Ramblings

A Day Of two Halves
30th September 2011
Loton Park last weekend really was a proper hill climb: the sort of meeting you won't forget in a long time.

Then weather in the morning was pretty dismal but the action on the track was full-on. As soon as we reached Top-12 runoff time, I just knew roger Moran was the man to beat. This guy is the Michael Schumaker of the hill climb world. If there's a wet track, Roger is the man.
A Quiet Return
20th September 2011
After a fortnight of glorious Greek sunshine, I was looking forward to a nice steady weekend at Shelsley's Season Finalé.

Intermittent showers put paid to it being a quiet, casual end to the MAC's 2011 season. I've probably seen the track as greasy as that but not for quite some time. Between the Esses the surface had an evil, slightly green tinge to it like someone had smeared it with Swarfega. On Sunday, the exit of Top Ess caught out one driver after the next as they attempted to put the power down for the finishing straight.

The Ford Anglia set the tone for Sunday when its engine blew apart. It was fifth car up and not only did it dump huge amounts of oil on the track but it managed to leave behind numerous engine parts too. Most impressive.

Mrs Hawkes survived her encounter with the left bank (The one between top and bottom Ess not the one in Paris) She and Nick even managed to cobble the front of the OMS back together in time for her second run. Nick was so impressive with a hammer that he might give Chris Hemsworth a run for his money when they make the sequel to Thor.

I did lounge about during the morning, eat sausage and bacon, drank hot chocolate and nattered to Alex Summers about cars, drivers and all things good.

As ever, a big thanks to officials, marshals etc for looking after me throughout the year. The fact that I remain in one piece is mostly down to luck and the good folks who stand by me and growl whenever I'm stepping too close to the action.

Two more meetings and it'll be lie-in time. Except, there's always rallies, sporting trials and ... stuff.
Phew
24th August 2011
When you name a meeting 'The Big One' you have to deliver the goods and Shelsley did just that at the weekend. The combination of being featured on Countryfile, great weather and a knockout line-up of motors, resulted in packed crowds. I've never seen people lining up for the gates to open before and it's been a while since the hill's been that rammed.

We had our moments with a couple of hold-ups to retrieve cars that had scooted off into the undergrowth. The Morgan finally reemerged like a long forgotten Japanese WWII sniper from the rhubarb. It was certainly a busy day for Richard Weaver on the wrecker truck. Luckily, nothing was as dramatic as our TVR moment at Loton the previous week.

Been to Megan Baker House doing some photos for their publicity leaflets this week. The kids there are quite amazing and the place itself and the people who work there left me slightly in awe. Good to get your feet planted on the ground.
Smoke, dust and flying TVRs
15th August 2011
To say yesterday was 'eventful' would be understating things a little.

Having spent most of the day watching wheels locking up and smoke pouring off tyres, we foolishly thought we were reaching the end. The TVR class was the last up the hill and a few of them stamped on their brakes going into Fallow - then it happened. I was idly ribbing Spencer about his late start to the day when we looked up and saw clouds of dust and a purple TVR descending upon post six. Out of instinct, I just swore (that was the easy bit) and raised the camera. I got five shots off. The meta data tells me I hit the shutter first at 18.09:33. The last of the five shots sequence went off at 18.09:34 - and this was shooting single shot, not bursts. I knew I should have been a gunslinger.

This was the most spectacular incident I've witnessed at a hill climb. Jan and Andy were pretty damn cool. Jan was flattened, got up, put the flag out and then started attending to the driver. Our marshals really are very special. I've attended their training days and seen the rigorous procedures they go through. When you see how they deal with a mess like the one on Sunday you have to stop joshing them for a minute and give credit where it's due.

Great meeting, everyone. I'll be back at Loton on Wednesday for the final driving day of the year. Let's hope it's less eventful.
Vintage Motors And Avoiding The Rain
10th August 2011
Not quite sure how the rain missed us on Sunday. A couple of times it skirted past but aside from a spot or two around lunchtime it had the decency to leave off until we were throwing our kit into the boot of the car five minutes after the final run. Anyway, I'm in no great hurry to test my replacement waterproofs so this suited me fine.

I've attended three VSCC events lately and they're always very entertaining affairs. Over three hundred vintage motors tackling the hill twice in a day takes some getting through but the meeting barreled along merrily and we were done and dusted for a sensible time. Here's the evidence.

