DPP Home Profiles Frits van Eldik: Master Of Motor Sports

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Frits van Eldik: Master Of Motor Sports

Frits van Eldik begins with a vision and from there creates some of the most evocative and intense racing photographs in the world

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Frits van Eldik uses 500mm lenses or longer most of the time because he’s far from the racing action. He loves working with long lenses, but says he still has to think as a photographer in terms of how much depth of field to use, light, colors, shapes in the track or landscape, and lines that create an image. “You need some kind of vision to see that,” says van Eldik. “It isn’t true that I always see it. I have ideas for the next F1 races, but that doesn’t mean that what I have in mind at the moment is possible to realize. I still think that complete stories are the nicest things to make. That’s why I try to make a plan for the weekend. Start the first session on Friday at place A, walk toward B and hope to have time for C. Second session, start with D and try to do E and F. That’s how I try to plan every day, but you have to be flexible. When a journalist calls you and needs something special for tomorrow’s daily, you cannot skip this. And nowadays, every publication counts.”

As a boy, Frits van Eldik surrounded himself with cars and photographs. His father, a garage owner, was an avid amateur photographer. Young Frits was spellbound by the pictures that appeared as if by magic in the kitchen darkroom. At age 11, he announced in his father’s garage that he would become a motorsports photographer. The mechanics laughed, but he did it anyway.

Today, the Dutchman is one of the premier photographers on the European racing circuit. Formula 1, Le Mans, rallying—van Eldik loves them all. It’s not just the racing that he loves, it’s the drama off the track as well. That’s actually what he excels at—telling the story of racing unlike anyone else.

“I try to make something different,” he says, “not the usual action shots. Of course, I make these as well, but I try to create something new. The big agencies work with more photographers and do have the normal shots, such as the start, action, overtaking, crashes and the winner’s podium. I try to find other angles or use other lenses and settings. It’s more risky, but challenging. I try to make a mix. Action, emotion, details—if possible I try to get movement. I want your eyes to go to the point that I want you to see.

Most important is to see things that hopefully others don’t see, at least not that same day with the same light.”

Preparation is key. Van Eldik says most people assume he just shows up at the track on race day to look for pictures. In fact, he arrives days before to scout and plan his approach. It shows in his images, as he always seems to be in just the right place at just the right time.


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