Pit Stops – UBS Chinese F1 Grand Prix 2013
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Sebastian Vettel enters the Red Bull Racing Pit

March comes around and it is F1 season again, another year of Sundays spent glued to the television or computer to see who will be the fastest driver in the world, last year this was Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing. The one Sunday during the season when I am not glued to a screen is for the Chinese F1 Grand Prix, then I get to go and experience the noise (which is beyond any noise you can imagine when there are 22 cars revving their engines in front of you) and try out some high speed photography techniques. This year I knew exactly where to get the tickets there is an online travel agent called Ctrip which has both Chinese and English websites, so the tickets can be ordered easily online, so whilst browsing with friends we decided to go for the Grandstand High tickets, as these afford the best view of the track and the pits. I decided that I wanted to capture some more panning and blurring shots so these were the best seats I have been in for this type of shot, also with the great view of the pit lane then I could try some creative shots on the pit stops. Photographing F1 cars is not actually that hard all you need is a very high shutter speed (Greater then 1/800 normally freezes everything) and a corner or view that enables you to click the shutter at the right time, on the straight though that is hard as the cars come past so fast they are not in the camera frame for long, but this does enable you to get a little more creative with the shot.

In the first image I was trying to give an impression of the speed at which the car is approaching the Pit crew, by slowing down the shutter speed and adjusting the aperture to give the correct exposure this will enable some blur to be induced into the image (The cars in the pits are travelling at around 70 Kph so in terms of F1 pretty slow), in the first image I was tracking the car into the pits whilst pressing the shutter, this had the effect of blurring the pit crew whilst the car remains in focus.

Mark Webber enters the Red Bull Racing Pit
Mark Webber enters the Red Bull Racing Pit (f/8 s. 1/60 ISO100 @300mm)

The second image I reversed what I was doing and allowed the car to come into frame this made the pit crew in focus and the car blurred. I would like to have done longer exposures but because I am in the crowd putting a tripod up is not possible, I did attempt some longer exposures during the Ferrari pit stops and had some success but I would have liked the car to be sharper, even so the image produced created a slight abstract image as there was lateral movement (Camera panning speed did not exactly match the car) and no or little vertical blur, and I have seen similar shots that have been published in newspapers e.t.c.

Felipe Massa enters the Ferrari Pit
Felipe Massa enters the Ferrari Pit (f/22 s. 1/15 ISO100 @300mm)

Shutter speeds of up to 1/125 will induce some blur on the car when they are entering the pit

Sergio Perez enters the McLaren Mercedes Pit
Sergio Perez enters the McLaren Mercedes Pit (f/8 s. 1/125 ISO100 @300mm)

The last time I was photographing the pit stops I caught Ferrari with 6 tyres in the pits, and this has turned into one of my most viewed images (at date of publishing around 300,000 times since April 2011 on different sites), this time the Mercedes AMG Petronas team did the same thing, pitting both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg with in seconds of each other and providing another rare moment when the team has 6 sets of wheels in the pit at one time.

Sergio Perez enters the McLaren Mercedes Pit

6 Sets of Wheels in the Mercedes Pit (f/8 s. 1/125 ISO100 @300mm)
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