• Life Through a Lens - Mark Sutton

Flash fire

Mark Sutton
May 25, 2011

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

Heidfeld's Fire

First shot - Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 600mm Telephoto | Exposure: 1/640 Sec | Aperture: 9.0 | ISO Speed: 200 © Sutton Images
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I don't usually go out on the track during practice - I'm more of a pits person - but on Saturday I fancied a change of scenery. I was stood at turn 10 shooting the cars through the slow hairpin when I caught this fire out of the corner of my eye and swung round and just motor-drived it with my camera. I didn't really know what I'd got, but I kept taking photos as Heidfeld jumped out and the marshals swarmed around the burning Renault with extinguishers. I think Nick was probably bricking himself and judging by the way he ran away from the car he must have thought it was going to explode! I was one of just three photographers who got the photo and there was a guy behind me who was concentrating on his pan shot into turn 10 so much that he didn't even see it. It was literally over in 5 or 10 seconds and if you didn't get it then, all that was left was a big cloud of smoke.

Bernie and the girls

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 16-35mm Wide-angle zoom | Exposure: 1/300 Sec | Aperture: 10.0 | ISO Speed: 400 © Sutton Images
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I saw these four girls walking around on the grid with Bernie Ecclestone's girlfriend, Fabiana Flosi, and she grabbed me and asked if I'd take a photo of them. I'm not sure if she knows I work for Bernie's website or if she's just seen me around, but I was happy to oblige either way. Then we wondered towards the front of the grid and saw Bernie and it was an opportunity too good to miss to get him posing with the four girls. Then Fabiana came over and started winding Bernie up about being with all these pretty young women, which made for a funny moment, especially when everything else on the grid is so serious. I continued to roll off the photos and this was the result.

The Ferrari's underbelly

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 16-35mm Wide-angle zoom | Exposure: 1/400 Sec | Aperture: 5.0 | ISO Speed: 200 © Sutton Images
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I was taking photos on the start-finish straight when I saw Massa had gone off on the big screen. I looked over and I could see that the marshals were moving something, so I put down one of my cameras and ran over with my wide angle lens. I managed to get a series of photos of him getting out the car, getting on a bike and then heading off back to the pits. The next thing I knew the marshals were hoisting the car up in front of me and I thought it would be rude not to take a photo! It just creates a different kind of picture, although to be honest the teams don't have as much to hide on the undercarriage now that the double diffuser is banned. The big battle ground is the exhausts this year and how they use the gas to make the diffuser work. But it was an interesting photo nonetheless and tells the story of Felipe Massa's race.

Fighting for the lead

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 600mm Telephoto | Exposure: 1/500 Sec | Aperture: 9.0 | ISO Speed: 200 © Sutton Images
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For the end of the race I went down to the first corner because I thought if Lewis Hamilton was going to overtake Sebastian Vettel, then it was going to happen there. This is taken form a bit before the first corner over a brow on the pit straight and it creates this lovely shimmering mirage effect, where you almost get reflections of the cars on the track. The other great thing about this picture is that you can see the shards of discarded rubber on the side of the track. There are piles of the stuff, just imagine how much would be flicked up if a car drove through it to try to overtake. So this shot is actually telling a few stories from the race, the battle between Lewis and Seb, the use of the DRS - personally I don't think the zone was long enough and they should have started it from the exit of final corner - and the tyre degradation.

Alonso's lightning start

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 70-200mm Zoom | Exposure: 1/640 Sec | Aperture: 10.0 | ISO Speed: 200 © Sutton Images
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This is a classic Barcelona shot. The start is always exciting at the Circuit de Catalunya because they go in to turn one three abreast and come out of turn two in single file. This time it was all about Fernando Alonso and his move from fourth on the grid into the lead, which I thought was quite incredible. The Spanish fans were going completely mad and it's a shame I couldn't get a wider picture and have the crowd in the background. But my main priority is always to capture any accidents at the start and that requires this kind of focal length. From what I've been told, the drivers are actually taking the start a little easier this year because they know it's possible to make up positions during the race and as a result we haven't seen any major crashes.

Button at speed

Camera Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV | Lens: 600mm Telephoto | Exposure: 1/30 Sec | Aperture: 32.0 | ISO Speed: 125 © Sutton Images
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This is not an angle I've seen that often. I was up on the SEAT tower on Friday, which we mainly use for doing overhead shot of the cars coming into the pit lane and across the finish line where the DRS zone starts. But on this occasion I turned around and from there I could see the cars going out of turn 10 and up into turns 11 and 12. This is taken between turns 10 and 11 and shot at a slow shutter speed through some trees. It's funny, because those trees were planted about ten years ago and if you'd taken this photo then you would have got quite a different shot with none of the greenery. So what I did here was pan with my 600mm - which is a pretty big lens that isn't usually used for panning - through the trees, and with a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill you get a result like this.

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