Getting the right perspective when shooting motor racing

At a very young age Frits decided to combine his love of cars and photography and tried to make a living out of it. Frits started his own company and photographed his first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1989. By 1994 he was shooting all the F1 races throughout the season on a regular basis. Now Frits shoots all types of racing, including F1, Le Mans and Touring Car Racing

So, Frits, how do you manage to get the right angles to shoot at?
further away from the cars. I understand why the tracks have to be constantly assessed from a safety point of view, but every time I come back to a track there is another fence and a greater distance. In most races, practice laps and qualifying sessions that go with them, you have a short shooting window. Mostly about an hour to get what you need.

How do you prepare for that?
I get there a couple of days early and walk the course. I work out what is feasible to move to and from during a race or session. I have to plan every detail to make the most efficient use of the limited time. I create a detailed schedule for exactly what I am going to do during the weekend.

What are you looking for?
I have to find myself a low perspective, which is the hardest part, but that is key. Speeding cars always look more interesting from low down. I have to rely on a really long lens plus an extender to help.

© Frits van Eldik

I look for races where there are still great shooting opportunities. The German Touring Car Championship (DTM) is one of my favourites. The tracks are still checked thoroughly and I have to stand a way back, but it is a bit easier than the Grand Prix circuits.

© Frits van Eldik

Sometimes you find an unexpected opportunity. In the DTM final in Hockenheim I shot against the light through a very small opening in an advertisement sign. It's not very difficult but I just tried to capture the impossible.

What attracts you to the German Touring Car races?

A lot of the teams and drivers know me now and are comfortable for me to be around. The cars are going just as fast as in F1, but because things are on a slightly smaller scale you can get more involved. I love being around the pit areas and the teams now understand what I am after, and allow me better access. They have learnt to trust me.

© Frits van Eldik

I think a lot of my favourite shots are not actually when the cars are on the track, it is hard to come up with an original image there, but you can convey the atmosphere, the pressure and the prestige of motor racing when the cars are standing still – even the speed.

© Frits van Eldik

Sometimes you need a completely different type of lens to shoot in the pits.

Sounds like you still have the same passion and enjoyment of motor racing

It is so different to how it was before, but I am still addicted to the speed and excitement it generates.

What’s in my bag?

When I go on a shoot at a racetrack I take everything. My kitbag is 82kg. The airlines either love me or hate me! But I can’t afford not to have the right bodies, lenses and extenders with me.

My favourite lenses are the EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM that has a built-in 1.4x extender.

You have to be prepared for anything.

I also like to experiment, and occasionally I can persuade a team to stick a camera on the side of a car and shoot remotely.

© Frits van Eldik

The camera was an EOS 6D with EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM. I then used the remote app to shoot. You can get some spectacular shots.

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