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The cars took to the Spa circuit today and I’m pleased to say, I was once again on hand to take plenty of photos.

There are 2 x 90 minute practice sessions on a Friday (except at Monaco where FP1 and 2 take place on the Thursday) and so the first session saw me on the outside of turn 2 and 3, Eau Rouge.

I started at turn two where the cars negotiate a left hander (well it’s really just a kink) riding some brightly painted kerbing and then run uphill. Now, I’ve stood close to cars at other tracks, sometimes less than a metre from them, but that has been mostly on tight turns so the cars are doing speeds of around say 40 – 80 km/hr.  However at turn 2 here at Spa, they are doing around 200km/hr, and they’re only a couple of metres from my lens.

The experience is exhilarating to say the least. For a start it’s noisy, but I’m not talking about engine noise. The dominant noise here is the sound of the cars hitting the kerbing. And then there’s the air which hits you full-on, both above the waist high armco and through the gaps in that fencing. Below is Nico Hulkenberg apexing the corner in question.  And in the shot below you can see how far the kerbing is from the fence, a mere couple of metres.    I stood where Pete from the Netherlands is standing (chequered shirt) for a while to get pics like the one below of Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes and if you look closely, you’ll see he’s testing a new design halo head protection system which will be finalised by next year. I also got down on my knees to shoot through the armco which produces an image that commands attention.This corner is certainly popular with photographers; there were around 17 shooting the outside of the two corners in the morning session, some leaning out over the armco. Some of the cars were bottoming out on the brown coloured areas of the tarmac as they headed up the hill. This resulted in sparking which is always nice to photograph. As they got to the top of Eau Rouge they crested and turned left and shooting uphill provided some different shots.In that morning session, Felipe Massa headed off-track and hit the tyre barrier below, leaving the newly painted rubber looking a little worse for wear.In the afternoon I headed to the far end of the track where Felipe went off-track, a journey of probably 2kms.  This is one of the longest tracks on the calendar and while Monaco is nearly 80 laps, the cars only do 44 of this track. Having caught the shuttle bus to the chicane at turn 5 and 6, I shot above the fence (thankfully no wire) with the cars driving directly at me as they negotiate the chicane. I love shooting low as you can see right under the car in certain circumstances.  Below is a shot taken through the middle gap in the armco and because the track is slightly higher than the service road we were shooting from, you can see clearly underneath the car.  I used a 135mm prime lens (no zoom) at F2 which produced a rich looking image and I love the out of focus trees behind the car and the fact you can’t see any crap (e.g. fences, toilets, signage etc) in the shot. It’s a markedly different shot to the one below which still tells a story but has more to distract the viewer.The shot below looked a little dull straight out of the camera so a little processing in Lightroom enhanced it although I’m the first to admit it didn’t look like this to the naked eye. I moved further along the track photographing the next three corners.  And then the rain came which saw all of the cars head back to the pits with all but two, Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, staying in their garages for the remainder of the session (about 12 mins).  I failed to take my wet weather gear so I and my cameras ended up damp but it was a good precursor to the weekend which is likely to be wet and possibly stormy. As an aside, what is plainly evident is that F1 is a male dominated business.  On the photography side there is only one female photographer on the tour and I haven’t seen one female camera operator yet.  Where the fairer sex is well represented is in PR, marketing, hospitality and media.  Jodie (below, looking pensive) is one of many women at Red Bull.

Here’s Sebastian Vettel’s press officer Britta Roeska.Sophie (left) and Alice handle the grid girls among a range of other things for F1 management. Mervi Kallio (below) is a Finnish TV presenter.And this is Federica Masolin, Sky F1 Italia TV presenter.And with that, I say au revoir until tomorrow’s installment after qualifying. And as always, you are encouraged to share this with your friends and relatives.