My glorious 28-70mm f2.8 lens has arrived back from its holiday at the Nikon Repair Centre. This is a place where Nikon lenses go to rest and recover after a traumatic happening - like their clumsy owner pitching base over apex as he makes his way down the grit paths of Shelsley Walsh. Its great to have my sharpest piece of glass back in the bag. Promise to look after it from now on.
Flared Skirts And Wheel Arches
26th July 2011
Last weekend saw a couple of belting meetings up in the Teme Valley as well as an impromptu fashion show.

Sundays Concours D'Elegance featured over eighty cars that were varied and beautifully turned out. There's something brilliantly English about seeing four people pull up in a vintage Rolls Royce and then set up a full-on picnic table complete with Champagne flutes, a linen table cloth and a candelabra. Bill and Stephanie Piggott's 1952 Bristol 401 was a worth winner of the Concours but I didn't envy Simon Taylor's job of choosing a winner as there were some smashing old cars entered this year.

Stephanie had quite a day of it as she also scooped the winning prize for the best lady's outfit with her wonderful '50s style dress. Some of the period costumes were just amazing and I can imagine this theme growing in popularity if the MAC run with it. Do we have a hill climb equivalent of the Goodwood Revival in the making? Click here

Grand to see a couple of former champions returning to Shelsley in the shape of Simon Fidoe and Peter Cox. The Empire's looking insanely swift and the Chevron remains immaculate.
A day of old machines and the cost of lens repairs.
19th July 2011
Last Sunday we were treated to an extraordinary gathering of pre war motors as the VSCC descended on Loton Park in force.

VSCC events are unique. Seriously old cars, men with beards and people sporting double-barrel names. Then, just to add to the whole quirkiness of the proceedings, we had an enforced 10.30am lunch break due to a visit to the local church of the Bishop. Now, it has to be said, I'm a guy who likes his routines so when I got home that day and I was having my 'dinner', I was confused. The meal at 7.30 that night was... well, I don't really know what it was called.

Great day though and the rain (almost) kept off. Many thanks for Gillian and the rest of the VSCC for inviting me along. Pics are here.

The not-so-good-news this week is that my beloved 28-70mm f2.8 lens has had to go off to Nikon for a repair after I slipped down a steep part of the path at Shelsley a couple of weeks ago. What I thought would be something fairly minor has escalated into a highly expensive (500 quid) repair so I'm currently putting in insurance claims forms. I really want my lens back now as it's my favourite piece of glass by some distance and I use it loads. Crampons is the way to go at Shelsley in future.
Old timing
16th July 2011
Off to Loton Park tomorrow for the second of the three Midland's VSCC hill climbs. (The final one is at Prescott on August 6th/7th)

So, early start in the morning: on the road for 6.30. Proceedings kick off at 8.30 but breakfast is a total must. Saying that, is it? This is no ordinary meeting. Lunch is scheduled for 10.30 and lasts for 90 minutes. Yes, you read that right: lunch is at 10.30. If anything's going to confuse me, messing around with lunch break times will do it.

The weather forecast isn't brilliant but it'd have to go some to be as wet as the last time I was at Loton. I've a new pair of waterproofs to try out, having taken the last ones back to the shop due to their total abject failure to keep me dry. Call me picky but not letting rain through seems a bit of a must in waterproofs.

Looking forward to seeing those glorious pre-war machines pelting up our favourite Shropshire estate. See you on the hill, everyone. No rain dancing, please.
Time For An Update
08th July 2011
Things have been a touch on the hectic side of late and I'm overdue a site update and some fresh photos.

The double-header at Shelsley last weekend was great. The weather was excellent and we had an eye-watering spread of cars dating back to the Edwardian era. The older motors might not share the velocity of their modern counterparts but they're wonderful to photograph.

Thoroughly enjoyed Sunday apart from discovering that my iconic 28-70 lens had developed a minor focusing problem. Its now back with Nikon UK and I'm awaiting phone call telling me how much it'll cost and, more importantly, how long the precess will take.

Great to spend time nattering with the Hart Breaker for a while as she related the details of her amazing Apprentice-style six hat sale that morning. Regalia (as opposed to 'merchandise') is alive and well at Shelsley Walsh.

A few shots from the weekend are here
Worcestershire Literary Festival
24th June 2011
The first year of the Worcestershire Literary Festival has certainly kept me busy.

I've dashed here there and everywhere shooting various events. After a patient waiting game, I finally got my shots of Rory Bremner on Tuesday evening. He was a perfect gentleman so the wait was worthwhile. I also nailed a couple of shots of Worcestershire's first ever Poet Laureate, Theo Theobald whilst I was there at the Artix Theatre so that was a bonus.

