A Top Gear shoot from an early issue of the magazine in October 1997. Clarkson driving a Jaguar XJR…not fast. This was actually shot in his driveway, with the car doing about 5 mph and me walking beside the car with my trusty old Mamiya RB.
As I spent many years chasing rainbows, sunsets, moonrises or any kind of moody excitement happening in the sky whilst on car shoots, I acquired the knickname ‘The Prince of Darkness’. A couple of jornalists in particular knew that if they came out with me, they would always miss their tea. Sorry guys!. Old habits die hard. But here are some shots for you, without tin boxes!.
I found these photographs whilst searching for something else this afternoon. Taken a couple of years ago, they illustrate the spectacular cloud formations that can occur at certain times of the year on the Alantic Coastline, near Cape Trafalgar.
Last night I watched the actor Martin Shaw retracing the route of the dambusters and taking a flight in one of the last two flying Lancaster Bombers. In doing so he achieved a childhood ambition. As flying has never been been my favourite pastime, he’s welcome to it! But I’ve always been interested in that period of history, and love to see these aircraft in the air.
The programme reminded me of a shoot I did for Top Gear, where a Honda Integra Type R was buzzed by a Spitfire. The car was photographed with several record breaking modes of transport – the Mallard train, the Stena HSS ferry, and a racing truck – and the Spitfire happened to be one of these.
This is probably one of the scariest shoots I’ve done – not least because I was expected to get the shot in one run as the Spitfire was very expensive to hire. I think it was around £700 for one fly-past. This was a discounted price too, as it was returning from an airshow in Weymouth.
It took place at RAF Duxford in Cambridgeshire, where the car was parked in the middle of the runway. Using a long lens, I followed the plane pretty much as a gunner would have done in trying to shoot it down. It must have taken place in seconds, though the plane seemed to take an age to cover the last few hundred metres. The noise of the engine was fantastic, and I admit I ducked as it flew overhead! But I was fairly confident I had at least a couple of useable frames.
At that point the pilot radioed down and said, “That was great fun – do you want to do it again?” Silly question really!
After the plane landed we asked the pilot how high it was as it flew over the car. He said around 15 feet. As I was looking down, I can’t vouch for this – all I know is that it was pretty bloody close! Apparently as the plane was only travelling at around 120mph, he couldn’t get any lower. I didn’t challenge his reasoning.
My colleague Jason Ingram recently posted a few photographs on his blog, illustrating the use of his iPhone with an App called the Hipstamatic. This made me curious. Although I have owned several mobile phones with built in cameras, I had never used them to take photographs. As I nearly always carry a bag full of professional kit, the photographic capabilities of a mobile phone have always been excess to requirements. That is until recently, after I finally succumbed to fashion and bought an iPhone!
On a family outing to A Garden Party To Make A Difference, staged at three of the grand Royal residences along the Mall in London a few weeks ago, the use of a humble point and shoot camera became essential. The terms and conditions of entry to the event clearly stated that professional equipment, defined as SLR’s with interchangeable lenses, were prohibited – along with weapons, illegal substances and err……..tables and chairs! Enter the iPhone!
The offering from Apple is actually quite a capable device – obviously a long way off the normal equipment I use, but nevertheless fun to use for snaps. So, here is another selection taken in Brighton:
The final two shots were taken in Walthamstow, London, whilst taking a stroll around the E17 Art Trail.
Conclusion – I’ll definitely use it again. The only problem I had was with the size. I’m used to using large cameras – and everything on the iPhone seems miniscule in comparison. Be prepared for lots of fingers in front of the lens! And could it be used on a normal job? No!
Just before Christmas I started editing the hundreds of car photographs I took between 1989 and 1997 for a series of books. All classic cars, ranging from Austin 7 ‘Chummys’ through to rare Ferraris, it was interesting to see them again after they had been confined to a filing cabinet for many years.
During the process, I found images of my all time favourite car, the Citroën DS. One particular model was a 1964 Citroën ID 19 Safari, captured in Yorkshire on a hillside, with a rainbow in the background. It had taken me 11 years to get this shot!
Spending much time searching isolated moor and coastal regions location hunting for car magazines, I was often battling against weather conditions not suited to any form of photography. During breaks in the weather, rainbows would often appear, but I was never in the right place at the right time to get a car positioned and cleaned before they vanished.
Until this particular shoot. The job was scheduled for the next day and I hadn’t planned to do any photography as the weather was so bad, but the owner of the car was quite keen to show me around the area to find a location for the following morning. As we drove along a ridge from which he claimed there was a dramatic view, he pulled over. The rain had stopped, and it was still quite grey with a lot of cloud, but it was nice to get a closer look at the car.
As we chatted the inevitable rainbow appeared! A manic car cleaning session ensued, and I managed to shoot about 20 frames before it disappeared. Done without any help from Photoshop, it was a satisfying moment – I knew that I had finally captured this illusive image!
As the weather cleared we continued to work with the car and we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset an hour or so later. It was one of those lucky occasions where a significant part of a shoot had been completed in a couple of hours.
The last photograph is an indulgence, which I had to slip in! It is a Citroën DS23 Cabriolet which belonged to the late MP, Mr Alan Clark . Custom built by Henri Chapron on a 1973 DS23 saloon chassis in 1978, it is for me the ultimate Citroën DS! He even took me for a drive when I photographed the car at his home, Saltwood Castle, in 1996 – with the roof down of course!
The photographs were taken for the book ‘The Original Citroën DS’ by John Reynolds.For more information on the whole series see Motorbooks, who took over from the commissioning publisher, Bay View Books, (now Herridge and Sons Ltd) and also Amazon, as several have been reprinted. The photographs will be available from the picture library Alamy and are currently being uploaded in batches as the original 6×7 transparencies are scanned.