Nearing the end

As soon as events have the word ‘finale’ in their title you know that the end is nigh. And so it was at Shelsley Walsh yesterday with their last competition event of the 2021 hillclimbing season. Unfortunately it wasn’t the most exciting entry list although there were a number of classic cars from the 1960’s which always appeal to me (probably because I grew up with them!) Here’s a few shots of them and you can find more on my website at www.john-hallett.co.uk:

VSCC at Loton Park

The weekend was the annual visit of the Vintage Sports-Car Club to Loton Park in Shropshire. I went along today and was a little surprised by the lack of cars in the paddock as I arrived and it wasn’t long before I learned that with the Goodwood Revival next weekend many had decided to give Loton a miss in order to keep their cars in top condition. It was a shame because a lot of the more interesting cars for me (Edwardians and ERA’s) were just not there. I did my best though and came away with over 300 acceptable images which are now in a gallery on my website. Here is my favourite shot of the day:

1918 Piccard-Pictet Sturtevant Aero SPL

Photographing a drivers school

Yesterday I was the official photographer for the last drivers school of 2021 at Shelsley Walsh hillclimb. So what does a typical day for the photographer entail?

Yesterdays group start-line shot
  • 08.30: Arrive at the venue for the obligatory sausage sandwich for breakfast.
  • 09.00: Whilst the drivers have their classroom briefing I check the settings on both camera bodies (each has a different focal length lens on to save swapping lenses during the day, thus reducing the ingress of dust onto the sensors) and synchronise the time settings on both.
  • 09.30: Group shot under the start-line banner (includes chasing around for any ‘stragglers’).
  • 09.45: Static car shots under the famous ‘Shelsley Sheds’ whilst the drivers ‘walk the hill’.
  • 10.30: Shots of each of the (usually 30) drivers on their first run. I choose to take them leaving the start line with the starting banner above them.
  • 11.00: Shots of each driver on their second run. I move the ‘Kennel’ for a three-quarter shot with the timber-framed cottage in the background.
  • 11.30: The drivers have a de-brief from each of the 4 tutors who have been witnessing the runs from various spots up the hill. I use the time to get some candid shots as they receive the good (or bad!) critique.
  • 12.00: Shots of each driver as they take their third run. I walk up to a viewing area between ‘Kennel and ‘Crossing’ to get a slightly elevated corner shot.
  • 12.30: Shots of each driver as they take their fourth run. I walk further up to ‘Crossing’ for another elevated corner shot but this time with the lower part of the hill, and the countryside, in the background to set the scene.
  • 13.00: Whilst the drivers get their second de-brief I refuel with lunch from the Courtyard Restaurant.
  • 13.45: Shots of each driver as they take their fifth, and then sixth, run. By this time (and with a full stomach) I have walked up the hill (or got a lift) to take shots at ‘Lower Ess’ bend. I always try and take one set head-on and the other side-on as they round the bend with a lower shutter speed and panning to get some motion blur.
  • 14.45: The drivers get their final de-brief. This is now a time of waiting followed by a very short walk to my next spot.
  • 15.15: Shots of the drivers seventh run. I take these from halfway between ‘Bottom Ess’ and ‘Top Ess’ to get a head-on shot as they go around the tight and steep left-hand corner.
  • 15.45: The final run and I take these as they suddenly appear around ‘Top Ess’ in-between the embankments (some of the cars are that quiet I’m often unaware that they are arriving). This shot shows how relatively narrow it is at this point and how there is little room for error.
  • Depending on the conduct on the day there may be time for an extra run. I’ll just choose a nearby spot to take another set (yesterday I chose to take a rear-view shot as the cars went up the final straight with the finish line flag in the distance).
  • 16.30: Tea and cake in the Courtyard and photographs of ‘Best Novice’, ‘Most Improved’, and ‘Driver of the Day’.
  • 17.00: The 45 minute drive home (at least I won’t need any dinner when I get there).
  • 19.00: After downloading the memory cards from the two camera bodies into Lightroom I start the task of going through 300+ images from the day. This is mainly sorting out any duds – I tend to do very little post-processing preferring to get them correct in-camera (it saves an awful lot of time!).
  • Some time later (often the next day): Place the shots of each car in their own folder ready for sending to the driver (At this point you realise how many cars look the same in a thumbnail image, particularly yesterday when there were 9 Porsches entered!)
  • Transfer the folders to Dropbox and then send an individual link to each driver via email so that they can download their own set. The photographs are all free-issue as part of the Shelsley Walsh drivers school experience.
  • Important task: Send my invoice to the venue.
  • Wait to receive any ‘thank you’ e-mails from the drivers (always nice to get!).
  • Job done.

If you want to drive your car up Shelsley Walsh under expert tuition find out more here.

I forgot to mention it was also a glorious day

Another hill record broken

The British Hillclimb Championship round at Prescott yesterday saw the hill record broken 3 times, twice by Wallace Menzies and once by Alex Summers. At the start of the day the record stood at 35.42s, set by Sean Gould in 2019, by the end-of-play yesterday that had tumbled to 34.65s with Menzies last run of the day. There was also a welcome back to Will Hall after missing for 6 months due to a damaging ‘off’ previously in the season. Here is is at Orchard:

Will Hall – Force WH XTEC

I was primarily taking images on behalf of Speedscene magazine and so spent the entire day ‘on the hill’ taking shots of every car just in case they were needed for the forthcoming article. It does therefore tend to result in a long series of record shots – but that’s the downside of working to a brief rather than just taking photographs for pleasure – however the upside is that I get them in print which, for me, is the ultimate aim. Actually I must confess to getting a bit ‘arty’ during the morning and took this shot:

Sunshine through the trees at Prescott

Bank Holiday walk

It was a rare Bank Holiday in that both Mrs H and myself were at home and so we decided to make to most of it and take the dogs for a change of scenery. We went on a dog-friendly walk close to Dudmaston Hall, just outside Bridgnorth, Shropshire, where there was a small (free) car park and the start of the walk was just over the road. It led around a large field down to a couple of ponds in the woods, around which was a well-kept pathway. The dogs certainly loved it (particularly the two who went swimming!) and it was pretty quiet so we will visit again when we get chance.

And now for something completely different

Yesterday I visited Prescott hill climb with the Vintage Hot Rod Association (VHRA). I first saw these cars a few years ago at Pendine sands in South Wales and since then, whenever they have their ‘GOW’ weekend at Prescott, I make a point of attending – just to see the wild & wacky cars that they bring. Here’s a few from the day – a gallery will be uploaded shortly to the website.