Race Blog
Malaysia 2015

Creative thinking

Think. Think long and hard about what you’d like to achieve. Consider your subject, work with the available light, position yourself in the optimum place, cogitate about lens, aperture, shutter speed and focusing choice, contemplate endlessly the message you’re trying to convey, and put yourself ahead in time to the moment of presentation… 

Taking a winning picture is no simple task.

A notable lensman once opined that, “As a photographer you strive to be able to have your photographs touch other people and make them feel something.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Two Canon EOS-1D X bodies; 14, 24, 50, 100, 200 and 600mm lenses; various extenders and converters; a monopod; filters; a black paint pen; lens cloths; and further assorted paraphernalia. It’s time to head out, trackside, at the Sepang International Circuit.

Coming in to the 2015 F1 season I resolved to up my game, to push myself hard to take ever more interesting and exciting pictures of the sport I adore. Mulling over the photographic year ahead is nothing new, but after 26 years of trying to make F1 cars and drivers look good the challenge gets ever harder.

Standing by the banks of the Zambezi river in 2000, while on a – possibly ill-advised – trip to the rapidly falling apart Zimbabwe, I was asked by a TV news cameraman friend: “Why, why do you so enjoy going back to the same venues year after year – doesn’t it get boring?”

I guess the question was understandable but really my friend was somewhat missing the point. That is the challenge, the challenge of finding new and interesting angles, working with a different lens to the norm, walking 50 yards further on from where the ‘camera club’ like to stand.

“Today I’m going to be creative.” The words send a shiver up and down my spine. Uttered as they were by the boss of the photographic agency I worked for as a 20-something-year-old rookie, they struck me as bizarre. Not because he didn’t have a creative bone in his body, rather that, in my mind, ‘being creative’ should be the default setting of any photographer who ever picked up a camera. 

I’m asked almost every day about my technique, style, lens and camera choice. “How did you take that shot?” “Where do you get your ideas?” Of course I’m flattered that others interested in the art show interest in my work, but when all’s said and done, the choices one makes when photographing any subject should be down to the individual. Simply aping another photographer’s style will always mean you’re – at least – one step behind.

My regular reply to those that ask is to suggest that they simply do as I do. Look at and study the imagery of those who have never shot racing cars. Alec Soth, Stephen Shore, Nadav Kandar and the cinematographer Roger Deakins are just a few of the guys whose work I respect. There are many more but all – doubtless – wouldn’t know a rear-wing endplate from an exhaust-blown diffuser!

Since day one of motor sport photography every angle, every corner, every slow-shutter-speed pan shot, every wide-open close-up portrait, every wide-angle-lens-through-the-trees-dark-shadows-pretty-scenic-view has been endlessly shot.

Nothing is new.

The ‘creative’ photographer needs to bring his interpretation of what went before to the fore. Simple really!  

Am I being creative?

You be the judge.


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