Profile

Frits van Eldik

A racing driver silhouetted against the sunset jumps off a wall ready for the changeover at Sebring Raceway in Florida. Taken by Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik on a Canon EOS R.
A racing driving silhouetted against the setting sun gets ready for the changeover at Sebring Raceway in Florida. "The car arrives, the second driver jumps off the wall and the mechanics follow shortly to refuel and change the wheels. They move fast, so you need to be lucky to catch the right moment," says Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM at 1/1600 sec, f/5.6 and ISO800. © Frits van Eldik

Dutch photographer Frits van Eldik is one of the world's finest motorsport photographers, travelling the world documenting the frenzied action of elite race car events.

He has a high-octane drive to photograph the energy, grace and drama of motorsport from unique and creative angles, capturing the speed, power, precision and aesthetic style of the machines, while also paying homage to the stunning race locations.

Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik.


Location: The Netherlands
Specialist areas: Motorsport
Favourite Kit:
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM

This respect for all things petrol-powered started at a very young age: the son of a Dutch garage owner, Frits grew up experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of cars. He was equally intoxicated by photography, and it wasn't long before he worked out how to combine these two passions to make a living.

As a boy, Frits started taking pictures at Circuit Zandvoort, where access to the action was easy thanks to the racetrack's location among the dunes on the edge of the beachside resort. He took a job on a local paper, before going to work for a Dutch photographic agency where he stayed for seven years. In 1989 he set up his own company, shooting Formula 1 races as well as Moto GP and the iconic 24-hour Le Mans races.

Frits shot his first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1989 and by 1994 was trackside at all of the F1 races. He has subsequently carried out many commercial assignments as well as features on the highs and lows of a Formula 1 season.

An image of a Formula 1 car taken with a long exposure to create a blurred 'electric' aesthetic. Taken by Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik on a Canon EOS-1D X.
Frits experiments with light at a Formula 1 test in Barcelona in 2019. "It is nice to play with extremely slow shutter speeds," says Frits. "It works best when cars have lights on, but in this case I just captured the highlights due to the setting sun and it produced an amazing effect – I would say electrifying." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 0.5 sec, f/45 and ISO50. © Frits van Eldik

In between Formula 1 race weekends, Frits covers a range of different motorsports, including Moto GP, Formula E, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) and even Junior Rallycross. Although technically they're almost as demanding as covering Formula 1, he enjoys the freedom offered to a photographer at these events.

Despite tackling many of the major events on the motoring calendar each year, Frits has lost none of his passion for creating pictures at speed. Decisions on how to shoot action, portraits, landscapes, news and more are packed into sessions that last a weekend, a day or even an hour. Although he likes to work with prime lenses – including Canon 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 200mm options – travel restrictions mean he does have to pare down his core kit when flying around the globe.

A car races along a track at the DTM in Hockenheim. Taken by Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik on a Canon EOS-1D X.
A DTM race in action at Hockenheim in 2015. "You try to find something different. There was a little hole in the advertising board I was looking through. It must have looked strange, me and my super telephoto lens trying to capture this," says Frits. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 1/800 sec, f/5.6 and ISO200. © Frits van Eldik

In recent years, Frits has started printing more of his pictures as a result of seeing people's reactions to a physical copy rather than a digital image on a computer screen. He sees this as an exciting direction for his photography – and a world away from the rapid turnarounds expected of him in order to meet tight race-day deadlines.

A winner of five national and international photography awards, Frits regularly runs workshops and judges photography competitions.

A black-and-white image of a woman, wearing a dressing gown and head towel, drinking coffee on her balcony overlooking the Monaco Grand Prix. Taken by Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
"In Monaco, you always try to find an image that's not been seen before," explains Frits. "In this case, I was lucky enough to meet wonderful, friendly people who offered me their balcony. When you shoot something like this during the first Thursday practice session, you know your weekend will be good." Shot at Monaco in 2018 on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM at 1/8000 sec, f/2.8 and ISO400. © Frits van Eldik

What are some common myths about being a motorsports photographer?

"Most people think it's all about high ISOs and fast shutter speeds; in reality, it's about low ISOs and shutter speeds that are as slow as possible. Also, not many people see the amount of time invested before you actually take the picture – all the homework you do to make sure you're in the right place at the right time."

How many images do you typically take over a Formula 1 race weekend?

"I try to take as few pictures as possible. Deadlines are tight, and I don't want go through tens of thousands of images after a session or race. Luckily, I still think in terms of the limitations of the past: 36 frames on a roll of film. That being said, digital photography makes it possible to take more risks – sometimes you shoot 2,000 pictures in a day, sometimes 4,500 in an hour."

What advice would you offer to photographers who want to stay focused during a long race?

"You need to deliver under all conditions, and the best way to do that is with a smile. To stay focused, challenge yourself creatively. Nowadays, you can see immediately whether you're creating the image that you have in your mind, and that keeps the adrenaline going."

There are many agencies covering Formula 1, so how did you set about making your work stand out?

"It's getting harder to make something unique. Not only are we becoming more restricted in what we can do at a race, the skill level of my contemporaries is very high. A lot of the time you end up at the right spot to find colleagues who have the same 'brilliant' mind. That's one of the reasons I like to shoot other motorsport events."

Facebook: @fritsvaneldik
Instagram: @frits_van_eldik
Website: http://fritsvaneldik.nl/

One Thing I Know
Frits van Eldik

"Motorsport photography is so much more than just capturing images of fast-moving cars. Aspects such as pit stops, the emotions of the drivers and potential news stories all need to be covered. Typically, you need to capture a sense of action and speed, whether that's the cars on the track or mechanics at work. However, the key thing is to first concentrate your efforts on delivering what your clients want. If they require pictures of their guests in front of the garage, that's what you need to focus on. It's not all glitz and glamour!"

Frits van Eldik's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik's kitbag.

Cameras

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

With enhanced light collecting performance and the ability to convert this light into digital signal, achieve high-sensitivity performance reducing noise in both high and low ISO speeds. "The best camera for my job at trackside," says Frits.

Lenses

Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

The complete range of ultra wide-angle focal lengths in a single high-quality zoom lens. Perfect for those shooting landscapes, architecture and interiors on location. "A beautiful ultra-wide-angle lens which offers a flexible solution for working around drivers, in garages and for scenic shots," says Frits.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

A professional short-telephoto lens, precision-made for low-light shooting and those situations where extremely shallow depth-of-field is required. "This lens makes stunning portraits and is a good choice for working on the starting grid," says Frits.

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM

A fast-aperture super-telephoto lens that delivers a professional performance – ideal for sports, news and wildlife photography. "I really do love the quality of this impressive piece of glass, for both trackside photography and portraits," Frits says.

Accessories

Canon Speedlite 600EX II-RT

Engineered for fast frame-rate shooting, and performing well in even the most demanding situations. Used off-camera or in the hotshoe, this Speedlite's versatility allows you to take complete control over lighting.

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