Interview with Formula 1 Photographer Darren Heath
I still remember the day when I first saw Darren Heath’s work in a copy of F1 Racing magazine.
I was just amazed at the detail and how he photographed parts of the cars, like tyres, wings and badges.
I was in the very early days of my Photography career at that time and his images were an amazing influence on my work. I still think back to those images and how he used the light to capture the most amazing shots, even today I still have those images in my mind when I go on shoots.
The day I first met Darren was a massive buzz.
After such a long time of admiring his work, I was glad I plucked up the courage to introduce myself to him at the 2003 Australian Grand Prix. He was so great to speak to and very approachable and answered all the questions I had.
I recently caught up with Darren on his last trip to Australia for the Melbourne F1 GP.
Over a few beers I took the opportunity to come up with a list of questions to put to Darren to find out more about him and his Photography career.
So please find below my interview with Darren Heath and enjoy some of fantastic photos along the way.
What do you think of Iphone photography ? I was recently surprised to learn how this form of photography is so popular. Personally it’s not for me, I just can’t take taking pictures on a phone seriously.
Do you use your Iphone for photos ? For nothing more than throw away snaps.
You started practising shooting cars and panning through your bedroom window
What was your hit rate back then ? Can’t remember but probably not that great! Most of the time I wouldn’t use film. It was just practice, practice, practice.
Lowest Shutter Speed ? Sometimes down to 1/6th but my fav slow speed is 1/13th. Results differ with different cameras/sensors.
Social Media – Blogging, Twitter etc
When did you start ? Registered for Twitter in mid ’09. Started Tweeting at Bahrain GP ’10.
What was the reasoning behind starting into it ? Gaining more traffic to my website.
Digital vs Film
When did you make the swap from film to digital ? Start of 2007 F1 season.
Why did you make the swap ? Cameras/computers were up to speed, sensor sizes good and clients demands.
How did you find the learning curve between the two ? All good. I’d been scanning transparencies for a few years so understood a fair bit. Had personal tuition from an Adobe tech. Love digital as in essence it’s like going back to the darkroom.
What did it entail when you were shooting film ? Less work at the track editing obviously but more running about when back in London.
What did it entail when you first swapped to digital? Quality good enough and client demands.
Has it changed over the last few years ? Not really. Everyone wants everything yesterday and doesn’t expect to pay for it! I’m learning more about Photoshop every day.
What do you do for archiving when you are on the road between rounds ? I carry a small USB drive 500GB. Edit out the crap when back in London and back-up, back-up and back-up some more!
With the video recording now being featured in some high end SLR’s now
Do you think you will experiment with it at all? I’ve been asked to shoot some at testing but nothing yet. There’s very little money in it as yet.
Do you think your clients may request it in small parts ? No not really.
Do you think the FIA may start policing the use of video with photographers ? They already do. It is expressly forbidden under the terms of our accreditation agreement.
The McLaren 3rd Pedal Image.
Was it the best or worst thing to happen to you and your career? The best is getting paid to globe trot and photograph a sport I love. It doesn’t get much better than that does it?! The McLaren fiddle brake piece was a great story to work on and a real buzz to break. The team didn’t like it for sure and Ron Dennis and I had a toe-to-toe ‘discussion’ in the Jerez ’97 paddock. I now work for the team so all is forgotten……
Did “doors” open or close as result ? Neither really but it certainly made folks aware of me.
What is the most unusal image request/assignment you have had ? Probably spy pics of other cars. I don’t really do them and teams are always suspicious of photographers’ motives. Ironically they seem to forget they create the market!
What is the most interesting image request/assignment you have had? It’s a real buzz to work with big blue chip companies such as Philip Morris on worldwide ad campaigns.
Do you still shoot manual ? Always.
Do you still use a hand held light meter ? No.
Do you use a grey card ? No.
Motorsport has always been in your family, where did it all begin, with your father or grandfather ? My grandfather was one of the original grass track motorbike racers at Brands Hatch before it was Tarmaced. I was taken to Brands Hatch many, many times as a baby and child. My father has always followed the sport and a number of my earliest memories are feature F1.
What do you do in the off Season ? Try to get work for the next season and enjoy some quality time with my wonderful family.
How do you relax ? I hardly ever do but time with my boys and wife is special.
What is your career highlight ? Without wishing to sound like a sop every time someone says they like my work it makes it all worthwhile.
Which image are you most proud off, most rewarding to shoot and know thats how you saw it in your head ? There are some shots that people remember as special but to be absolutely honest I try very hard to not rest on my laurels and constantly think of how to improve, new shots, new styles, etc, etc. It really is key to not just take the picture but to have an image in your head of how you want it to look when you’ve finished working on the shot.
Finally with access to large scale events becoming harder to gain for up coming photographers, what is your advice to them ? Don’t shoot at large events for the reasons you state. Concentrate on honing one’s skills at small events such as car rallies, sprint events, shows, hill climbs etc, etc. The competitors will be flattered you want to shoot them, access will be far easier and when you’re work is of a good standard potential photo agency employers will have a far better idea of your ability than distant shots of F1 cars, V8’s, WRC cars, etc, etc from behind large fences and officious officials.
You can check out more of Darren’s work at his website and be sure to follow his blog for all the latest images from the world of F1.
You can also follow him on Twitter @F1Photographer
Thanks must go to Darren for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.