Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Well that would be Brad and Andrea's Nissan S14a 200sx, True car enthusiast, and in no way newcomers when it comes to fast cars these are the people which make taking photos of peoples pride and joy worthwhile. You see, this car is not just a big dollar workshop slap together that runs big power on the dyno, this car was largely built by Brad and Andrea, every part meticulously researched for form and function rather than all show and no go. There is a reason why every modification was made to this car was done in a particular way or order, from the baffled and gated sump right through to the King Kong sized brakes, it was built with one purpose in mind, to go fast!
As a Performance car Mechanic by day, Brad gets to tinker with some pretty impressive machinery, but when you open the bonnet to this one of a kind 200sx you realise that this is no ordinary SR20, it seems a bit longer. 2 cylinders too long?
Yep, Underneath the somewhat unassuming refrigerator white exterior lies a 450+ Rear Wheel Kilowatt Nissan RB26, Trust T76 Turbo, A larger fuel supply than Iraq and a small fortune worth of braided lines. Brad rattles of the list of mods as I snap away, you sense a feeling of pride of what he has accomplished here, and rightfully so, every facet of the engine exudes quality and fine workmanship, welds on the pipe work are so perfect you would swear it was done by some sort of higher being, but I am assured it was all done by hand.
So now in complete awe of this machine, I somehow had to do it justice and take some photos worthy of representing such a fine car. Cars like this are so neat and tidy it's hard to find an ugly part of the vehicle to avoid, it just makes my life a little bit easier.
Like in my previous post, I stated how I was scouting for locations via technology, and this is one of them, located under the M7 motorway in Sydney's West. The location was an access road for the motorway and hence had no traffic at all, only a couple of curious onlookers passed by so the rest of the afternoon was smooth sailing. I tried to use the pillars supporting the overpass as a border for the car, but with a fence right behind my back framing the car perfectly between two pillars became a contortionist affair.
Lighting was kept rather simple, this time a few changes to my setup, a bit more formality by using 2 of the same flash for once! One day I might actually use 3 or 4 of the same.. Unlikely. This was the first time I had used my new Vivitar DF4000MZ's I picked up from the USA, these cheap and cheerful units pack some serious power, fully adjustable in power/tilt/swivel and can be triggered by radio transmitters or optically slaved, I'm convinced they are the new cult flash. Gear bag also for that day contained the ever faithful Sigma 500 Super, Canon G9 for video/behind the scenes and another use (keep reading) and a freshly charged Canon 1Dsmk2 (got new batteries finally)
As usual, I kept to the bread and butter shots first, Front on is always a good warm-up as they are usually the easier ones to do. Unfortunately the overpass did not completely cut out the sun, it was late afternoon so a large shadow was forming on the ground. Rather than try to "kill" it off with flash I got low like that crappy Flowrider song and avoided them that way.
With the front end done, onto the engine bay. At first I spent 5 minutes just drooling at the exotica under the bonnet, but I snapped out of that quick enough and got to shooting again, lighting changed a bit here, less power and deflected off the underside of the bonnet for a diffused look, this didn't work at all! So back to direct flash, never a good idea in an engine bay but with no soft box available I gave the polarizer a good twist and set off, rule of thumb for feature cars is to just snap everything you can as fast as you can, but this was a private shoot so I could concentrate on the amazing pipe work, the huge turbo and the braided lines that adorned the engine bay.
After spending way too long talking rather than working I noticed how dark it was becoming outside, I had to get my act together and do the quarter shots, these are my favourite as they are the "hero" shots of the car if you can put it that way, They are the more difficult but rewarding to get right and I like the challenge of been able to nail as much of the final image in camera as I can, so a lot of re-shuffling of lights, adjustments to power settings and playing with balancing ambient light with flash. After a bit of trial and error, I was starting to see some results I liked, so then I try to just get some slightly different compositions so I can make my mind up later as to what shot I like the best, the worst thing about the 1dsmk2 is the horrible low res screen, this makes viewing shots on location a bit of a pain, this would have to be my only criticism of the camera.
Next the interior, By a sheer act of Brilliance, I left the 17-40 at home so the 24-70 would have to do for today. As a rather tall guy contorting myself into a Bride Bucket seat is not an easy affair. Getting into the rear of a Silvia is even harder. After hearing every joint in my body crack in protest I managed to start snapping. The steering wheel of this car is totally awesome, so simple but has that race look and feel to it. I want one for the daily.
