The Austrian Grand Prix is one of my top 3 races. The track is surrounded by beautiful forests, the media facilities trump everything else, the track is easy to navigate and there is nothing like the traffic dramas at Paul Riccard in France. So today, after my 40km trip from Leoben (which took just 25 mins on the freeway with stunning mountains either side), I shot the team pitstop practices through the media centre windows. Afterwards it was downstairs and a quick walk under the track to see what was going on in the paddock. There were about 15 photographers shooting the arriving drivers but Lewis Hamilton bypassed the lot, choosing to take the back route to his motor home. A few of us moved briskly to the point where he was likely to emerge but alas, he shielded his face, and the background was hardly inspiring, but you did get to see what our lenses saw. For the first session I decided to limit myself to shooting from just three spots. The first sees the cars coming down the hill and turning right at the last corner. As you can see here, those in the above camping ground get a great view of that last corner. Walking anti-clockwise around the track for a few hundred metres saw me on the outside of the entry to the second last corner. If you go back up two pics, you’ll see the photographers above the blue and grey fence. From the right hand side (under the H in Heineken) using a 600mm lens with a 1.4xs converter (840mm) you get this type of shot. Moving across to stand underneath the N or the star and you can incorporate the kerbing.I love using the red and white of the Austrian flag to fill the frame and regard this angle as one of the best places to shoot from at any track. I shot from here last year but did it late on race day when there were thousands of black tyre marbles on the tarmac which spoilt the shot in my eyes. The shot of the marshal retrieving some debris from the track also appealed.
The third spot was a couple of hundred metres away, this time on the inside of the final turn which allowed me to put the forest behind the cars as they enter pit lane. To get the range of shots required, we need at least 2 camera bodies and I carry a 600mm, 300mm, 70-200mm, 50mm and 16-35mm lens. It is a tough grind carting all of that gear around. Here’s what it looks like with seasoned shooter James Bearne trudging uphill with a hundred-weight of expensive kit. It buggers up my shoulders but it’s a small price to pay for such an amazing experience.After lunch the cars came out again for 90 minutes so I focused on this shot for the first 30 minutes.The idea is to place the camera at just the right height so you can’t see the tarmac but don’t lose too much of the wheels. It then looks like the cars are on a leisurely drive through the forest. Not far away I had a crack at incorporating the flowers on a raised bank into a shot, first focusing on the car. Then on the flowers.From this spot, but using a much longer lens, it is possible to shoot the cars heading towards turn 2. The grandstands weren’t full so I used a slow shutter speed to blur the quarter-filled stand. At the end of the day I hung around to snap the drivers doing their TV interviews and then later, emerging from the drivers’ briefing. When Lewis appeared, the chap in the blue shirt made a beeline for him and pressed him for a selfie. He threw his arm around him and proceeded to line up the shot. Now, I don’t know why people think they can do that to a stranger and so, when Lewis pushed him away (a perfectly reasonable response), I thought he would get the message. But he didn’t, he moved back in again. I don’t much like the selfie thing and take my hat off to the drivers for putting up with it. If you want a pic with a driver, the best strategy is to get a friend lined up to take it and as the driver is walking, sidle up next to him, ask his permission and walk with him while looking at your picture-taking friend. You’ll be hard pressed to get one from Kimi unless you adopt this approach because he rarely stops for anyone.
Right, so that’s all for now, “auf wiedersehn”!