October 29, 2021

2021 Formula 1 Aramco U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas for Texas Highways magazine

After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was fortunate to return to Austin to cover the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix for my friends at Texas Highways magazine. With a number of health and safety restrictions in place, it was somewhat of a different beast covering the race this year versus the prior five F1 races I've covered in Austin but it provided for some forced creativity throughout the proceedings.

I've addressed this before—this being why someone who often photographs families and weddings would photograph motorsports—and some of it is practicing a genre of photography that is outside my norm, which in the simplest terms helps me fight any burnout I might experience. Variety is the spice of life after all. Secondly, there is value in photographing an event where I have absolutely no control over how things proceed, can't stage anything, and can't get a do-over. And finally, it helps hone my culling and editing, as I need to go through thousands of images more or less as I am taking them, edit my selects, write captions, and turn them over to an editor within 72 hours.

The full photo essay can be found here: "F1 Returns to Texas"

The helicopter flyover at the start of the 2021 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
A photo of roughly three-quarters of the Circuit of the Americas complex taken from the observation deck 231 feet in the air near the top of the iconic COTA Tower.
In the closing stages of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix Daniel Ricciardo leads Carlos Sainz and Valetteri Bottasthrogh the final turn.
The American flag is flown by skidivers during the national anthem, accompanied by red, white, and blue smoke at the beginning of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren sheds sparks as the underside of the car scrapes the tarmac on the exit of turn 18 in the tower complex at Circuit of the Americas during qualifying of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix.
The Austin skyline as viewed from the track with the turn 11 grandstands to the left. After early clouds and extreme humidity, race day turned into a beaiutiful if hot day.
Yuki Tsunoda, Kimi Raikonnen, Fernando Alonso, and Antonio Giovinazzi speed down the start/finish straight towards the track's signature turn one.
COTA's "Onederland" area in the new infield viewing area at the back stretch of the track described as a sort of mini-burning man festival.
Fans take a selfie on the observation deck 231 feet in the air on the COTA Tower.
A spectator on the lawn in the tower complex finds respite from the son with a Texas flag umbrella.
International fans and Formula 1 go hand-in-hand, and this year at the United States Grand PRix it was no differen.t
Australian Daniel Ricciardo has a habit of going "full Texan" whenever he visits Austin for the United States Grand Prix having in years past worn UT Longhorn football jersey and a replica Longhorn football helmet as his crash helmet.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen heads up the hill at turn eight during the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel as he exits the pit lane during qualifying session one of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Alpine F1 Team's Fernando Alonso speeds through the tower complex, taken from above on the observation platform.
Aston Martin's Lance Stroll navigates the esses—a series of high speed 'corners'—during the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand PRix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Scuderia Alpha Tauri's Yuki Tsunoda enters turn 19 during the third practice session of the weekend.
Fans from Mexico watching from the pedestrian bridge at turn three.
In the early stages of the race Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel follows Williams' George Russell out of turn one during the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco Untied States Grand Prix.
Carnival rides and attractions abound throughout Circuit of the Amercias to provide a mixture of entertainment beyond the on-track action.
The three year old W Series—an all female racing series—made its debut on North American at the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco UNited States Grand Prix. Previously only racing in parts of Europe. Driver Jamie Chadwick won the first of two races over the weekend.
McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo exits turn 10 with the inonic COTA tower in the background during the first practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
The iconic COTA Tower with an F1 flag the morning of practice session three.
Naturally when an event takes place in the "Live Music Captial of the World" there's going to be plenty of music performances to be had from Billy Joel, 21 Pilots, Kool & the Gang, to numerous local acts.
For the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on October 22, 2021, the Honda powered cars of Red Bull and Slpha Tauri sported the Acura logo on the rear wing instead of the usual Honda branding.
Aston Martin Cognizant's driver Sebastian Vettel navigates the "esses" during the first practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on October 22, 2021.
Uralkali Hass F1 Team's driver Mick Schumacher exits turn 12 followed by two other cars during the second practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on October 22, 2021 with a representation of the Texas flag painted on the run-off area behind him.
Alpine F1 Team's driver Esteban Ocon exits turn one during the first practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on October 22, 2021.
McLaren F1 Team's Daniel Ricciardo doing demonstration laps in the late Dale Earnhardt Sr's 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR stock car with its iconic blue and yellow "Wrangler Jeans" livery. Earnhardt Sr. is in fact why Ricciardo drives under the number '3.' in tribute.
Alfa Romeo Racing's driver Antonio Giovinazzi enters Turn 14 during the second practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas on October 22, 2021.
One of the numerous marshall stands surrounding the track. Race marshall's are an imprtant part in keeping everyone from teh drivers to fans safe throughout a race weekend and are typically volunteers. It's hard work, but an outstanding way to get a front row seat to a race.
Scuederia Ferrari's Carlos Sainz races under the pedestrian bridge at turn three during the first practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Haas F1's Nikita Mazepin crests the hill at turn eight during the first practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The crews of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Checo Perez climb the fence to celebrate their drivers finishing first and third, respectively, for the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand PRix.
The throngs of fans in the mian grandstand area as well as the turn one lawn and grandstand. Supports of Max Verstappen have set off their signature orange smoke bombs that are often seen at Grand Prix around the world.
The podium ceremony for the 2021 Formula 1 Aramco United States Grand Prix with guest presenter Shaquille O'Neal who was also DJing a concert after the race under the name "DJ Diesel"
The podium ceremony as seen over the crowd that stormed on the track as part of the "fan track invasion" immediately following the completion of the race.

