Behind the picture. Darren Heath. Ferrari F1 Valencia

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It was only 3 years ago that I was idly stumbling around the internet and came across a photographer by the name of Darren Heath. It is not exaggeration that he was inspirational in my decision to ditch my crappy point and shoot and hit up ebay for my first proper camera – my beautifully aged Canon 20D. For me it was all about the movement, the colours and the truly awesome composition. It just knocked me for six, and still does…

So when I again stumbled across this picture from the recent race in Valencia on the YAS Marina Facebook page, I just had to reference it…If you are a budding photographer you must read it…I urge you!


We visit some stunning circuits during the season and are often spoilt for choice when it comes to fantastic picture taking opportunities. Stand out venues include; Monaco, Montreal, Istanbul Singapore and Yas Marina.

The Valencia Street Circuit – home for the European Grand Prix – is sadly not one of the greats.

Winding its way around the abandoned marina specially built for the 32nd America’s Cup and past Spain’s premier container port the track presents something of a challenge for the creative lens man.

Still I’ve always believed much like good drivers will always find good cars, good photographers will find good shots!

The challenge is to bring what one can of the surroundings into the picture, the shot of Fernando Alonso above perfectly illustrating my point.

Standing proudly in the middle of the port is the Veles e Vents building – architect David Chipperfield’s stunning pavillion built as the social focal point for the 2007 America’s Cup – which during the grand prix weekend becomes home to Formula 1’s luxurious Paddock Club.

Atop the Bauhausesque structure is a flat shingle covered roof that affords 360º views of the scene below. I’m sure you can appreciate what a stand out place this is for photography.

Gaining access to any Paddock Club property is always special and the person in charge is the Paddock Club’s numero uno lady Isabelle Kaufmann. As Head of the operation Isabelle has a lot on her plate so when she grants access – to special terraces or vantage points – to the likes of me it’s a special privilege for sure.

With Isabelle’s blessing I climbed the stairs and arrived into the sunshine high above the race track below.

Looking southwards one can see directly into the busy container port with thousands of the colourful rectangular metal boxes stacked high below monstrous yellow cranes that straddle both land and sea.

Along with the water and yachts in the foreground it’s these elements that one can use to provide a suitable backdrop to a speeding F1 car.

As the cars scream by on the northern side rushing towards the swing bridge ahead I ready myself, using a 50mm lens and choosing a very slow shutter speed of 1/15th of a second, the Ferrari comes in to view.

Concentrating hard on being as smooth as possible I pan left to right being aware of the cars position in the frame and watching for the boats in the foreground so as to shoot at exactly the moment Fernando appears between the two yachts moored track side. Once the shutter has opened and closed I keep panning – following through if you like – just as a golfer would with his swing.

The long shutter speed has very effectively blurred everything except the car rendering something as unappealing to the eye as containers and cranes as a gorgeous wash of colour.

Applying this technique to one’s photography works every time and opens up myriad more picture taking locations that might there otherwise be.

Camera: Canon EOS 1DS Mark 3
Lens: 50mm
Exposure: 1/15th second @ f/16

Darren Heath


Categories: Shot of the Day


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