Behind the lens in Formula 1. Vladimir Rys Photography

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Who do you look up to in photography, both in Formula 1 and outside of it?

I used to look up a lot to a Czech photographer called Jiri Pekarek, who in his day was just revolutionary. He was one of the first in the Czech Republic to bring sports photography to a new, different level. His images weren’t just action shots, there was a whole story hidden behind every image and had creativity hand-in-hand with technical skill. I adored every picture of his. I kept staring at his photos for hours and reading them. We didn’t have internet at that time, nor digital photography, so it was really difficult to find his imagery. I only saw five to 10 pictures every month in a magazine he used to work for and that was it.

Outside F1 I have a variety on photographers I really love, from Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Antonin Kratochvil and Paolo Pellegrin through to the classic photographers like Henri-Cartier Bresson, Josef Sudek, Rene Burri and others. But there are much more, we just unfortunately haven’t got the space here to mention all of them.

How would you describe your approach to photography? What differentiates you from others working in the paddock?

It’s probably the fact that I never come to the track and say I am doing this or that shot. There are lots of photographers who go from circuit to circuit and just copy images they shot last year. I could never work like this, I wouldn’t simply enjoy it. Once a colleague of mine said to me “Vlad, everything has been photographed already”, and at that point I thought that if you start thinking like this, it’s game over. I have so much fun running around the track and looking for new images and I have really found some nice stuff others try to copy the following year. But that’s normal; that is the best confirmation that you’ve done a good job. Sometimes you stand next to other photographers and they don’t see what you do and vice versa, but that is what makes our job so interesting. It’s the variety on characters, personalities, views, talents and creativity, which in the end comes through in the pictures and makes them so different. I also never looks for a specific car, or a specific driver. For me it’s the image, the light, the shadows, the background that are more important than the car that is featured.

Do you have a favourite driver or team, either personally or professionally?

It wouldn’t be fair to mention just one driver or one team, I like a few of them but I won’t mention any of them here. It’s not just one team or one driver I have a big respect for. It’s just amazing what some of the drivers have achieved, risking their lives every day just for a dose of adrenaline, personal ego or for the love of the sport. I would never get to to the point where I risk my life for this and that makes them so different from “normal” people. Imagine standing five metres away from 22 full-throttle engines coming down the straight into the first corner after the start. The sound, the heat, the blast and the dust that comes with it… what a moment. I hold my breath and look through the viewfinder, but the drivers they know they can be dead in an instant. They love this flirting with danger. For me they are the bravest species in the world.

Is there a period of F1 before now that you wish you’d been able to shoot?

I would have loved to be in the Senna era. But that dream will remain unfulfilled, unfortunately.

After working in Formula 1 for so long, do you still take an interest in it outside of the job, or do you prefer to shut it off and focus on something else?

No, of course I still follow the news in F1 also outside the track, it’s my job at the end of the day. It’s just the pictures I usually never go back to. I spend so much time with trying to get the best possible collection of pictures, than I archive everything, upload on my website and than usually don’t look back at them anymore. I think it’s good to keep your eye fresh and to go to the same track next year and do different pictures.

How long do you anticipate working in F1? It must get tiring after a while! What do you plan to do afterwards?

The truth is the travelling is not the easiest thing to do, but I still have a lot of years ahead of me before I say “enough”. When I lose the interest in my job, I will certainly lose the creativity and when I reach that point I will stop, because I don’t want to compromise anything in my pictures. In this job my rule has always been “all or nothing” and I want this to remain for the rest of my career.

What equipment do you use?

I use Canon cameras and lenses to shoot and F-Stop gear to move and ship it all around. Both are the best of the best in their area and a great help to me.

Any advice for aspiring photographers that want to cover F1?

Always think the next picture could be “the one”, never be fully satisfied, keep shooting, never give up your dream and always try to be creative.

You can see more of Vladimir’s work at his website, or on his Facebook page. You can follow him on Twitter @vladimirrys.

Categories: Lifestyle,Race


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