Ramblings

May Day Mayhem
02nd May 2011
Great to have a BHC meeting to get the blood pumping so early in season.

Prescott looked very spick and span and the place was jumping with excitement right from when I rocked up at 7.30. We had new cars to gawp at and some trusty favourites.

We had military vehicles, motor cycles, wild flowers dotted amongst the trees and an uncharacteristically furious Joy Hoyle when she spun the Caterham round into the Armco on Esses. (Thankfully, she wasn't hurt - just miffed)

Terrific stuff from Scott to gain two wins but the insanely quick Raptor left us all gasping for breathe and the Evo 5 of Donald McCaskill was also rather amazing.

Photos? Click here to be zapped across to the photo gallery

Well done everyone at Prescott. Cracking day all round.
A Tale Of Heat, Dust & Engine Noise
26th April 2011
And so it begins. The 2011 season coughs, splutters and then roars into life with the first hill climb meeting of the year.

The Easter weekend meeting at Loton signals the start of a full-on summer of motor sport. I love everything about Loton Park. The people who run this unpretentious little motor club are wonderfully friendly and fun to be with. The deer park where the action takes place is drop-dead gorgeous and it's a fantastic place to hone your camera skills.

The first meeting of a new season's always exciting as you get to see familiar faces for the first time since last autumn and to examine a few new cars that have rocked up. The sun came out and was scorchingly hot. The bacon & sausage triple decker is still stunningly good and the place just looked spot on.

PS. I blazed past Big Jim in his little blue Smart Car on the way up. Glad he wasn't driving the yellow one with the Celica engine otherwise it'd have ended as a humiliating no-contest for me.
Gothic tales and the Easter weekend
22nd April 2011
Last night, I spent a couple of hours at '42' - Worcester's Gothic, Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Open Mic Night. (You need to be a Douglas Adams fan to understand the significance of '42') Its held in a cellar at the Worcester Arts Workshop. Some cracking material was performed and the chance to shoot indoors with limited light's always a challenge to take up.

I've had a change of direction for this weekend's plans. I'm still going to Loton Park but I'm thinking I'll do the Sunday now instead of Monday. There's a yummy entry for both days but the Sunday has the virtue of having a few bikes there and (hopefully) not having too much horrible Easter traffic to get tangled up in on the way home.

Seems an eternity since I saw any competitive hill climb action so I'm now officially aching to get started.

To combine this week's entertainment, I'm thinking a goth themed event could be the way forward. I'll suggest this to Mr Moody when I next see him.
A Day In The Cotswolds
18th April 2011
Mr Pons and I headed off into deepest Cotswold countryside on Sunday for the NLECC Jacobean Trophy Trial at Long Compton run by the London Car Club

Sporting trials truly are an odd form of motor sport but they're undeniably fascinating. These strange cars have complex braking and gearing systems, suspension set ups that seem impossible and an uncanny knack for climbing up ridiculously steep muddy banks. Drivers and passengers don't wear head gear so you get full access to their facial expressions and If you keep your wits about you, you can get within touching distance of them so a little wide angle lens is perfect for the job.

The backdrops are simply stunning at every trial I've attended. Oh yes, and watching a girl bounce up and down vigorously whilst wearing a damp, muddy T-shirt is something a lot of blokes would pay good money for. What a great way to spend a Sunday.
Here are the shots of the day
Final sporting trial of the season
16th April 2011
Now the dust's settled from last weekend's epic Prescott Bike Festival, its time for a gentle weekend of photography.

I'm off in the morning to the Cotswolds for the sporting trial at Long Compton. The excellently named, Jacobean Trial seems like a fitting round-up to the trials season.

The weather looks set fair for tomorrow so I'm looking forward to the challenge of shooting at this venue for the first time. Photographing sporting trials is a strange challenge. The cars move slowly so capturing movement is tricky: set your shutter speeds too low in order to capture the rear wheel-spinning movement, and you get a messed up blur when the passenger bounces up and down in order to gain that all important traction.

One joy is the fact that no long lenses are required for sporting trials as you can get within touching distance of the cars. This means a smaller lighter bag can be carried as I'll be playing with my prime lenses and my 28-70 f2.8 all day. The Slab can remain in the car. How refreshing.