As mentioned before, I took the Canon G9 with me as it's a relatively small but very feature packed digital compact, with 12mp and built in Image stabilisation It makes an ideal tool for when using the big DSLR is both inconvenient or in this case dangerous to use. In previous post you might have seen various contraptions I had made to get rolling shots of cars, this was stooping to a new low.
Mini Tripod + Glass Holder + Packing tape and zip ties gets you this...
Rather than sacrificing the 1dsmk2 to the gods, I screwed the G9 onto the rig and slapped it on the door. Ingeniously canon has implemented an inbuilt ND filter in the G9, so long exposure in broad daylight is possible (Good Idea Canon) Set up the self timer and with an exposure time of 1second and first shot provided a pleasant surprise.
And that was a wrap, good afternoon of shooting and catching up.
Here is a Montage video of the shots taken and the final edits at the end.
Special Thanks to Matt Mead for assisting me with the shoot and providing the behind the scenes shots. (I owe you $4 for the Toll road too!)
After talking with some mates, we last night decided to just go all out. So onto the internet to check flights, accommodation and entertainment for the night. 2 hours later we had paid, booked and confirmed the most ruthless 24 hours known to man.
- Depart Sydney Airport for Gold Coast NYE at 1pm
- Party at private shindig for the night on Cavil Avenue Surfers Paradise.
- Leave New Years day at 10am back to Sydney!
This could be the most epic journey ever, or the most idiotic thing we have ever done... Either way I can't wait!
Splurged on some new kicks today, I have OCD when it comes to shoes but these SB's are pretty trick!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Just watching it I can see how lazy I am, I do absolutely no setting up for my own shoots.
More about this car in an upcoming post.
Till then, Merry Christmas.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The quest to find a Aus Delivered 5Dmk2 in Sydney continues, Massive "fuck you" to CameraHouse Caringbah for stuffing me around for the last 2 months. I'll pay whatever it takes... just give me one already.
In the mean time I'm processing shots from a shoot on Sunday, One of the longest shoots I've ever done but the owner was really cool about it. The car to say the least was a surprise that's for sure. I have the next 3 weeks off work to catch up on some sleep and do some stuff I've been wanting to do for a while so I might neglect the blog for a bit.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
One day I'll get around making one that doesn't look like a 5 year old made it (me) So if anyone wants to help me out with one... wink wink.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Techniques used are a lot the same as a location shoot, but often the logistics are much more complex, the car needs to be in top condition, as a studio will show every flaw of a vehicle. But things like PC for tethering, food, water, assistants and lighting all need to be organised along with the vehicle itself.
To start the day, the lighting and flagging needs to be setup, this can take the best part of an hour to do depending on the complexity required to get the desired effect. Flagging is dark fabric used to create a reflected line on the body of the car, the idea is to accentuate the lines of the vehicle to show it's character. Flagging can be placed on the floor or on stands depending on the angle the car is to be shot. The flagging is then modified to suit each angle shot.
Lighting, like flagging is done on a "per angle" basis, depending on the lighting source used this can be a rather simple or more complex task. There are two main types used, Flash and continuous light sources. Flash is faster, more effecient and my preffered way to work, shutter times with 3 x 500Ws heads is around 1/60th @ f8 at ISO100, this allows for handheld shots with a nice solid aperture to maintain clarity. The downside to flash is it is not a "what you see is what you get" situation where the flash output needs to be set via trial and error or light meter. This is where continous has the advantage. Continous, allows for the photographer to take a very controlled and precise look at their lighting in real time, you can see the way the light hit's the vehicle with your own eyes. I really like the control you can have with continous light sources but there are signifigant downsides. First is the shutter speed required, anything up to 10-20 seconds at f8-10 so a Tripod is nessasary. Secondly the heat expelled from a continous light source can become extremely overwhelming especially in a small enclosed studio.
The light is usually bounced, and not fired directly into the car. The studio is a curved white room so light can easily be reflected onto the car, softening it's intensity but maintaining it's spread. The use of Softboxes is often used but can create large hotspots on the vehicle. Large octoboxes are also commonly used. Here you can see the flagging, along with the large sheet used for a softbox above the roof, this is controlled by a motor connected to the roof so it can be adjusted for height.
