The making of the best of a bad job / by Neil Alexander

Last week I was asked by a client to go and shoot a Caterham Super 7 sports car for a new business they were looking to get off the ground. It was a one day only opportunity to do this, and the forecast didn't look promising.

Simonstone Hall - A delightful setting for a sports car shoot. Pity it’s absolutely bucketing & there’s no sign of the car… (Instagram)

We arranged to meet at Simonstone Hall near Hawes, to discuss the brief further before heading out. Essentially the plan was to get two photographs; one portraying the fun side of the little car and what a great time one can have driving around the country lanes on a lovely sunny summer's afternoon (that one was going to be tricky), and the other was a more dramatic shot placing the car in the landscape.

We hunted round a little for possible locations, having resolved an emergency fuel situation (petrol stations seem to be few and far between in North Yorkshire - be warned), but the weather was foul. If it wasn't raining so hard that it was bouncing back up off the ground, it was drizzling horizontally. It was miserable. And the poor client running around in the little Caterham with only a flimsy piece of canvas between him and the downpours was stoical to the last.

Caterham Super 7, in the rain

We got this shot of the car running around the bend which was one of the shots we wanted to get, but there was so little light, the road was so wet, the tarmac was so slippery with all that power, and the rain was so horizontal that this really was the best we could get. It's not a particularly good photograph by any stretch of the imagination, but we were both beginning to feel a little dejected at this point, and had resigned ourselves to planning another day when the weather would be a little less miserable.

Caterham Super 7, in the rain

We drove on a little further with the intention of getting some lunch and drying and thawing out a little. On the way we stumbled across this rocky outcrop and a shot instantly came into my mind. But in order to make a half decent photograph, I somehow needed to separate the car from the dark landscape, and the moody skies. The only method at my disposal to make this work was light. Neither depth of field or creative composition would have been sufficient. In order to provide the rain with that lovely horizontal effect that forces you to have to dry your front element constantly, there was quite a lively breezey accompaniment, so any supplemental lighting was going to either have to be drench resistant and anchored to a small elephant, or hand held. This shot was made by getting the client to hold two SB900s, so that I could "see" them using iTTL, but also with the intention of trying to keep them as dry as possible. All modifiers and light shapers were pretty much out of the question, so it was bare bulb all the way. I got a few frames, and then decided that the best shot was to be had from really low down. So without hesitating or even thinking I lay down on the road, right in what felt like a small stream running right down my trousers. That was the shot I needed, but I was still paying for it 5 hours later when I arrived home. Even the heated seats in the Roc didn't dry me out.

All that being said, these little Caterhams must be real fun to drive. Even though the client must have been freezing his nuts off and getting regularly soaked, every time we stopped, he jumped out of the little sports car with a big smile on his face. He was clearly having fun, even with a numb bum!