Pro­file – An­drew Hall

ProPhoto - - CONTENTS - IN­TER­VIEW BY ALI­SON STIEVEN-TAYLOR

An­drew Hall has done the hard yards when it comes to mo­tor­sports photography – in­clud­ing 15 Le Mans 24-hour races – so it’s pretty sig­nif­i­cant when he de­cides to dump his D-SLR kit for Fujifilm’s X Mount mirrorless sys­tem. He ex­plains why to Ali­son Stieven-Taylor.

Mo­tor­sports pho­tog­ra­pher An­drew Hall has seen plenty of changes dur­ing his 30 years be­hind the cam­era, but he’s now en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­brac­ing an­other one – ditch­ing his D-SLRs for a mirrorless cam­era sys­tem.

Mo­tor­sports can be gru­elling, and not only for the driv­ers and crews. Syd­ney-based pho­tog­ra­pher An­drew Hall knows only too well what it’s like to stay awake for 41 hours while cov­er­ing the fa­mous Le Mans en­durance race in France, or to weather the sand storms and blis­ter­ing desert heat in Bahrain. But de­spite the times when he’s been un­able to see be­cause of pelt­ing rain or con­versely from the sweat run­ning down his face, he wouldn’t change his job for any­thing.

Over 30 years, An­drew Hall has carved an en­vi­able ca­reer as one of the world’s top guns when it comes to shoot­ing “… any­thing with a throt­tle”. He first shot the Le Mans 24-hour en­durance race in 2001. It’s been staged on a ter­ri­fy­ingly fast street cir­cuit near the French town of the same name since 1923. This year marked An­drew’s 15th trip to Le Mans, so there’s no sur­prise when he says that it’s his favourite mo­tor­sports event.

To­day the race draws a crowd of around 225,000 and Hall says it is more like a fes­ti­val with the event run­ning over a week in June, and the 24-hour race for sports cars be­ing the high­light.

“It’s hard to ex­plain… there’s some­thing about hear­ing 150,000 peo­ple on the main straight in front of the grand­stand singing the French na­tional an­them – I’m get­ting goose bumps just talk­ing about it! It’s an event that has no equal and it gives the pho­tog­ra­phers so many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ev­ery year I’ve shot some­thing dif­fer­ent and that’s the aim… you don’t want to go to the same spots all the time. Each year there

I try to get it right in cam­era as much as I can, and that goes back to the old days when you were shoot­ing on trans­parency film, which was a real dis­ci­pline.

are dif­fer­ent clients and dif­fer­ent briefs which makes it a chal­lenge”.

For the first two years he shot Le Mans with film be­fore switch­ing to dig­i­tal and, while he says dig­i­tal has made it pos­si­ble for him to cap­ture shots he couldn’t get be­fore, it’s also dra­mat­i­cally im­pacted the way he works.

“When I first went to Le Mans there were no cru­cial dead­lines. Edi­tors knew that you had to process the films and send the slides by courier. There was no work­flow,” he laughs. “You’d go out and shoot, come back to the me­dia cen­tre, have a cof­fee, charge bat­ter­ies, make sure ev­ery­thing was clean on your cam­eras and go out again. Now it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent.”

Hall ex­plains that th­ese days he is shoot­ing for a lot of Web­sites and edi­tors want images im­me­di­ately. As soon as the flag drops his ’phone starts ring­ing with re­quests for pic­tures.

“Now I come in from a prac­tice ses­sion, down­load, cap­tion and send the images off as quickly as pos­si­ble. The ad­van­tage is that by the time I get on a plane to come home, my work is done. I’m thank­ful for that and for on­board WiFi too. I did a 24-hour race in Jan­uary in Florida. Fly­ing back to LA, I up­loaded all my stuff to FTP and sent it so, when I landed, the job was done.”

Lib­er­at­ing

Shoot­ing on dig­i­tal is “quite lib­er­at­ing” says Hall. “I ex­per­i­ment a lot more be­cause dig­i­tal is not cost­ing you like film did so there’s the op­por­tu­nity for greater va­ri­ety. An­other ad­van­tage you have with dig­i­tal is you can see what you’re get­ting right away and if the shot doesn’t work you can make ad­just­ments, or move a few feet to the left or right. I shoot com­pletely dif­fer­ently with dig­i­tal, and take more risk be­cause I can”.

While dig­i­tal imag­ing may spell cre­ative free­dom, Hall doesn’t sub­scribe to the dig­i­tal trend of tak­ing far more images than you need, which ul­ti­mately means more work in post-pro­duc­tion.

