December 1, 2019

2019 Formula 1 Emirates U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas for Texas Highways magazine

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 Highwaysthe 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.

Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas racing and NASCAR fame brought a car to Circuit of the Americas for Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean of Haas F1 to take for a spin around the track.
Renault F1's Daniel Ricciardo has fully embraced the Texas lifestyle and reveals his special edition race helmet for the United States Grand Prix, styled after the football helmet of the University of Texas Longhorns. He was joined by the Bevo mascot and the Longhorn Cheerleaders for the reveal.
Scuderia Ferrari's pit crew runs through pit stop practice on Thursday prior to the start of track action.
Charles LeClerc's Number 16 Ferrari SF90 awaits scrutineering on Thursday, October 31st. Each team has to present their cars each race to the FIA—F1's governing body—to insure their cars conform to race regulations.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel rounds the hairpin turn 12 during free practice three with the Texas flag painted on the track in the background.
Lando Norris speeds through turn 17, caught here reflected in the glass on the side of the observation deck 230 ft in the air on the COTA tower.
Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikonnen—last year's race winner when he drove for Ferrari—signs autographs during Saturday morning in the F1 Fan Zone.
Ferrari's Charles LeClerc makes his way into the paddock on Saturday morning prior to free practice three.
Daniel Ricciardo sporting a jersey from The University of Texas Longhorns during the drivers parade to coordinate with his special helmet for the race, a replica of the Longhorns' football helmets.
Eventual race winner—Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas—exits turn one towards the beginning of the 2019 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix.

March 27, 2019

Inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas for Texas Highways magazine

The IndyCar Series finally came to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas this March and I was fortunate to be there covering the event for Texas Highways magazine.

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.

Check out the whole gallery over at Texas Highways.

Alexander Rossi with the general admission area adjacent to the turn one hill in the background during the 2019 IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas.
James Hinchcliffe, rookie Patricio O'Ward, and rookie Felix Rosenqvist make their way from the main straight up the 133-foot hill to turn one as Scott Dixon exits the pit lane during the 2019 IndyCar classic.
Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay crests turn 10 with the Circuit of the Americas tower in the background during the first IndyCar practice session.
Team Penske's Josef Newgarden exits turn 11 behind a field of bluebonnets. Because Texas.
One of the support races at the inaugural IndyCar classic featured Stadium Super Trucks., which are clearly a departure from your standard road racing featuring jumps, and lots of corners where the trucks end up on two wheels.
One of the support races at the inaugural IndyCar classic featured Stadium Super Trucks., which are clearly a departure from your standard road racing featuring jumps, and lots of corners where the trucks end up on two wheels.
Ameripolitan Music legend Dale Watson performing on the "Lone Star Stage" which featured Texas-tinged music throughout the IndyCar Classic weekend.
Carlin's Max Chilton rises up the hill past turn 9 during IndyCar practice three.
Mayer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM's Jack Harvey view from the platform atop the COTA tower. Spectators take tours to the viewing platform 230 feet in the air for a 360-degree view of the track, surrounding landscape, and the Austin Skyline.
Race winner Colton Herta—the youngest winner of an IndyCar race in history—autographs the television camera at the conclusion of the 2019 IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas.
Confetti cannons going off during the podium celebration for the inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas.

October 31, 2018

2018 Formula 1 Pirelli United States Grand Prix for Texas Highways magazine

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.

