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.

Goodbye old friend

A number of years ago I bought a Sigma 50-500mm zoom lens off my cousin-in-law who found it uncomfortable on his shoulder (it is quite a hefty beast). I used it for motorsport photography almost exclusively until I purchased a much faster Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 and a 1.4x teleconverter. Since then I have only used it occasionally – usually at Loton Park to get shots of Fallow bend from the top of Museum. Towards the end of the 2020 season I used it and found that the zoom ring was very stiff at the lower focal length end but it seemed to free off and I thought that was the end of it.

However, I took it to Curborough in early May and now found that the zoom ring was pretty much locked solid. I played around with it and eventually it freed up again and I was able to use it – until suddenly it stopped focussing and all I could hear was the internal motor whirring with no movement of the elements.

Strangely, when I tried it again at home it was focussing fine but now the zoom won’t retract fully to the 50mm position which prevents the lens from being locked. I am guessing that there is something loose inside which is why I get these variable faults but a repair charge in the region of £300 has made me think that it is time to let it go. To be honest I don’t use it very often and it isn’t anywhere near as sharp as the Tamron (hardly surprising when you think how much glass must be inside to achieve that focal range). The solution has to be to say goodbye and it will go in with the recycling.

Shelsley Walsh Drivers School

Two or three times a year I have the honour of being Official Photographer at the Shelsley Walsh drivers school. Here, 30 or so drivers turn up in their own cars (some under their own steam, some on trailers) so that they can be taught the best way to traverse up the steep hill. The aim is to learn the correct lines to take for each corner which should, in a competition, lead to a faster ascent. For some it was their first time, for others they had been many times before – but all entrants get at least 8 runs up the hill with a debrief from 4 instructors every two runs.

My job is to take photographs throughout the day – a group shot on the start line, at as many different locations on the hill as possible, and finally the small presentation at the end.

It’s a long day. After the obligatory group shots under the start-line banner the 4 groups have a walk up the hill and back being briefed on the best line for each corner. Then, for me, there is about an hour of photography with a car going past every 30 seconds or so. After their two runs there is then a 40 minute lull whilst the drivers are debriefed on their actual lines – and then it repeats itself 3 more times (with an hours break for a cooked lunch). At the end of the day there are 3 presentations and it’s home for tea.

But it’s not over for me. I then have to check through, on average, 400 photographs and then sort them into a collection for each driver so that I can e-mail them a Dropbox link to their courtesy photographs from the day. This is usually another 4-5 hours – and you’ll be surprised how many cars look very similar when you are trying to sort them out, and that’s not including the dual-drives when two drivers share the same car!

But it’s a great day and I often get very complimentary e-mails back from the drivers after receiving their photographs.