The not such good news is that there's no catering truck there this year so it'll have to be a breakfast before leaving and a couple of rolls and a Mars Bar in the bag. Actually, the Slab might still be the way to go.
PBF 1
11th April 2011
Well, the sun shone and the people turned up in their thousands.

The Prescott Bike Festival was a spectacular success. Yes it was a long day but everyone involved was so wired that we were an unstoppable force.

Well done to everyone involved with the organisation of the event. The drive behind it has been quite extraordinary and this alone made it a thrill to be involved.Here are a few of the shots of the day.
The Tardis Lands today
07th April 2011
Following a lot of research I've ordered the new camera bag and it should be here this morning. (Thursday)

The Thinktank Airport Acceleration V2.0 looked fantastic and I so very nearly bought that but in a effort to deliberately not make it appear like a camera bag, they left out one of the most important features. I like outside pockets for easy access to memory card holders, keys, phone etc and the idea of having to open the thing every time I need an energy bar or a filter prevented me from going for it.

I've opted for a Lowepro Vertex AW300. This is a cavernous bag which should serve me well. I've got two Lowepro bags already and they're excellent. Fully laden, the Vertex will be massively heavy but, worn on your back, this shouldn't be a problem.

So this evening, the packing begins.
Bags Of Fun
27th March 2011
The search for the elusive camera Tardis continues. I've narrowed the search down to about three options.

One of the larger Lowepro bags wouldn't be out of the question. I've got two of their bags already and they're well constructed and cleverly thought out in terms of design and ease of use.

I'm keen on the Kata range and I'm hoping to to go down to see the Pons this week to try my kit in his large Kata. (Assuming he actually remembers I'm coming round this time and doesn't clear off to some obscure fishing pool near Brum, of course)

The final contender is one of the Thinktank range. Their Shapeshifter and Airport Acceleration V2 both look like credible contenders.

I really wished I'd known bag space was going to be such an issue before I went to the Focus On Imaging show. They'd got every type of bag in the whole world there that day so it would have been an excellent opportunity to do a group test on them all. This may end up with a train trip to London to the Jacobs store in New Oxford street. This bag quest shows how lacking most cities are these days in terms of shops selling a decent range of camera gear. Jessops have a lot to answer for.
Planning, Planning & Even More Planning
19th March 2011
I'm off down to Prescott tomorrow morning to attend a meeting with the organisers of the April 10th Bike Fest.

This is a chance to meet Gordon and the team and also to take a few measurements so I know where our viewing station gazebos are going to be situated.

It'd be so good to see Gordon's face if all out photographers turned up on the day and pulled little point & shoot cameras out. (Only joking Mr Downie. Some heavy duty Nikon and Canon glass will be evident on the hill that day)

I've been working on the preparation for the photography side of this event since early last year and now its within touching distance. Can't wait!
Epic Epynt
16th March 2011
Apart from a grotesque start time of around 5pm to get there in time for Jeremy to sign on, this was a near perfect day of motor sport.

The early rain cleared as we pitched up. I solved the riddle of the mysteriously disappearing flask. The caterer rocked up and cooked a decent bacon roll. All was well with the world.

Pons stood on the Roman Road pointing out the route like an emperor marshalling his troops into battle.

The D3 performed admirably and focused like lightening but I learnt three things on Sunday. Firstly, I need a larger camera bag as two hefty Nikon bodies, a variety of big motor sport lenses plus other assorted rubbish takes up a daft amount of space and there's no room remaining for food, drink and other bits & bobs. Secondly, shooting at nine frames a second is dead neat but you come home with a mad amount of images to deal with. Finally, much as I like the idea of utilising the spare memory card slot to back up the card I'm shooting to after the failed Lexar CF incident, doing so used a crazy number of cards.

The rally was spectacular, the skies remained clear and I can't wait to do it some more. Overall, I'm chuffed with the shots I came home with.

A Handful of the photos from Epynt are up on the gallery now.
Disgusting Oclock
13th March 2011
Its just gone 4.30 am, a time normally reserved for trips that involve two weeks of mediterranean sunshine and the eating of slabs of moussaka washed down with Ouzo.

