I AM NIKON Blog

Whether on or off the circuit, there’s a lot we rarely get to see at the British Grand Prix, unless you’re a professional photographer covering the heated event that is. So we approached Sutton Motorsport Images to give us the inside scoop. In this blog, we ask how they prepared to capture the tension, speed, battle, and excitement at the 2014 British Grand Prix.

 

Motorhome and Garage Setup

Formula One World Championship, Motorhome and garage setup, circuit, track, British Grand Prix 2014

Motorhome: Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 70-200mm Zoom. Exif: ISO 300, f1/400 s,
Aperture: F10, No flash, Exposure mode : Shutter priority, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 116.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 116.0 mm)
Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

Silverstone is our home Grand Prix, and with Sutton Images HQ just down the road from Silverstone Circuit, I was able to visit the track easily on the Monday before the race to capture the Paddock build up and early pre-event preparations. I was hoping to capture some of the teams’ transporters passing the Silverstone road signs on the A43 but, despite waiting for some time, was out of luck so continued on to the track, snapping the Silverstone 50th Grand Prix display on the way in.

The Paddock build was well underway as it appeared that most of the teams had arrived on Saturday, and whilst I was shooting the various construction was tipped off by a security guard that Williams had a brand new shiny three story motorhome, so immediately went to shoot some images of the build. It is an impressive 15 cm taller than the previous highest, the Red Bull Racing Energy Station.

I captured this image showing the Paddock activity, a full six days before the race, from the Paddock Club in order to gain some elevation.

 Formula One World Championship, Motorhome and garage setup, British Grand Prix 2014
Garage setup: Formula One World Championship

Nikon D4, 70-200mm Zoom. Exif: ISO 200, f1/640 s,
Aperture: F8, No flash, Exposure mode : Shutter priority, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 130.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 130.0 mm)
Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

From there I went down onto the circuit and saw that a lot of the advertising signage had been put in place already, very noticeable being the DHL branding on the run into into Vale corner. I took some shots showing the sunlight on the kerbs and then headed into the pit lane. Most of the English teams had set up their garages and had already painted their garage floors with a polyurethane gloss, no detail is left unturned in the F1! Ferrari appeared to be a little way behind in their prearations, but as the cars had not yet even arrived in their transporters there would be plenty of time. The next couple of days would see the teams prepare for action, and the Silverstone circuit polishing the final small details for the arrival of the world’s media. I would return again to the track on Thursday, our traditional day of arrival at each Grand Prix.

 

 

Race Day & The Kit – 6 July

 Formula One World Championship, Behind the scenes, British Grand Prix 2014, Nikon D4

Behind the scenes: Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 24-70mm Zoom. Exif: ISO 1250, f1/60 s,
Aperture: F4, No flash, Exposure mode : Shutter priority, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 24.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 24.0 mm)
Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

My kit for the race would consist of Nikon D4s bodies / Nikkor 500mm F4 ED / 70-200mm F2.8 ED / 24-70mm F2.8 ED / 1.4X converter / 2SB flashes / 10 x 8GB SD cards /  1 chamois / 1 FIA jacket, all serviced with sensors cleaned (by the excellent NPS in the photographers area) early on Sunday morning and I was ready for action.

 

 

The Grid

Formula One World Championship, The Grid, Prince Harry, British Grand Prix 2014The Grid & Prince Harry : Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 24-70mm Zoom. Exif: ISO 400, f1/500 s,
Aperture: F14, Flash: Yes, compulsory, return light detected, Exposure mode : Shutter priority, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 24.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 24.0 mm)
Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

I had a tip off that Prince Harry was due to visit the British GP as a VIP guest so we were well prepared when he arrived!

Myself and the Sutton Images team took photographs of him with his friend, three times F1 World Champion Sir Jackie Steward, who he knew from when he visited Jackie’s Formula 3 team and also Stewart Grand Prix, Jackie and Paul Stewart’s Grand Prix Team, as a young boy. (We even captured Harry in 1998 at the British Grand Prix sat in the Stewart Grand Prix car!). Here in this image you see Sir Jackie Stewart and Prince Harry on the grid with Bernie Ecclestone. Prince Harry met many of the team principals during his grid walk and I did overhear him say to Sky F1 HD’s Martin Brundle that he would not conduct any interviews, but he still created great TV against the backdrop of the enthusiastic British fans and their Union Jacks.

