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Talking to F1 Photographer Sergey Savrasov

In a little under 2.5 years, Sergey Savrasov has gone from working a ‘normal’ job to living life as an F1 Photographer.

In a not too dissimilar way to fellow F1 Photographer Vid Vorsic, Sergey ‘chased his dream’ and carved his path for a career in motorsport.

Ahead of having his first book scheduled for release in 2019 (we’re expecting our copy on the day it drops Sergey) we talk to the man from Voronezh in Russia (we had to google where that was) about life in the F1 pitlane.

What is the best image you have captured in F1 and why?
I haven’t captured it yet. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. Every new frame is supposed to be better than the previous one. I honestly believe it should be a constant strive to be a better professional and person – because your own personality and background define your vision within the frame.

But if I had to say the one I like the most [to the date of this article] it’s the stare of Lewis Hamilton, driving out of the garage at the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix.

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What is the best corner in the world to photograph? (Drivers say Eau Rouge – is that the same to photograph?)
I’ve not yet visited Spa. It’s a shame but it is what it is and I expect to go there soon. So basing this on what I have experienced, it has to be 130R at Suzuka. The cars are traveling at enormous speed, and often run a little wide on the kerbs, kicking up sparks (especially the Red Bulls). It’s so impressive to watch.

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How would you describe a successful Grand Prix Weekend?
Great light, happy clients and of course when I’m satisfied with some of the images too. I guess that’s important because if you don’t enjoy being there taking photos you like – what’s the point of doing it?

Is there a race or moment in F1 history you wish you had photographed?
I’ve never really thought about it… I’d love to shoot F1 in the early 90’s or in early 00’s – those cars look so cool, and the sound was incredible! [we couldn’t agree more Sergey]

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What 3 items of kit can you not live without? (other than a camera and camera bag!)
My 85mm lens, card reader and MacBook. I love 85mm. I use it a lot during every race weekend. It’s so flexible: you can shoot everything with it – from portraits and detailed shots to action on the track and in the pit lane. I once forgot a card reader and only realised when I was already at the circuit. It was a nightmare and made my life way too complicated… Since then I always carry one in my camera bag and another in my suitcase. As I also spend so much time traveling, I can’t live without my MacBook – it gives me the ability to edit photos on the go.

What is your background and do you remember the first picture you took?
Along with my day job, I started as a wedding and portraiture photographer in 2014. My elder brother Eugene was shooting weddings and I joined him as a second photographer. I can’t say that I was a fan of photography – music was my thing (I was a guitar player from age 6) so it never crossed my mind that I would become a photographer, especially as a professional.

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Motorsport came into it in 2015 when I married my wife. As a gift, we received two tickets to the Russian GP in Sochi. I was a big fan of F1 from 2011, and of course, I brought a camera with me. I didn’t take particularly good photos at that time, but I liked shooting the cars! I then started to research the techniques for shooting motorsport soon realised that I could combine photography and motorsports.
In 2016 I managed to win two tickets to the main grandstand to the Grand Prix in Sochi. I took my camera this time to try and take some good images – and maybe even make a portfolio to help me find my way into motorsports photography.

After I gained a bit of experience I got some support from Ross Ringham, The Director Spacesuit Media (a UK based photographic agency known for their creative approach to photography). That’s how it then really got started.

Who influenced you and your work?
There are two F1 photographers who influenced me the most – Darren Heath and Vladimir Rys. I think sometimes it is noticeable [he laughs]. I do think my background in portraits also influenced my work. I can’t say that I have taken too much inspiration from other photographers as it’s always been an unconscious process for me. When I’m shooting I almost don’t think – I just see some moments and details and capture them. Sometimes you just observe the way cars move and it inspires you itself to create a certain image.

Why F1?
I remember the first time I saw F1 on TV in 2003 or 2004. I always loved cars and F1 mesmerised me then – the speed, the sound, and the fearless drivers. For some reason, I stopped watching it until 2011 and then I fell in love for the second time, and since then I’ve never missed a single race. To be honest, once you get there, inside the Paddock, you just don’t want to shoot anything else. It must be some kind of magic – I don’t know…

Was the journey to F1 similar to that of a driver? Starting off in junior categories and working your way up?
In a way, it looks like my path was similar to that of a driver. As I mentioned earlier, the first time I was shooting motorsports was at an F1 race as a spectator. Then I developed my skills at local karting championships and followed by a DTM round at Moscow Raceway. Once I got there I was in love with the atmosphere and decided to go further.

Is it hard to get access to shoot?
Yes, it’s hard, but possible. My example proves that – who knew that a guy from province city in Russia would become an F1 photographer! If you have a certain aim – everything is possible. Do good work, make right connections, have some patience and one day you might be there!

Do you get access to everywhere and every team? Have you tried and failed?
No, I don’t have access anywhere, unfortunately. I can’t stay at the garages, but even if I could there are some strict rules in every team saying what you can and can’t capture. It’s all about the secrecy in F1, you know…

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I had a curious moment in Suzuka: I decided to take a walk through the pit lane late in the evening with my camera and 35mm lens only, I saw McLaren’s mechanics working with their car at the FIA garage. I started to shoot them from the ground far enough from the garage, and then one of the mechanics saw me and told me to stop shooting. Man, I was with a wide lens mounted on my camera at least 8 meters away from you, what details of your car can I possibly capture?

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Can you watch the race and take it in or are you too busy?
During the race I simply don’t have any time to do so, I’m too busy. You’re constantly in a state of searching for a good image. But it always depends on your goals and needs of your clients. Some people can enjoy the race, but not me…

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Do you talk to other photographers at the races or is it a mad chase to get to the right corner?
You know, it’s like a big family here. Some guys don’t talk much though, but I prefer to enjoy being here and I like to chat with my colleagues. You can always ask for advice and count on help from other guys. There are some great blokes out there, and I like this part of my job too.

Do you capture images outside of the circuit? The atmosphere around the venues?
Yes, every race I do it. I like to shoot fans, or scenery, or some little details that tell the story of this exact place.

Does the light make it difficult at each race?
I hate shooting with dull light on a cloudy day, but whether you like it or not you’re a professional and you have to deal with it. You have to make most of every situation – that’s the part of our job and it’s a great challenge that makes this job interesting.

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