The vehicles are positioned by using small trolleys called "go-jacks" they allow for the car to be placed in the required shot without marking the delicate white floor. However at the end of the day the floor is repainted ready for the next day of shooting.
When all done correctly, post processing is virtually non-existant. Small increases in saturation and contrast is about all that is required. Blemishes on the vehicle are also cloned and re-touched. In the end the final results are worth the long days work.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Again I get to travel a bit more this weekend when I head for Sunny Queensland to do a few shoots for private customers. Leave work Friday Afternoon, jump straight on a flight and then start shooting literally an hour after I arrive! All the while I still don't have a location sorted or a return flight for that matter but that's the least of my worries at the moment.
Hopefully, by the time I get back I should receive the news that my Canon 5Dmk2 has arrived and I can start playing around with that. In the meantime I'll try to update with some archive stuff with a bit more behind the scenes shots and a few shots from my QLD adventure.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Put together by World Supercross champion Chad Reed, The Australian Supercross championship has been a massive success, well promotoed and with International riders and decent prize money it's a well needed boost for the Australian Off Road Scene.
Watching Chad Reed ride in person was worth the admission alone, he is the definition of "smooth" almost looking slow he is that perfect. But when put against other riders, Reed is another level completely. Totally dominating the event, there is no question that he is both the worlds best, and obviously pisses on the Aussies. Notible performances by Dan Reardon and Jake Moss in the Pro Lites class with very fast laptimes.
I took the Little G9 camera with me for some crowd perspective snaps, shooting the Supercross from the Media spots is something I'll be looking into for next year definately.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Brett's R34 is a V-spec model but has a few extra "herbs and spices" to give it 350kw at all 4 wheels, hardly massive power for a GT-R in Australia but it's the way that the power is spread in this particular Skyline that makes it the ultimate street car, No lag, No wheelspin just relentless neck straining acceleration. How fast? Brett has managed an 11.008 @ 127mph. With 10's easily within sight there is not much on the Streets of Sydney that will trouble this blue beast.
Built Motor, Pistons, Rods, JUN Oil Pump, Big Baffled Sump, Ported Head, Poncams, Power FC, HKS GT-SS Turbo's V-Spec 2 Bonnet 19inch Volk GTC's..... Impressive!
The shoot was relatively straight forward. The location was something I wanted to try for months but never found a car that suited the dark surroundings. This spot was located by the water it gave virtually no reflections onto the car but provided an interesting background to do the shoot. After unloading the car I heard the distinct rumble of a cammed RB series engine from streets away, it sauntered down the street, it's front lip nearly scraping the ground. As I got a closer look I noticed how amazing Nissans Bayside Blue is, the paint is very deep and unique, this car for an import was in amazing condition. It looked like it had just been driven off the showroom floor rather than something that is nearly a decade old.
Equipment was again budget off camera flash setup but with a bit of the dark side blended in. I used two Nikon SB600's triggered by Radio Transmitters and my trusty Sigma 500 Super using the trustier inbuilt optical slave. After a bit of technical problem solving (one receiver was out of batteries so I did some mcgyver style electronics with some AA's) I like to shoot in a bit of a methodical order for some reason so nothing changed this time around, Front, Back, Side, Front Quarter, Rear Quarter and interior/detail and finish up with rolling/rig shots. Camera as always was the old beast Canon 1DsMk2 and 24-70 + 70-200 2.8L Combo.
Take note, these shots are all one exposure, no HDR or bracketed exposures, I'm too lazy to do that sort of work :) so some basic RAW post production methods of adjusting curves/levels and colour balance are the only tricks here, I also must note, save your RAW workflow for one shot and use it multiple times, First up, front on. as it was still quite light outside 2xSB600's at full power @ 24mm aimed at each quarter panel from high up and the Sigma from the rear of the car to provide a sort of none existent accent light. The same was done for the rear and side profiles aiming the flash into the wheel wells to avoid unsightly bright highlights to the image and to accentuate the big guards. (insert setup shots) Front quarter shot is a bit trickier than the others as you now have the front of the car to light evenly but by giving plenty of distance (and power) between the flash and the car gave a nice even spread of light. This time the flash was aimed into the grill on a downward angle to give the bonnet a bit of light. I always shoot low to the ground to avoid light spill over and at a long focal distance (around 200mm) to get a nice undistorted look to the car and from down low the car appears a bit more menacing.
