It was 5am on the second day of an awesome advertising campaign and PR shoot for the McLaren MP2 12C when the pieces finally started to fit together. It’s damn early, still pitch black and shivering cold, as we pitched up at the Bahrain Grand Prix Ci
rcuit. A shooting sequence was planned the night before and the car now awaited its return to the track, polished and gleaming to perfection.
Looking back at Adobe Lightroom (my photo editing software), I took the first picture at 6.10am. The sky was still a little too dark so I brought in some flash making the car pop out nicely. Sixteen minutes later and the magic really happened thanks to a pre-dawn sky that failed to disappoint. The next ten to fifteen minutes involved a hectic series of compositions adjusting the exposure as the sky got brighter. By 6.44am the warm, rich colours of the morning sky were pretty much over but replacing my wide lens for a tighter one, I still managed to come in closer and capture some sweet shadows.
Next up was a driving sequence. We had the track all to ourselves, which I love as it gives me the freedom to move. Lot’s of handheld, slow-shutter panning magic mean the car looks like it’s reaching a top speed of 300km/hour even when doing 30km/hour tops. Most fail but the ones that work, work wonders! By 7.30am we return to the pit lane, done and dusted. Getting up at 4am can be a beast but with shoots like this, so worth it.
I find the Bahrain circuit, like many others, a challenging location to shoot. I’m not judging the track which people rave about for its nice corners, elevation changes and the long straights to put your foot down. My challenge was to identify the audience with where we were. What landmark or feature conveys this? The Abu Dhabi circuit has the Yas hotel and Monaco has its street scene and big yachts. Both, therefore become instantly recognisable but most circuits miss an eye catcher. On Formula One race day, there is branding galore to rectify this but in Bahrain, that’s not for another month. Bahrain does, however, have their race control tower with a big Bahraini flag on top so I ended up shooting this from every angle imaginable, including flat on the floor at turn 12 with my 400mm lens.
Looking back at this two day shoot, it’s been fantastic, helped of course by an amazingly stunning car. It was inspiring to see the Chris Goodwin (McLaren’s chief test driver) and his team of pro drivers at work, especially when I was lying in the boot of the 7 series shooting car to car stuff. Imagine lying in the boot of a car, tossed around the circuit with two McLaren’s close behind? I mean very close … you’ve gotta trust these guys! Thanks to the team at McLaren for bringing me over and the crew at Performance PR for looking after me. I’m looking forward to the big double spread in the next issue of Top Gear.
As for my comments on Facebook about my personal police escort out of Bahrain? All true although not because of bad behaviour. Landing at Manama airport with a serious amount of photography kit, in a country that’s going through political turbulent times does set off a few alarm bells. Who, what, where, when, why? Everything had been announced and cleared pre-shoot, letters issued etc, but it still took a crazy four hours to get through customs. Frustrating times but little to do than wait … at least my request to slip out for a Costa Coffee was honoured, leaving my bags to insure my return! Eventually, the Ministry rang with the all clear and I only needed to complete a temporary import document for my equipment. The same document needed re-stamping on my departure and just to make sure I really was leaving, a policeman escorted me all the way through to passport control which worked out a treat as we skipped all the queues and enjoyed the fastest check-in ever!
Finally, I wish Chris Goodwin the best of luck later this month with his attempt to break the track record at the Abu Dhabi Yas Marina Circuit. Yes, that’s how damn fast these cars are..