 

The Race Start

Formula One World Championship, The race start, British Grand Prix 2014The Race : Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 200-400mm Zoom. Exif: ISO 400, f1/1000 s,
Aperture: F11, Flash: Yes, compulsory, return light detected, Exposure mode : Shutter priority, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 290mm Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

This image shows the start of the race, and was shot from the photo tower at the first corner, which is actually situated within the BRDC (Track owners) grandstand. It offers room for approximately 60 photographers who, after covering the grid, will walk to the first corner and through a gate onto the tower. The shot shows Nico Rosberg leading Jenson Button and the rest of the field away.

 

 

The Crash

Formula One World Championship, The crash, British Grand Prix 2014The Crash: Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 500mm Telephoto. Exif: ISO 200, f1/1000 s,
Aperture: F9, Flash: No flash, Exposure mode : Manual, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 500.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 500.0 mm)
Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

The first lap saw a big crash involving Kimi Raikkonen crashing into the barriers, and Felipe Massa making contact with the wrecked Ferrari as it span back across the track. Felipe was able to drag his damaged car around the rest of the lap and, as he came towards me at Club Corner, I was able to shoot a sequence of frames with sparks and smoke coming from the damaged rear of the car as it scraped along the floor. Unfortunately for Felipe the damage was too severe for him to continue in the race.

 

 

 

The Flip

Formula One World Championship, Flip, British Grand Prix 2014The Flip: Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 500mm Telephoto. Exif: ISO 200, f1/1000 s,
Aperture: F7.1, Flash: Yes, compulsory, return light detected, Exposure mode : Shutter priority, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 500mm Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

The race was stopped for over an hour to effect repairs to the barriers damaged after the first lap crash, and at the restart many cars were out of position which resulted in lots of great overtaking. From my position at Club Corner I could view a screen showing the early overtaking attempts. As I followed Esteban Gutierrez dive down the inside of Pastor Maldonado he locked his brakes, they collided and as they made contact his front wing flew into the air. I continued to follow the cars as they touched again launching Pastor into the air, and I was able to capture the whole sequence as he went up onto two wheels and then became airborne. As he bounced back to the ground it became apparent that both cars would be too damaged for either to continue in the race. Using the WT-5 transmitter and a My-Fi device enabled me to transmit the images almost immediately to FTP at the Sutton Images office and upload to the Sutton Images web site for distribution to the world’s media.

 

 

Fans Celebrate

Formula One World Championship, Fans, British Grand Prix 2014, England flagFans celebrate: Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 24-70mm Zoom. Exif: ISO 200, f1/1000 s,
Aperture: F6.3, Flash: No flash, Exposure mode: Manual, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 28.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28.0 mm) Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

Pole Position starter Nico Rosberg had lead the race from the start but was being pressured by a chasing Lewis Hamilton. Nico then experienced gearbox gremlins and retired from the race. I could hear the partisan crowd behind me shouting Lewis’s name and another action shot was not the best picture in this case. So I turned around, took the hood off my 24-70mm lens and poked it as good as I could through the fence, aiming at the celebrating crowd who were shouting, screaming and cheering Lewis’s name. As he passed by I thought, what a great picture it would make to capture him taking the lead and a possible victory at his home race.

 

Champagne

Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race Day, Silverstone, England,  Valtteri Bottas, Chamagne, Sunday 6 July 2014.Champagne! Second placed finisher Valtteri Bottas: Formula One World Championship
Nikon D4, 500mm Telephoto. Exif: ISO 200, f1/1000 s,
Aperture: F8, Flash: No flash, Exposure mode: Manual, White balance : Auto, Focal length : 500.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 500.0 mm) Silverstone Circuit – Northamptonshire, Sunday 6 July 2014, Photograph © Sutton Images

I had a great position to shoot the podium from below in parc ferme, and knew that shooting the drivers against the sky could create some amazing shots, however you are never sure where the champagne will be sprayed! Fortunately, second placed finisher Valtteri Bottas came forward and sprayed the champagne directly into his mouth, and against the sky with the perfect light results in an amazing celebration photo.

 

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Some photographers travel to faraway places or put themselves in extreme situations to get up close with the extraordinary. This is not the case for fine-art photographer Jennilee Marigomen. Her passion lies in discovering beauty in our ordinary surroundings.

