Back to school

You may remember my Photographing a drivers school and School report blog posts from last September where I described the typical day of a photographer at the Shelsley Walsh drivers school. Well yesterday I was there again covering another drivers school with pretty much perfect photography weather – fine, warm but with cloud cover to reduce reflections and blown highlights.

© John Hallett Photography

I used the same format and basically started the day at the bottom of the hill and worked my way up. With 35 drivers entered that means 35 shots at each location (or 70 if I double-shoot with both camera bodies holding different focal-length lenses) and so the images soon start to stack up throughout the day. At the back of my mind is the nagging thought of having to sit in front of a computer sorting them all out – especially when you have drivers ‘dual-driving’ the same car (of which there were 5 yesterday). Keeping the shots in order is therefore so important, as is synchronising the time on both camera bodies beforehand.

© John Hallett Photography

As a motorsport photographer you take it for granted that you can hear a car coming towards you. When you know the venue well you can even tell where exactly that car is; by the engine note altering at gear changes, whether the engine is accelerating, working to get up a hill or slowing down for a corner. The human brain can decipher all of this information so that you can be ready with your camera pointing at exactly the right point as the car enters your field of view.

Except when the car is electric.

One of the guests had brought a Tesla which (explaining just in case you have been living in a cave for the past few years) has no internal combustion engine and is powered purely by battery. Apart from a bit of road noise from the tyres it is virtually silent. This means it appears without warning and I was caught napping several times during the day. As more and more electric cars enter the motorsport arena photographers will need to develop a sixth sense.

Damn – even with plenty of time to prepare I still managed to miss the shot of this electric Tesla Model S || © John Hallett Photography
A nice, noisy Lotus Evora 400 allowed me ample opportunity to capture it || © John Hallett Photography

Inspiration required – enquire within.

How do you find inspiration to photograph a venue that you’ve been going to, on-and-off, for over forty years? In my case, read a book. Not whilst you are taking the photographs mind, that would be counter-intuitive, but beforehand. I’m part-way through a very interesting book; it’s not about photography per se, but a photographers story about his ‘journey’ through life complete with plenty of anecdotes and guidance. When I’ve finished reading it I’ll publish a review on this blog but at the moment all you need to know is that it gave me the motivation to find some new shots at the Loton Park speed hillclimb this weekend, a selection of which you can find below. The rest are on a gallery on my website.

Pretty much how I feel behind my camera sometimes || © John Hallett Photography

On a (slightly) related note, Alex Summers, 2015 British Hillclimb Champion and almost always in the top 5, had a guest drive in Terry Graves single-seater yesterday (his first time in the car) and still managed to be fastest driver up the hill on the day. It just goes to show that no matter how technically advanced the car, driver skill still plays a huge part. Not unlike photography really – no matter how new and expensive the camera and lens, it’s the person pressing the shutter that really makes the photograph.

Alex Summers, Gould DJ55XD || © John Hallett Photography
Mark Honey, Peugeot 205 GTI || © John Hallett Photography
A rare ‘off’ by Dave Warner, Renault Clio 197 || © John Hallett Photography
Roger Moran, Skoda Fabia R5 || © John Hallett Photography

Vintage sprint

Sunday saw Round 1 of this years Speed Championship of the Vintage Sports-Car Club (VSCC) held at the Curborough sprint circuit run by the Shenstone & District Car Club. A single lap of the course is 831 metres (just over 1/2 mile) and the record is 26.69 seconds – although that was in a modern single-seater racing car and not one that is over 80 years old. The aim (obviously) is to go around faster than everyone else although there are various different classes to give everyone a fair chance against similar entries.

The job of a photographer is to get some interesting shots – which is harder than it sounds when you just have a single car going around a flat circuit. The options tend to be limited to panning shots on the straight sections or capturing body-roll on the corners. And so this is what I did – interspersed with a few in the paddock.