May 5, 2020

The one in which we travel across the country in a rented RV to move my mother-in-law from Texas to Montana in the middle of a pandemic.

As you may have heard, the world is currently in the middle of a pandemic due to the coronavirus. The thing about novel viruses that nobody seems to fully understand and can be transmitted even by asymptomatic people is that large gatherings are generally a big no-no. Cities, states, and even whole countries have implemented various levels of "lockdowns" and "shelter-in-place" directives in hopes of avoiding overwhelming our healthcare system.

Decorating the RV for Easter

Prior to all of this, my mother-in-law had long been planning a move to Northwest Montana from her long-time home in central Texas. My family, and my wife's sisters and their respective families all now live in this general vicinity, and by extension so do her grandkids. And as any grandparent can likely attest, the pull of being close to your grandchildren is a mighty one. So this spring was always earmarked as the time that made the most sense to put that move into motion for several reasons. Once the coronavirus became a big deal, it changed the math a little on how exactly we would all make this happen. But fortunately when the main things I do to earn a living—namely weddings and motorsport photography, but also family photography to a lesser extent—become banned for all intents and purposes, when your wife comes to you and asks if we can rent an RV to act as a self-contained quarantine mobile, drive four-thousand miles roundtrip, and help her mom pack, I've got nothing but time!

Seeing what the Easter Bunny left behind in the RV in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Under any other circumstances, it actually would be a ton of fun I think. Taking our time, stopping at roadside or near-roadside attractions to see things we might otherwise never get a chance to see, and putting together some of my somewhat unique knowledge of small towns in the Texas panhandle to good use (due to my spending almost five years working for the official travel magazine of Texas, Texas Highways.)

Wamsutter, Wyoming

But of course, under these circumstances, it was in many ways what I have decided to dub 'a stress pancake.' Between my wife attempting to get work done to salvage what income we do still have during this crazy time, attempting to make progress with my daughter on her take-home work with schools being closed for the year, attempting to drive an RV during a record-breaking late winter storm and 45+ mph crosswinds for 70% of the trip, and packing up the house where my mother-in-law has lived for the past 20 years, and leaving the RV only to pump gas and hook up to power and water at our nightly KOA stops... it was a lot.

Too much screen time, Pt. 1
Too much screen time, Pt. 2

While I am not doing my normal work photographing people or events, I am always striving to work on my craft. Whether that is new techniques or forced limitations on my approach. With this trip I wanted to document, it will no doubt provide story fodder for many years to come, and perhaps one day my daughter will have the opportunity to regale her children and/or grandchildren with the story of the time she rode across a country in lockdown in a rented RV with her parents, her cat recently diagnosed with lymphoma, and her two guinea pigs to help her grandmother move. I limited myself to only using my iPhone for capturing and editing everything, and while I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked, and there are large chunks of the trip missed simply because I was driving, I think I did an okay job of capturing a sense of how it all went down.

Bedtime Stories

But out wasn't all exhaustion, driving, stress and "my gosh why is central Texas so hot and humid in mid-April?!" There were moments of magic. Davis' Trading Post (the top image) and the wide open spaces of South Eastern Idaho, the bluebonnets covering the rural roadside's at golden hour in North Texas, talking about what serious art classes were like in college with my daughter and how critiques work. Hopefully those are the things she remembers, and takes away from this crazy endeavor.

"Always Essential, Forever Helpful"
Zoom meeting with classmates.
Junction, Texas
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Bar Nunn, Wyoming
"No more pictures!"
Greycliff, Montana KOA
Crazy Mountains on the way to Bozeman
Crazy Mountains on the way to Bozeman

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Matt Wetzler is an editorial, motorsport, portrait, and destination wedding photographer based in Northwest Montana.

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