For the last eight years I’ve been helping out shooting images for a great charity called We See Hope, https://www.weseehope.org.uk/ They run a series of programs in Africa across five countries – Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe to help children and each year fund raise with a classic car rally where supporters get to drive their dream car in return for a donation.
Generous owners lend their cars for the day and this year the line up was truly breathtaking from Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris to Aston Martins and Jaguars. More than fifty classic and super cars were presented to their new owners for the day at the Great Fosters Tudor Estate in Egham, Surrey ,just outside London before heading off into the English countryside.
Drivers followed a route book though pretty villages and lanes with plenty of stops along the way including a visit for lunch to an English vineyard. At Hattingley valley, www.hattingleyvalley.com, there was wood-fired pizza and a chilled glass of British bubbles for the passengers and something soft for the drivers.
Over £400,000 was raised from this year’s event and the date is set for the 2024 rally.
I was recently asked by a motorcycle collector who lives in the Middle East to photograph his bikes stored back in the UK .He’d seen my portfolio online and wanted a studio shoot. The collection is kept at a storage site near me and I know the owners so it made sense to build a ‘studio’ on site. For best results, and if money is no object a professional car or motorcycle studio would be an infinity cove which are few and far between these days as well as very expensive to hire. So I brought my mixed selection of studio lighting, stands, clips and clamps that I’ve collected over thirty years and we erected a black background in one corner of the unit to create an environment to shoot the collection.
It’s always a compromise working this way as other lighting and daylight can affect the reflective surfaces but it works better with motorcycles than with cars which have more bodywork.
I first hung a white sheet between two poles and a black lightproof background beneath.Two powerful flash heads backlit the top white sheet projected a bright rim light around the edge of the subject. Softboxes fill in the rest of the frame. I use an Elinchrom Ranger battery system to fire off the other Bowens flash heads remotely from the camera which allows for faster working not being tethered.
The images are then cleaned up in Photoshop with any distracting reflections removed or adjusted and the background consolidated as a dense black to achieve the final image.I photographed fully lit versions but my favourites were the low key versions.
I had a great commission from GP Racing magazine to follow F1 champion Nigel Mansell’s weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed documenting all the highlights as he drove his championship winning Williams FW14B for the first time in many years.
Sounds straightforward but, at a event with 150,00 visitors and an ever changing schedule, it proved trickier than I planned. With cars going up the hill twice a day over the the three day event I was pretty confident I’d have plenty of chances to shoot the imagery required for a six page feature. I started off in the Williams pit tent to say hi to the team and explain what had been pre-planned to find out that Mansell was now only driving the car on Sunday , knocking out 4 out of my 6 opportunities.
There were many good things going for me. The weather was great…not too hot, or cold or raining and I knew my way around having covered the Festival of Speed more than 20 times, I had all right track side passes allowing me into the assembly areas to get up close and personal to Nigel. But come Sunday the news came through that Mansell would now only drive the car once, for the afternoon run and I started to get a little worried.
I was pretty sure I could get all the pre-run imagery of the car being brought down to the assembly area and ‘Our Nige’ getting into the car and heading out onto the hill but with just a single pass I would only have one chance to shoot the necessary action photos that would almost certainly be the lead image of the feature.
I placed myself track side opposite Goodwood house for the drive by…close enough to run from the assembly area and the best chance of seeing the car for the longest time as it passed at speed. Action photography is not an exact science and I didn’t want to freeze the car with a high shutter speed that would guarantee a sharp image but lack any movement.So I covered other areas by speaking to other snappers who would be in different spots up the hill asking them to send me their images …just in case.
I needn’t have worried, I got the shot and hitched a ride up to the top paddock in the team support van to photograph all the atmosphere there before heading back down to the house for the interview on the balcony in front of thousands of fans.
Global Mustang day
I was recently invited by Ford UK to bring my 1966 Mustang GT coupe along to celebrate Global Mustang Day and document the event in pictures.
The Mustang was launched in 1964 as a compact model with an aggressive marketing plan from Ford and remains in production 58 years later making it one of the longest surviving models in history.
