• Life Through a Lens - Mark Sutton

A postcard from India

Mark Sutton
November 2, 2011

F1 photographer Mark Sutton picks his six favourite shots from the Indian Grand Prix

A taste of India

Top left - Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 16-35mm Zoom | Shutter speed: 1/50 Sec | Aperture: 3.5 © Sutton Images
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These three photos give you an idea of what India looked like away from Formula One, although the picture of the woman by the lake was actually taken inside the circuit! The spice market in Delhi (top left) was a fantastic place that just came alive in the evening and offered up photo opportunities that were too good to miss. The place was just packed out with people and the smells were so strong that they were almost burning your eyes and the back of your throat. The cows were actually spotted just outside the circuit and are a typical sight on India's roadsides. You can see that they're quite thin and they were grazing on this patchy piece of grass by the offramp of the main motorway that leads you to the circuit. I took the photo of the woman on Wednesday evening after viewing the track for the first time and doing our usual recce to find some good positions for photographs. She was actually taking bowls of water from the lake in the centre of the circuit to put on the plants - why they didn't just get a hose pipe I don't know! As you can see it was a lovely day on the Wednesday, but by the time the cars got on track over the weekend there was a lot more smog which didn't really help our photos.

Teething problems

Top photo - Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 16-35mm Zoom | Shutter speed: 1/500 Sec | Aperture: 11 © Sutton Images
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Having done my recce on Wednesday, I did another lap of the track on Thursday. What we do as photographers is go round the wrong way when we first get there in order to see the best photo opportunities of the cars coming towards us. But on Thursday I was walking the correct way round as I was following FIA race director Charlie Whiting on his circuit inspection. What we do is pick the spots where we want to take photos from on our first recce and then we ask for the approval from Charlie to cut the holes in the catch fencing. At this point he's checking a kerb that was too high and they had to grind the concrete down to the right height - as they did in Korea last year. The Pirelli sign was also quite funny because we spotted that they'd misspelt it on Wednesday and then told them so they could change it. But that was actually how they were going to leave it after Wednesday and it just shows how easy it is to make a mistake if you're doing something in a rush.

Ferrari's flexi-wing

Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 600mm Telephoto | Shutter speed: 1/800 Sec | Aperture: 9.0 © Sutton Images
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The flexing wing on the Ferrari was an interesting story. I'd seen the flexing wing on the TV on Friday and I thought they'd try it again on Saturday so I went out to the end of the long straight with this shot in mind. I chose this angle because, despite the heat haze, you get a great mirage effect off the surface of the circuit - almost like seeing two wings. It was really flexing and you can see the sparks coming off the end plates. The other reason I chose the head-on angle is because you can see the hills along the straight. Someone said the only reason they had the hills was because they were building tunnels underneath and they just built the track over the top! I'm not sure if that was actually the case but it's quite a funny story.

The start of something special

Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark III | Lens: 16-35mm Zoom | Shutter speed: 1/300 Sec | Aperture: 8.0 © Sutton Images
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In this picture you can see the circuit organiser Samir Gaur as he cheered the cars out of the pit lane in first practice. It was funny because he missed the first few cars but he got down there for Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher going out. Sebastian Vettel actually stalled his car as he went out for the first time and had to be pushed back to the pits, but obviously it wasn't too bad an omen for the rest of the weekend. I said to Samir that I didn't just want him stood there watching the cars so I got him to give a bit of a reaction by giving the thumbs up and cheering them out. It was just a great display of emotion because he's put a lot of hard work into the track and at this point it had all come together for the first session of the weekend. Hopefully the area around the circuit will be built up over the next few years and we'll start to get some more interesting backgrounds for photos. I talked to one of the guys behind the project and the plans sound very interesting, so I think it's only going to get better year on year.

The tricky chicane

Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark III | Lens: 600mm Telephoto | Shutter speed: 1/640 Sec | Aperture: 6.3 © Sutton Images
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This is the turn six and seven chicane that was causing all sorts of aggravation for the drivers over the weekend. Obviously Felipe Massa lost his suspension twice on the kerbs along that part of the circuit, but even before that we knew it was a tricky corner for them. I'd talked to a TV camera man who said a lot of them were going off there on Friday so I went over for third practice and got this shot of Bruno Senna making a mistake. It was so dirty that if they came into the corner off line they were guaranteed to make a mistake and it made for a good photo from behind with all the dust. Obviously the grass there wasn't bedded down and you can see it being thrown all over the place.

Cricket and Bollywood

Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark III | Lens: 16-35mm Zoom | Shutter speed: 1/300 Sec | Aperture: 6.3 © Sutton Images
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In this photo you've got Roy Sahara, who has just bought a stake in Force India, Bernie Ecclestone, Vijay Mallya, cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, and Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan and Gulshan Grover. You couldn't turn on the grid without seeing another picture as there were just so many Indian guests and celebrities knocking about. Bernie came on the grid with Sachin and the other guys in the photo were guests of Mallya. They met midway down the grid where the Force India of Adrian Sutil was and it was absolutely crazy down there. There were a lot of cricketers and Bollywood stars at the track on Sunday as those are two of the biggest forms of entertainment in India.

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