Tuesday, December 30, 2008


What has more power than a Mercedes SLR McLaren, Weighs several hundred kilograms less and can be seen on the odd occasion cruising the streets of Sydney?

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!)

What are you doing NYE?

I never make a big deal out of New years Eve, just another night usually... I mean I'll go out and have fun but never have I done something so extravagant, stupid or expensive as this year.

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

R34 Timelapse

Stan who is the owner of this R34 I shot recently put together this awesome timelapse video of my shoot. Very cool!
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

5Dmk2.... Not yours

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

Portfolio Update

Been ages since I did anything to ye old online folio, I've always been a fan of Hard Copy Print Folios but alas it's not always practical to send a 2+kg package overseas only to never see it again. By the way, critique these as much as you like.

Automotive Folio

Motorcycle Folio

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

Chillin in the white room

Every now and then I get to shoot in the studio, it's a nice change from location shooting, but a frustrating and often long day. When done properly, studio lighting can show the true beauty of a vehicle, it's shape and form without the distractions of a background.

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.