Behind the scenes with Dave Hill

Thanks to a tip from Arjan Bruinstroop from BRNSTP Photography we found this great behind the scenes video on Vimeo. In this video Dave Hill takes us behind the scenes on his photoshoot for Buick with the Buick Regal. Shooting both digital and film with some awesome equipment.

You can see more of Dave and follow him on:
Website | Vimeo | Twitter | Instagram

I hope you liked this great video. Feel free to share your automotive photography tips with me.

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Lessons learned at the Nurburgring Nordschleife

Two weeks ago I went to the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife racetrack with some guys from the Dutch Porsche forum. My cousin is a member of this forum and we went for a drive to the Green Hell in his Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. The idea of the day was to take a scenic route to the Nurburgring and take the German “Autobahn” on the way back. Everyone was free to decide wether they wanted to drive round the Nordschleife itself. I just tagged along as a photographer.

I had some ideas in mind for shots I wanted to take, such as a group photo of all the cars and their owners and a few shots during the scenic drive. At the Nurburgring I wanted to focus on motorsport photography techniques. But apart from preparing my gear for the day I did not really prepare myself.

We gathered together early in the morning on a parking in Nederweert where we would meet all the other drivers. At that point I just left my camera in the car and only introduced myself to the others and had a look at their Porsches. But what I should have done was grab my camera and start shooting a little and I should have taken the group photo when I had the change…

… Because when we went on our way there was a diversion near Maastricht which changed the plans to stop at a petrolstation near Cologne. Since we had to stop to fill up the Porsche of my cousin we stopped in a small village along the route but the rest of the group did not really notice this and they drove on. Needless to say we never caught them again. For the rest of the morning I was the navigator until we arrived at the Nordschleife.

When we arrived we noticed it was very busy around the entrance of the racetrack. First we went for a coffee, in my case just water as I do not drink coffee. When we sat down we heared that they temporarily closed the track because of an accident. Soon afterwards there were no more cars coming and going. Just as we were about to leave we ran into the other guys from the Porsche forum. Since the track was still closed we decided to drive up to one of the “spotter” places along the Nordschleife.

I had been to a spotter place before, a couple of years ago, when I was on a family holiday in this region. The spotter place at Brünnchen and the Pflanzgarten is a very nice and wide spot where you can see a combination of corners and a little elevation of the racetrack. Spectators have to stay behind a fence. Luckily they have created a few special holes in the fence for photographers. And apart from that there are also a few escape doors in the fence so that, when you are on the track, you can always leave the track in an emergency. Officially you cannot use these doors to enter the track but I can tell you I was not the only one doing so. But where some people placed themselves right behind the guardrail I stayed at a safer distance from the racetrack.

It was a very busy day on the Nordschleife, the track had already been closed a couple of time because of accidents and I did not want to be involved in any of them. Most people driving around the Nordschleife during the tourist drive are not experienced racecar drivers and some of them think they are the new Ayrton Senna… so it is better to be safe than sorry.

I used a few different positions to shoot the cars going round the track. Ofcourse I practiced the panning technique again, you can never practice this technique too often. But I also tried freezing the cars with different angles and in different positions.

Light wise it was a very shitty day because it was a very hot and bright and sunny day. So no golden hour or blue hour light conditions but harsh light and shadows. The weather is something you cannot change so you have to deal with it some way or another.

Since it was so very busy at the Nordschleife and the track had been closed a couple of times my cousin decided not to go round the Nordschleife himself. And just as I was taking my last shots along the track a Renault crashed in the guardrails and I just missed the impact. I shot the car just before it crashed and when it bumped into the track again but missed the impact. What a shame….

Apart from missing the crash I still had a great day and really enjoyed myself. The Nurburgring is relatively close to where I live, about a 4 houres drive so I will certainly go back there again. I also learned a few lessons that day regarding shooting the photos you have in mind because I ended up with only trackside photos and no photos of the group members and their Porsches.

Important lessons learned

  • Do not only prepare your gear but also think of what you would like to shoot and what story you want to tell with you photos and put that down in a scenario or moodboard to take with you.
  • Take the shot when you have the change! Do not wait for a better moment because there might not be a better moment.

I will leave you with a few shots I took that day. I still have to go through the rest of the 400+ photos…

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Inside Dakar 2015 – shooting the Dakar rally

For the past two weeks I really enjoyed my self with the greatest and most awesome motorsport event of the year, the Dakar rally. A true battle of man and machine and nature. If there is one event on my bucket list, this is it!

Last year I had the pleasure of meeting a Dutch Dakar photographer and briefly talked to him. Wow, what an adventure it is to be part of this awesome event as a photographer. You cannot get any closer to the action than that.

