A British Icon – Norton Motorcycles


Thursday 9th February 2012


Think of an iconic British symbol…a London black cab, fish & chips, a Royal Mail red pillar box…or a hand-built classic racing motorcycle…that would be the Norton brand.

Founded in 1898, to this day Norton Motorcycles Ltd is one of the only British manufacturers of sports motorcycles. Four years ago current CEO Stuart Garner jumped at the opportunity to purchase the iconic British brand and set out on a mission to revitalise its status on the world stage.

To illustrate Norton’s success story I was commissioned by Kevin – Deputy Picture Editor at The Sunday Times – to photograph Stuart Garner at the company’s headquarters based at Donington Park race circuit in Derbyshire.

The brief was to capture a strong portrait illustrating the classic Norton motorcycle and Stuart, with a strong British feel to the final image.

Upon arriving at Norton – on a bitterly cold February day – I was greeted by Stuart’s PA Kay who, over a cup of tea, gave me a brief tour of the Norton factory where currently four bikes a day are manufactured by hand.

I was soon met by Stuart, and having explained what I wanted to achieve, both Kay and Stuart were incredibly helpful and enthusiastic to ensure that the right shot was captured.

15 minutes later we were bombing around the Donington circuit in a BMW looking for the perfect location to set up the shot!

It soon became apparent that the pit lane offered the perfect area to work within, using the pit lane garages and the pit wall to frame Stuart with an iconic Norton bike.

The shoot followed as such: –

The Classic Norton Motorbike

Firstly we positioned the motorbike in the freezing pit lane, (note the snow on the ground – it was minus 2 degrees!)

Stuart Garner Stood in to Set Up the Shot

Stuart stood in to see how the shot may work.

Stuart Garner Tries to Stay Warm in the Pit Lane

With Stuart in place I could position my lights (3 location lights) to light Stuart, the motorcycle and a backlight to give highlight…we could now start trying some poses.

The First Initial Shots

Props were needed to add a splash of colour on such a cold day, so we tweaked the bike’s position and added the Union Jack: –

Tweaking the Shot and Adding Props

With Stuart and the flag in position, the shoot continued…

This Image was Used on the Masthead of The Sunday Times

I felt that the shot needed to be tighter as it felt a little too ‘loose’ with a lot of blank space around Stuart. So I suggested that Stuart sat on the bike.

Test Shot - Prior to Lights Being Set

With the new pose I felt the shot was really coming together, so a final tweak of the lights to once again light Stuart, the bike and add highlights allowed the whole freezing experience to work!

Setting the Lights for the Final Shot

With the lights set, Stuart in position and the iconic Norton motorcycle looking fabulous, this was the final shot published in The Sunday Times: –

Stuart Garner, CEO of Norton Motorcycles - Donington Park

My thanks go to Stuart and Kay who suffered minor frostbite on the day, but who were brilliantly enthusiastic in helping to achieve the right shot, which was used across page 6 of the Business section.