Met up with Theo again last night down at Little Venice for the Parole Parlaté event. What a cracking night that was with the extraordinary Zena Edwards rounding off a great night following a series of talented performers.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Prescott for an afternoon shooting Simon's brand spanking new Empire. Yay! A sparkling, zippy single-seater to photograph. Can't wait.
Soaking wet - again
15th June 2011
The weather Gods are clearly not motor sport fans if the last two weekends are anything to go by.

Not content with making a mess of the Jaguar E-Type 50th Anniversary weekend at Shelsley, they hurled rains of biblical proportion at us for the BHC event at Loton last weekend.

I can't recall ever getting quite that wet apart from on snorkelling holidays. I returned my Páramo 'waterproof' trousers to Brays in Malvern on Monday and they're now back at the manufacturers to find out just why, having spent well over £100, I was soaked right through. Next time I'll just cable tie a few colanders together: they'd be just as effective.

Fair play to everyone involved with last weekend's meeting. Drivers, officials, marshals and caterers. (Let's never forget the people who supply us with bacon sandwiches and hot chocolate drinks on a day as desperate as that) Thanks to Jim Gazey for the hour I spent in the course car nattering and sheltering from the wet. That was the warmest I was all day.

From a photographic perspective, Sunday was a mixed bag. The morning's images were some of the best I've taken with spray, reflections etc. The afternoon ought to have been equally as good but my lens fogged up after I stored it in the boot of my car at lunchtime and most of the early afternoon shots looks as though they've been taken on a misty moor.

Long day but good fun. Spent the bulk of it trekking the hill with Chris Wolverson. Always good to show marshals areas of the hill they wouldn't normally visit.

Till the next time, eh?
Loton Driver's School 8/6/2011
08th June 2011
Just back from a great day at Loton shooting the second of their Driver's School days.

We had a terrific bunch of keen students who all seemed to be having fun. I walked miles today covering most parts of the hill but thoroughly enjoyed it. Listening to the various instructors passing on their vast knowledge as they walked up the hill with their students was fascinating for me.

I think the thing that summed up the enthusiasm of the day was that I left about half an hour after the presentations had concluded but several of the drivers were walking the hill again. Brilliant stuff.

]A smattering of the day's shots are available for viewing[url=http://gpr.photium.com/portfolio188726.htmlhere
Terribly British
03rd June 2011
This weekend sees a frightfully British event at Shelsley with a round of the British Hill Climb Championship as well as rake-loads of splendid Jaguars as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 'C' Type and the 50th Anniversary of the legendary 'E' Type.

As well as a number of these amazing machines competing on the hill, there'll be cavalcades and a gathering on the car park of some of the most iconic Jaguar cars you'll ever see.

The weather's looking great right now so all's well with the world. See you on the hill cougars and Jaguars.
Magnifique
01st June 2011
It seems that La Vie En Bleu gathered together the worst of the weather and hurled it all at us in its first two years as some kind of test to see if we were brave enough to warrant hosting this brilliant event. Seemingly, we passed the baptism of fire/water, because since the initial onslaught, La Vie's been held in decent conditions. It was chilly at the weekend but the wind shoved the rain onwards and the wet weather gear stayed in the bag.

What can one say about this extraordinary festival? A mighty collection of (mostly) French machinery, stilt walkers (don't those guys get tired ever?), onion sellers, buxom mime artists and, of course, the legendary can-can girls who are now iconic figures at many Prescott events.

Yes, it was a long old day but part of that's due to rolling up well before 8.00 in order to tackle a cooked breakfast in the restaurant. Things went well aside from me not owning one of the new three-wheeled Morgans. (Want!)

A whole load of thanks to the good folk of the BOC for organising this smashing day and for inviting me along to photograph it. Keep up hthe good work.

PS. I just wish I'd got chance to lever my only real French phrase into a conversation. Perhaps next year I'll get to casually drop in the old 'Le chien est sur la table'. But, not in the restaurant, hopefully.
Photos of the day: here
Pimms, ponies and Prescott
28th May 2011
This weekend's a hectic one - but in a good way.

I travelled into deepest Herefordshire last night to shoot the Pimms & Ponies night being held as a fundraiser for the Megan Baker House. Had great fun photographing over two hundred dressed-up-to-the-nines guests followed by the charity auction and race night. Just to top it all off, there was a hog roast of epic proportion.

