
  • Albert 2.0 tripod & AirHed (Time-lapses, landscapes, studio-style shots)
  • Alan monopod with Docz 2 Foot Stabilizer (Pit lane and long lens work)
  • Filters (CPL, Various ND, ND Grads)
  • Back up Hard drives.

Are there any strange/unusual items in your photo bag? Household bits?

“I always carry bits of shiny plastic, baubles from chandeliers, sweet wrappers, anything that will cause cool flares and bokeh in camera. I also carry a compass, handy for checking sunrise etc and for finding your way back home.

“Berocca goes everywhere and coffee beans. Chewing coffee beans helps with any motion sickness in helicopters or boats – was a top tip from a pilot years ago. Also helps on those location shoots that lack good coffee! Chocolate covered coffee beans are the best! I have a tiny bear bell for luck, which came from Japan.”


How would you describe your style of photography?

“I guess I’m something like an automotive, extreme sports, adventure, travel, lifestyle documentary, art photographer. To be honest I’m not really sure anymore. For me, it’s all about the emotion, light, textures, the moment. I want the viewer to experience that moment, that slice of time. You must experience the story!

“I am always trying to get images more cinematic, there is a constant strive for the next shot to be better than the last, deeper, more immersive. I look at my own work constantly trying new techniques, technologies, looking on how to improve the shot, the edit, the delivery and the experience.”


What is one question you’d like to be asked and never have been?

“How would you like to travel forever and photograph what you see?”

“Yup, that would pretty much work for me, the opportunity to just shoot unrestricted, and never stop, to just create, chasing light, hunting the ultimate image, and find the ultimate story… I guess the chance to create something that changes the world would be hard to beat.”

All photos: ©John Rourke

About John

As an automotive, travel and lifestyle documentary art photographer, John is often found on a plane, in the pit lane or his camper van en route to capturing the visceral moments of life. Adrenal Media is the official photographic agency for the FIA World Endurance Championships, and Le Mans 24hr Endurance Race.

John's website:

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