• Mark Sutton - Life Through a Lens

A little bit of history repeating

Mark Sutton
September 15, 2010
Two shots of Lotuses at the Parabolica taken 47 years apart © Sutton Images
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The sense of history at Monza is very special and anybody visiting for the first time will get swept up in the atmosphere and the old banking now lies dormant.

On Friday afternoon I went to Parabolica - a corner virtually unchanged from the original layout - and was hit by a sense of nostalgia and déjà vu. Someone had cut some holes in the catch fencing where I'd never been able to shoot before and instantly the angle reminded me of some pictures we have in our archive from the 1960s. We've got an iconic shot of Jim Clark winning back in 1963 and it was shot from that exact point by David Phipps.

So I sat there waiting for a Lotus to come past and tried to recreate the image 47 years later. In my picture there is a grandstand in the background but the corner itself is virtually unchanged. It's quite amazing. It seemed a bit strange to me because it's the first time I've been able to shoot that angle and I've no idea why there was a hole there this time round. To be honest it's a nothing picture compared to some of the others we take at Monza, but for comparison's sake it is worth a shot.

Parabolica is such a brilliant and challenging corner, even in modern F1 cars, and the shots from the tower over the apex of the corner have always been a favourite. They've actually strengthened that tower recently so hopefully it will have another couple of decades use in it and again we can get the comparison shots down the years.

Standing there you can tell which drivers are pushing and which drivers aren't, and the lack of downforce on the slower cars is actually visible as they squirm around. It's slightly banked so the drivers can enter it on opposite lock and get away with it, it's an amazing corner to stand at and watch. It's fully recommended.

Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa celebrate with the Tifosi © Sutton Images
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On Sunday the Ferrari pole position brought the crowd in, but I was wondering after qualifying whether that would be the case. When you look back over the years the tribunes always used to be packed on a Saturday, but qualifying isn't full anymore. It seems as though they don't like to go if there is not going to be a Ferrari win.

As things turned out they were treated to a brilliant Ferrari victory and, as always, a fantastic podium celebration. But to let you in on a little secret, getting that big red Ferrari flag on the track is all planned and rehearsed beforehand. They let the people with the flag in the gate early and then they can get on the finish line before anybody else. I think it must be a friend of a friend who lets them in, because they are all waiting at the right gate to get on the track first. But it's no bad thing as it means that that flag is always on pole!

It makes for good photos but the ultimate vantage point would be on the podium looking down. It's difficult to show that many people unless you are really high up but you can still convey a sense of the atmosphere. The podium is a real one off; no other track has put the podium over the track like that and it creates a real buzz for both the drivers and the fans.

Mark Sutton's photo came second in a Bridgestone competition © Sutton Images
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I also had a bit of an ego boost over the weekend when I came second in a photo competition run by Bridgestone, who are leaving F1 at the end of the year. They decided to have a competition to celebrate the last 14 years of Formula One and they picked out their top three photos from that period. I submitted a podium shot of Michael Shumacher and Mika Hakkinen with the Bridgestone caps on from 1999, which was just a nice, smiley picture. There were a lot of artistic photos from recent years but I think they wanted something from the archive and something quite simple and straightforward.

Another bit of nostalgia came after the race when Fernando Alonso left the media pen, where they do the interviews, and was immediately swarmed by bodyguards. I was hoping to get a photo, but I wasn't about to get involved in the bun fight with Ferrari guys and police, so I just popped my camera in the scrum and shouted Fernando's name. He couldn't see where I was but he still gave the thumbs up and it actually made a perfect picture. Meanwhile all the other snappers were running backwards and falling over themselves, probably with one good shot between the lot of them.

Security guards protect Fernando Alonso at Monza and Nigel Mansell in Mexico © Sutton Images
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Anyway, it reminded me of a photo I took of Nigel Mansell in Mexico in 1992. It was a similar situation, he was surrounded by security and bodyguards linking arms, and I just popped my camera between the bodies and fired away. It's only when I got that one developed that I saw that one of the guards had his hand on his gun.

Next up is Singapore which is a track that we really enjoy. It's a beautiful circuit with loads of interesting backgrounds and then of course the night factor. It's nice that some of the practice sessions take place at dusk so we can get some pictures in the daylight as well, with the skyline in the background.

The last two years we've had dry weekends - touch wood - but it is the rainy season out there at the moment and it's only a matter of time until a thunder storm coincides with one of the sessions. Wet weather would present a whole new challenge for both the drivers and us, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.

But for shooting at night we've now got the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV cameras and they will help a lot because they work remarkably well in low-light conditions. We didn't have them last year and the ability to shoot at higher ISO levels means we can get much brighter photos and you will be able to notice the difference compared to last year.

Mark Sutton is expecting even better photos from Singapore in 2010 © Sutton Images
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The other thing we have to do over there is stay on European time, which means we have to stay up late and sleep through the morning. The problem is finding meals and knowing where to go but we're heading there with a bit more experience this time and we know a few places that will stay open.

We're also working for the organisers and will have a big seminar and exhibition on display so that's something to look forward to. Add to that the parties and music concerts they have each year and it should be a great weekend. Bring it on.

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