After years of anticipation and planning, Formula E pitched up in Hong Kong in October 2016. For an entire day, streets in heart of the city’s downtown area, along the harbour front, were requisitioned to create a temporary race track. And the racing itself turned out to be just as dramatic as the city skyline, with more twists to the tale than a box set of Chinese whispers.
Formula E presents some unique challenges to the photographers trying to capture the essence of the sport. Firstly, there is very little track time, compared with other top level international racing series. That means scouting the perfect location and shot has to be fast-tracked; and, with drivers having to get to grips with a circuit on the day of the race, red flags in practice sessions are common, further reducing the time available to shoot cars on track.
Secondly, the tracks are by their very nature very narrow, hemmed in with catch fencing and concrete blocks. This means photographers are situated right next to the cars they’re trying to shoot – great for slow motion close-ups on corners but a nightmare when trying to shoot on a straight or when the cars are moving at speed. Despite being in cities, there aren’t often elevated vantage points easily accessible to help photographers shoot over the fencing. It also makes it very difficult to capture the spectacular skyline in the same shot as a car on track.
Thirdly, the temporary nature of the circuits means moving around is very difficult for photographers. For example, in Hong Kong the pit lane was a double-sided affair, with security barring access to the pit lane during sessions. That cut off access to half the garages on the grid. Elsewhere on track, pathways next to the fencing often came to a dead end, making it particularly tough for photographers attempting to navigate their way around the perimeter of the track.
Lastly, the tall buildings and Hong Kong weather meant that sunlight was in short supply; without strong sun, everything inevitably looks a little duller in photos.
Still, the Spacesuit Media team persevered and managed to supply us a wonderful array of shots for Formula E’s first outing in Hong Kong. Here are some favourites from Nat Twiss. Top shots from Dan Bathie and Shiv Gohil will follow later this week.