The London To Brighton Car Rally 2021

The London to Brighton Car Rally 2021

The London to Brighton Car Rally is the world’s longest running motoring event and as Sunday the 7th of November 2021 commemorated the 125th anniversary of the famous Emancipation Run of November 1896, I wanted to photograph it and share what we learned from a photography perspective so that other people may find aspects of our experience useful.

The London to Brighton run has taken place most years since its initial revival in 1927. It currently takes place on the first Sunday in November, starting at sunrise in Hyde Park London. mostly following the old A23 road to the finish at Brighton – a distance of 54 miles (87 km).

Previously Fran and I tried photographing the cars and drivers within Hyde Park about 8 years ago, but learning from that experience I wanted to minimise the distractions of high visibility jackets and security fencing at the starting point.

After looking at the route we concluded that Constitution Hill was probably a good option photographically, so we caught the Tube to Hyde Park Corner and the walked down Constitution Hill to look for photographic vantage points, but due to a tube delay we arrived just as the first cars were leaving the starting point.

Lens Choice & Lighting

We both decided to use Sony 24mm-105 F/4 lenses, as this would offer a good mix of wide and lower telephoto options, the extra reach from 70mm to 105mm can really make a difference and as a travel lens the 24mm-105mm is a good choice. Moreover, lugging around 70mm-200mm lenses together with the other things we were doing in London was just not practical. In terms of focal length, the 24mm-105mm strikes a good balance and when I can only take one lens, this is the one I take.  As I knew f/4 at sunrise could be problematic lighting wise, I decided to take a Godox AD100 flash and pair it with a Mag Mod Mag-Beam, so that I could throw some directional light at the cars, well that was the theory.

Overall, the idea of combing some fill flash was hit and miss, but it was far better than not having flash at all. The combination of using a Godox AD100 and a MagBeam, was ideal for the distance and lighting levels and I would certainly use this combo again and if we had arrived on time, I would have had more set up time for the placement of the Godox AD100 and increased my hit rate.

Photographic Intention

As Fran and I were in London for the weekend and were also doing other things apart from photographing the London to Brighton Car Rally, taking lenses like a 70mm-200mm was not really practical, which is why we decided on taking the 24mm-105mm as it would be well suited to our other needs whilst in London.

My photographic intention was to take a mixture of images of the cars and drivers, but in relation to Constitution Hill, it was mainly panning shots I wanted. On reflection the 24mm-105mm was a good choice focal length wise, but a f/2.8 lens would have helped. Due to the initial lighting in the early morning even with a kick of flash, I still needed to up the ISO even shooting at 1/125th. Although the classic cars are not hurtling down the street a f/2.8 lens would at least provide an extra stop of light and early November morning light levels are far from perfect.

I think the challenges of photographing the sections from Hyde Park down to the Mall are all in relation to levels of lighting and obviously that will also be dependent to weather conditions. Maybe by the time the cars reach Westminster Bridge, lighting levels wise you may have gained a stop of extra ambient light? Like with any event photography the more you do it you learn what works and in terms of location that is certainly true.

Photographing London to Brighton (On Reflection)

Lens choice wise would I take the 24mm-104mm again? Yes & No, Things to ponder:

Lens choice will depend on your photographic intention and possible other factors.

A f/2.8 70mm-200mm would be a good choice lighting wise if you wanted head on shots, but panning shots on Constitution Hill could be limiting, but not impossible. If all I had been doing in London was photographing the London to Brighton Car Rally on Constitution Hill, then I would take this lens.

A 24mm-70mm F/2.8 would provide an additional stop of light, but personally I would miss the extra reach of a 24mm-105mm.

A prime lens? Personally, I think a zoom is more practical in relation to where I was positioned on Constitution Hill.


As I do a lot of off camera flash, it’s a style I like personally and if I were to photograph the London to Brighton Car Rally again, yes, I would take a flash, probably two Godox AD100s paired with Magbeam and use the light trap method, I think that would work really well.  

Would I use on camera flash? No, not for me personally.


I think location is probably an area that I would do differently and here are a few reasons why.

The problem with the early start to the London to Brighton Car Rally in November is the light, it’s still virtually dark at the start and this can be a good or bad thing in relation to your photographic intention.

I think the Mall might be a little better light wise as it is wider than Constitution Hill and by the time the cars reach the final parts of the Mall, you would probably have gained a little more ambient light? So, I think next time I would try that location or Westminster bridge.

The Official site for the London to Brighton Car Rally





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