The final day of testing was my longest day of the 4 with eight and a half hours snapping more than 3,000 photos.
I spent time in most sections of the track except the pits as I have no access given my rookie status.
There were a couple of breakdowns today which results in the circuit staff rushing to the incident and shielding the car from cameras while the team sends out their staff to shroud the car for it’s ride back to the pits. Being testing, there are design elements the teams don’t want to be seen so it’s all secret squirrel stuff.
The drivers normally have a couple of public commitments each day – a signing session for team guests and a press conference. This is a dangerous time for them as they have to walk through the paddock which is filled with general public and corporates who feel compelled to stop them for a dreaded selfie. It’s an insidious and ridiculous thing and I have no idea how they tolerate it. Often they end up grabbing the punter’s phone and taking the shot themselves to save time.
I had a chat with one of the 15 local doctors based at the circuit. He told me that the busiest days for them are motorcycle track days.
The circuit staff are an eclectic mix. This young woman and her female friend had dance music pumping from their own speaker at their trackside station.
You can get extremely close to the cars at the end of pit straight when they stop for up to 15 seconds to ractice their launch starts. Here the detail in a driver’s helmet can been appreciated and the steering wheel becomes quite readable.
For the last 45 minutes of the day the sun was low enough for it to produce some rich golden backlighting so I found a spot where I could shoot into it as the cars negotiated the chicane.
The media centre is located directly above the pits is packed full of mainly Europeans working on tight deadlines hence many bring their own food.
From a photographic point of view, I liked the colour rumble strips and spent an hour shooting from a couple of spots waiting for cars to completely straddle them.
So after 4 days of intense photography, I’ve realized that the two best look cars to photograph are the Ferrari for it’s vivid red and the Toro Rosso for it’s electric blue. The Haas is the hardest with it’s dark colour scheme.
Standing so close to the vehicles, sometimes no more than a few metres away, I am in awe of their power and noise along with the skill required by a driver to keep them on the track. I often thought while focusing on them through the camera that if one speared off the track towards me, there’d be little chance to get out of it’s path. You are so locked on to the shot and they move at such speed, that dodging one would be nigh on impossible. Still, if they managed to get over the barricade it would be a quick end.
While I brought 4 bodies and 8 lenses from Australia, I shot with just my two 1DXs and 4 lenses, 500mm, 70-200mm, 24-70mm and 11-24mm. I used polarisers for most of the day when it was sunny and took a monopod for the long lens.
I am certainly glad I got to practice my craft here at testing. It’s fair to say the learning curve is steep and having spent 30 hours with my eye in the viewfinder, I’m a significantly better motoring photographer than I was last week but with still plenty to learn.
What was absent this weekend was cars in close proximity to others, that will happen on race day in Melbourne where I’ll get my first real test under race conditions. Melbourne is trickier to photograph as you must shoot through cut outs in the wire fence resulting in fewer angles and competition for shooting spots, but that’s not going to stop me enjoying the challenge.