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Making of the ‘Ecclestone Collection’ anniversary book

26th August 2009

How do you document 50 years of Grand Prix history in one day? The task was to shoot 24 historic sports cars, some with an estimated value of over $10 million dollars a piece, in 12 hours as the book would begin with a dawn shot and end with a dusk shot. Once we had chosen a spot we needed to shoot some rough tests with a Caterham to ensure we were getting what we needed. This also helped us define the size of the canvas and framework required, the general position for the camera, which decided where our power needs would be, and the way in which we would need to bring the cars in. After all, they had to roll on to the set, get photographed and roll out again at a pace of one every 30 minutes without fail. No time for lunch then!

How do you document 50 years of Grand Prix history in one day? The task was to shoot 24 historic sports cars, some with an estimated value of over $10 million dollars a piece, in 12 hours as the book would begin with a dawn shot and end with a dusk shot. Once we had chosen a spot we needed to shoot some rough tests with a Caterham to ensure we were getting what we needed. This also helped us define the size of the canvas and framework required, the general position for the camera, which decided where our power needs would be, and the way in which we would need to bring the cars in. After all, they had to roll on to the set, get photographed and roll out again at a pace of one every 30 minutes without fail. No time for lunch then!

We utilised the help of a Bahraini events company to supply the structure for our canvas framework. This had to be as decorative as possible, as it would feature in the shots.

Come the day we arrived before sunrise and began the full set-up, this was hindered slightly by the fact that we had a 25mph wind to contend with. Large canvases and strong winds don’t really go together well. We doubled up on sandbags and started rolling in the cars. This in itself was a task. Firstly, they had to arrive in order. Because of the way the book was designed the cars are lit from dawn through midday to dusk in their correct chronology, so we needed them to arrive correctly. No easy task when you consider they were being unpacked from 12 containers in the main carpark by hand (2 to a container), by a small team of trusted workers, surrounded by security guards, searched and supervised by customs guards and everybody was more interested in getting them to the safety of the display tent rather than onto a dusty, hot, sometimes busy race track. Add to this the fact that they either can’t, or aren’t ready, to move under their own steam and the whole thing becomes something of a logistical nightmare.

When the first cars arrived at the track, pulled behind a quad and steered by their keeper, it was hard to quell everyone’s excitement at the chance to touch a piece of motor racing history (or a $10 million dollar car, whichever way you look at it), but the heavy deadline required that we stayed focussed and got on with the job. We shot the first car, wheeled it out of the set and began the process of shooting the details which would be needed for each cars page. In all we had 4 photographers, one on the main car portraits, one on the details, me capturing the behind-the-scenes moments of the day (when I wasn’t busy tracking everything else) and a fourth photographer documenting our involvement.

The blazing heat of the Bahraini sun on a black tarmac track soon began taking it’s toll and we had to shuttle the hire car back and forth from the Paddock bringing more and more water and soft drinks, using the cars air-con as a makeshift fridge on the track itself. The heat was having unexpected effects elsewhere also, with the wireless communicators between the flash guns and the camera becoming increasingly temperamental.

By midday we were approximately an hour behind, but the novelty had firmly worn off from the early morning and, despite the growing heat, we began to get quicker.

Constantly reviewing the shots on a laptop in the car took up a fair amount of time in itself, but by 4pm we were back on track again and had all the remaining cars sitting in a row ready to be wheeled in.

The last cars went through and although we were exhausted and there was a lot of pressure from everybody to pack up and let them go home we hung out for a real ‘night’ shot with the lights of the BIC and Sakhir tower glowing majestically atop their incredible structures.

In all quite a day, but no time to rest on our laurels, there were still 20 leather bound, boxed 108 page VVIP books and 500 soft covered versions to be laid out, approved, printed, finished and delivered within 5 days, but that’s another story.

Brian Published by Brian 26th August 2009
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