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:

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

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.

VSCC at Prescott gallery now live

A gallery of over 770 images has now been uploaded to the website. I was fortunate in getting a spot between Orchard Corner and Pardon Hairpin which meant I could get one shot as they approached from Bridge with my 70-200mm lens, a second shot at the corner with my 28-75mm lens and then back to the 70-200mm for an upwards shot as they left Pardon – so three shots of each car. Of course it helps that I had two camera bodies in use – I couldn’t have changed lenses that quickly! It was only when I downloaded them into Lightroom that I realised that there must be a 30 second difference in the time set on each camera body because they are slightly out of sequence.

Jeremy Flann in a 1918 Curtiss Le Zibre Special 8200cc

Bromyard Speed Festival

A number of years ago the Bromyard Speed Festival came into existence as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company were the proceeds are used to fund future events with any surplus going to local charities. Originally it was run in the town of Bromyard, Herefordshire but was only planned to run every two years due to the administration of shutting down the town centre to allow the vehicles to parade. Covid has put paid to this over the past couple of years and so the event has moved to Shelsley Walsh in the interim.

So yesterday I was one of the volunteer photographers who spent the day on the hill photographing the various entrants of cars and bikes, which had an age range from 1923 to 2019. It wasn’t a competition (no timed runs) but just a showcase of interesting vehicles. It all went very smoothly and was a great day out.

The images from all the photographers will shortly be available for sale (proceeds to the charity) here.

Andrew Bennet on a 1983 Yamaha YZR500 Kenny Rogers Replica

A trip to Cardiff

Last Friday saw myself & Mrs H take a trip out! Yes we finally decided it was appropriate to visit the Welsh capital, Cardiff. It was nothing to do with photography and everything to do with a particular jewellers shop that Mrs H wanted to go to but it was our first visit and so we made a day of it – particularly since it was a 5-hour round trip.

Before we went I used Google Maps to locate a few possible open-air car parks (I do dislike the multi-storey variety) assuming that we would end up parking well away from the city centre. However on arrival at Sophia Gardens car park I was surprised to find it virtually empty and it was only a brief walk to the city centre. The other benefit was that it was right next to Cardiff Castle and so on the way back to the car (after numerous hours looking at shops) we diverted into the castle gardens and I managed to take a few shots with my iPhone.