We have an obsession with the weather in the UK. After the usual formalities, it’s the first thing British conversation moves onto. And this last twelve months or so, we’ve had a lot to talk about, much of it not good. If you’re one of the many location car photographers uk, it’s a big problem as the logistics and time schedules of a monthly car magazine mean that we need the co-operation of the weather. Those interesting, high performance cars are often owned by fastidious owners who would really rather not drive them in dirty, salty UK roads, or worse still, snow. Others are provided by specialist car dealerships, taking a pristine, showroom prepared car out onto the filthy roads. Shoots are hard to re-schedule and sometimes, as in January, multi-car shoots are simply abandoned, leaving the magazine with pages to fill and the photographer losing the fee for a shoot. So a car photographer’s weather obsession is greater than most. Kit such as Elinchrom’s Ranger Quadras are a life saver in those situations.
But I was optimistic last month, I was meeting up with 911 and Porsche World’s editor Steve Bennett for a shoot at Specialist Cars Malton. The days leading up to it had been calm, so perhaps we’d get this one done without freezing or a soaking. Sadly, no. Having driven through a real pea-souper of a fog bank on my journey over, it was clear that we were going to struggle. While we could get the tracking shots, the panning shots and those important details in the can, that majestic Yorkshire landscape so beloved of UK Porsche titles was buried somewhere in a dense fog so bad that our first tracking shot location was considered too dangerous. Not even Elinchrom’s Ranger Quadras were going to sort this one, as Steve’s story idea didn’t involve a gritty urban industrial estate, Instead, he was writing about the delight of driving two of Porsche’s finest Turbocharged across the stunning winter Yorkshire countryside. By the end of the day, Steve was despondent and I was frustrated, but I’d hatched a Plan B. In three days time, I was due back at Specialist Cars on a self-assigned shoot, the cars would both still be there and just a short distance away was a suitable location, provided the fog would move away for a few hours. So my offer to Steve was gratefully accepted. In a rare moment of generosity for a Yorkshireman like myself, I’d get back there and nail the shots we needed on the back of the other shoot.
Three days later and while the fog has gone, the wind is bitterly cold, whipping in from the North Sea coast, bringing clumps of snow blasting horizontally across your face as we’re trying to set up Elinchrom lighting. But in between, the moody clouds were moving away to reveal a bright blue sky and sunshine. This really was not a day to be standing around, as the wind chill was truly Arctic in it’s bite and the light was constantly changing. I was shooting at the theoretically limiting sync speed of 1/250, but as the fast moving clouds sprinted across the skyline, the light was constantly changing. There are several great things about the Ranger Quadra system in these situations. Firstly, the flash heads are very light. In high winds, you’ll best forget the niceties of softboxes, but the bare heads are very compact and don’t get grabbed by high winds. Secondly, the very short flash duration means that if you have constantly changing light levels like this, if your shutter speed creeps up past your sync speed, it’s not a problem. The shot below was taken at 1/400 sec.
I noticed what I’d done as I triggered the shutter and expected to see a half lit frame, but no, the Elinchroms had taken care of it. And that was without enabling the high speed sync mode, which I’m told by the Flash Centre guys will give me up over 1/1000 sec should I need it. I’ll be writing more about how the high speed sync mode can be a useful asset in another post.
You can see the final magazine article in the May issue of 911 and Porsche World, meanwhile here’s a selection of some of the final shots. Find out more about Elinchrom lighting here