This morning, I'm not going to the med and I won't be eating anything fancy. I'm off at this insanely early time to the Tour Of Epynt rally in dark, cold Wales. Even by my standards this is a horribly early start but the entry list looks amazing with a whole bunch of WRC cars and some stunning looking historics.

There's no need to go quite this early really but we're going with one of the marshals: a bloke known as Mighty Mouse (please don't ask. I'm a Betty Boop fan myself) so we have to be there for sign on.

I'm just hoping the bloke running the death burger van had a nice night with his sister last night so that he's in a happy mood for doing top breakfasts today.

Oh, and I really ought to have shopped for a bigger camera bag last week at the Focus show. Or a Tardis.
Strapped (as in 'for cash')
08th March 2011
Yesterday was the annual pilgrimage to the Focus On Imaging show at the NEC.

This is the largest photographic show in Europe as well as the year's biggest excuse to spend money. By the time 10am arrived, Rich was anything but rich as both he and his credit card were in complete meltdown.

Once I'd coaxed Rich out of his state of shock, we trawled the two massive halls of camera based stands along with Chris when he pitched up later. This was gizmo heaven. In some respects, I was quite restrained but, having announced that I'd blown my entire photography budget on the new D3 a fortnight ago, I still cracked as the day wore on and bought a new lens (50mm f/1.4) and a new Sun Sniper strap.

The lens was a (sort of) must-have purchase as the D3's a full frame beast and this means my wonderful 35mm f/1.8DX is now not doing the job it did. I'll, reluctantly, be selling this and another of my DX lenses this week to balance the books.

The Sun Sniper strap's something I've been wanting to try for a while but I really needed to see one in the flesh. Trying it with a camera attached was a huge advantage and I think it'll be dead handy if I'm hauling a spare camera around throughout the season.

In a shallow attempt at self restraint, I stopped myself from buying an off-camera flash bracket that looked brilliant. Oh, and there was an even more expensive version of the 50mm lens that I managed to keep away from so, an expensive day, but not as ruinous as it might have been.
Canon out of Focus
28th February 2011
Despite the cruddy weather, I managed to take a few shots with the D3 yesterday. Full frame is very different but immense fun.

I also banged a few things onto ebay last night - including my beloved golf clubs. Since the rotator cuff went in my shoulder, I've barely played and I don't envisage going back to it now so it's time to get my kit out of the loft and get shot of it. (After buying the D3, the money will come in handy too)

Next Monday will be the annual trip to the Focus On Imaging show at the NEC but buying the D3's blown my budget out of the water already for this season so I can just go along and enjoy the day without trawling the halls for the best price on some piece of kit that I've been hankering for.

The main news on the run-up to Focus is that Canon have withdrawn from the show. When I started going to Focus years ago, Canon didn't exhibit there, now, after a couple of years where their stand and Nikon's have dominated the show, they've announced a retreat again. I know times are tough right now but I'd have thought the biggest photography show in the UK would have demanded their presence.
A Mixed Bag
21st February 2011
Yesterday was a funny sort of day.

The early morning trip to view the Severn Bore went well. Its one of the strangest phenomenon I've ever seen. One minute the river's calmly flowing along gentle and then this huge swell of water around five foot high appears coming from the opposite direction. Sadly, there wasn't a canoe or surfboard to be seen but the way the water crashed into the banks as it swept past was mightily impressive. The river level rose dramatically afterwards and by the time we left it was bank-high.

Yes, I did take photos and on the camera's LCD, they looked good. Unfortunately, as I attempted to download them later, for the first time ever, I had a CF card failure. This was a Lexar Pro card. Every other card in my bag is a Sandisk Extreme III or IV and I've never had a problem with any of them. I'll be in touch with Lexar today to see if they can retrieve the images and replace the faulty card.

In the afternoon, I went with Chris up to Liverpool to buy a new weapon for this season's shooting. Nikon Pro bodies really are built like tanks and I can't wait for the first gloomy day at Shelsley to try out that high end ISO shooting. Bring on a typical English summer.
The Poor Man's Hawaii Five-O
19th February 2011
Got an early start planned for tomorrow that almost borders on the grotesque times that are normally only associated with motor sport. I'm off to photograph the Severn Bore somewhere in deepest Gloucestershire.

