ec: Many ex-F1 people have lamented changes in the circuits. Although these have been done in the name of safety, they must have an effect on how you cover a race. How have you dealt with this?
KS: It's true that the freedom to shoot from anywhere on the circuit was diminishing in my time compared to the '60s and '70s, and has continued. Our biggest problem now is that the newer circuits have run-off areas so vast that even with our biggest lenses we're struggling to capture a full-in-the-frame image. We're also more restricted with the number of red zones (forbidden areas) increasing year on year. Long gone are the days of standing on the outside of Tarzan on the first lap and crossing over to the inside for lap two. Because fences effectively line the circuits, we are restricted to shooting in designated areas where holes have been cut for us. That's a massive restriction in opportunities to be creative and shoot something different from our competitors.
We have to accept some shots are not possible because we cannot stand in the `dangerous' positions we once could. On the other hand, advances in cameras and lens technology mean we can zoom in further, closer, and shoot cars at a higher speed than was possible 20 to 30 years ago. It's a case of doing the best you can with what is available.
We still have circuits, like Monaco, that retain most of the wonderful chances to shoot as close up as we used to. This year, we're visiting the street circuits of Valencia and the night race in Singapore, which will hopefully provide some pleasing photo opportunities as opposed to many of the bland modern circuit constructions.
One of my biggest laments is shooting in the pit lane. When I started, we had near-free access and for every car there would be only a handful of mechanics around it. The driver would often be out in the pit lane, sitting on the car, chatting in full view of a handful of photographers around him. Now we have 50 to 60 photographers clamoring behind a barrier in front of a garage to shoot a driver who is hidden at the back. Frankly, it doesn't make for inspiring photography.
ec: How many photographers do you have at any given F1 race ?
KS: Typically we will use four to five photographers and a technician, whose job it is to select and edit digital images. At any session other than the race itself, we will have two photographers in the pits and the rest out on the circuit. We plan our positions before the event to ensure that all angles are covered over the weekend.
ec: No doubt many of our readers will want to know what gear you use.
KS: The company has traditionally used Canon. We currently have a mixture of Canon 1D Mk IIIs, 1D Mk IIs and Mk IINs. We were one of the first to embrace digital technology and stopped shooting on film in 2005. Naturally, we have a full complement of pro lenses, from wide angles to 600mm.
ec: As a pro, your own feelings of film versus digital?
KS: We've seen overwhelming benefits of the digital format in terms of cost, flexibility, distribution and immediacy. The first incarnation of our website dates back as far as 1996 and it was this early pioneering of hosting an archive of images that has enabled us to have over 480,000 of our 4,000,000 images fully searchable on-line.