Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gimme 5

It's that time of the year for Australian Photographers, the Canon photo5 competition was held again this year, and again I forgot to enter. 2 from 2, 100% complete failure.

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

Pak's S15 Nightshoot

It's nearing midnight… a suspicious skeletal framed man staggers down the alleyway. Ahead he sees a wide body Yellow S15 blocking his path… he speeds up. "Here we go!" I think to myself as I grab a rig pole ready to lay some junkie smackdown, he see's us… pauses. The look of on his face is a mixture of fear and confusion, 3 guys standing in a dark Surry Hills Laneway with metal poles, cameras and a car blocking the road. I would have been scared too. Then ever so carefully, he tip toes around the car like a toddler. I look at my assistant Matt, he smiles, I laugh out loud, it was hilarious.

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 - and the Cars awesome owner Pak for been just a nice guy and providing such a hot S15.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Shhhhh.... It's a Secret!

The reason I started this blog was to give a bit of an inside look to how I go about taking photos of vehicles, plain and simple really. If it helps someone that’s great, if you chuckle at how dodgy I do things that’s also fine by me, but lately as get more and more feature car work you see the somewhat secret squirrel lives that are Automotive Photographers.

I remember when rig shots started becoming more and more popular in Australian Magazines like Wheels and Motor and wondering "how the hell did they do that" these were not the usual whole car in frame shot either, just a simple wheel shot or even an interior view. I researched Google for what seemed like hours and found the original "stickypod" product sold in the USA and thought it was pretty cool. Anyway… time passed on and soon I was witnessing guys on Photography Forums using the same technique, people were asking from every direction "how did you do that" or "is it all Photoshop" only to receive a reply from the Author saying "sorry it's a secret" oh c'mon… stick some poles out a car and push it, hardly rocket science.

As more and more of these shots became common place, the techniques for capturing them soon became well known, Hobbyist photographers were producing work that often put to shame "professional" old school Automotive photographers and there was starting to be a shift in trends as Generation Y photographers took over.

Complex composites, Intricate lighting setups and just plain creativity were now ruling the roost, and as a willing and eager youngin myself I was on a mission to do the same. I'd try and replicate the styles of the more creative photographers, dissecting their techniques through trial and error. I met some cool people along the way who made comments and criticism's on my work and it drove me to keep at it.

Around 2.5 years ago emailed a certain Australian photographer based in Sydney (name withheld lol) and asked him a few questions about how he goes about his work, how he almost has no reflections, how he finds locations etc. The reply I got from him was in Summary "piss off kid" This bummed me out something bad… all I wanted to do was learn, I wasn't out to take his job or steal his clients, I was just a young kid with a passion for cars and camera's and this brings me to the meat in my rant sandwich.

Whenever possible, I try and take someone with me on a shoot, someone who is like I used to be, keen and committed to learning. If they learn one thing from the day and put it into practice then my job is done, wether it be a simple thing like positioning of the car or something on a different tangent like location scouting or logistics then that’s good. I'm not playing my own trumpet here saying I'm this world renowned guy teaching guys Automotive stuff like I'm Jesus, I'm still a small fish in a big pond in the grand scheme of things but I'm a fish who is willing to teach other fish to get bigger.

About a year ago, Mark Pakula Autosalon Magazine invited me down to a Photoshoot he was doing for a Cover car, in those 4 hours I spent with him I learnt more than I had in 2 years of trial and error on my own! No kidding my head was literally filled with information and ideas to put into my own work. It's this kind of stuff you cant learn from reading a photography website, you have to be there… why is something done like this, why is that reflector there, why did you turn the wheels to exactly 39.99 degrees, no forum can teach that.

That's why I commend guys like John Jovic, who is showing how Pro Stuff is done -

So for those of you out there that do know what you are doing when it comes to using a camera, whether it be taking photos of cars or smokin hot chicks… Grab a youngster and teach them something, show them the ropes, make them carry your gear and get your lunch but most importantly… remember how hard it was for yourself starting out.

And as for the guy that told me to "piss off" all those years ago, well I received an email from him asking for advice on using small flashes not too long ago… how the tables had turned.