Jennifer's Car Beauty in the Ordinary Photography Vancouver Canada
Jennifer’s Car by photographer © Jennilee Marigomen.
Shot with the Nikon F90x, NIKKOR 50mm f1.8

“My work is about evoking a visceral feeling. I think that a lot of my photos capture a familiar, yet specific truth that is common to everyone. Something that you can look back to and feel at that moment in time, everywhere and everyday.”

“Vancouver is a place where there is an ongoing tension between urbanity and natural intervention and vice versa. It has a mix of seriousness and humor that I try to capture.”

Pretzels Beauty in the Ordinary Photography Vancouver Canada
Pretzels by photographer © Jennilee Marigomen.
Shot with the Nikon F90x, NIKKOR 50mm f1.8

Natural light plays an important role in her work, another thing she believes in is the characteristic of her hometown: “Because the days are shorter here, the light is always shifting. There will be times where I will see the light hitting something perfectly outside of my house, I go inside to grab my camera, and come back out to see that the light is gone. The moment is lost. That feeling makes light feel precious.”

Bugs in Strathcona Beauty in the Ordinary Photography Vancouver Canada
Bugs in Strathcona by photographer © Jennilee Marigomen.
Shot with the Nikon F4, NIKKOR 50mm f1.8

From an early age, Jennilee has been captivated by the quality of real film photography. In high school, she was given a 35mm Nikon camera and joined a photo club where she learned how to develop her own film. With her passion for the immersive, it is not surprising that she fell in love with the serenity of the dark room and the process in which the images slowly appear on paper under the developer.

“Through the darkness, the radio was playing softly as a backdrop to the noise of a fan drying the negatives, the splashing of the developing fluid, and the occasional buzzing of the timer”, she reminiscences. Fast forward to the present, her passion for film is one of the driving elements that has allowed her to stand out and gain recognition as a photographer.

Photo editors from all over the world have appreciated her passion for being attentive to details. Her work, shot mostly on a Nikon F4 35mm SLR with a 50mm f1.8 lens, has been featured in prestigious titles such as Inventory, GQ, Nowness, Hypebeast and Wallpaper.

To see the more of Jenniefer’s beautiful collection of imagery, head to our Flickr photostream or visit her website

Jennilee wants you to feel something visceral when viewing her work. Her images embrace a certain kind of ambiguity and leave room for interpretation. “I feel that my work is more about observation and reflection, rather than imposing an idea.”

Channel Task by Rich Brilliant Willing Beauty in the Ordinary Photography Vancouver Canada
Channel Task by Rich Brilliant Willing by photographer © Jennilee Marigomen.
Shot with the Nikon F4, NIKKOR 50mm 1.8

She recites a quote by fellow photographer Uta Barth: “I am interested in getting you to engage in looking rather than losing your attention to thoughts about what you are looking at. Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees…”

Water and Cigar by photographer Jennilee Marigomen. Shot with the Nikon F90x and NIKKOR 50mm f1.8.
Water and Cigar’
by photographer © Jennilee Marigomen.
Shot with the Nikon F90x and NIKKOR 50mm f1.8

To see the more of Jenniefer’s beautiful collection of imagery, head to our Flickr photostream or visit her website

All images © Jennilee Marigomen

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Tommy Eliassen has always been interested in night and long exposure photography. He is based in Mo i Rana, Norway, where he’s lucky enough to enjoy frequent sightings of the Northern Lights. In this blog post, we ask Tommy about his experience and the techniques he uses to photograph the night sky.

The Lifting  Nikon D700, 14-24mm, Exif: ISO 3200, f/2.8, 25 sec Hemnesberget, Nordland, Norway
The Lifting
Nikon D700, 14-24mm, Exif: ISO 3200, f/2.8, 25 sec
Hemnesberget, Nordland, Norway

 

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with photography?

Sure, my name is Tommy Eliassen, I’m 35 and I live in Mo i Rana, in Norway, a few kilometres south of the Arctic Circle. It was thanks to a reflex camera, a Nikon F601, that I got into photography back in 1999. Initially, I mainly used it to take photos of my walks in the mountains and the landscapes in my area. I then started getting interested in night landscapes and this passion has never left me!

Reflection Photographing the Night Sky in Aldersundet NorwayReflection
Nikon D700, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, 26 sec, f/3.5
Aldersundet, Nordland, Norway

 

Your night sky images are spectacular. Could you tell us where and when were they taken?