I've been studying the weather this morning and it looks okayish for La Vie En Bleu at Prescott with possible showers today but tomorrow dry until evening time. (why do I actually believe the met boys and girls? As my old dad used to say: if they tell you it's raining you need to go outside to have a look)

Early start tomorrow with a full day on the hill shooting those lovely French machines, can-can girlies and arcordian players. See you at breakfast, guys.
Gale Farce
23rd May 2011
Blowy weather's a part of holding motor sport on the edge of hill sides and I've been buffeted about before but Sunday's mini tornado was in a league of it's own.

This was the first time I've been to Loton and not ventured up to the top of the hill but I figured that trying to hold a camera steady on Museum was going to be an impossible task so I lurked round Triangle and the Paddock. Managed to climb high on a log to grab some slightly different shots. Thankfully it was relatively gust free there.

Loved the meeting. If you're going to be shoved around by vile winds, Loton's the best place to do it. Cheers to all the officials for putting up with me and apologies for getting in a slightly dodgy spot near post one but there was a shot a really wanted. Won't happen again. Honestly.

Stella drove - her first big journey since passing her test - and very nicely she did too. Ta Stel.
Here's few shots from the meeting
Back To School
19th May 2011
Take twenty-odd mad keen hill climb drivers/wannabe hill climb drivers, a stonking location and a bunch of top notch tutor's boasting a pedigree to die for and you've got a recipe for a superb day out in deepest Shropshire.

The first Loton Park Driver's School was a day to remember. With a guideline stating that all comers must drive road cars, I guess there was always going to be a fairly odd mix of vehicles but I must confess that I wasn't expecting a VW Caddy. That said, perhaps we need to campaign for a Caddy Class for future B Meetings with proviso that your Caddy must have the full fibre glass cover on the back and a sheepdog inside tied up with a bit of string.

Many thanks to Loton for inviting me to do photography duties. Aside from Phil Jones who was dealing with HD Camcorder shooting, I had the hill to myself. Lunch was rather lovely and nattering to Ralph in the Regalia shop eating our piled high plates of grub as I downloaded the morning's images was fine fun.

Gallery's now up and running here
Paranoid's not just a Black Sabbath track
16th May 2011
Spent a fair bit of time this weekend backing up my images. I always find this a satisfying process. Yes, I know: it is tragic but I can't help myself.

Its a stone cold fact, guys, your computer's drive WILL die sooner or later. Come that black day, I need to feel totally covered from all angles so here's the setup I favour. I've a bank of external hard drives waiting in the wings.

I have an Aperture Vault backing up all my library of images. There's a Time Machine drive set to do incremental back ups. Another drive has a full bootable copy of my system using Superduper. Another has a Carbon Copy Cloner bootable copy. Those are the on-site back ups and there's another CCC copy kept off site in case the place burns down. There are also two backups of my Prescott archive work as well as DVDs of all of them.

Sounds like hard work, I know, but it's fairly straightforward if you keep it all up to date.

Or, you could just trust to luck and pray your hard drive won't fail - but, eventually, it will. Honestly.
The Valley Of Storms
11th May 2011
Sunday started threateningly but it was all hunky-dory in the end. The remains of Saturday's storms seemed to be trapped in the Teme Valley in the morning but eventually, they escaped.

I did get chance to test my newest wet weather camera cover (worked very well fortunately) but after lunch, the track dried and so did we. A bizarre part of me regrets not being there in the torrents of rain on Saturday as it looked spectacular. Shireen had the right plan: get to the top of the hill where the light's best and nail a few spectacular shots when no one else is brave enough to do it. Well done Photography Wench.

Trevor's going to be a genuine contender in the BHC this year if he can drive his new toy so brilliantly after only getting it out of the packaging a week ago.

No event for me this weekend so a chance to crack on with my Archivist duties. I just love all that lovely backing up of images: it panders to the obsessive control freakery part of my nature.
Wet Whether Or Not
08th May 2011
Off to Shelsley in a few minutes time for this season's opener. The wet weather gear's in the bag after last night's downpour.

I went to a wedding just over the Welsh border last night and it tanked it down all the way there and back and it was still nailing it down when I went to bed so The Walsh is going to be squishy underfoot at best.

Just examined the Metcheck forecast and anything could come our way as they're saying thunder storms and periods of bright sunshine. Very non-comital.

Anyway, camera protecters at the ready and if it rains, so what: we'll be treated to spray and reflections and candid photos of nervous looking drivers swearing under their breath.

See you on the hill, folks. Engines ready.