“In mo­tor sports we have what we call ‘the pray and spray’ where you switch it to aut­o­fo­cus, con­tin­u­ous high-speed drive and the minute the car is in the frame. it’s br­rrrrrrrrrrr [think ma­chine gun fire]. I still shoot like I’m shoot­ing film, so it’s wait,

wait, wait... and then maybe I take just one or two frames and keep pan­ning, then wait for the next frame. Other­wise you’ve got to edit all of that,” he says rolling his eyes. “You know peo­ple say ‘Oh, I got 2000 shots’, and I’m like, ‘ Well yeah, but you still have to down­load, go through them all and make a se­lec­tion, so why don’t you just wait? I try to get it right in cam­era as much as I can, and that goes back to the old days when you were shoot­ing on trans­parency film, which was a real dis­ci­pline.”

“I’ve em­braced dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, but it’s taken me a long while to get out of that film men­tal­ity that you can’t change the ISO. As the tech has got bet­ter, I’m shoot­ing stuff at ISO 1000, but there’s a lit­tle voice in the back of my head say­ing you shouldn’t be do­ing this,” he laughs. “That’s the legacy from 25 years of shoot­ing film.”

My clients don’t care what I shoot with, as long as I get the shots. I try not to be too evan­gel­i­cal, but with the qual­ity of the im­age and the us­abil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, the X-T2 re­ally is bul­let­proof.

Le­git­i­mate al­ter­na­tive In 2016 An­drew Hall shot Le Mans for Ford which was cel­e­brat­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of its fa­mous 1-2-3 fin­ish with the GT40 back in 1966. For An­drew it was the first time he’d shot the event on a mirrorless cam­era sys­tem rather than D-SLRs, tak­ing along the Fujifilm X-T2, then in pre-re­lease test­ing. In fact, he only took Fujifilm X Se­ries gear with him – an in­di­ca­tion of how con­fi­dent he is in the com­pany’s mirrorless sys­tem.

He says that the ver­sa­til­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity of the X-T2 has won him over, and he is par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the per­for­mance of the 100-400mm tele­zoom (equiv­a­lent to 150-600mm) which he says is now his “go to” mo­tor­sport lens be­cause of its com­bi­na­tion of fo­cal range, size and op­ti­cal per­for­mance.

“Fujifilm has made huge strides to be­come a le­git­i­mate al­ter­na­tive [to a D-SLR]. Even af­ter do­ing this job for 30 years, I still look at the back of the X-T2 and shake my head and think that’s not pos­si­ble. The stuff that is in dig­i­tal cam­eras was sci­ence fic­tion 20 years ago. I’m in the unique po­si­tion to see it de­velop and to grow, and ap­pre­ci­ate where we came from with film.”

An­drew Hall is one of a group of mo­tor­sports spe­cial­ists which is work­ing closely with Fujifilm on the X Mount mirrorless sys­tem. In 2015 he spent two days at Fujifilm’s head­quar­ters in Ja­pan work­ing with tech­ni­cal ex­perts im­prov­ing the per­for­mance of the aut­o­fo­cus on the 100-400mm tele­zoom. Ac­com­pa­nied by “…a fleet of aut­o­fo­cus tech­ni­cians”, he spent a day at the Fuji In­ter­na­tional Speed­way, cov­er­ing a sports car event and pro­vid­ing feedback af­ter each ses­sion.

“Fujifilm ac­tu­ally want to know what we like and what we’re un­happy with. We’re very hon­est with them. When I went to Bahrain later that year, Fujifilm gave me a new lens to test. It was chalk and cheese, and the de­vel­op­ment was amaz­ing. They are not afraid to make changes mid­de­sign based on our feedback. For me, this pro­motes loy­alty and confidence be­cause you know that the feedback you are giv­ing is be­ing taken on­board.”

Twenty-six­teen marked the third time Hall shot Aus­tralia’s in­ter­na­tional sports car en­durance race, the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour. This time his client was Bent­ley, and he shot with the Fujifilm X-T1.

He ob­serves, “My clients don’t care what I shoot with, as long as I get the shots. I’ve used the X Se­ries in the snow and in the mid­dle of Bahrain in the desert. This year I also shot the Day­tona 24 hour race on the X-T1. It was pour­ing with rain and I got caught out and didn’t have any cov­ers. It says the X-T1 is weather re­sis­tant and I couldn’t have got­ten it wet­ter if I’d dumped it into a bucket of wa­ter, but it kept run­ning!”

In con­clu­sion Hall says, “The X-T2 is even more ad­vanced. For Fujifilm to pro­duce a cam­era like this is very im­pres­sive. I try not to be too evan­gel­i­cal, but with the qual­ity of the im­age and the us­abil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity, the X-T2 re­ally is bul­let­proof”.

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