I was fortunate to once again have the opportunity to travel to Austin to cover the 2023 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas for Texas Highways magazine. When I first had the assignment of covering the race in 2015, I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Somehow, whether through pure luck, manifesting it, or just maybe some skill I've not attended the Austin-based race eight times as credentialed media. It gets more challenging every year to get creative, but such an amazing experience very time.
This past fall I was delighted to receive an email from a former coworker from my very first job after school. Her son—who was just starting elementary school when we first worked together—was entering his senior year in High School and she was wondering if there was any chance I'd be in Austin over the next six months or so for a senior portrait session! After I got over the shock of feeling super old I was happy to report that I would be in town that fall. I was able to piggyback that portrait session on my time in town to cover the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.
We met up at a county park closer to their house and then headed into downtown Austin where we used the more urban environment as a backdrop and took advantage of sunset on the skyline.
This year I was fortunate to cover my seventh Formula 1 United States Grant Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. It's truly amazing to witness the growth the sport has experienced in the United States due in no small part to the Netflix series "Drive to Survive." My first year covering the event was 2015, and were it not for booking Taylor Swift to perform during the Grand Prix in 2016, that could've been the final race in Austin. Instead this year we enjoyed an all-time weekend attendance record for an F1 race weekend.
Another benefit of being in Austin this fall was the serendipitous nature of being in the same general area as one of my couples for this upcoming summer. Emily and Logan had booked me for a July 4th weekend wedding here in Montana and happened to live in the Austin area. It was the perfect opportunity to meet up, knock out an engagement session and get to hang out before the big day in the coming year.
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.
Every time I find myself at Circuit of the Americas outside Austin, Texas I mentally pinch myself. Mentally because if I were to walk around physically pinching myself that'd just be weird. This past November I had the opportunity to cover my fifth Formula 1 United States Grand Prix for the team at Texas Highways—the official travel magazine of Texas—and I truly can't thank them enough.
When I photographed my first race back in 2015, if I'm being totally honest, I just barely deserved to be there. It isn't that I didn't get some shots that I really, really like, and I was fortunate that my instincts partially gained from photographing weddings and live music events placed me in the right spot at the right time for the podium ceremony where Lewis Hamilton secured his—at the time—third drivers championship, but I just didn't really know what I was doing. I generally had a sense of the format of a Grand Prix weekend, but I didn't follow the sport at the time. Which I suppose meant I was no better or worse off than your typical American when it comes to Formula 1, but still. It also didn't help that Central Texas experienced some truly severe weather that weekend which scuttled basically an entire day of racing and the subsequent photography of said racing.
Fast forward to this year, and Lewis Hamilton secured his sixth driver championship in Austin, and I was very much aware of that storyline—and all of the storylines—of the 2019 season. I'm now the kind of fan that subscribes to the sports streaming service where I can watch every practice session, every qualifying session, and every race live if I choose—or should I say if I can stay up late or get up super early to watch races live that are taking place on the other side of the world.
When working on an editorial assignment for a magazine covering a sporting event, it really helps me hone my skills in quickly culling and editing photos, and turning them around into something of a narrative—if just barely—and publishing them. Going through over six thousand photos from four days, and culling those down to a manageable slideshow number, and writing captions, and having it all ready to go no later than the day following the race is a heck of a skill set to have when I am trying to turn around wedding photos or family portraits, and really helps me provide those photos to my clients more quickly than many other wedding and family photographers.
With all of that said, enjoy some outtakes that simply wouldn't fit in the published gallery over at Texas Highways. And if you've never followed Formula 1, or only done so casually, maybe this will help change your mind and turn you into the superfan I've become.
While it doesn't happen at every race, it sure seems like the purpose-built Formula 1 track has a knack for being the setting for history-making events of varying degrees (see Kimi Raikonnen's winning drive at the 2018 F1 United States Grand Prix.) The IndyCar Classic was no exception, with Colton Herta taking the checkered flag, and becoming the youngest race-winning driver in IndyCar Series history at age 18.
A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to once again return to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas to cover the 2018 Formula 1 Pirelli United States Grand Prix for Texas Highways magazine The weekend narrative was Lewis Hamilton's impending fifth driver's championship making him one of only three drivers to reach that number. However, despite starting the race on pole, it wasn't meant to be. Kimi Raikonnen ultimately took the win—his first since 2014—giving the crowds something to truly be excited to see, even if it wasn't the history they were expecting to see.
Here's a selection of photos from the weekend, but to see the full photo essay you'll need to head on over to Texas Highways.
I very nearly botched any chance of shooting Jana and Michael's wedding in my very first correspondence with them. In my initial response to Jana's inquiry, my phone autocorrected her name to my Mom's name—Jane. I caught the error as soon as I hit send and realized I'd better send an immediate follow-up, explaining what had happened. Thankfully this frankness endeared me to them and I couldn't be more happy about it. Meeting them for lunch before the wedding I knew the big day would be extremely special, and it was. A relatively simple, reasonably intimate wedding with really just their close friends and family meant lots of hugs, smiles, and laughter. The wedding was at The Vineyard at Florence a nice drive north of Austin. A big thanks to my second shooter Jakobeit Photo and a huge congratulations Jana and Michael!
This family has been a big part of my life for approaching three decades, and it was an honor to finally document this famously camera-shy couple. The weather could've been a little less humid, and a little sunnier, and frankly a little cooler for early November, but that did nothing to deter this endeavor.