December 6, 2016

SIGMA Art lenses for Motorsport by Shiv Gohil, Artistic Director of Spacesuit Media

Author: Jennifer Lister

spacemediaPhotographers generally tend to use different lenses when photographing a wedding to photographing a motor car race. Prime lenses are a favourite for use for the portrait of the bride & groom whereas a telephoto lens is a favourite for use to capture a fast speed motor car. However the innovative photographers of Spacesuit Media are proving that the SIGMA Art range of lenses are the perfect components to use to produce their creative images shot during the F1, Formula E, WEC and Moto GP races.  

SIGMA Art lenses for Motorsport by Shiv Gohil, Artistic Director of Spacesuit Media

Shiv Gohil is artistic director at Spacesuit Media, a busy British photographic agency specialising in Motorsport and automotive work. He’s a photographer from a long line of photographers; the family trade started with Shiv’s grandfather, who ran a camera shop in Africa decades ago and who was a dab hand at portraiture. The family business, a wedding photography company, is now run by Shiv and operates from London.

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Formula E gala dinner in Los Angeles, where guests included Leonado DiCaprio. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

When Shiv is not working with brides and grooms, he’s escaping to far-flung corners of the earth to shoot racing cars for Spacesuit. The company has worked with a wide range of clients, including McLaren, Renault, Volvo, Citroen DS, Abu Dhabi Racing, Andretti and many more. The agency has also been commissioned by the global customer publications of both Audi and Jaguar and to cover the VBB3 as it broke the world land speed record for an electric vehicle.

Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

Dawn at the Bonneville salt flats, as the VBB3 is taken to the start line of the 11-mile course. It goes on to set a new world land speed record for an EV at 341mph. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

This year alone, Spacesuit work has taken Shiv to Buenos Aires, the Bonneville salt flats, Mexico City, Long Beach, Le Mans, Paris, Spa, Silverstone, London, Monaco, Goodwood, Berlin, Donington Park, Hong Kong and Marrakesh, as well as the wedding of a well-known former F1 racing driver. Categories covered by Shiv this year include F1, Formula E, WEC and Moto GP.
This combination of roles means that Shiv is particularly picky when it comes to the equipment that he works with. Both environments – weddings and races – are highly pressured, with demanding clients. In both environments, you often only have one chance to capture the magical moment, whether that is a glance between bride and groom at the altar or the winning driver hoisting aloft his trophy atop the podium.

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Lucas di Grassi of the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport Formula E team celebrates a podium position finish. He would go on to finish second in the championship. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

Shiv uses Canon 5D MKIII bodies and, up until a couple of years ago, only Canon lenses. Now, however, two Sigma lenses count among his favourites: the SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | ART lens, purchased in late 2014 and nicknamed “Sam”, and the SiIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | ART lens, bought in summer 2015.

“Why did I buy Sam?” Shiv reflects. “At that point, Canon hadn’t updated their equivalent equipment for some time and I wanted something fresh to take to races. I tried out some Sigma lenses and the first thing that hit me was their sharpness and colour rendition. I found that the quality and accuracy were on a par with Canon while the pricing was very, very competitive. So I took a chance. I bought Sam, the 50mm 1.4 ART lens, along with a USB dock to help ensure the best calibration of the lens. And I’ve never looked back.”

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Lucas di Grassi of the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport Formula E team interviewed in Beijing, the opening race of the 2016-17 season. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

Sam was immediately put to work. The lens traveled with Shiv to the Malaysia race of the Formula E series in November 2014. It was the second ever race of the all-electric series and was won by Sam Bird, a British racing driver who races for the Virgin team in Formula E, Ferrari in WEC and who was the Mercedes F1 reserve driver when Michael Schumacher was in the cockpit. The Sigma lens helped Shiv capture the shot of the weekend: Sam Bird climbing out of his car immediately after winning the race and celebrating in front of his team, clenched fists thrust in the air.

Dash Photography

Sam Bird wins the second ever Formula E race, in 2014 in Putrajaya, Malaysia, for the Virgin Racing team. This shot was what led to the lens being nicknames “Sam”. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

“I like isolating the subject by blurring the background and this lens is perfect for that,” says Shiv. “Because both of these Sigma lenses are prime – fixed lenses – they tend to be faster at focusing, which is perfect for on-the-fly action.”

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Loic Duval sits in his Dragon Racing Formula E car at the sport’s Paris race in 2016. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

The two lenses get a lot of use in the pit lane on race weekends. “The Sigma 50mm is perfect for when I need to take portraits in tight spaces,” Shiv explains. “Usually, I use a 70-200mm lens for portraits. However, that has a minimum focusing distance and the access we’re given when working for racing teams means I’m often right there next to the driver, in the garage, when he’s getting into the car, when he’s debriefing with engineers etc. So the Sigma 50mm allows me to get the shot I need even when right up close.”

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Nico Prost, WEC and Formula E racing driver and son of four times F1 world champion Alain Prost. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

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BMW works driver Antonio Felix da Costa, who drives in Formula E now for the Andretti team. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

Driver: Jean-Eric Vergne Team: Techeetah by Photographer: Shivraj Gohil| Event: Hong Kong ePrix Circuit: Hong Kong FIA Formula E, Season: 2016-2017

Former F1 racer Jean-Eric Vergne in his Techeetah Formula E overalls in Hong Kong. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

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The crowded pit lane at the world-famous Le Mans 24 hour race in 2016. Audi has since withdrawn from the WEC series after a phenomenally successful run to focus on Formula E. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

Shiv’s other favourite lens is his Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART lens. “The Sigma 24mm gives a wider perspective which gives a lot more context,” he says. “It’s such a low f-stop at 1.4 that you can blur the background which you can’t do with other wide lenses. I haven’t come across many other people using it in motorsport which makes the images immediately stand out from everyone else’s work at the same venue.”

Shivraj Gohil / Spacesuit Media

Nelson Piquet Jr sits in the cockpit of his NextEV NIO Formula E car at Donington Park, UK, at summer collective preseason testing in August 2016. Piquet won the first Formula E drivers’ title. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

Dash Photography

Bruno Senna in the cockpit of the Mahindra Racing Formula E car. Senna competed in the first two seasons of the all-electric sport and has hired Shiv personally to shoot for him in the WEC series. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

The close proximity to the subject does sometimes mean that the Sigma lenses get put through their paces. “In Hong Kong (October 2016), I was stood next to a fence to shoot the cars coming past,” Shiv recounts. “Nelson Piquet jumped a chicane, which launched him into the fence where I was leaning. It knocked me over completely and I hit the ground hard. I was pretty bruised but my Sigma lenses were completely fine! They’re very tough, robust lenses. They’ve been all over the world and never missed a beat.”

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A night shoot with Sam Bird and the DS Virgin Racing team; a busy street in Brixton, London was closed for the shoot. Image by Shiv Gohil for Spacesuit Media

There’s another important reason that Shiv makes extensive use of these two lenses. “We often shoot in low light and at night,” he says. “Stylistically, we don’t like to use on-camera flash at Spacesuit. Because the f-stop goes to 1.4 we can use these lenses in those conditions. In fact, the chief exec of Formula E specifically told me that he likes this look in photos – blurred background, crisp subject – when I was shooting the sport’s black tie gala dinners earlier in the year.”
You can see more of Shiv’s work at spacesuitmedia.com. He’ll be back in action in 2017, starting with the Buenos Aires round of the Formula E series in February.

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