Mark Sutton – Life Through a Lens – Sparks, smoke and champagne

Mark Sutton – Life Through a Lens – Sparks, smoke and champagne
F1 photographer Mark Sutton talks through his favourite shots from the Chinese and Bahrain Grands Prix.

Nikon D4s | Exposure time: 1/250s | Aperture: F11 | ISO: 200

Rock and roll

These two have been talking publicly pretty much every race. It all started with Maurizio Arrivabene’s protest about fan passes in the winter tests when he sat in the stands with Gutierrez and an engineer. I agree with him that things should be more open. I think Arrivabene has been brilliant since taking over at Ferrari, a real breath of fresh air. He’s created a great aura around himself, he’s a great character. He reminds me a bit of Luca di Montezemolo, he’s elegant in everything he does, his hair is slicked back – he’s like a rock star. Whenever he talks in the press conference he’s comical and funny. He doesn’t talk any bull and just speaks his mind – he’s like an Italian Eddie Jordan, not afraid to say anything. This is a good shot during the hive of activity on the pit before a race.

Nikon D4s | Exposure time: 1/1000s | Aperture: F7.1 | ISO 400.

China faithful

I like this one as China brings all sorts of fans to the Grand Orix and there were a lot of Lewis fans. It’s amazing how many fanatical fans are there. The biggest fan club is probably Kimi [Raikkonen], I don’t know why but he seems to be the most popular in the Far East. But Lewis has lots, as do Nico [Rosberg] and Sebastian [Vettel]. Those four are probably the top four for having the most fans, then it’s probably Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo. It’s nice to see the Lewis fans, they were putting up a big name of letters, some painted faces and flags that had pictures on them. There was a great one of Kimi which was a collage of other pictures from throughout his career, but this one was just as nice.

Nikon D4s | Exposure time: 1/1000s Aperture F7.1 | ISO speed: 400.

Two on one

I did the finish as usual, crossed over and climbed the podium tower for a bit of height. I’m never sure whether it’s the right side or the right angle, you just have to be lucky in those instances. On this occasion I was lucky as I was on the right and shooting as they shot champagne across me, if you like. There was quite a bit of emotion on that podium – or maybe it was aggression, I don’t know, it seemed a mixture of both! The champagne just seemed to carry on forever. This is just after Lewis went and sprayed the girl, which caused a bit of controversy, but he spent most of his time spraying Sebastian and Nico. The champagne shower at the end is spectacular and always makes a good shot.

Nikon D4s | Exposure time: 1/30s | Aperture: F11 | ISO speed 2000

Coasting home

There’s a small hole where you can do the finish shot on the opposite side from the pits. It was really dark so I was playing around with the shutter speed up and down and eventually settled on a speed of 2000 for Hamilton’s finish. That worked really well, I just panned it through, and then the fireworks went off so it was all mayhem. What you are best to do with the fireworks is drop the shutter speed and open the shutter, so I dropped it to a 30th of a second, which is really slow but that didn’t matter as I just wanted blurred cars with fireworks in the background. As I’m doing this, in the corner of my eye, plus I heard the big bang, there was this massive plume of smoke. I just aimed the camera exactly where it was, I didn’t have time to re-focus, and just held my finger on the button shooting it all the way through. This one is the best frame to be honest; I was very lucky and didn’t know I’d got it until I got back to the media centre. The remarkable thing about this shot is that he’s just about to coast across the line for sixth – it reminded me of Heikki Kovalainen in a race a few years ago. In fact, the first mechanic on the scene this time was Nigel, who I remember was the first at Kovalainen’s car on that occasion.

Nikon D4s | Exposure time: 1/1000s | Aperture: F5.6 | ISO speed: 2000.

“I believe I can fly”

I like this shot – it’s got emotion and it’s not your typical podium shot where the driver gets the trophy. This is pure emotion from Lewis. He was almost pretending he could fly by pushing his hands up in the air, it reminded me of R Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”! He’s whipping his arms up in the air and his expression is great. I was amazed how sharp these photos were when I got them back – pin-sharp – because I’m shooting on the 500 and we were struggling for light. I knew he would be coming that way so, having done the finish, I walked past the team and got to the other side. The emotion of this is what makes it a great shot. It’s also a clean shot, there’s no sponsor board in the background which sometimes spoil the podium shots slightly.

Model: Nikon D4s |Exposure time: 1/1000s |Aperture: F5 | ISO speed: 2000.

Bright sparks

This is on the main straight but I’m a long way away. At the start of the race the sparks weren’t that spectacular and then coming down the straight for the first few laps nothing really happened. We had all been sat waiting to see how spectacular they would be so initially it was a bit disappointing not to see anything. Then one car overtook and it was suddenly manic, just boom boom boom, sparks everywhere down the straight. I wish I’d been on the inside of the first corner, to be honest – I could see five or six photographers down there laughing and probably enjoying being that close and getting great shots. We did send someone down there later but it was probably too late – once you’ve committed to your plan of the race that’s it really. I’m glad they’ve introduced the sparks for this year and I imagine Singapore later in the year will be sensational.

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