10 December 2022
As one of Jaguar Land Rover’s favoured photographers, David Shepherd is closely associated with the brand, but his love affair with the green oval stretches back to childhood
David Shepherd is one of the UK’s most accomplished motoring photographers with a hugely impressive CV that includes some of the world’s leading magazines and vehicle manufacturers. Right at the top of that list of clients is Jaguar Land Rover and for nearly 15 years, Shepherd has been one of a select number of photographers responsible for shooting the firm’s latest models – in fact, there is a good chance that when you open a motoring magazine and see the newest incarnation of a Range Rover or Discovery, it will either have been this man behind the camera, or regular LRM contributor Nick Dimbleby, with whom Shepherd has worked closely for a considerable number of years.
Given his link with JLR, it may come as no surprise to find that Shepherd’s humble garage in a quiet corner of Berkshire is occupied by an 88in Series II. Of course, it would perhaps be simple to assume that Shepherd’s Land Rover journey began with his work with JLR, but like so many, his passion originates long before that relationship ever came about.
“I spent the first five years of my childhood in New Zealand,” he explains. “Like many parts of the world at that time – particularly in more rural areas – Land Rovers were a constant presence and so it was almost natural to develop some level of interest in them.”
Just two of the period promotional posters that adorned Shepherd’s bedroom walls back in his native New Zealand
Perhaps ironically, given his then unmapped future photographing performance and supercars for titles such as evo and Car, the posters on his bedroom wall were not just of sleek-lined Ferraris or testosterone-fuelled Lamborghinis, but promotional offerings advertising the capabilities of both Series II and III Land Rover models – items which Shepherd recently unearthed some 40 years later. “I guess I was attracted to their rugged looks,” he smiles. “Obviously their ability to go wherever was needed, something that the posters played heavily on, was also an enticing factor.”
However, it would be several decades later before his relationship with the marque was reignited: “I ended up doing some photography for a Land Rover magazine in the early 2000s and, although it was a complete contrast to the performance car material that made up a significant part of my work, it triggered something within and reminded me what appealed about them when those posters were on my bedroom wall at home.”
His first major Land Rover experience was shooting a jungle drive in Malaysia, but soon after he found himself in Uganda – this time photographing Land Rover’s work with the Born Free organisation. Born Free’s fleet consisted of various models from the Land Rover stable and he made the decision to actively pursue the possibility of working more with Jaguar Land Rover.
Shepherd found the answer to his Land Rover dream lay in the iconic shape of this Series IIA
“Compared with other car manufacturers, I liked the fact that Land Rover got properly involved in other aspects of life such as various charitable campaigns,” Shepherd explains. “They liked adventure and weren’t afraid to go to different places and do different things – as a photographer, that was rather exciting.”
As a result, Shepherd started working directly with the company in 2006, but it would be a few years before he bought his first Land Rover: a Keswick Green 90 Defender pick-up that served as a second vehicle and general country hack. “It was less than ideal as a photographer’s car,” he laughs. “The harshness of the suspension meant you couldn’t photograph from it with any success.”
That pick-up eventually gave way to a Discovery Commercial which, in direct contrast, proved to be almost perfect as everyday transport. “I kept that for five years and clocked up 65,000 miles, but although it had never given me any issues, I thought it best to move on before problems arose thanks to a combination of age and use.”
It may not be a restoration winner but, sitting high on a set of Rangemasters and with a solid chassis beneath, it’s Shepherd’s perfect antidote to JLR’s more advanced offerings
There was a brief gap without a Land Rover on the drive, but Shepherd was busier than ever photographing not just the firm’s latest models, but also its heritage fleet: “The collection of Series vehicles would often be in attendance on media days and events that I was shooting and I began to think about possibly owning something a little older.
“I had originally been thinking about a Series I, but it was just at the point where earlier examples – particularly 80in models – were really gaining momentum and being labelled as investments; before I knew it, prices were becoming unjustifiable for me.”
Fifty shades of green and some DIY wiring hint at its keep-it-running past
The irony of course, is that in many ways it was JLR’s own doing. With the formation of its Classic division and the Reborn programme, desirable examples were commanding more money than ever and starting to appeal to a new type of owner, but for Shepherd it meant looking at a different section of the market.