One of the major payoffs of taking photos of high performance cars is a lot of the time the owner will give me a ride/drive of their pride and Joy. Brett was no exception and I was genuinely excited to ride shotgun in one of my childhood hero cars. I snuggled butt into the bucket seats, a whirr of fuel pumps and then the RB26 fired into life. The twin plate clutch takes a bit of a tricky sidestep to master, a few blips of the loud pedal and we were off, first thing I noticed is how sedate and easy the car appeared to drive slow, often hi-po streetcars are hardly friendly to drive at low speed but this was an exception. As the water temp rose so did the rpm... then before I could ready myself I was pinned to the seat! (Private Raceway Mr Police) My head was Glued to the headreast as we launched from a standstill to warp speed in no time at all. The revs just didn't seem to end and neither did the power, 2nd, 3rd, 4th still into it! The noise, the feeling of complete helplessness and the rumbling of my bowels about to turn into a brown mess all over immaculate recaro's! I returned back to my car, you could not wipe the smile from my face, all in a days work. Thanks to Brett for been so co-operative and for letting me take a ride in his weapon, also thanks to Simon Ziarkowski for assisting me on the day.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The thing I like most about the G9 most is the fact it has nearly every single feature of a camera 5 times it's price, and has a lot of features that DSLR's do not have, 1024 Video mode been the most impressive of these features.
Whilst tiny in comparison to my DSLR setup, the G9 is hardly a featherweight, too large for a pocket but perfect for a small bag or around the neck, it's weight may be a hindrance to those who like to travel light but for those who like something with a good ergonomic feel and rangefinder looks then the G9 is perfect. Large textured rubber grips, brushed/spun metal accents and chrome finishing really make this camera exude class. The Shutter button also has a familiar DSLR feel to it as well with a very smooth action and half press focussing. The dials and buttons are very easy to read and use, and can be operated whilst using gloves (handy for those riding dirtbikes/mtb/snowboarding etc) Rounding out the exterior is a solid looking hotshoe mount, rare for a compact camera but for those with a creative mind a godsend.
Composing and taking an image is easy with the large and clear LCD screen, all relevant information can be viewed either through the viewfinder or the LCD with plenty of room to compose the photo. Handy features such as Histogram and sliding exposure scale shown in real time make nailing the perfect exposure that much easier. The G9 also has a very effective image stabilisation feature that allows for clear and crisp images in low light, I was amazed at how slow of a shutter speed can be used when IS was turned on.
The G9 like a lot of compacts nowadays allows full manual control over ISO, Aperture and shutter speed but can also be put on Auto Mode and give exceptional results, one major pitfall with Compacts is the small sensor size, which in turn can produce grainy photos in low light when the ISO/Sensitivity is increased, and the G9 is no different, ISO ranges from 80 to 1600 where only up to ISO 200 resembling a clean clear image, this would have to be one of the only downsides of the camera.
Files produced from the G9 in daylight rival most DSLR's on the market, it is scary how similar the files are to my 1dsmk2, it makes me wonder why the huge fuss over DSLR's these days when compact cameras are this good. The G9 as full RAW functionality, so processing images is as easy as can be, the files can be pushed surprisingly a long way in both shadows and highlights to recover any blown out or lost shadow detail, Chromatic Aberration (purple fringing) is also barely recognisable at 100% view so it is a testament to the design on the canon lens. Zooming is neither wide angle or telephoto, whilst not the widest zooming compact around, the G9 is wide enough for most purposes, Canon sell an optional wide angle convertor and a teleconvertor to give wider/longer zoom. Focus speed Is fast and accurate, in low light the G9 launches a green laser light to help lock onto focus.
As mentioned before, the G9 has an inbuilt hotshoe, allowing for the addition of a hotshoe based flash with ETTL compatibility, or the ability to allow for off camera flash. One inherent problem with DSLR's is with a mechanical shutter, flash sync can only be set to a maximum or around 1/250th of a second depending on the model and manufacturer, the beauty of Compact cameras means that because their shutter is electronic, any sync speed can be obtained! The ability to sync at 1/2000th, with enough lighting power is a great asset to have.