The iconic COTA Tower at sunrise on race day. Just because this is a motorsport event doesn't mean you can have a typical Texas Highways landscape.
Tires upon tires upon tires lined up outside of a team garage. The wet weather early in the weekend necessitated lots of these green-walled "intermediate" tiles being used.
Lewis Hamilton's—of the Great Brittain—number 44 Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport car sitting in the team garage as they make final adjustments to prepare the car for the weekend.
Driver Lando Norris putting his McLaren through the paces in a very wet FP1 session. Lando will be driving full-time for McLaren for the 2019 season.
Daniel Ricciardo speeding past the iconic COTA Tower during FP3.
Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen signing autographs.
Charles LeClerc's Alfa Romeo Sauber exiting turn 1 during FP2.
Fan-favorite Daniel Ricciardo running his number 3 Red Bull Racing machine through turns 12 and 13.
Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso running his McLaren through turns 12 and 13 during the rain-soaked FP1.
Sergey Sirotkin's number 35 Williams Martini Racing exiting turn 1 during an even more water-soaked track in FP2.
Sebastian Vettel at turn 10 during Saturday afternoon's qualifying session.
Due to the extraordinarily low ground clearance, it is common for sparks to fly from underneath the cars as they run over any track imperfections.
Charles LeClerc in his parade transportation.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the pre-race drivers' parade.
The University of Texas Longhorn Show Band performing on track prior to the race.
McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Force India's Esteban Ocon during the pre-race drivers' parade.
Lance Stroll opted for some Texas appropriate headwear for the festivities.
Prior to the start of FP3, the team performs several repetitions of pit stop practice by rolling the car into the pit box and performing different tasks like changing the tires. This practice is what helps them do pitstops in under three seconds on a regular basis.
Kimi Raikonnen between turns 5 and 6 during qualifying.
Haas F1's other driver, Kevin Magnussen, flying past turn 19 during FP1.
Pierre Gasly's number 10 Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda flying up the hill into turn 1 during FP2.
Kimi Raikonnen giving a thumbs up to the crowd after securing his first race win in 113 races, and first since rejoining Ferrari in 2014.
Max Verstappen's team enjoying an unexpected second-place finish for the 2018 USGP.
Max Verstappen celebrates with his team after a stellar drive from 18th to 2nd, something extremely rare in Formula 1.
Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen celebrates his second-place finish.
Max Verstappen turned 21 just before the race, finally allowing him to actually drink the champaign on the podium at a U.S. race.
Podium group photo.
Media, teams, and fans crowd the podium ceremony.

April 12, 2018

Austin Wedding Photographer, Jana & Michael at The Vineyard at Florence

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!

November 2, 2017

Austin Family Photographer, The Camdens

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.

September 29, 2017

2017 WEC 6 Hours of COTA for Texas Highways magazine

When I first pitched the idea of doing a photo essay of this years' Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas for my colleagues at Texas Highways magazine, I didn't realize the World Endurance Championship wouldn't be returning to Austin in the foreseeable future. Which I won't lie is a bit of a bummer.

I also didn't realize that there wouldn't be any evening racing, and I'd really hoped to capture the track at night. Double whammy!

But capture the event I did, and I'm really glad I had the opportunity. It was a really neat experience and its a shame that more people didn't attend. The amount of access to the cars, the teams, the drivers, and parts of the facility were truly amazing. And while having media credentials did allow me to shoot trackside which I couldn't have done otherwise, I didn't need it to get up close to the paddock area, the garages, anything really.

These are just a handful of the images, you can view the whole gallery over at Texas Highways.

June 30, 2017

Austin Bridal Photographer, Michelle at South Congress Hotel

Halfway through her honeymoon, Michelle decided she wanted to do a bridal portrait session. So I received an email from the other side of the world several days after her wedding to see if I was available to do something about this. "Of course!" I replied, so I joined Michelle and Blake who were only somewhat jet-lagged from their return trip at South Congress Hotel to take advantage of the venue's wide variety of shooting locations.

One big plus to doing a bridal portrait session after the wedding is I get to share the photos with everyone right away since the groom has already seen the dress. It also means the groom gets to participate in the fun and act as pack animal by carrying the bride's things, helping with the train of the dress, guarding the door to the women's restroom because we just had to get pictures in front of the awesome tile walls, and of course, assisting with getting candid, genuine smiles out of the bride. It was tons of fun, and it was great to spend another evening with Michelle and Blake.

April 27, 2017

Austin Family/Newborn Photographer, The Jakobeits

I'm always concerned with making sure my clients are happy. Doubly so when I'm taking photos for another photographer. Some friends recently welcomed a third member to their household, and while they're probably already buried in photos of the little one, it's difficult to manage to get a true family photograph (this would also be why my own family basically has one each year, which is taken with Santa :). I was happy to oblige.

January 10, 2017

Austin Wedding Photographer, Leslie & Rick’s Private Residence Wedding

Just after Christmas, I had the pleasure of joining Leslie & Rick at their home as they tied the knot surrounded by their family, and I couldn't have been more honored to be welcomed into such a warm and loving environment. Congratulations Leslie & Rick!

November 26, 2016

Austin Family Photographer, The Soissons

I've had the pleasure of knowing the Soisson family for a good while now. Even before these strapping young men were born in fact! And this was my second time joining them for a lighthearted, joke-filled family session just before Thanksgiving around Lady Bird Lake—though it will always be 'town lake' to me—just South of downtown Austin.

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

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