Formula 1 is an addiction that there is not a 12 step program for; then again maybe there is, but I’m not going.
I can think about times in my life and how they related to F1, I started dating my wife when Michael Schumacher started winning for Ferrari, we got married a few days after Massa won in Spain and bought our first house days before Kimi Raikkonen won in Malaysia…. on second thought I am starting to see this obsession is unhealthy.
It is only natural that in my off time, I gravitate towards photographing cars, more specifically Formula 1 cars, more specifically Ferrari Formula 1 cars. The car in today’s blog is no exception to this.
In 1990 Nigel Mansell was driving for Ferrari in the F641, a car that was considered beautiful by many, but did not have the speed to match Ayrton Senna and his McLaren. It was a time when the sport really shined, quite literally due to the ride height of the cars and the massive amount of downforce. They would scream along the straights in a glory of sparks as the metal under trays would scrape as the wings kept the cars on Earth.
If I would have known anything about photography at the time, I would have wanted nothing more than to photograph the cars flying by as the red Ferrari contrasted the beautiful greens of the old Hockenheim Ring circuit in Germany. However, some issues stood between me and this opportunity… First, the technology to produce the image the way I wanted did not exist at the time. Second, and this is a biggie…. I was 7 years old.
Sitting on set 25 years later I would get a call from a close friend that he has Mansell’s Ferrari F641 and if I could make it by that evening, it was mine to photograph. There wasn’t any time to plan it out, nor time to put together a crew, studio or fly it to Germany. I wrapped the shoot I was on around eight that night and immediately headed to where the Ferrari was at. No meal, no rest, the car was mine, food and sleep could wait.
Fortunately for me, I had the lighting kit from that day’s shoot in my car along with the Nikon D3x and 24-70 G… in essence, I had all I needed. I began setting up the four Profoto B1’s I had on me and built the lightning around a background image that I had shot 2 years prior. I remembered where the light was, what focal length I used and the approximate distance to point of focus. Yes, I am a photographer with a photographic memory, how cliche is that?
We shot for an hour, and knew that we had the image, but much more would be needed to make it the memory that my childhood dreams were made of. It would need speed, refinement and, above all, sparks. Fortunately a friend of mine had the idea to get a grinder and a black backdrop and shoot as he ground medal. We used the Nikon D4s and a Nikkor 105 f/1.8 to capture the gamut of frozen metallic fire as it streak and exploded through the air.
The end result represents more than a car image to me. It represents a time, a memory that existed many years ago. One that lived behind my eyes for many years and wanted to get out, but was to forever held back as I can’t paint. The image is quite sentimental to me for I could use photography to show my modern self what the childhood Blair looked up to. This image made me love photography.