behind the scenes: winning bentley modelS

A historic Bentley scene 79 years apart, on the same track. The original Le Mans dominating Bentley 3-litre together with the latest Bentley to conqueror the legendary race, the Speed 8.

Official Bentley Photographer during the 2003 Le Mans race, Dominic Fraser, the same as many photographers over the past few weeks was at home with most jobs cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but was keen to stay creative, keep his mind active and keep taking pictures.

“Having seen the Audi Quattro Lego model on Instagram I thought that’s really cool, I want one of those. So ordered it off the internet, it arrived and I thought what could I do with it? Having a few Lego men lying about I decided I’d recreate a rally stage.”

This was a new realm for Dominic, having been an automotive photographer for 28 years, both photography and cars in general being a childhood passion. However, he had never photographed models before. It paid off as his work went viral.

With an ambition to make his scenes look as realistic as possible, Dominic studied each image he wanted to recreate paying attention to the way it was lit. Then drawing on all of his photography experience, using techniques he would normally use when shooting cars, as well as some new ones, but just on a much smaller scale, allowed him to get the images as realistic as possible – albeit with Lego models.

The anniversary of our Le Mans victories was approaching on 14-15th June, of our first win in 1934 in John Duff’s 3-litre supported by Frank Clement as a factory driver, and of our first win since our return to motorsport in 2003. We were keen to make use of Dominic’s unique approach and develop an image, but with a Bentley edge. In a coincidental fashion, Dominic was the official Bentley photographer at the historic win in 2003, following on from being the photographer bestowed with the responsibility to capture the development of the Speed 8 right from the concept stage. As such, he would be endeavoring to recreate his own work.

“Being at Le Mans for that year was such a sensational thing, and to be a part of it was an honour. There were many British fans there, and there was a real expectation that Bentley would do it, and win. The car looked so good, probably one of the best-looking cars there that year, and this really helped with the excitement – it still looks contemporary 17 years later. It was a joy of a car to photograph.”

When we approached Dominic, he jumped at the chance to take his miniature photography to the next level – the brief; make it Bentley. Make it as real as you can, but only with the objects you have around you in the house, aside from of course the 1:43 replica Bentley models that we would package up and mail to Dominic.

With a stretch of tarmac created out of wet and dry paper and a blanket over cushions to create the famous “S” du Tertre Rouge corner, Dominic’s creativity to create the scene was endless.

“For the closer trees, I used Asparagus. They were roughly the same size, and stood just like the Pine Trees in the original photo. For the further away trees, well the shop had sold out of Broccoli, so I happened to have an Ikea house plant that I just cut up and put in place.”

Dominic continued to explain the materials used, with the Dunlop Bridge being simply a printed image mounted to some cardboard and placed perfectly in the background. The fencing was created by cutting up a coat hanger and moulding into shape, as they were the right thickness based on the scale of size, with a crowd behind made from a pack of 1:50 model figures.

The biggest challenge to actually shoot the scene was a lack of depth of field Dominic explained.

“You can focus on the front of the car, but then everything else is out of focus. So what I did is used a technique called Focus Stacking. Which is where you take the first photograph and focus on the front of the car, such as the front wing on the Speed 8. Then take another photograph where you move the focus ever so slightly, to say the windscreen and another on the spoiler, and so on until each part of the car is in focus on a separate photograph. Those images are then all combined in Photoshop to make sure the cars themselves are correctly focused. At the same time using that method, still keeps the background relatively out of focus so you can see all the things that matter, but because they are out of focus you don’t have to worry about the detail therefore creating a very accurate representation of the scene.”

Once the cars were positioned, the scene was built around them. Seven images were taken and combined following the focus stacking technique, something Dominic had not done before. Therefore, he experimented first on the Audi scene again to ensure it worked before attempting the Bentley shot.

The result we think is extraordinary, and certainly worthy to celebrate the milestone wins for Bentley, with both cars on the same track at the same time.

Download all of the photos, including behind the scenes, from Dominic’s recent creation below.

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