The first series ran from mid 1964 to 1966 and was available in an inline six cylinder or 289cu’ in’ V8 in coupe, convertible or fastback bodies. Here’s a very early coupe termed ’64 1/2 by the the Mustang aficionados.
The Easter event was hosted by Caffeine and the Machine near Stratford upon Avon, until recently a large rural pub, it has rebranded itself a Gentleman’s Club for the Petrolhead and attracts huge numbers of bikers and car lovers to it’s large car parks, cafe and landscaped grounds.
It wasn’t only classics in attendance as Ford still import their latest 5.0 litre V8 models to the UK, although in the current fuel crisis, even they admit its days may be numbered. The new all-electric Mach-E is Ford’s new model to the Mustang range and sales have been going well with over 5000 cars sold in the UK in the last year alone. With acceleration sub 4 seconds 0-60 in the GT and all wheel drive no one doubts its performance credentials although its looks may challenge the traditionalist.
One car that appealed to everyone at the meeting was Jason Thiel’s 1967 Highland Green Fastback Bullitt evocation with it’s 390 cu’ in’ big block engine drawing the crowds.
It was a great test for my car too as it’s the furthest I’ve driven it since an engine rebuild but I had nothing to worry about as it performed admirably without a problem for the whole weekend.
Photographing at Williams F1 HQ
In the hectic world of Formula One, January is a quieter time of year for the teams and it proved the right moment to photograph some more cars for GP Racing magazine’s ‘Now That Was A Car !’ feature.
So this week I visited Williams F1’s Grove HQ in Oxfordshire with photo assistant Rachel to shoot classic F1 cars in their superb museum.
Our target was to photograph three cars in a day FW10, FW15 and FW19 so we had to work fast. Using flash speeds things up as you don’t need to worry about using a tripod so it was all about maximising the number of angles and details we could manage shooting around the other exhibits.
Rachel and I have worked together on many projects but she has never worked this way before so it was a steep learning curve but we had captured our three cars by mid afternoon and managed to photograph a fourth car, FW09, below with minutes to go before our 4pm deadline. Here’s the retouched image below.
Jacques Villeneuve’s 1995 championship winning FW19
NSX group test on the Top Gear track
I recently got the call to head down to Dunsfold Aerodrome south of Guildford for a five car photo-shoot for Classic and Sports Car magazine where I am still on the staff after 32 years.The perimeter track of old Royal Canadian Airforce airfield was made famous as the original Top Gear test track and it’s now possible to hire a section of the track for photo-shoots. Our subjects on that bright autumnal day was an icon of the Japanese super car world ,the Honda NSX.
There’s a huge following for the Ferrari beating NSX both for the original series launched in 1990 and the new high performance version that appeared in 2016 with over 500bhp on tap and a 0-60 of under 3 seconds.
As well as the standard cars we were joined by two owners with the holy grail of the NSX range, the Type R. With 120kgs stripped out from the already lightweight aluminium monocoque and a hand built blueprinted engine, the Type R cost an incredible £15,000 more than the stock model and only a few hundred were built of both the NA1 and NA2 models seen in this panning image below.
To read Greg McLeman’s article and see the whole feature get hold of a copy of the December 2021 issue of Classic and Sports Car magazine
Palm Springs Continental
Hard to believe this is February but that’s Palm Springs for you.
Set in the Coachella Valley in the Colorado desert it’s a holiday destination just 100 miles east of Los Angeles in Riverside county . What better way to take in the mid-century architecture and stunning high desert landscapes than in this incredible 1962 Lincoln Continental.
Journalist Greg MacLeman and I drove the 90 minutes from LA last spring to shoot a feature for Classic and Sports Car magazine and loved the intense hot colours and arid climate.
Like many western US towns it’s laid out in a grid pattern and many of the the older houses here were built to a formulaic pre-fabricated angular single story modernist design in the 1950’s. With broad palm tree lined boulevards it offered up a period feel to the huge stature of the 18ft long Continental.
Being so early in the year my challenge was to pick up the very pale blue of the Lincoln in the harsh low angle high contrast desert sunlight. From most angles the car looked bright white and it was only the with the light from behind camera that any colour at all could be captured.