I'm reliably informed that there's likely to be people in canoes and others riding the wave on surfboards. Better still, I'm told that loads of cars have been known to get stuck on the car park on the farm where we're heading. This has huge potential for photographs, I reckon.

Just did an actuation test on my D300 and found I've fired off 24,502 shots in just over two years. I don't want to actually calculate how much time I've spent with this camera held to my eye.
Wet Dragons
14th February 2011
I set off on Sunday to shoot the annual Chinese New Year celebration at the Guildhall in Worcester but the dire weather predictions were, sadly, spot on.

Having watched the dragons and lions dancing on poles in previous years, I can vouch for the fact that this is pretty dangerous even on a dry day so I wasn't surprised they headed into the safety of the hall.

I took a few shots of pretty Chinese girls dancing the Peacock dance and the Red Fan Dance and listened to a number of speeches extolling the virtues of this, the year of the rabbit.

So, what did I learn? I discovered that a Nikon D40 with a fast lens can grab amazing amounts of light indoors. My 35mm f1.8 is a corker of a lens that can shoot in near darkness.
Blown away & mud splattered
06th February 2011
The first event of the year all but blew me away. No, I mean that quite literally because the gale-force blast almost did blow me and everyone else clean off the hill.

A windswept Heightington hosted the H&DLCC Geoff Taylor Sporting Trial to kick our season off and what a great day's driving it was. I've not made it to this event before due to weather cancellations but the wait was worth it. The views from off the top of he ridge are breathtaking and as a trials venue Heightington is exceptional.

Great to meet up with my marshal buddies and some of the Hagley officials. Its amazing the kind of things that happen when you turn your back on them for a few months. Mr Shaw was there sporting his new country squire apparel that made him look like a character from a Jilly Cooper novel and Jodie rocked up with the exciting news that Dave and she got engaged yesterday. Congratulations to the two of them but in a mad, unstable world, its as well we can depend upon some certainties in life such as the Loton caterers being able to provide us with corking good bacon sandwiches and coffee.

Excellent work on the logistics side by Janet Derbyshire and her team. Great event. Blinding start to the season. Now that I've cleaned the mud off my camera, off my lens filter and pulled it out of my hair, I'm about ready to post process some of today's photos.

Boy, it was windy today. Did I mention that?
Weather or not
02nd February 2011
This weekend sees the first outdoor event of the year in the shape of the Geoff Taylor Sporting Trial.

I'm getting ahead of myself and counting my chickens before they've hatched here because this event's been canceled for the past couple of years due to ridiculously wet conditions. Hopefully, this year will be okay as I'm aching to shoot some car action.

We're informed that the catering van will be there and that's a highly important thing as it means we will be too.

So, its bouncing cars squirming their way up complex courses for us.
See you on the hillside.
Fully Trained
27th January 2011
At this time of the year, drastic measures are sometimes needed to satisfy the photographer's desperate urge to take pictures.

I'm not a huge railway expert but I can totally see the attraction of the old steam trains. As a kid I loved clambering through the fence to mooch round inside the railway scrapyard at Barry Island whenever we went there for a day trip and I also visited the narrow gauge railways such as the Ffestiniog and the Talyllyn.

http://www.greatwestern.org.uk/barry1.htm

I recently took a trip up to the Severn Valley stations at Bridgnorth and Highley and this week I went to the GWR's Steam museum in Swindon. This is a cool space to muck about with the camera and going during the week meant it was quiet: excellent for taking photos.

I'll throw a train gallery up later to show a few shots. it'll look a bit incongruous amongst all the car galleries but it as least shows that I'm not sitting around in hibernation doing sweet nothing.
That's Rich
18th January 2011
Great to see that my fellow shooter, Rich Danby picked up an award at the BHC Dinner.

Part of me is disappointed that I wasn't there to see the great moment and to witness the look of shock/horror on his face. That said, I might have let myself down by doing the whole Yvonne Fair circa 1976 thing and stood up at the back of the room shouting, "It Should Have Been Me!" but that would have been plain wrong: if anyone deserved a mention for their contribution to hill climbing, It Should Have Been Rich.

As if his tireless efforts to think of inventive methods of showcasing our sport weren't enough, Rich also has to put up with my incessant rambling as I rail against everything and anything. This is worth an award in itself.

Well done, Mr Danby. Can't wait for us to do it all over again.