Read our exclusive interview with ITV F1's James Allen, camera phone photographer, par excellence!
Just before Christmas, Sony Ericsson put on an exhibition
of camera phone pictures taken by various professional photographers and some well known amateurs. The pictures that really caught our eye were by James Allen, ITV F1
's Grand Prix commentator, an unmistakable voice heard by millions of race fans around the world. DPNow editor, Ian Burley, recently caught up with James to talk about his photography:
DPNow: I'm a veteran F1 fan, indeed my interest in photography parallels my interest in Grand Prix motor racing way back from the early 70s as a school kid. Has photography been a long term passion of yours; do you even consider it a hobby? Or is it just a handy consequence of a cool contemporary mobile phone's ability to take photos?
Iíve always loved photography. My father used to race sports cars at Le Mans and when his co-driver took over he would go out on track and take pictures. I had a dark room as a kid and used to do the photos for the school play, etc. But I never got into the detail of technique etc. My wife is a portrait photographer so I donít take many photos any more!
DPNow: How long have you been taking pictures and what kind of equipment do you use when you aren't using your Sony Ericsson K800i camera phone?
I started when I was about ten. My dad gave me an old Pentax and I had to learn all about balancing the f stop with the shutter speed and so on. Now I have a Canon EOS, SLR camera but my wife has all the kit, she shoots medium format and has Nikon digi cameras.
DPNow: Do you take a conventional camera with you to Grand Prix?
DPNow: I guess that just a year or two ago the idea of using your mobile phone to take good quality photos was unthinkable. Can you remember when you first started to explore the potential of camera phone photography?
I was always a bit sceptical about cameras on phones, but the Sony made me change my view. Itís always with me and the quality is good. With the mini memory stick you can just plug it into the computer and get your print. It has also proved useful when disputing parking ticketsÖ.
DPNow: What was your first memorable camera phone picture?
The Jenson Button one when he won his first Grand Prix.
This is James Allen's striking picture of Jenson Button celebrating his first Grand Prix win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix - taken with a K800i camera phone.
DPNow: Everyone is really impressed with the picture of Jenson Button (above) after breaking his F1 duck at Hungary. There must be a bit of story concerning that picture. Getting yourself from the commentary box to where you took the picture must have been quite an effort, or was it?
Well I was keen on the project, but by that stage of the summer I had not found a suitable moment. When Jenson won I realized that this was the moment so I rushed from the comm. Box to the paddock (about 1km) and was there when he came back to celebrate with his team after the press conferences. He was so overjoyed and I was lucky that I was in front of him as the camera crews were all behind him and I got a clear shot. I love the flash of union jack in the corner of the shot as well.
DPNow: Has Jenson seen the picture?
Yes he has seen it and his engineer Andrew Shovelin (whom he is hugging in the shot) asked for a copy of it.
DPNow: On a technical note, I couldn't help but notice that some of your pictures, including the Jenson one, were taken with the K800i set to two megapixel resolution rather than the full 3.2 megapixels? Was that just a by product of getting used to the camera or did you deliberately stick to the lower resolution?
I had no idea. But it's set it to 3 megapixels now.
DPNow: The picture of Fernando Alonso sat in a meeting, looking slightly glum. I understand that was a pretty important meeting? Can you tell us a bit about that? How did you get away with taking a picture in there?
He had just been given a penalty by the stewards so he was in a bad mood. It was a press briefing about the penalty, so there was no problem taking the shot.
Lewis Hamilton, the young rising McLaren star, pictured by James Allen at pre-Christmas testing, taken with a Sony Ericsson K800i camera phone.
DPNow: How about co-commentator, Martin Brundle? Is he interested in photography at all? In fact are there any well known names in F1 who might be accurately described as being hobby photographers?
Martin has a good eye for a photo but I donít think he takes any. As for other F1 folk, Iíve never really discussed it with them.
Is the cat out of the bag now? Do the F1 celebs start to run when they see you approaching with your K800i in hand and primed, ready to shoot?!
No. Iíll stick to commentating. Iím a hobby photographer!
DPNow: James, thank you very much for your time. I'm sure speak on the behalf of many in that I'm really looking forward to the new season and to hear your voice from the commentary box.
We'd like to thank ITV-F1
for allowing us to use the picture of James Allen in this article.
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Interview with ITV F1's James Allen
DPNow Interview with ITV F1's James Allen
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