1912 Luxior 8200cc || © John Hallett Photography
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Championship start

It was the first two rounds of the British Hillclimb Championship 2022 this weekend held at Prescott hillclimb in Gloucestershire. Once again this year I’ve been requested to supply photographs for the Hillclimb & Sprint Association (HSA) magazine ‘Speedscene‘ to accompany writer Jerry Sturman’s articles on the championship; which I’ve been doing for a few years now covering the Prescott, Shelsley Walsh and Loton Park events.

Steven Darley, Subaru Legacy || © John Hallett Photography
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Easter Sunday motorsport

Easter Sunday – what does it mean to you? religious festival? chocolate egg? Well for me it means it’s usually the first competition weekend of the speed hillclimb season at Loton Park in the village of Alberbury near Shrewsbury in Shropshire, and so with uncharacteristically good Bank Holiday weather I headed in a westerly direction to capture the action. This first event also has a contingency of motorbikes which is a fairly rare event at hillclimbs (although I will be attending a charity bike event later in the year) and it’s always a good opportunity to capture shots of their different approach lines to the corners and a welcome change from just four-wheeled vehicles.

So here are a few photographs from the day, concentrating primarily on those motorbikes (and sidecars):

© John Hallett Photography
© John Hallett Photography
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Hillclimb season begins

Sunday saw my first motorsport ‘speed hillclimb’ event of 2022 and, as per every year, it took place at my local venue, Loton Park at Alberbury, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire. When I say ‘local’ it is a pleasant 30 mile journey through the Shropshire countryside although I calculated that with todays ridiculous fuel prices it actually cost me £12 for the round trip. The cost of travelling to motorsport events this year is something that I will seriously have to pay attention to.

At the finish line || © John Hallett Photography

Speed hillclimbs are run on tarmacadam courses with the aim of getting to the top quicker than everyone else. Although some motorbikes enter it is generally limited to cars – everything from a family run-around to a highly-tuned single seater racing car. There are obviously different classes to give everyone a fair chance although there is usually a top-12 run-off for the overall fastest on the day.

© John Hallett Photography
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Published work – TVR Car Club Sprint Magazine

The March 2022 edition of the TVR Car Club (TVRCC) Sprint magazine carried a number of my images taken at the drivers school at Shelsley Walsh back in September 2021 to accompany an article by Steve Ward describing his day on the hill.

Nice layout of my photographs in the TVRCC Sprint magazine

I’m booked to cover another drivers school at Shelsley Walsh in May. Won’t be long now…


Trial – but no tribulation

Sunday saw my first motorsport event of 2022 – the BTRDA Geoff Taylor Sporting Trial run by the Hagley & District Light Car Club at the Apley Estate. Given that it is less than 15 minutes drive from my house it seemed churlish not to turn up even though the weather forecast wasn’t very promising.

© John Hallett Photography

It turned out to be an excellent morning with 32 entries, each with a driver and passenger gamely trying to get to the top of 8 courses – each course up a muddy slope. The best photography vantage point is nearly always at the top of a slope looking down and my aim is to try and get spinning tyres, spraying mud and intense looks on the competitors faces.

© John Hallett Photography
© John Hallett Photography
© John Hallett Photography

There was a brief 45 minute lunch break after which the light reduced noticeably, the rain really started coming down and the temperature dropped. Three good reasons for me to pack up my gear and head home. But it was a great start to my motorsport season and I’m looking forwards to my next event – a hillclimb at Loton Park. But that’s not until April.

My motorsport season looms

Just into the new year and I’ve already had a reminder from the Vintage Sports-Car Club to register my media interests for the forthcoming season. Together with my other accreditation at Loton Park, Shelsley Walsh & Prescott it means that my motorsport calendar is already full (in fact it may need some thinning out).

Let’s hope that none of the days are as wet as the one below:

Another cover shot

I received the September / October issue of Speedscene magazine today which has one of my images as the cover shot and a further 10 images within: five from Prescott on 25th July and five from Shelsley Walsh on 15th August.