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Daniel Regueira Blog

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Photo: Darren Heath - Formula 1 Photographer

"A journalist (a very, very respected journalist) once asked me, what you could say is almost a naive question, but it's not a naive question, and it's something that I think of quite a lot. He asked me 'Do you see the picture before you've pulled the camera to your eye, before you look through the viewfinder, or do you only see it when you've got your viewfinder to your eye?'. Well of course you see it long before" - Interview with Darren heath

  Darren Heath is an award winning photographer who's based in London. In 2005 the Royal Photographic Society (one of the oldest institutions of photography in the world) awarded him an Honorary Fellowship.

Darren is a Formula 1 photographer, in fact probably one of the best known and racing is one of the most difficult things to shoot properly. Formula 1 is as fast-paced as photography gets; constant movement and action at unimaginable speeds.


Because these cars can reach speeds of up to 350 km/,h or 220mph there are several settings that he can almost never change. The shutter speed has to remain extremely high when the vehicles are in motion, and even then you have to be quick to keep the cars in focus all the time. The ISO also has to remain extremely high to properly expose the shot at such high shutter speeds, and with high ISO comes more "noise" which causes an ugly grainy effect. His aperture must also remain relatively large to let in a lot of light for the shutter speed. This is why he has a shallow depth-of-field in a majority of his photos. Finally, his focal lengths (or zoom distance) are also ridiculously huge, as in most sports photography, to enable him to get closer to the cars without getting close enough to endanger himself.

Overall, all of these factors make racing photography ridiculously difficult.

The photo above is an excellent example of how he uses depth-of-field (or aperture) as a main component of a shot. When shooting at a wide (large opening) aperture a few things happen. Many things outside of the main focus point fall out of focus and blur heavily. Also, the fact that his lenses are super-telephoto lenses (humongous zoom) also exaggerates the effect. This is what photographers call a "shallow" depth-of field because the focus range is shallow.

The wide opening (as a added benefit) lets in a lot of light, allowing him to crank up the shutter speed of the shot and freeze the motion of the F1 car, despite the fact that it's moving remarkably fast.

Another thing common in racing photography is what's called a pan-shot. Basically, you follow the object in motion with your camera and by lowering the shutter speed, the background is blurred much more than the subject.

Despite these extreme speeds, Darren still able to capture some beautiful panned shots. Most of these shots aren't completely in focus, but when these guys are moving around you at speeds of up to 220mph it's damn near impossible to get your shots tack-sharp. Getting them relatively in focus is a feat in and of itself.


Using some of these elements of photography Darren Heath is able to not only capture moments in time, but much of the emotion and ambience that comes with them. In a word, his photography is impactful, and it reflects the nature of the sport of Formula 1.


Darren Heath - What it means to me from Mario Muth on Vimeo.



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