As I alluded to in my recent 2013 round up, I’ve become determined to carry out more personal work in the coming months. When you’re working week in and week out photographing all sorts, you can easily go into autopilot mode, doing whatever it takes to get things done. This can lead to staleness in the workflow, as you go through the motions to make sure deadlines are met. These situations can become a sort of vicious cycle, which can drain you of creativity and motivation. A dangerous combination.
This thought has been nagging away at me for quite some time. Last month, I got in touch with the very nice people at Skoda Ireland who rather kindly donated two cars for me to photograph at my leisure. With no deadlines, no brief and most importantly, no pressure, I set about shooting each car over the course of two weeks during whatever spare time I could free up. With Ireland in the winter being Ireland in the winter, it was a challenge in shooting outdoors at the best of times. One second it would be wet, overcast and windy whilst the next the sun would be parting the clouds casting some much deserved sunshine on our little green island. My aim for both shoots was to create something a little more polished than I usually would. Maybe not quite commercial quality, but something approaching it. Quality over quantity as the saying goes.
First up was the Octavia Combi Elegance 4×4 TDI. Skoda’s reputation of old is long since gone. However, it’s one thing to acknowledge this fact and quite another to experience it. The vehicle’s specification was overflowing with more than enough gadgets to keep me entertained during my week of ownership. In particular what I liked (and was fitted to both cars) was the digital multi function display in between the gauges. It was an absolute doddle to access my phone, change a song over bluetooth or cycle through the many different options which included a digital speedometer and oil temperature gauge amongst others. The half leather interior is perfect for the Irish climate and something I’ll most definitely consider on future purchases.
There’s no mistaking that the Octavia is a BIG car. But with the 150BHP TDI engine, mated to a six speed manual gearbox it was more than capable of pulling its weight. Its four wheel drive provided maximum traction when required and grip levels exceeded expectations. Okay, so it’s not a performance orientated vehicle (that’s what the RS model is for) but it did more than hold its own. Since handing it back, I’m honestly at a loss without its amazing practicality. It was comfortable, frugal, quick enough for daily driving duties, engine and gearshift were smooth and it could easily swallow up everything you can think of in the rear.
The second car I collected was the smaller Rapid Sportback. Although equipped with a much smaller 1.2 turbocharged petrol motor, it had more than enough fizz for around the town duties. Like the Octavia, it was impressively specced. A feat considering it’s a considerably cheaper car to purchase. With the Rapid having been recently refreshed I was rather surprised by the amount of enquires I got from the public about it when out and about. It drew an awful lot of positive attention during my limited time with the car, testament that the refresh was successful. The most impressive aspect of the Rapid for me was the fully glass roof. Not just for how much light it allows inside the car, but for how subtle its implementation was. It’s discreet from the outside but has a massive impact on the interior.
The most important part of the two weeks for me was the learning experience. Driving new cars, trying new things in camera and taking my time processing in an attempt to extract that little bit more from each photograph. I don’t consider these perfect, far from it, but I’ve learned things that the next time I take up residence behind the lens, I know areas where I can improve. That’s the point of it, right?
A huge thanks to Paddy Comyn and the staff at Automotive Team for trusting me with two brand new cars. I’m indebted to you.