A year in images | Cars

My favourite automotive images from 2017

When you take as many photos as I do, the ones that tend to stand out are those that have something a little different about them, those that for some reason or another are out of the ordinary.

Usually, one sees an image in isolation, left to be judged only by what information is contained within the frame. But photos are more than just a moment in time. In most cases the end result is governed by the circumstances presented to the photographer, meaning there’s often an untold story behind them, one that can make them more interesting than just being another nice picture.

While quantity is ubiquitous, quality is elusive, especially when you’re continually raising your own bar. Like many creatives, my focus is habitually on the here and now, rather than the past, so I’m always more excited about the results I’ll see from my next shoot, than the images I’ve already created. Even so, I recognise it’s good to pause and reflect, to look back and take stock.

Photographically, my 2017 could well be summed up by that wonderful quote from Yogi Berra: it was déjà vu, all over again! But whilst I stood in front of much the same things I did the year before, I’d like to think the way I portrayed them has progressed.

The same can be said for this set of retrospectives. Previously, I’ve organised them in various ways: around subject matter, in chronological order by month and I’ve even grouped images by colour. This time I’ve split it across the subjects I photograph the most — art, automotive, floral, music, people and seascapes — and picked just a handful of shoots from each.

Whatever I’m shooting, I always aim to create images that are inventive, that are a little different from the norm. Whether that’s in the content or the execution, for me, it’s all about being out of the ordinary. Since day dot I’ve never been content for my images to be restricted to what can be achieved in camera and have continually experimented with different looks and treatments to find my own individual aesthetic.

My interpretation of what constitutes a good image has also sharpened considerably — manifesting in there being fewer images that I’m genuinely pleased with — as has my desire to push the barriers of what one can achieve within a single still image.

Choosing just a few frames from among thousands was never going to be easy. Deciding which would make the cut meant having to leave out many personal favourites.

These then are the stories behind my favourite automotive images from 2017.

Porsche 911| Festival of Speed, Goodwood | 29 June 2017

Strange as it may seem, it’s not easy getting great shots of cars at the Festival of Speed. First, even if you’re an accredited photographer, the event is so crowded just finding a car that isn’t surrounded by people is hard enough and then you have to make sure other people and indeed yourself aren’t reflected in the paintwork, glass or chrome. If they are, well then it’s not much more than a snap. But sometimes, you can use reflections to your advantage. That was the case when I saw this Porsche — a 911 Turbo S Exclusive Series — in the supercar paddock. I was first drawn to it because of the striking colour, but as nice as it was, I just couldn’t get a perfect shot of it — something was always in the way. Eventually, it occurred to me that I could use the poster behind the car to create something interesting. It just so happened the image was of exactly the same car. By carefully framing my shot I captured the reflection of the poster on the actual car. It made for an eye-catching composition. Looking at the photos, the viewer would have no idea that one of the cars wasn’t actually real!

Rolls-Royce Black Badge| Festival of Speed, Goodwood | 29 June 2017

Despite building their cars at Goodwood, this year was the first time that the marque had a major presence at the Festival of Speed. They created an impressive installation that focused on their sport-oriented Black Badge models. Although I spent much of my time there as there was so much happening. these two images are of the most visible symbol of Black Badge, the all-black Spirit of Ecstasy.

Central Display| Festival of Speed, Goodwood | 2 July 2017

One of my favourite things to photograph each year is the central display that sits in front of Goodwood House. Every year Gerry Judah creates a new structure for whoever happens to be the featured marque. For the first time, 2017 celebrated a person rather than a car company as it recognised the career of F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone. I have to say, choosing Ecclestone was a fairly divisive decision and that, in my eyes, the structure itself was one of the least memorable and least interesting I’ve seen at Goodwood — mainly because it was visually so similar to some recent displays. What’s more, there were very few angles where you could shoot it and still see the cars. Being the most photographed subject at the Festival, getting ‘original’ images of it was a big challenge, especially as it needed a deep blue sky to really set it off the white metal and whenever I was near it, the sky was overcast. Fortunately, my perseverance paid off and I managed to get some shots with the perfect colour sky — although none that included all five cars.

Lancia Astura Aerodinamica Castagna Coupé | Concours of Elegance, Hampton Court Palace | 3 September 2017

One of 60 special cars taking part in the 6th Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, the Lancia Astura Aerodinamica Castagna Coupé was rightly awarded Best in Show. The one-of-a-kind, aluminium-bodied Lancia was built between 1933–35 for Benito Mussolini’s son, Vittorio by Carrozzeria Castagna in Milan. Today, this fabulous car is owned by Ton Meijer of Den Haag, The Netherlands who has had it fully restored to its original specification by Paul Grist. The restoration itself took seven years, but his biggest challenge was deciding on the colour. When he acquired it, from a museum in Germany, it was bright red, but the original colour was unknown as only black and white photos existed. All the documentation said was it was green, so in the end, Meijer chose to create his own unique shade, a kind of greyish-green. For me, the challenge was getting some unique shots of the car when it was almost continually surrounded by admirers. Both these images are Prismas, but my favourite is the one above because it looks like an illustration from the 30's.

Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder | Goodwood Revival | 9 September 2017

At last year’s Revival, one of my favourite cars to shoot was a classic Maserati on display at the Earls Court Motor Show. It was the same in 2017 when another gorgeous red Maserati was the star attraction: a 1960 3500 GT Vignale Spyder. Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, just 242 Spyders were built between 1959 and 1964. Today, it’s thought less than 200 examples survive. Of those, this is considered one of the best. Shooting this year’s car was even more challenging as it was now not on a revolve. With so many people surrounding it, just getting a clean shot wasn’t easy, let alone avoiding shadows and reflections.

And finally, I have to include this one…

2017 marked Ferrari’s 70th anniversary and this was one of the cars celebrating that milestone at this year’s Concours of Elegance. It’s a 1961 250 GT SWB California Spider and this Prisma image has special significance for me. It was my first ever image chosen by 500px to be featured in their Editor’s Choice. To date, it has over 32,000 views, making it, by far, my most viewed photo on 500px!

But the story gets even better. On 22 December I learnt that the photo had been selected by the 500px Editorial Team as one of their favourites of 2017. In fact, it was one of just three images in the Transportation category. They described it as a “unique take” that showcased the design elements of a vintage car.

Equipment: Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus 75mm 1.8 prime lens, all shot handheld with available light only

Follow me on Twitter

See more of my images at 500px

Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people