Podium, Monza, 2010

How to take great F1 pictures at Monza

Guest articlePosted on | Author Jamey Price

Podium, Monza, 2010
Podium, Monza, 2010

If you’re heading to Monza for next week’s Italian Grand Prix, don’t miss your chance to get some great pictures of F1 cars in action.

Guest writer Jamey Price takes you on a photographer’s tour of Monza and points out some of the best spots to shoot from.

I have been fortunate enough to attend five Grands Prix, beginning with the infamous six-car fiasco at Indianapolis in 2005. I went to the United States Grand Prix again in 2006 and 2007 and was at Monaco in 2008.

Last year I made my first visit to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. I cannot speak for all the circuits on the calendar but it is by far the most picturesque of the tracks I have been to.

If you’re going there next week planning to take some photographs, make sure you spend time researching where you want to shoot from to maximize your weekend of making images.

Pit walk

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Monza, 2010
Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, Monza, 2010

The Thursday pit walk is an excellent opportunity to get pictures. There are great images to be had and may be as close to the cars and drivers as you can get, unless you are very wealthy and have a Paddock Club pass.

Many teams do rolling pit stop practice which is a great chance to play with slow shutter speeds and watch the teams practice. Drivers also mingle outside the garages signing autographs for fans.

Because it?s Monza, don?t even bother with the big-name drivers. When I was there Alonso, Massa, Vettel and Webber were mobbed by a crowd of hundreds.

Instead, take a walk down the pit lane. The further you go, the smaller the crowds get and the better images you can make of drivers and cars. Use your feet and use your eyes and get those your creative juices flowing for the rest of the weekend.

Once the cars are on track, the real fun begins. Take full advantage of all the practice and qualifying sessions. Walk around the track, with your camera at the ready in case someone bins it or pops an engine. You have several hours of practice to see what works and what doesn?t – and that includes the non-F1 sessions too.

Curva Biassono

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Monza, 2010
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Monza, 2010

Let?s start at turn 3, properly called Curva Biassono.

At first sight, you wouldn?t think that getting anything from turn three would be possible. But here we need to apply the technique of shooting through catch fences I described in “How to take great pictures at F1 races” earlier this year.

You can pretty much aim straight through the fence and shoot the cars at a high shutter speed and wide open aperture to more or less make the fence go away. This particular area will be better suited to shooters with nice glass that can go to aperture f4 or wider.

Remember, when you want the fence to disappear in the photo, stand as close to the fence as possible. Shoot wide open with a high shutter speed.

Alternatively, you can shoot a wider angle photo with pretty much any lens, just slow the shutter speed down to get some artistic motion blur shots of the cars screaming by you. I have seen quite a few of Darren Heath?s photos from inside the general admission areas doing this exact thing.

Last note: don?t forget your ear protection here! The cars are close and they howl past at full throttle.

Variante della Roggia

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2010
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Monza, 2010

On to the second chicane. If you stand facing turn the right-hand part of this corner, you will have a clear shot at the rear of the cars as they make the quick left then right of the turn. Use the ??shoot through the fence?? technique again, just play with it.

Once you?ve had a few minutes to try this spot, walk around and head up onto the grandstand. There is a photo hole facing directly up the track toward turn three where the cars will be coming straight at you. Kneel down on the front row and shoot through the hole in the fence. Just be sure you don?t block anyone?s view.

I also recommend heading up toward the very back of the grandstand and shooting some nice pan shots of the cars as they exit over the rumble strip at turn five. However, when I was shooting this spot during P3, I was one of probably 50 or 60 photographers trying to get the same photo.

Kerbs, Monza, 2010
Kerbs, Monza, 2010

If you want to be a professional photographer, you should see this mass of photographers and immediately keep walking. Make images that are different than everyone else?s or you will never stand out in a crowded world. Every one of those photographers probably has the same image, or something very similar.

Still, it is worth sitting for a few minutes, getting some pan shots and listening to the car?s engine bouncing over the exit rumble strip. It is an amazing sound for sure.

Lesmo 1 and 2

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Monza, 2010
Mark Webber, Red Bull, Monza, 2010

Walk up the track toward the Lesmo bends. These corners create a particularly difficult challenge and you will need to be proficient at panning to make anything of it.

As I mentioned, Darren Heath has used this spot to make nice images of cars ripping into the second Lesmo with the big tall trees to create a very arty shot which clearly shows the beauty of Monza. Slow the shutter speed as much as you dare. It’s a difficult shot to nail, but it is possible: practice, practice, practice.

My favourite shooting spot is a little further on where the modern track passes underneath the old banking. The cars come screaming at you at over 200mph and the noise is something I will never forget.

This is a spot that not that many people know about or use to its full advantage. Wander around until you find a clear vantage onto the track and get to work. You can try panning but the speed of the cars and the direction of travel make getting anything with a slow shutter speed extremely difficult to get. But if it does happen to work, it works really well.

Make sure you walk over the bridge. There are a few holes in the fences but they were all filled up by photographers when I was there.


Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, Monza, 2010
Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, Monza, 2010

The last spot I recommend is turn 11, Parabolica. Use the grandstand on the outside of the turn which sits high enough over the catch fencing that you can shoot over it.

Try using a pan shot, but I will tell you it is difficult. I recommend a fast shutter speed to freeze the car as it powers through the tight 180-degree turn.

Finally, don?t forget to enjoy the race! Make sure you’re in a position to run out onto the track once the marshals allow the crowd to do so. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget. And I’m glad I have the photos to re-live it.

No pass needed

Infield Flags, Monza, 2010
Infield Flags, Monza, 2010

I saw several comments on my previous F1 photography articles saying that my tips and tricks, while helpful, didn?t apply to those who don?t have press access.

All the vantage point I’ve described above and all the photographs you see were taken without and kind of press pass whatsoever. All that got me into the circuit was a standard three-day general admission ticket.

I?ll say it once, I?ll say it a hundred times: There is absolutely no reason that anyone with a camera at a Grand Prix can?t take photos that will rival any professional?s images from the weekend – certainly at a gorgeous track like Monza.

What sets the professionals apart isn’t just their access, it’s their creative ability. Now get snapping!

For more tips and tricks see my guide to taking F1 pictures published here in April:

Find other F1 fans who are going to the Italian Grand Prix:

Jamey Price is a professional freelance sports photojournalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina. His work has appeared in F1 Racing Magazine, The Racing Post and many sporting websites. More of Jamey?s work can be seen at www.jameypricephoto.com

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Images ?? Jamey Price