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The reason countries like Azerbaijan get a grand prix is purely down to money; they pay a bucketload to get F1 to come to their country.  This is the second GP held in the capital Baku and the place certainly scrubs up very nicely on TV and in pictures with the old buildings looking very regal. A grand prix brings incredible exposure to the host city and country so it’s in the best interest of the organisers to ensure the media get what they need in order to generate pictures that appeal and excite. And while there have been a few hiccups and some very long walks, the photographers have been able to get the shots they were chasing.

Today saw the final practice session of 60 minutes at 1pm with the sun high overhead.  I had a bit of an adventure.  I headed out to the old town in the hope I might be able to cross the track and get to a photographers’ hole that is hellishly difficult to get to. It provides a great shot as the cars round the slowest corner, the one Sergio Perez crashed at yesterday, and head up the hill past the castle.

At one stage I had convinced a marshal to escort me across the track, however, we got about 20m before we had to turn back so that opportunity went begging.

I had earlier doorknocked a number of apartments in the old town with balconies overlooking the track. I had a family agree to let me in half way through the session to photograph from their balcony. I had another apartment owner also agree, so I went to her apartment (which was on a lower level) first and shot for 30 minutes. Two of the windows I shot out of were floor to ceiling and fully open.  I nearly knocked a lens hood off at one point and had it have come loose, it would have ended up on the track as there was less than a metre between the building wall and the fence at ground level.  I thanked the family and left for the higher-up apartment but I can only think that the occupants were on the balcony watching the cars and couldn’t hear me knocking as I was unable to gain entry.  Having blown 5 minutes of the 60 minute session, I cut my losses and returned to the first apartment where I stayed for the remainder of the session. One of the three women who allowed me to use their apartment offered me a profiterole as I left which was muchly appreciated and then I headed off on the 1.5km-long walk back to the media centre for 39 minutes of editing and 4 minutes of devouring a roll. At 4.15pm I met my Baku volunteer Nella, who was charged with the responsibility of getting me to my next spot on top of a 7 storey building, built in 1897.This was where I would shoot the 1 hour qualifying session that saw Lew Hamilton set the fastest lap.  As you can see here, the railing is very low and we are very high.  In fact most of the buildings that the organisers arranged for us to photograph from had varying elements of danger associated with them, so great care was taken.

The building provided a few angles and a number of different shots, but the shadows were encroaching over the track hence it was important to find shots with the cars in the lit sections, or wait for the track to be in shade which required a different approach and provided a more evenly lit shot.I then took out my 45mm tilt shift lens.  When set up, and it takes a couple of minutes to get it right, it allows me to set a focus plane that in the following shot, runs virtually along the road.  The areas to the upper right and lower left hand corner of the shot go progressively out of focus, resulting in a toy-like image.  After hiking back to the Media Centre I watched the Black Eyed Peas on the circuit TV feed as they played slot cars in the Paddock Club and then toured the Red Bull garage.  They’re on late tonight here and tomorrow will likely be on the grid prior to the race.

A fruitful day of overhead photography today and to top it off, I was pleased to see the feature image on this blog today, end up as a feature image on an F1 story.

All for now; over and out!