We photographed this tracking shot on the edge of town on a stretch of road leading to an area of land belonging to the local native American people. Despite being so enormous the seven litre V8 picks up speed briskly and seems to glide over the tarmac with its wheels ever so slightly tucked under that slab-like bodywork.
The Lincoln Continental seemed perfectly engineered for the empty four lane highways of Palm Springs, I can’t imagine what it’d be like to drive in traffic on the congested streets in New York or Boston.
Suicide doors were a big feature of the Continental ,opening the whole side of the car with a pillar-less aperture.
Monte Carlo winning Invicta
Photographing Donald Healey’s extraordinary pre-war rally car
Before Donald Healey ever had the thought of building his own sports cars the Cornish ,ex WWI air ace, was a hugely successful rally driver.
Based from his garage in Perranporth on the Atlantic coast Healey competed in the Land’s End to John O Groats rally in an Ariel 10, for which he had the local franchise, noting that sales rose after the car was proven in competition. He also won the Brighton Rally and first RAC British rally in 1929 in a Triumph 7 .But it was his extraordinary success at one of the toughest of all international rallies that has become the stuff of legend.
His motorsport antics were noticed by Noel Macklin the founder of Invicta cars and Donald was signed up to compete in the inaugural Alpine Trial in 1930 with a 3.0litre Invicta Tourer winning the tortuous event over steep Austrian hill climbs ahead of German racing icon Hans Stuck. A new model featuring the famous low chassis and a Meadows 4 1/2 litre straight six was entered for the 1931 Monte Carlo rally with Healey selecting Stavenger in Norway for the start, carrying two passengers to share the driving and navigate.
During one such co-drive Donald was awoken to find the car hurtling into a ditch hitting a telegraph pole punching the rear axle back three inches locking on the brakes. After roadside repairs involving disconnecting the rear brakes completely and Jerry rigging the exhaust up over the back of the car they managed to get back on the route. After four long days of driving on treacherous mountain passes the team arrived in Monte Carlo without any penalties to undertake the final section, an obstacle driving test along the quay.
Back home in Perranporth Healey had practiced the course layout on a quiet road and he hurtled through it in record time clinching the prestigious trophy and achieving an ambition. He would drive the famous rally again in a different Invicta the following year finishing second.
To read the whole feature check out the January issue of Classic and Sports Car magazine. see: https://www.classicandsportscar.com/
E Type vs Corvette in LA
Photographing cars for a magazine feature in a big city is never straightforward and if you want to shoot action it takes the level of difficulty to a higher plane. But that’s what Classic and Sports Car magazine required in February of 2020 on a week long feature visit to Los Angeles to collect some sunny stories for the winter pages of the next issue.
Local knowledge is key when finding locations, and although I know LA pretty well, I wasn’t familiar with the area where our cars were so we had to trust the owners and they came up trumps choosing a section of road around the Palos Verde headland south of the city with the glittering Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands in the background.
Shooting action with two cars ,three if you count the camera car on public roads can be a traumatic experience for classic car owners who aren’t used to close formation driving but our guys did really well even managing a smile as we coaxed them closer and closer to get the pictures.
We found a piece of safe two lane highway with turn arounds about mile apart,an elevated bank for panning and a short mountain section for a chase sequence.I just wish we’d been shooting video and sound as the noise was glorious.
When shooting action it really helps to have good communication with the subject drivers so I gave the lead car a walkie-talkie and described each set up to both of them so they knew where they were meant to be in relation to each other and the road positioning for the different shots explaining the safety risks along the way.
We did about 3 or 4 runs of each type of shot to achieve the right placements…I could have gone on all day such were the great cars, locations and weather but owners tend to get a bit gnarly if you push them too long so when I knew I had enough we wrapped it up and went for lunch…not a bad day in the office.
The Birth of Automobile Action Photography
By the time Karl Benz introduced his Motorwagen to the world in 1886 photography was already established as both an art and a science.
In fact Frenchman Joseph Nicephore-Niepce, the prolific polymath credited with the first process, to fix an enduring image ,Heliography, in 1827 had invented an early form of internal combustion engine way back in 1807 ,although he fitted it to a boat rather than a car.