Do you want to know what it is like to shoot the Dakar rally? Here is a great behind the scenes video.

You can see more of the Dakar rally on their:
website | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | Twitter

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Behind the scenes: A studio shoot with a Mercedes Benz ML350

Shooting dramatic and picturesque photos is the reason most of us get into this bizarre hobby, and why a few of us try to make a living at it. However, unless you’re at the absolute peak of your field, the art alone doesn’t make ends meet. Sometimes you just have to pay the bills. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. Commercial shoots focus you to refine your technique, and increase your speed. The faster you can churn through a shoot, the faster you get paid.

For most photographers, the hustle and grind of daily work is made of senior photos, engagements, babies, and the like. However, since I can (for the moment) afford to be picky on what jobs I take, I don’t do any of that. Most of my business comes from shooting product photography. Specifically, high end automobiles. So here’s a look at my last shoot, of a Mercedes Benz ML350.

My setup for this type of work is surprisingly basic. I’d love to shoot with a Chimera Lightbank, but they are staggeringly expensive. So with a little digital trickery, and a couple hundred dollars, I’ve got a serviceable setup for exterior shots. I mount a radio transceiver on the hotshoe of my camera, and then another on each of my speedlights that are mounted off the the sides on stands with umbrellas. You can either leave the lights static for the shot, or lock the camera down on a tripod, and shoot multiple exposures with differently placed lights. Once you combine them digitally, you get something like the above image. Granted, this process takes a bit longer, so it’s up to you if it’s worth it for every shot. I tend to use it for my lead image, but not the secondary ones.

My setup for interiors is even more basic. I leave the ceiling lights on in the studio, and mount a speedlight directly to the camera. Angle the light away from your surface (especially if it’s a piano black surface, like Jaguar likes to use), diffuse it, and you’re golden. Soft light is your friend. If you really want to be fancy, you can throw a little shallow depth of field in there. But remember at the end of the day, this work is meant to be informative, not evocative.

Even if this isn’t the most glamorous work in the world, it’s a sure sight better than filling out TPS reports. Ask any professional artist, and the majority of their work is mundane, but they do it because every so often you get to really cut loose and express yourself. For every twenty tribal armbands that a tattoo artist has to do, they get one zombie cat. Or something like that.

The trade off for doing this inventory work is that once I’ve completed my shot list, I get to play. So then the 50mm comes out with the polarizing filter, and I get experimental. Because of the unique arrangement I have with my client, there is no time-frame on completing my shoots. So if I spend an hour experimenting with lighting angles, so be it. Granted, that’s time I’m effectively not being paid, but I’m learning. Some people pay for lessons, I lock myself in a room with an M5 and some strobes. Who has the better
plan?

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A run-and-gun shoot at the crack of dawn

“Sunrise. Two photographers. Three videographers. Six cars worth a total of $360,000. 2,854 horsepower….Magic.”

My biggest client, Pure Pursuit Automotive, is a nationwide dealer and broker for “sport luxury” cars. Basically, if it costs over $40,000 or has more than 300hp, they deal in it. A while ago, I got pulled in for a fast, run-and-gun shoot at the crack of dawn. We needed to churn out as much content as possible before the light changed and spoiled the setting.

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The location used was the West Bottoms district of Kansas City, MO. The West Bottoms is basically a cliché now for photographers in the area, but only because it works so well for such a variety of shoots. It’s become a go-to spot for photographers of weddings, portraits, and cars. For those non-locals, it’s a section of the city that used to be thriving with slaughterhouses,railyards and warehouses, but has since fallen into disrepair. It is on its way back up, but is still rather gritty. The rusted girders and scarred bricks lend a stark contrast to the polished paintwork.

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I was one of the first on the scene, watching the battered freight trains roll past with their colorful graffiti murals from all over the nation. Soon, a row of xenon lights started poking through the dust and gloom. If you’ve never seen a pack of M5s, Stingrays, and 911s roll down the street at sunrise, it will bring a tear to your eye. We rallied the troops and started divvying up the work.

First up was that Bavarian brute, the M5. I am a sucker for BMW, and always have been. This might be a result of my father owning a 2002 when I was growing up. I directed the driver to a favorite little courtyard of mine, and I got to work. This was my first shoot with my new camera body, a Canon 6D. Seeing how we were on a time-crunch, I just went hand-held with no lights the whole time, which was tricky. The no strobes, my first shoot with a full-frame camera body, and dim light made for quite the learning experience. I had done a lot of experimenting with the new gear, but had yet to have to put it to the true test of a commercial shoot. Seven in the morning, in an alley, with a polarizing filter on the lens really cuts down on the available light. Ditching the filter would have helped the light levels a lot, but it is a necessity for eliminating reflections on paintwork. So I cranked the ISO up, and prayed for the best.