Another brilliant feature of the G9 is the movie mode, which captures in 1024 resolution with decent sound. The video files produced are very large however so it pays to have a large capacity SD card handy. Small inclusions such as inbuilt ND Filter, Custom white balance and scene modes make the G9 both a pleasure to use for beginners and those more advanced.
My intended purpose for this camera now that I am back from holidays is to just enjoy it for what it is, a smallish but extremely capable camera that can rival a DSLR and in many ways trump it with features. I plan to use the G9 on a photoshoot to prove that it does not take a DSLR to get exceptional results. Rather with some creativity and some carefully planned execution the compact digital camera is a force to be reckoned with.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
More information about the Photo5 competition can be found here -
It had been a while since I have taken a photo purely because I enjoy doing so, with some spare time this afternoon I had a look at the little brown box and tried to do something with it besides throw it in the bin, I came up with an idea, something I had seen on the cover of the New York Times a while back. I decided I would use the blue crayon that was inside my box and put it to good use.
I went down into the studio (you may have one in your home too, it's called a white wall) and setup shop, couple of bare flashes powering into the wall.
I needed a model, so I focused on the tripod and then left the focus as is, I thought if I stood in line with the tripod I would also be in focus... it worked. Starting to look like something here.
Seconds after the photo was taken, My arm hit the tripod and.....
RIP Vivitar DF4000MZ - You will be missed.
So now I needed a background, so I got out my pen and some paper and just drew random crap all over it. No I was not drunk.
Time to get photoshopping and merge the images into a composite.
This was rather straightfoward, I did an exposure for me, the wall, a bunch of crayon shots (same crayon just relocated) an exposure for the floor and one of the paper.
After 5 mins or so a final image.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Yep, In one of my stupider moments, I conducted a full scale shoot out the front of a city methadone clinic… Why? I'll never really be able to answer that one. Maybe because it was a cool location, maybe because it was close to my car…. Maybe I wanted to live dangerously and have all my gear stolen, in Hindsight it was not the best place to be.
Pak's car is just plain awesome, Cwest widebody, Black Volk TE37's, Perfect Yellow paint and a healthy 240rwkw SR20DET. I knew a night shoot would be the perfect way to make this car stand out, but I wanted to try some new techniques that night, so it was a trial and error affair. It had been some time (almost a year) since I had done my last night shoot, using a tripod again was a shock to the system. The time it takes to do a shoot was also greatly increased, 4 hours in total in the end, 30 second exposure times mean a long time between shots, luckily I had company.
Gear for this shoot was a bit different to the normal, As usual the Canon 1Dsmk2 and G9 for backup/video usage, but no multiple flashes this time around. With long exposures I had the ability to just handhold a single Nikon SB800 and use it to "paint" the car with light, this worked rather well at low power not giving off any hotspots or nasty reflections. Lens for the whole shoot was the Canon 24-70 2.8L with circular polariser. Also used for the shoot was a camera rig setup for rolling shots.
My system for shooting was to pick an angle and stick with it, been night time with such long exposures the ability to light each part of the car completely was a bonus. Using a very small aperture as well to obtain total clarity from corners to the centre of the image. But all the shots were done as one exposure rather than a tricky composite later on. Finding the right mix of light painting and not keeping in the frame was tricky. As this was a very dark location, Finding focus was also difficult. My assistant shined a torch on the car to make finding focusing easier.
After completing the front and rear shots, we moved onto the rolling shots, this involved placing a large boom onto the vehicle and moving the camera in total unison with the vehicle to create a unique movement effect. The use of Suction cups, poles and clamps is used to hold the rig onto the vehicle. The car is then rolled very slowly with a long shutter speed to give the impression of movement. When done correctly it can have very striking results. The rig is then cloned out of the image later in post processing, this is a very long and dangerous task that can take hours, so it is imperative that as possible is done to minimize this work by making sure the background and lighting is going to be suitable later in post production to fix.
After packing all the equipment back into the truck and driving home I was tired, hungry and it was by Then Monday morning. 4 hours was long for a shoot but I think it was worth it. At least the junkies didn’t steal my gear.
Big Thanks to my Assistant for the night Matt Mead - http://www.matthewmead.net/ and the Cars awesome owner Pak for been just a nice guy and providing such a hot S15.