Photo Anatomy: anticipating the perfect moment in Formula 1 racing photography

Photo Anatomy: anticipating the perfect moment in Formula 1 racing photography

In our Photo Anatomy series on Digital Camera World we select pictures by famous photographers and explain point by point what makes them work.

In our latest instalment we discover how anticipation and technical skill combine in this outstanding Formula 1 photo, taken by Getty Images staff photographer Clive Mason.

Photo Anatomy: anticipating the perfect moment in Formula 1 racing photography

Capturing the moment
This image was taken at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2010, and it shows the Scuderia Toro Rosso car, driven by the Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, with its wheels momentarily off the track.

Pre-visualisation
Clive shot from the same position the previous day. “I’d noticed that if a car were to take the wrong line into the chicane, the curbs could propel it into the air,” he says.

Watching and waiting
Alguersuari, Clive noticed, “was pushing so hard it seemed only a matter of time before he hit the curbs”, so he concentrated on the driver and was rewarded with this airborne shot.

Creative blur
Clive set his Nikon D3s, fitted with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, to shoot at 1/30 sec at f/5.6. “The shutter speed was pre-selected,” he says, “as I knew the effect I was trying to create.”

Drama and technique
The sight of this Formula 1 car dramatically lifting off the ground at high speed, combined with Mason’s clever use of motion blur, makes this a doubly eye-catching shot.

We Say
“The Formula 1 images we see are often tightly framed and pin-sharp, but don’t be afraid to try something different. Be creative: look out for different angles, vary your shutter speeds, try leaving some space around the subject… Then you’ll start to get shots that really stand out from the crowd.”
Chris Rutter, technique editor

READ MORE
Famous Photographers: 100 things we wish we knew starting out
How to see photos like famous photographers… every time you shoot
Best camera focus techniques: 10 surefire ways to get sharp photos
Full frame sensor size explained: how to exploit its advantages and cool effects