About john-hallett

I am a freelance photographer and website journalist from the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire in the United Kingdom. With over 30 years experience I regularly have work published in books, magazines, newsletters and event programmes. I specialise in motorsport photography, which I enjoy due to the technical difficulty in creating a feeling of fast movement within a static medium, although I also engage with other genres such as studio stock photography and landscapes. Check out my website at www.john-hallett.co.uk

Day at the museum

Every once-in-a-while the nearby attraction “Blists Hill Victorian Town” opens its doors for free for local residents to visit and see what it offers. I last went a number of years ago and it was only relatively recently I recounted to a colleague that these ‘open days’ used to occur. It was coincidental therefore that last Monday I became aware that it was happening again and so on Saturday I made the one mile trip to the venue for a photographic morning.

The main reason for my visit was to take some background and texture shots to use in my forthcoming still-life project. Images of some of the attractions such as shops and toolrooms to act as a backdrop and textures such as timber cladding, brickwork and iron plates. It was good to go with a purpose but with the added benefit of taking some atmospheric Autumnal shots should they manifest themselves. I was aware that all of the entrance allowance had been taken up and so it was likely to be crowded; I therefore made sure I was early (doors opened at 10am) and that I was travelling relatively light so that I could squeeze in to tight spaces when required.

All-in-all a great morning out. I was there for over 3 hours and managed to take a good quantity of images that I can use. Here is one of my favourites:

2021 hillclimb finale

Today was my last hillclimb event of 2021. It took place at Prescott and involved an assembly of rally cars from through the years (and a few others). To be honest I was a little disappointed with the entry – no Audi Quatros, Metro 6R4’s, RS200’s, Cosworth Sapphire’s – all rally cars that I went to see back in the days of the RAC Rally stages in the Welsh forests.

So that’s it for my motorsport for 2021. Now time for another project which will take place in the warmth & dry of my studio through the Winter months.

A 6L Holden Commodore enters a ray of sunshine

British Hillclimb Championship finale

Sunday saw the final of the 2021 British Hillclimb Championship at Loton Park. The top 6 places had already been decided because any points gained on the day wouldn’t change their position – but there were still the lower places to be decided and, of course, some were chasing the hill record. And chase they did – unbelievably the hill record was broken 17 times with Wallace Menzies taking top spot on the last drive of the day.

So that’s the end of competitive hillclimbing photography for me this year – just one more event at Prescott next Sunday with some rally cars and I’ll be hanging up my kit bag up for the Winter. However, I have a photography project planned to keep me occupied – watch this space!

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