A Monkey's Revenge - My Blog

Roving around Rover

Last week was an interesting one for me. I gave my first talk for Manfrotto up in Sheffield at Harrisons Cameras Training Centre, where I met the excellent Phil Coates who was also giving a talk about his action and travel photography and videography.

One of my jobs last week was to photograph the Jaguar Land Rover production line at JLR Solihull for The Guardian. I recognised the Lode Lane site immediately. Clearly I have excellent visual memory, because I remembered it from when my late Uncle Tom Robertson worked for Rover on the same site and although he wouldn't recognise the place these days it's still shoe-horned into the same place.

The new plant is very swish and so are the vehicles they produce there. Last year I photographed the JLR boss, Ratan Tata and under his company's stewardship JLR are doing really well. First impressions and the one that my Uncle Tom would have noticed is how few workers there are on the production line compared to the old days. Robots everywhere and it does resemble a scene from the Terminator movies. Very clean everywhere and also very high tech. Men and women mind the machines as the robots pick up and assemble aluminium sections of the new light weight Land Rovers and Range Rovers.

As the machines go about their business, fork lift trucks and electric vehicles towing bins of parts navigate the areas between them. I hadn't expected so much safety to be in place, but there are cages around all the robots and before you can even tour the place you have to sit through a safety film. Safety goggles, high vis vests and even watch protectors must be worn.

We passed another tour going in the opposite direction-a party of youngsters being shown around. Time was of the essence so I grabbed photo opportunities wherever I saw them but also missed a few where there simply wasn't time to stop and take pictures. At the end of the tour a surprise was in store- I met a photographer mate who was doing a PR shoot for JLR- great timing as it was the day the 500,000th Range Rover Sport vehicle was rolled off the line, destined for a lucky owner in Dubai.

We compared notes about the pretty awful lighting in parts of the factory. Perfect for production of cars, not so good for photography! My friend mentioned that he needed to use flash to light the people on his PR shots, but of course that shines back from the flourescent safety jackets they all wore,(and not possible to remove them as that would show the safety aspect in a bad light if you will excuse the pun). His solution was to take pics with and without the flash and then blend the images together in photoshop....clever stuff!

Leaving the assignment in my beaten up old Ford car felt a little sad after looking at all those nice shiny 4x4 vehicles.
Especially as further down the road my battery warning light came on and I realised the poor Focus needed a new alternator!


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