Most of my photos were taken in the north of Norway, where I live. The best time of year to capture this kind of image is between September and April, when the days are shorter. Thanks to our geographic location, we are able to see incredible phenomena such as the Northern Lights, and conditions are excellent since there is no urban light pollution to obstruct our view of the sky. You just need to put up with the freezing cold for a while.

Orionids Photographing the Night Sky in Hemnes, NorwayOrionids
Nikon D700, 14-24mm, ISO 3200, 25 sec, f/2.8
Hemnes, Nordland, Norway


What techniques do you use to achieve these results?

First of all, there’s a lot of planning involved. I use sites and software such as Google Earth, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, Stellarium or Spaceweather.com to plan the times and locations of my shoots. For a moonless night, the settings I typically use are ISO 2000 (roughly), an aperture of f/2.8 and a shutter speed of around 30 seconds.

I often use the Magic Cloth technique where you put a filter over the lens and slowly remove it during exposure.

Sanna Photographing the Night Sky in Træna, Norway
Sanna
Nikon D700, 14-24mm, ISO 3200, 30 sec, f/3.2
Træna, Nordland, Norway

For post production I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, but try to spend as little time as possible on this stage: minor adjustments to the white balance, tone curve and levels, and sometimes image sharpening and noise reduction.

Lastly, I use Adobe Photoshop to create panoramas.

Panorama from 5 vertical exposures. Photographing the Night Sky in Hemnesberget, Norway The Emerald City
Nikon D700, 14-24mm, ISO 2500, 15 sec, f/3.2
Panorama from 5 vertical exposures
Hemnesberget, Nordland, Norway

What equipment do you use?

I’m currently using a Nikon D800, a Nikon D700, a 14-24mm f/2.8G wide angle lens, a 50mm f/1.4 lens and a Nikon MC-36 remote cord.

To see  more from Tommy, visit his website or check out his page on Facebook

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A hidden view of Ponte della Musica, Rome by photographer Lucio Governa

Trips to Rome will inevitably lead to images of The Vatican, and the Coliseum. However, Rome has recently welcomed modern architectural attractions such as the ‘Ponte della Musica’ (The Music Bridge), an elegant bridge built on the river Tiber. It connects the two sides of the city with a steel arch, overlooking refined buildings in line with the path to the “Auditorium Parco della Musica” (Auditorium Music Park), designed by Renzo Piano.

The Music Bridge in Rome sits on the river Tiber, between the neighbourhoods of Victory and Flaminio, a short walk from the MAXXI Museum.

Nikon D700, F-stop f/18, Exposure time 1/160 sec, ISO-200, Focal length 52mm, Max aperture 3, © Lucio Governa.

Nikon D700, F-stop f/18, Exposure time 1/160 sec, ISO-200, Focal length 52mm, Max aperture 3, © Lucio Governa.

Lucio Governa, aged 60, has lived in Rome for most of his life and watched it change over the decades. A fan of photography since 1970, he is a member of his local photography club A.F. Pixel Ocean, where he and 20 other photography enthusiasts share and discuss their work. The view from Rome’s modern Music Bridge offers one of his favourite photographic opportunities in the city.

“I love the view from Ponte della Musica because it makes me feel like I’ve thrown myself towards the sky. There are no distractions and I can walk quietly across the arched walkway to compose unusual shots and take special pictures. From Ponte della Musica you can see the Milvian Bridge, the oldest bridge in Rome, crafting a poetic contrast between the past and the present. Considering the world’s most celebrated artists are invited to perform at the nearby Auditorium Music Park, it’s a very creative area.”

Lucio’s tips for capturing the Ponte della Musica:

  • To take saturated pictures with a detailed sky, use the settings of your camera to underexpose the shot. For example, -0.3/-0.7
  • Try to incorporate shadows from the bridge’s structure to give your shot interesting geometric angles
  • To make the most of the view, a wide angle lens is useful, but some details can be captured best using a telephoto lens. A zoom lens (24-70 and 70-300) is a good compromise

This was the last article from the ‘I Am A Hidden View’ serie.

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A typical trip to Berlin might include a visit to the Brandenburg Gate, the TV tower (Fernsehturm Berlin), as well as taking in the eclectic mix of architecture in the city. Many visitors will also head to the remains of the infamous Berlin Wall, however there are more interesting ways to experience and capture Berlin’s conflict-fuelled history.

