My third F1 race day was the best thus far. I was shooting for one of the major suppliers of motoring pictures, the UK’s Sutton Images, and had a definite brief for the day, which was thankfully much cooler than the previous 3 days with a high of about 35degrees C.
Arriving at the track around 1pm I hauled all of my camera gear from my two lockers and had Canon clean the sensors on both cameras before having a brief feed in the lavish media tent (no charge), and then it was out into the paddock to find a shot. I returned with just one.The race was scheduled for 6pm but at 4pm, all the action was in pit lane with the Gulf Air grid girls getting ready.There were plenty of colourful flags representing the country of each driverand before I knew it, it was time for the drivers to arrive in the pits for the track parade. This meant stationing myself near the door into the form-up area to catch the drivers approaching, a number of them happy to interact with the fans. The drivers boarded the big flat bed truck for a slow lap of the track, affording a slightly different angle to photograph them. After completing the lap, the truck was due to drop the drivers off on to the red carpet for them to exit the track however most couldn’t wait and stepped of the slowly moving vehicle well shy of the mark, prompting a number of media to voice their anger as they missed their shot.
My role for Sutton was to shoot the first 20 or so laps from the elevated platform at the end of turn 1.
I enjoyed this spot, particularly the mad dash to the turn as they headed round the first time.After they passed, I had just over a minute to select my best shot and upload it to the Sutton site in the UK.
Over the next 20 laps, there were a number of overtaking manouvres carried out at the end of the straight, lots of sparks flying especially when cars moved off the racing line,with these taken using a fast shutter speed so the sparks appear as dots. I could have used a slow shutter speed, say 1/60th of a sec but would have seen too many shots unusable given that’s not my strength, yet.
There was a good lock-up that produced an impressive cloud of smokeand an accident just after turn 1.I was busy focusing on the train of cars still coming up the straight when I realized that two had come together just to my left. I’m not sure how I knew as I couldn’t see it in the viewfinder, but my shot was only slightly late and still good enough to make it on the F1.com site in the “Best shots of the day” gallery. In fact 7 of mine made it, and that site is one of the most widely viewed F1 related sites in the world.
I moved down to ground level 20 laps in and shot wide using a slow shutter speed to blur the lights and tower while panning to get the car sharp.
I spent a few laps shooting tighter back towards the first corner with the cars heading towards meand then towards the exit of turn 2 as they headed away from me with the lights from the Bahraini flag (which is visible from the air) in the top of the frame.While in this spot, the crowd behind me went nuts with applause for 2 marshals who had to sprint across the track, while the race was in full swing, to pick up some debris from the track. They made it back safely.With 30 minutes remaining in the race, I walked to a tight left hander where I spent 10 minutes snapping away
before heading back to the pits early enough to swap some lenses and queue up in the passageway ready to shoot the cars arriving back to parc ferme and the drivers getting out. It is a mad rush for the best spots when the fence is removed and I probably could have picked a better spot, and will in Sochi, but I got the picture I was charged with getting, that of winner Sebastian Vettel getting out of his Ferrari. I also snapped Lewis walking over to his team. Winner Sebastian Vettel was wearing a beaming smile went on to celebrate his win however I had to leave.My flight from Bahrain to Dubai was to depart at 10.50pm. So I quickly packed up my gear and moved with haste to the spot where my driver was waiting to meet me. However, on arrival, the was no sign of Ali. This was of great concern and when I called him, he advised me that all traffic in to the track had been blocked; he couldn’t get anywhere near me.
I was in strife as no taxis were in the queue, the same queue that had plenty the day prior. I was left with no alternative but to beg for a lift. The very first person I encountered, Gerhard Cronje, took pity on me and agreed to drive me back to my city hotel where my driver was waiting. An hour after leaving the track I met my driver at the Westin Hotel, grabbed the cases and raced out to the airport. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, in the kit I was wearing at the track, and had to swap stuff around between cases/bags right in front of the check in counter.
After checking in, I headed to the toilets to change pants and shirt and boarded straight away. All the way back in the two vehicles, I’d been selecting and editing pics. I shot nearly 3,000 over the course of the afternoon, but I knew roughly where the good ones would be and went to them first and uploaded them to the Sutton site. I do this via a Huawei internet thingy that most photographers carry with them. It’s a great bit of technology.
On board the aircraft I edited more shots and uploaded them in the Emirates lounge in Dubai during my 1 hour layover. I could have showered there but time is critical with this game so it was better spent editing and uploading as I was able to shower on board the Emirates A380.
In the end, I was mighty pleased to see 7 shots of mine in the F1.com “Best Of” gallery.
This was my 16th day shooting F1 and every day I improve in part thanks to some invaluable advice from seasoned pros who’ve been most forthcoming with suggestions and advice. The other night Mark Thompson from Getty Images pointed out a shot that he’d seen which I hadn’t. He didn’t have to, but I’d spent some time with him and his team, and he was happy to share his insight in that instance.
Mark Sutton is also forthcoming with suggestions on things like positioning around the track, creative ideas and even cropping. He’s quite a character and carries on in a similar vein to me when he’s under pressure.
I’m happy to be back in Perth, Australia for 8 days before Russia and Spain GPs. Thanks for reading: share it with your friends if you like it.