It’s About Solving Problems

When everything goes exactly to plan it’s easy to get the shot, but what if your ducks aren’t in the same pond, let alone in a row? That’s when you’ve got to work harder to pull something out of the bag. It tests your mettle and pushes your ability to make the best of what you have to work with.

I came up against this sort of situation again recently at Santa Pod. The Fast Show is the first show of the modified season in the UK and being March, the weather can be is bit hit or miss. In this case, it missed. In the first few hours we had rain, then sleet and finally some snow – none of which is conducive to running cars down a drag strip!

Trying to dry the track as the sleet comes down

Trying to dry the track as the sleet comes down

But… everyone was there and trying to make the best of it, including one of my clients who now sponsor a lane on the strip and needed some publicity photos. The Performance Direct girls Faye and Hayley were brave enough to come out from under cover so it was time to get planning. Here’s the thought process:

    • A closed drag strip is bad for all the people wanting to see how fast their daily driver can do a 1/4 mile but good for me as it means I can use the freshly resurfaced start line as my location. The wet surface will also give a nice reflection of the girls red wellies.
    • With my 70-200mm racked out to 200mm I can compress the scene and bring the famous Santa Pod sign closer.
    • The sky is a very flat, dull grey so to get some interest in the clouds I will under expose by 2 stops.
    • Underexposing will mean Faye and Hayley are dark, so I need a flash. It’ll make the red and white outfits pop nicely against the grey background too.
    • It’s pouring with rain so I’m using one of my old Nikon SB24’s. I’m not risking one of my Quadras.
    • I’ve got limited power with the flash so I’m going to have to crank it quite high and use it bare. Too windy for a softbox anyway.
    • I’ll fly it on a boom as I need to get quite a way back at 200mm and I don’t want to have to Photoshop the stand out in post.
    • A quick check with the light meter tells me im at f/11 at 1/160th. Test shot of the back of my hand to double check.

Time to get the girls on “set”!

Finessing the pose: The ancient art of Brolly Tweaking

Finessing the pose: The ancient art of Brolly Tweaking

It was wet, windy and cold so I had to work fast but with everything thought through and dialed in while they were in the warmth of the media centre I could concentrate on getting a good pose and composition and be done in a few minutes.

Here’s the final set up. Shot from a low angle, zoomed to 200mm, flash high, to camera left, client looking on and Fay and Hayley doing what they do best.

The final set up

The final set up

And here’s the resulting image, used by Performance Direct across their various channels. Big thanks to Faye & Hayley, Matt at PD, Suze at Santa Pod for her hospitality and Darren for the behind the scenes shots.

The final result


  1. Ernie Savarfese

    Hi Simon!!.. Great picture and post… I Always like reading your posts.. always really good info and of course great photos with Fantastic girls!!.. Cheers!!

  2. Rob

    The washout weekend wasn’t what we had hoped for as our first show as sponsor at Santa pod. But while the show was a wash out I was massively impressed with the endurance of the attendees and how the show was captured by the photographers we had there. This particular shot by Simon immediately impressed me when it landed on my desk and as an amateur photographer myself I’d wondered how it was shot. Its interesting to read just how much effort you went to. The result has been well worthwhile though and we’ve already used this image in a few places. Great work Simon.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.