So fast was the development of new technologies in the Victorian era that Benz’s quadracycle powered by an internal combustion engine did not evolve much and was quickly overtaken by steam and electric powered vehicles that proved not only faster and more efficient but also the most popular cars in those early days of motoring.
In 1899 Camille Jenatzy broke the important 100km/h or 62 mph land speed record in his electric car Le Jamais Contente (above)) and in 1906 Fred Marriot in a American Stanley Steamer set a new LSR on Daytona beach in Florida at 127mph.
But how to record all this high-speed derring-do.
Exposure times in the early days of the Daguerrotype were up to 30 mins and elaborate frames and braces were offered to hold the subject of a portrait still for the time the shutter was open.Henry Fox Talbot’s coachman had to stand still for 3 minutes for this very early 1841 Calotype (below), there was no shutter at all for the earliest cameras just the lens cap that was removed and then replaced. Exposure times were quickly reduced with further advances in lens technology and accelerators added to improve the light sensitivity of the plate that brought this down to under a minute.
But even the portable photographic equipment of the Victorian era was heavy and unwieldy with early models using glass plates that needed coating with wet collodian emulsion on site and developed immediately afterwards. Matthew Brady’s extraordinary images of the American Civil War, considered to be the first photo journalism, brought the horrors of conflict to the breakfast table but the images were, by necessity posed, portraits a bit stolid to the modern eye and battles scenes seemingly static with any movement blurred due to the long exposure times still required to capture the image. Movement had been captured accidentally as this stereoscope image (below)of Broadway by Edward Anthony in 1859 shows but it was not intentional.
The search for the technology that would allow an ‘instantaneous ‘ image was on.
The 1959 Aston Martin DBR1 is one of the beautiful and valuable sports racing cars in the world and I had the enormous privilege of shooting the actual Le Mans winning David Brown works team car for my book The Art of the Le Mans Racing Car.
The DBR1 had been driven to victory by the unlikely coupling of Brit’ Roy Salvadori and American Carroll Shelby.Like most drivers of the day they did not just drive for one team and Salvadori achieved success in a wide variety of sports racing to F1 cars including Maserati 250F and Ferrari 225 to Cooper-Climax and latterly Jaguar saloon cars. Likewise Texan Shelby raced in all motorsports from F1 to hill-climbing and rallying and whilst competing in the fearsome Carrera Panamericana suffered a bad accident in an Austin Healey that left him in hospital for 8 months.
Remarkably Salvadori, who drove for 14 hours of the 24 hours of the race, was suffering from the flu and Shelby had a bout of dysentery and had tucked a nitroglycerine pill under his tongue in case his heart problem flared up during his stints.
Seen above is the raw un-retouched image of the car in the infinity cove studio on a black cloth background with the bonnet removed.I’d had an idea to create a layered image with bonnet on and off but had been too busy to develop the idea at the time.
The technique uses Photoshop to layer the image one on top of the other and adjust the opacity to allow you to see through the bonnet to the engine bay and takes a long time to get it right. Here’s the final comp’ image and there’s another taken from overhead in Portfolio One on this website.
Shooting Lewis Hamilton’s Champ’ winning 2019 F1 car
The few weeks ago I got the opportunity to photograph Lewis Hamilton’s 2019 F1 championship winning car at a secret location in the UK.
As is often the case there is neither the time or the funds available to bring the car to a studio so I built a studio around the car. When I say studio it is the bare essentials of what I need to capture the image.Lighting is by flash either direct through softboxes or bounced into a white sheet behind the car.
It’s not perfect and my technique relies on my 30 years plus of experience of knowing what’s important to spend time on and what’s not.My friend Rob came along as assistant and we wrapped up the shoot with minimum fuss in just under four hours.
Here’s the final retouched head on image. You may notice that the car is still quite dirty… actually it is uncleaned from the final race of the F1 season in Abu Dhabi. Lewis won it with Max Verstappen second in the Red Bull Honda and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari taking the final podium spot.
I’ve featured the front 3/4 view in my cars portfolio see : https://www.jamesmann.com/portfolio-one/