Having captured the drama at the Dakar Rally, the Hungarian Baja and Rally Libya among others, this particular photographer – currently based in the Czech Republic – is fast making a name for himself on the stages, despite only picking up a camera for the first time in 2010. Indeed, those of you who have read our MINI ALL4Racing and 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge features will already be familiar with his work. We ask crankandpiston.com follower Marian Chytka about his work and how he finds life behind the lens.[Not a valid template]
Marian, not the first time we’ve met(!) and your photography speaks volumes about your craft. But give us a little context. How did you get started with photography?
“I actually started because my brother was involved in motorsport, and a few years ago I got my first camera as a Christmas present mainly to take pictures of him racing. At the time though I didn’t even know how to turn it on, and didn’t really get interested until 2010. There are no jobs available though, plus I finished university in September last year and got my Master’s degree in Law. So since then I have been working for a law agency. But photography is still the first choice.”
Even if the photography buzz didn’t come until later, have you always been an enthusiast of motorsport?
“I guess I should say yes. When I was younger, my father used to compete in some off-road series, then my brother started to follow him in rally-raids, but it was not always so. Though I suppose I wasn’t into motorsport as much as I am right now, and that’s why I like contemporary motor racing. I am much more involved with that and know a lot of people, so that definitely makes it much more interesting.”
And if you were to choose between two-wheel and four-wheel motor racing…
“Oh most definitely four-wheels!”
Your catalogue of events is pretty impressive considering you only started shooting in 2010. Then again, the industry changes so quickly thanks to new technology. Have you found you’ve had to change the way you photograph events?
“Well I only started a few years ago, so I’ve only ever used digital photography. And actually when you consider the quality of the equipment, motorsport photography hasn’t really changed that much. What has changed is the amount of post processing. That is all around now, and that generally means you have two types of photographers: there are those who say you should not use any adjustments, the traditionalists; and then there are those who love it and use it a lot.”
In which group are you in then? No offense…(!)
“[Laughs] Well it would be stupid to pretend that I am in the first group, but on the other hand I am not 100 per cent in the second either. I do edit every photo I take and that is not a secret, but I always try to keep the basis of the image the same, and not over-do the images as some people do. I don’t really like that, especially because I’m now getting more into commercial photography as well as event coverage. But like I say, if you can find a good balance with your editing, then the pictures can look superb.”
Your work takes you all over the world. How difficult is it keeping up with not only tough deadlines but also the fatigue from event to event?
“Maybe it’s because I’m still only 24 years old, but I do not really feel tired when I travel. Spending so much time away from home is part of the job and part of what I love about what I do. Sometimes I think about standing and shooting in the desert for hours on end, waiting for that perfect shot: it’s much better than sitting for hours in the same office every day!”
Give us some insight into your favourite aspects of motorsport photography. Is it the drivers? The cars? The atmosphere? What really interests you during a race weekend?
“Actually it’s not just the weekend! I do prefer rally photography and that`s because you can always work with the landscape around you. It provides opportunities to get different shots even when you’re standing in the same place. I love that, the combination of landscape and sports photography all rolled into one. So when I do some events like MX or the Speedway Grand Prix, I feel a bit bored because there is not the landscape to work with.””
Are there any events you’ve shot that stand out in your memory, for good or bad reasons?
“Oh Dakar, for sure. It is the top adventure in motorsport and in motorsport photography as well, at least from my point of view. I don’t think my opinion on that will ever change.”
How much equipment do you regularly carry with you? Walk us through what’s in your camera bag…
“Normally three cameras, three lenses and two flashes, plus some filters and extenders. I also have a camera for every single lens. When you are in the desert, it is not healthy for the camera to keep changing the lenses. Plus, when you have two or three camera bodies with you, it makes life a lot easier (and faster) when you need to change the angle or the zoom.”
Where do you hope your photography will take you in the years to come? Are there any events you are particularly keen to shoot?
“I still need to improve a lot and want to work more on my commercial photography, but my priority is still motorsport. As I mentioned before there is nothing better than the Dakar for me, so I hope there will be an opportunity to go there every year.”