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After we finished the BMW, we swung back by our bivouac to swap vehicles. From there I hopped into a 2014 Stingray with another driver. Now, I was never the biggest Corvette fan back in the day. The C6 was a substantial improvement over earlier generations, but the interior just felt so cheap. A car of that potential should not feel like a rental Cobalt inside. But the C7 Stingray is just stunning in person. It photographs well, don’t get me wrong, but in person, those just have PRESENCE. It may not be pretty in the traditional sense, but damn is it striking.

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Shooting on this little bridge reminded me of why I love Kansas City. We parked in the dead center of the road (granted, it’s mostly a utility road, not a main thoroughfare), and whenever work trucks came by, they waited patiently for us to move, and weren’t upset at all. I love cities in which weird art projects are considered mundane.

By this point, our time was up, and it was off to the next gig. All said and done, I did sessions with two cars in about an hour, complete with some light detailing, swapping cars, and driving to different shoot locations. A very hectic, but exhilarating morning. There is something to be said for working under a strict timetable with a team of consummate professionals.

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Behind the scenes with Frederic Schlosser & Falken Tyre

We have found another great behind the scenes video. This time a behind the scenes video of German automotive photographer Frederic Schlosser of his commercial photo shoot for Falken Tyre.

More from Frederic Schlosser: website | Facebook | Vimeo | 500px | Instagram

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An entire day of shooting cars captured in 3 minutes

We have found another great behind the scenes video we like to share. It is a great timelaps of an entire day of shooting cars in a studio form the guys of Pistonheads in the UK.

More from Pistonheads: website | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Behind the scenes: NOBLE M600 CARBON SPORT photoshoot by GFWilliams

We have found another great behind the scenes video of professional automotive photographer George Williams. In this video he takes you behind the scenes of his Noble M600 Carbon Sport photoshoot.

More about George Williams: Website | Flickr | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook

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Behind the scenes of Ayrton Senna’s Honda NSX photoshoot

Do you know who Senna was?
Do you know about his relationship with Honda and the development of the NSX?
Stupid question, of course you do, you’re a petrol head, so lets jump a few chapters and get down to the nitty gritty.

SX-25-59 is claimed to be one of 3 Honda NSX’s that Senna owned, and this one was kept in Portugal at his holiday home, to which he drove it, enjoying the engineering of the NSX that he had help create. This red NSX is that car that Senna was photographed with washing it.

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So how I came about to photograph this famous car? Well, there isn’t much to say.. it was pretty simple actually. I got in contact with the owner via email and after sending details about what I wanted to do and presenting a portfolio of images of what I had previously done, the owner was impressed and agreed we should collaborate. And that was that.

Preparation came in the simplest form, I took EVERYTHING I owned. I charged everything, bought double the amount of spare batteries, loads of SD cards. I chose to shoot tethered, so I also took my MacBook Pro, 2 hard drives and 2 chargers. I didn’t want to risk anything.

Shot on my Nikon D600, full framed and attached was my robust 50mm, coupled together they are able to take in all the information I needed.

The day of the shoot came, and we arrived in a very tranquil part of the country, put it this way, if you were offered all the money and gold in the whole world, you still wouldn’t guess where this car is. The owner of the NSX, Rob McFagan greeted us and directed us to a barn at the back of his estate. At this point the great British weather was not on our side and it was raining by the bucket load, instantly I was disheartened as I knew the photoshoot was hanging in the balance
Never the less, Rob showed us round and he has a special heated garage which has beautifully tiled floors and lots of motorsport, automotive and most importantly, Senna memorabilia, including a replica of the famous yellow coloured F1 helmet.

We chatted for a bit, and got down to the important part, “can I photograph it?” I asked. The answer was no, and my heart sank. Anyway, without boring you, Rob owns many units for his business, and we thought that we could utilise one and use it to create a cool, cinematic photograph, like what I always strive to achieve.

8 hours later, (my assistant and I took our time and doubly did everything), we were happy with the results, packed up, said thank you and left.

As I hope many have already seen, this was the result. I did my normal procedure of shooting and editing (which I still will not let anyone know), but it didn’t take too much post production as we corrected the shot, including positioning, lighting, complete dynamics when we were on shoot.

If you are either a F1 fan, or a Senna fan, I hope you enjoy the image even more, keep posted at my website www.ayphoto.co.uk as there is more to come. I would appreciate the photograph being shared as I think its an important image that helps us remember how much of a incredible man Ayrton Senna was.

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I am open to commissions and collaborations worldwide for similar shoots. Please get in touch to discuss a project.