Berlin Kreuzberg. NIKON D90 with a Nikon 50mm lens, F-stop f/8, Exposure time 1/250 sec, ISO-640, Focal length 35mm, Max aperture 4.2, © Andrea Figari

Berlin Kreuzberg. NIKON D90 with a Nikon 50mm lens, F-stop f/8, Exposure time 1/250 sec, ISO-640, Focal length 35mm, Max aperture 4.2, © Andrea Figari

Andrea Figari, now in her mid-forties, has been living in Berlin since 2003. Argentinian-Italian of origin, she leads a group of volunteers at Berlin Fotomarathon – a not-for-profit organisation that organises photography events and exhibitions for hundreds of participants every year. Her favourite view of Berlin is in Kreuzberg, home to world class street art and one of Berlin’s most vibrant neighbourhoods.

“Kreuzberg combines the bohemian spirit brought by students and artists, as well as the many Turkish immigrants who have called it home for several generations. This hidden view in Kreuzberg captures the graffiti art called ‘Memorial’ by the artist ‘Blu’. Two giant graffiti figures are unmasking each other and their fingers forming the letters “E” and “W” symbolising former East and West. This piece of art is located close to the River Spree, which used to divide the city until 1989. It’s a fantastic fusion of modern art and Berlin’s recent history.”

Kreuzberg is part of the combined Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg borough, located south of Mitte, in Berlin.

Andrea’s tips for capturing the graffiti in Kreuzberg:

  • In winter, use a fixed length objective – ideally a 50mm lens, 1.4 or 1.8. It can work wonders to counter the low lighting conditions on cold and cloudy days.
  • Look up. Wildly decorated balconies, old gas lamps and original architectural patterns in the area will surprise you and help you capture the essence of Berlin.
  • Focus on details. Forget panoramic views of well-known monuments. Instead, focus on the ephemeral street art, traumatic traces of war and the vintage clothing stores that await you.

Visit our blog next week for the ‘Hidden View of Rome’ by photographer Lucio Governa!

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Legendary Rock Photographer Mick Rock talks about his style, his inspirations, his photography – and why the new Nikon Df could be ‘the most important camera in my life’.

MickRock lower res_Blog headerThe Revisit | Legendary rock and roll photographer Mick Rock

Mick’s Background

What would you say your inspirations are?

The  unique charisma of my early subjects. Without rock and roll I wouldn’t be a photographer. By 1974, a few years after it all began, I started to look around and check out other photographers, but I never really looked at a lot of photographs or magazines. Except, of course, album covers. I just felt it out and learned what I needed to as I went along. I was really only interested in my own pictures and how I experienced them and it seemed to work.  I never had any photographic role models. The people who excited me the most were the lunatic symbolists and romantic poets I learnt about at Cambridge University. My early subjects resonated in that way. I saw them as poets and artists, not simply as ‘pop’ or rock performers.

How did you get into photography?

I had a very classical education. I got a scholarship to Cambridge University where I studied modern languages and literature. But of course that’s where I got more deeply into rock and roll, picked up a camera and the whole lunacy began!

How did you learn about photography and being a good photographer?

I learnt about photography as I went along. When you look technically at some of my early colour photos of Syd Barrett [the man who started Pink Floyd but left the band after one album], they are all over the place. The grainy, orangey look of those pictures was born from the fact that all I had was a little reflector, I was using daylight film inside (at ISO 160) and I had to push it three stops in the processing. So these images have a certain painterly effect that people seemed to love and apparently still do!

Did you have a specific technique?

You had to be able to register a picture on film but, beyond that, technique wasn’t so important. What was important was getting the image and capturing the energy and aura of the subject.

How would you describe your style of photography?

I can go from punk to glam in five minutes. I don’t think I have a particular style; it’s more about having an attitude. A rock ’n’ roll attitude. I don’t stick to one particular approach. A lot of photographers may set up the camera and lighting, take up their position and click away. I have a restless soul.  I get bored fast. I need to keep adjusting, playing around, moving and exploring angles and different lighting concepts.  I need to feel free and easy. I load fast. Even in the middle of a concert I could load, bam, and we’re off!

When I take pictures I take them not just with my eyes, I take them viscerally as well. It’s completely non-cerebral. When I’m on a roll I get greedy! I’m hungry for images. The beauty of digital photography for me is that I can endlessly feed my addiction to images. With just the occasional pause to change digisticks.

Mick’s subjects

How do you get the most out of your subjects?