“The next logical rung on the ladder was the Series II and suddenly I realised that it perhaps made more sense than a Series I. I could still satisfy my basic desire, but for an achievable amount of money, with access to readily available and often cheaper spares. evo magazine founder and serial Land Rover owner, Harry Metcalfe, also suggested that the Series II was more practical – more space, nicer to drive and generally more usable.”
Not only that, but for this photographer, he actually preferred the visual appeal of a Series II: “For me there is something more iconic about its evolved design; I guess it has been around longer – essentially through to the last of the classic-shaped Defenders and so is what always sprang to mind when I thought of a Land Rover.”
Engine bay boasts some old fixes, but the 2 .25 petrol is a healthy unit
As it happened, Shepherd was in luck and his decision coincided with a 1964 Series IIA 88in coming up for sale in the area. Even better, it was one that he already knew of and, with documented history and maintenance, meant that any risks were minimised. “The price was right and with Bronze Green paintwork and a sand-coloured full tilt, it was pretty much spot-on.”
As many owners will know, buying the right vehicle for them is as much about listening to what the heart says as what the head is telling you, and although the bodywork had been repainted with roller and brush some years ago and various keep-it-going-type modifications made during its life, the chassis was solid, the mechanicals were strong and, as far as the owner was concerned, it had the right stance.
“Like many Series vehicles, it was no longer on the 6x16 wheel and tyre combination and had instead been fitted with 7.5x16 Avon Rangemasters on LWB rims, but I liked the way they filled the arches a little more and gave the whole outfit a bit of purpose – plus, it still handled and steered well, which was important.”
The Series II was originally delivered to a regional hospital board and may well have been used to pull mobile units, as with this 109in
According to original factory information, the vehicle was dispatched to the Regional Hospital Board, Bristol on 11 March, 1964, and supplied in Mist White undercoat. Presumably it was then painted to suit whatever purpose it was destined to fulfil, but years of amateur repaints in the hands of subsequent owners offered little clue as to what its first colour might have been.
As was so often the case, the vehicle had also lost its original 3+3 registration – sold off at a point when the Land Rover’s value was probably at its lowest. But none of this bothered its new owner and over the next five years Shepherd enjoyed being able to not just put the Series II to good use when not away in far-flung locations photographing more technologically advanced offerings from the manufacturer, but also maintaining and slowly improving the 88in.
“It’s a good antidote to the ever-increasing dependency on tech that is so obviously present in the current crop,” he admits. “They are hugely capable and impressive, but I rather like having something that I can still spend a day tinkering with. And if I don’t fancy doing it myself, then even my local garage that works on more tractors than saloon cars is happy to get involved.”
The author at the wheel of David Shepherd’s Series II – roller and brushed paintwork still looking good after a decade (Photo: Tony Baker)
From a photographer’s perspective though, what is the appeal of having a Land Rover in front of the camera instead of a supercar? “The biggest difference has to be that you can literally put one anywhere and it won’t look out of place; on a road, up a mountain, in a field or in the city – they are so widely used and accepted that it’s virtually impossible to create an ambiguous combination of vehicle and setting.
“Photographing classic examples also makes you realise how accepting we are of things which are now seen as quality issues. Take the Series II for example – in certain light, its slab-sided shape with its natural ripples and panel gaps can almost look like it’s been in an accident, but the imperfections are what we love and accept. There would be uproar if the new Range Rover looked like that.”
Although Shepherd’s Series II is largely used as secondary transport near his Berkshire home, he admits that he does fancy putting it through its paces somewhere slightly further afield: “I’ve been lucky enough to be part of some amazing Land Rover experiences – Race for Recovery with injured servicemen in Morocco and several weeks in Iceland spring to mind, but I quite like the idea of a gentle drive in the quieter corners of Scotland in my Series II.
“A week or so of crawling along tracks to reach the wilder, more deserted areas of the countryside would provide a wealth of great memories as well as some superb photographic opportunities.”
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