Shooting an Aston Martin DB2/4

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As I eluded to in an earlier post, I recently shot an 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 for The Automobile magazine. The results are in the latest issue, which is out now. Here’s a bit of background on the shoot.

While I’m shooting a car, one of the things I’m constantly looking for is the ‘hero shot’, the image that can lead the article and entice the reader. And maybe, if you’re lucky, even make the cover of the magazine.

The DB2 is a seriously pretty car – arguably prettier than the poster boy of the family, the DB5 (in my humble opinion, of course). So it isn’t difficult to make it look good, but a good hero image should tell a story, whether that’s through dynamism, revealing an aspect of the car’s character or simply by placing it somewhere that’s both contextually relevant and visually spectacular.

We shot the car at Bicester Heritage, a former WWII bomber base that’s now the UK’s centre of excellence for historic and classic vehicle restoration. A very interesting location for sure, but one that’s been photographed to within an inch of its life at the quarterly Sunday Scramble meets. The challenge was to utilise the location to its fullest extent without resorting to the familiar, over-used vistas.

Probably my favourite image of the day was this overhead shot. We found an old and very sketchy set of warehouse steps lying around, which we manhandled into position for me to get this elevated viewpoint. Easier said than done with the wind blowing a gale and a serious fear of heights. The things I do for my art.

What I particularly like about the shot is the contrast in textures between the cracked road surface and the smoothness of the car. It really accentuates the gorgeous lines of that body, penned by Aston’s in-house designer Frank Feeley. The slight reflection in the puddle is nice too.

Bicester Heritage has its own short test track, which we used to get some tracking and panning shots. This shot of the car cornering conveys real dynamism and motion, demonstrating the handling characteristics of the car with, in my eyes, even a bit of a car chase vibe to it. This was ultimately the shot used to lead the article.

I was careful to only shoot the car from certain angles on the track, so as not to clutter the background with the site buildings, keeping the focus on the car itself. The large expanse of green in the background is the airfield, which is still in use and therefore required a significant amount of Photoshopping to remove the numerous cones, barriers and distant elements that littered the background.

With a location as photogenic and evocative as Bicester to play with, it would have been crazy not to make use of it. I avoided some of the more obvious and recognisable areas of the site, particularly around the hangers, and tried to find a spot that might intimate a story. Maybe that of a successful post-war businessman who enjoys the odd trip to the continent in his newly-acquired grand tourer.

And what a car it is. A proper gentleman’s cruiser that is thankfully unmolested and in very original condition. You’ve read those stories of how Hollywood actors fall in love with their co-stars? That’s pretty much the case with every shoot I undertake; weeks of mild infatuation spent looking online at cars I won’t ever be able to afford, with yet another car added to the Lottery Bucket List. This DB2 is no exception.

If you’re in any doubt as to why, just take a look at the details.

One of the lovely things about the car is that it has been actually been used as a grand tourer, as evidenced by the period modifications to the interior. Firstly, a mini toolkit has been fitted between the front seats.

And, secreted away in the passenger footwell so ingeniously that it looks like a factory fitting, is a box of spares. Being a bit (okay, a lot) of a packaging and advertising geek, I was very excited to find this and have a good old rummage through.

Considering the shoot took place on a bitterly cold and extremely grey day in the middle of January, I’m pretty pleased with the results. The car looks fantastic and the location is perfect without stealing the limelight from the car.

You can see more images and read all about the Aston DB2/4 in the March 2020 issue of The Automobile, out now. You can also have the magazine delivered direct to your door.

From the cutting room floor

And finally, as a little bonus, here are a few images that didn’t make the final article but are probably worthy of a wider audience.

The reverse of the earlier shot outside the building, using leading lines to draw the eye towards the car.

This is the bit where I’m lying on the ground, praying that the 65-year-old brakes are still up to scratch.

A tracking shot, taken at the other side of the track and showing Bicester Heritage in the background. Not the most picturesque, unfortunately.

And a wide shot to finish.

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