First I do a yoga and meditation workout to open up my antennae, and then I feel out the situation. I don’t impose myself. I don’t have rigid ideas for the most part about what I’m going to shoot. I tune myself to the subject and situation at hand. Sometimes it can be loud and raucous, other times it’s more gentle and caressing. You have to do what’s appropriate to the subject. Because all that matters is that you get the right pictures!

How have your subjects changed over time?

They are all very aware of their public image these days, much more aware than they were back in the 70s. We live in a visual universe today. Pictures don’t just go on an album cover, they go everywhere, and they have a life of their own. The machine out there – the internet – wants to be constantly fed. It’s like a monster! And what does it want above all? It wants pictures and imagery.

The 70s

Why do you think people are so fascinated by the 70s?

The summer of 1972 changed so much. It was the beginning of modern rock and roll and that’s why the interest in the 70s is still so high today.  David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop especially – they were revolutionaries, not just sonically but also in the broader culture. There is a famous photo of mine of the three of them taken in the summer of 1972 that I originally called ‘The Terrible Trio’. Later in the 70s I started to name in ‘The Unholy Trinity’. A friend once said to me that 1972 was the beginning of the new millennium. And now I look back I think it probably was. Certainly its influence clearly resonates still today.

Tell us about your relationship with Debbie Harry.

Blue Debbie Harry © Mick Rock

Blue Debbie Harry © Mick Rock. Image courtesy of Mick Rock.

Debbie was a photographic prize for anybody. Some people think I took the best pictures ever taken of her because they were her most like Marilyn Monroe. But that’s beside the point in many ways because she could run the whole spectrum – punk, glam. I’ve never seen a bad photo of her. She is certainly one of the most photogenic women to have ever lived! I can’t think of any modern singers or actresses that come close to Debbie in her prime.

Debbie has become such an icon – she’s grown bigger than rock and roll. Once I saw her bemoaning all the attention she was getting for her looks instead of for her music. Of course, from today’s perspective the music of Blondie has proven to be extremely durable.  I’ve read her wondering if she should have grabbed the opportunity for a greater stardom, like Madonna did in the 1980s. But the truth is that in so many ways her image is grounded more deeply into the modern world than Madonna. Her resonance in the long term has turned out to be more significant. Debbie was the first of her kind, really; she didn’t have to work at it. You could catch her off-guard and she would still look divine.

What was it like recreating your famous shot of Debbie Harry?

The Revisit | Recreation shot of Blue Debbie Harry taken with the Nikon Df.
The Revisit | Recreation shot of Blue Debbie Harry taken with the Nikon Df.

We were feeding off the old images. The shoot was a homage as opposed to a simple recreation. The Debbie photo was originally shot for a magazine called Viva – a fashion mag trying to be hip back in 1978 – but the magazine folded before the photos could be published. About 15 months later the original ‘Blue Debbie’ photo referenced here surfaced as the cover of Penthouse Magazine. She was clothed in black up to her neck and she was cool and sexy in the most amazing way. It was the first time I’d shot her and it was like controlled delirium. I get a lot of excitement when I shoot. For this Nikon shoot, I wanted a blonde with a bit of a Debbie vibe. Danielle was fantastic… very cool, well-versed in hanging about and having her picture taken. She delivered on everything.

What was CBGB like for shooting? Who have you shot there?

Detail of wall in CBGB, New York, USA.The Revisit | Detail of wall in CBGB, New York, USA.

It was a very important place back then. It was part of my love affair with New York. This was the house of sin for punks – punk in New York grew up in CBGB.

It was a great place for shooting live performance. The band’s right there in front of you, you could get right up against the stage. It was very intimate. I shot Debbie there, The Dead Boys, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Patti Smith and more.

Now CBGB has been taken over by my good friend, John Varvatos. This was a very brave decision as there are lot of purists out there who didn’t want to see such an iconic venue revamped. He’s kept something about the spirit but the floor and loo are much cleaner, although he has kept a lot of the old décor on the walls. It was unbelievably filthy back in the day – not that anyone cared then!

Mick’s photography tips and advice

What do you think sets you apart from other photographers?

I’m very adjustable to situations. When you come out of the music business you really learn flexibility.  I’ve shot performances, parties, on location, in people’s homes, in hotels, backstage, indoors, outdoors, and obviously in the studio. The studio came a little bit later – the first time was in the autumn of 1973 with the Bowie saxophone shots that were originally used in the Pin-ups album package. There is a certain freedom from working in the studio. There are no limitations on my energy output. I can make a mess. I can play DJ. I can whirl around. I can shout or whisper. I can dance. I’m in complete control. There are no constraints.

