Spacesuit Media Shiv Gohil Sam Bird Putrajaya 2014

Shiv Gohil featured by Sigma

The work of Shiv Gohil has been featured by Sigma Imaging, a leading supplier of photographic equipment and lenses.

Shiv uses Canon camera bodies and lenses but has long been a fan of Sigma products too. In the profile by Sigma, he discusses what led him to purchase Sigma lenses and why he continues to use them in his gloabl motorsport photography work.

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.

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.

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.

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 1.4 ART lens, purchased in late 2014 and nicknamed “Sam”, and the Sigma 24mm 1.4 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.”

Sam was immediately put to work. The lens travelled 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.

“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.”

The two lenses get a lot of use in the pit lane on race weekends. “The 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 50mm allows me to get the shot I need even when right up close.”

Shiv’s other favourite lens is his Sigma 24mm 1.4 ART lens. “The 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.”

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.”

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.”