How to shoot the Prancing Horses

The F1 photographer Vladimir Rys explains why going for the risk is always the best option

The Official Ferrari Magazine: When did the photography bug bite?

Vladimir Rys: I started taking a real interest when I was 12, 13 years old. My grandfather used to be a professional photographer, but I never actually met him because he passed away when I was barely a year old. I started playing around with his old cameras. Then, when I was student, I got a job offer working for a sports newspaper, mostly covering football, but also figure skating, tennis, swimming, golf, any kind of sports. And then after a few years I was approached by an agency based in Germany, where they asked me if I wanted to try Formula One, because they thought my style of shooting images would be a good fit.

Sebastian Vettel in action at Monaco  Photo: Vladimir Rys

TOFM: Were you much of an F1 fan?

VR: I have to be honest, I didn’t have any great interest in motorsports, I hadn’t done any F1 work before, but I really think that probably helped me in a way. I was looking at it from an outsider’s view, it was all new to me, everything was there to be discovered. My first race was Australia in 2005, when I would have been 27.


TOFM: Did you start to really appreciate the sport once you started working on the F1 circuit?

VR: It sucked me in straight away. The sounds and the smell, the power and the noise of the engines. As a subject for photography, it was very challenging. I liked it. Every time you go back to a track, you improve as a photographer, because you know the place better, you know the corners, you know the best places to get the shot you want.


TOFM: You mentioned about your style suiting F1. How would you describe it?

VR: I tend to focus on the graphic elements of the image, the light and the colours, I like darker pictures. Nowadays in such a visual age, where you have Instagram and social media and everything, you have to be somebody who stands out a little bit, you really have to take a different approach to everyone else. Always go for the risk, sometimes you get a great pic, sometimes you get nothing, but it’s all part of the game.


TOFM: Were you always aware of Ferrari?

VR: Yes, of course. I always remember working with them for a Shell campaign. Jean Todt was in charge of the F1 team at the time, I was almost too scared to walk into the garage. The atmosphere in there was so intense, they were just so focused on winning. I was worried that I was going to stumble over a cable or something stupid like that.

King Juan Carlos of Spain greets Michael Schumacher  Photo: Vladimir Rys

TOFM: Do you have a particular favourite Ferrari photograph?

VR: I have a photograph of Michael Schumacher in 2006. It was at Barcelona on the starting grid. He was sitting there in the car, waiting to head off on the warm-up lap and I was trying to get a shot through the mirror, to get a reflection of his helmet and suddenly I see a hand coming into the frame. I didn’t realise until later that it was actually King Juan Carlos of Spain, reaching out to shake his hand. 

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