In a new age of media and technology the developments in those fields have changed the way we consume news and view images, and the world of Formula 1 is no different.
Top F1 photographer, Darren Heath, a long-standing friend and collaborator of JA on F1, decided to join the photo-sharing social media platform Instagram last year and has been uploading images from his extensive archive over the off season.
We asked him why he made the decision to sign up to the site and how he views the current landscape of F1 photography.
Q: Why have you recently embraced Instagram? And does that tell us anything about the direction F1 photography is heading?
Simply because I feel it serves me well to engage with an audience who may appreciate my photography and, as hand held devices continue their ever upward trend of being the device of choice for so much web engagement, Instagram struck me as a very effective way of sharing my pictures and making F1 fans aware of the archive of imagery that I’ve shot over almost 30 years of photographing the sport.
Q: Does Instagram help you tell the story behind the picture? For example the story of Schumacher’s scar after his Spa shunt in 1996.
Through studying some of the world’s most successful Instagrammers I quickly realised that there’s a strong appetite for the telling of a picture’s back story and – as I enjoy telling them – I write a small piece that may include some or all of the following; a description of the picture, how it came about, my mindset when approaching and planning the shot, and details of the subject.
I always include the camera, lens and exposure settings too. Michael Schumacher’s 1996 Belgian Grand Prix practice shunt is a perfect example.
Q: When do you get your best shots? Do you spend time setting them up in practice sessions or when things unfold during races?
Prior to a Grand Prix weekend I carefully plan my photographic strategy taking in to account many different variables. These can include the nature of the circuit, the likely weather, the position of the sun during each on track session and of course my clients’ needs.
While always keeping my plan in mind, during a weekend’s work one does of course have to be flexible and retain the ability to react to events as they unfold, especially during the race. Generally the practice sessions are more about considered single car pictures with race coverage often more about the action as it unfolds.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing photographers in today’s F1?
During just the last five years or so the world of photography in general, let alone within F1, has changed immensely. For better or worse the photographic art has experienced a democratisation that has empowered almost anyone to become a photographer.
This has had a number of effects, chief among them being an appreciation of what is required to take a great picture but also something of a devaluation – in monetary terms – of the value of photography and photographers.
Due to technology affecting so many professions these are challenges faced by many within the media world but, at the end of the day, that simply means we all have to work harder and cleverer to face-up to the challenges as they arrive.
Q: What are you hoping for in terms of the look of the new F1 cars this season?
I firmly believe that whatever the subject it’s up to the creative photographer to bring out the beauty of their chosen subject. Over the past few years it’s generally accepted that we’ve perhaps not enjoyed the most attractive F1 cars that we might have preferred.
So, with a desire to design and race cars that look ‘sexier’ I, like so many fans around the world, am hoping the ‘cleverest men in the room’ will produce some stunning, visually stimulating machines for us to enjoy. Whatever the 2017 cars look like I’ll be doing my utmost to make them look as beautiful as I can!
You can find Darren Heath on Instagram at @darrenheathphotographer
What do you make of Heath’s decision to join Instagram and his comments on F1 photography? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.