What did you like about backstage photography?

I was totally there by invitation, whether it was Lou Reed, Queen, Iggy Pop, David Bowie or Thin Lizzy etc. Lou said to me recently on the events tour we did for our beautiful limited edition Transformer book that I was so familiar that they thought of me less as a photographer and more of a guitar player or part of the band. And that’s how it felt in those early days. I was part of it. I wasn’t a press photographer, nobody owned me, and I wasn’t on anybody’s payroll. I was hustling my way as I went along!

What about stadium photography?

Stadium photography is performance photography. And when you’re there you’re like a big game hunter. I don’t like stadiums anymore. I prefer to shoot inside – somewhere a bit more atmospheric.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming music photographer?

The thing about when you watch a  performance on multiple occasions, whether it’s Queen, David Bowie, Iggy Pop or Lou Reed, or a post-millennial act (which I occasionally still do), is that you learn their movements and their lighting set-up. You know when to pounce, and that’s the miracle of Raw Power and Transformer. It’s definitely a good idea to try and study your subject a bit first if possible. You’ll learn their movements and eventually be a step ahead of them.

Do you know when you’ve got the shot?

I always get the shot! But do I know the exact frame? Sometimes I’m moving too fast to be sure which particular frame but I know what it smells like when I’ve got the shot. When I’ve really nailed it.

Is there a difference in approach when shooting an album cover?

When you shoot an album cover it’s different because you’re looking for that one shot that’s got to have broad resonance. It’s very focused and the energy is somewhat different. When you do a photo session for a magazine, you have to shoot a load of pages. But you know with an album cover that once that image is out there it will be around for a while. Magazines are disposable, whereas an album cover is often forever.

What do you think is the most famous album cover you’ve shot?

Queen Album Cover London 1974 © Mick Rock. Image courtesy of Mick Rock

Queen Album Cover London 1974 © Mick Rock 

If I’m shooting very fast with other cameras I may lose focus or the right exposure for a few frames or maybe they will actually stop shooting. With this camera I can be totally relentless and completely maintain focus/exposure etc.

The Nikon Df

So what do you think of the Nikon Df?

Mick Rock and the Nikon Df Pictured at CBGB, New York, USA.

Mick Rock and the Nikon Df Pictured at CBGB, New York, USA.

If I’m shooting very fast with other cameras I may lose focus or the right exposure for a few frames or maybe they will actually stop shooting. With this camera I can be totally relentless and completely maintain focus/exposure etc.

What features of the Df do you like the best?

The beauty of the Df is that it is so suited to my approach to shooting. It’s flexible and adjustable and durable but also very light to hold. I’m always moving around, I’m always looking for different angles. This is the perfect beast.

It’s physically beautiful and it does have some resonance with my trusty camera from the old days. But also technologically, the focusing system, the speed at which I can shoot, the ridiculous low light I can shoot under – this could be the most important camera in my life.  I can be a rock and roll bandit with one of these cameras in my hand. I can be young again, believe I’m 23 and be totally uninhibited.

What comparisons can you make to your old Nikon?

A lot of my earlier stuff was shot on the Nikkormat. Raw Power, Transformer, all my Ziggy Stardust shots were all shot on that camera. That camera was my constant companion throughout the seventies and into the eighties.

The new Df looks a little different, but you can see there are a lot of similarities with the old Nikons. It certainly doesn’t look like any of today’s digital cameras. But the feel of it is so perfect! I’m holding something very familiar. There is a comfort factor here.

I can also shoot comfortably with one hand because of its relative lightness. I don’t like having the strap round my neck so I look like a tourist. I always have it wrapped round my wrist.

How does it make you feel being able to use your old lenses on this camera?

The fact I can use some of my old lenses takes me back. It’s my link to earlier times. I’m just glad I’m still around and able to take advantage of all this modern equipment. People go on about the difference between digital and film. I don’t worry about that, I want the pictures. What I do enjoy is the immediate access, the immediate playback. The fact that you can review the fruits of your efforts instantly. I love modern technology. I think we are living in the golden age of photography.

For more on Mick Rock and his recreations check out this album and view this video:

 

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