In the spotlight: Brad Stillwell
A short intro…
I am 33 years old and have been married to the love of my life for 10 years. We have two children, Haley (7) and Zach (4). I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science as well as a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. By day I am the Director of Information Technology at a large financial institution in West Texas, but at night I work at honing my skills as a photographer. Sure, I’ll shoot anything anybody asks me to, but anyone who knows me will tell you my passion is anything related to automotive photography.
I’ve always been interested in anything having to do with cars, trucks and bikes as far back as I can remember…long before I became interested in photography. I never thought about it at the time, but I was indirectly learning about automotive photography while reading my favorite automotive magazines as a kid; Road & Track, Car and Driver, Hot Rod Magazine, Rod & Custom, Truckin’ and countless others. I never imagined that I would put that knowledge to work years later for those very magazines. Funny how things work out.
At 16, my first job was working at a used car lot detailing the cars and keeping them ready for potential buyers. Shortly after that, I went to work at VDS Racing disassembling and washing parts on champ car engines for drivers such as Al Unser Jr., Maurício Gugelmin, the late Greg Moore, and Gil de Farrin just to name a few. After being there for two years, I left to go work for Jim Hall, the creator of the world famous Chaparral Cars. I was at Chaparral until my last semester in college. You can’t really use a BS in Computer Science working on historical racecars, so I had to make a change in my career path to utilize my education.
It was shortly after obtaining my MBA that I became interested in photography. I needed a hobby to break the monotony of 8 to 5 combined with nothing to do in the evenings after a hard day’s work. I played golf for a while, but that didn’t last long. It was boring and I had nothing to show for it after spending $75 for 18 holes, plus I left frustrated for one reason or another.
I picked up my first “real” camera in 2007, a SONY DSC-H5. I say “real” because up to that point, I had basic point and shoots. Combine the camera and a passion for anything related to automobiles and I had the perfect storm.
I started with the absolute basics of photography such as exposure, lighting and composition. I quickly realized that there was way more to photography than just picking up a camera and pressing the shutter button. I was challenged to learn something completely new. That’s when the obsession began. It was then that I quickly realized that I need to make the move to a DSLR if I wanted to do it right.
Still being somewhat new to photography, I didn’t have the knowledge to make the right decision on my own, so I relied on the store clerk’s “knowledge” and ended up with a SONY A100. I used that camera to learn about the technical aspects of photography that a DSLR has to offer such as ISO, shutter speed, aperture, artificial lighting, exposure settings, etc. I practiced as I had free time here and there photographing cars belonging to friends, car shows, and anything else I could get my hands on related to automobiles.
Fast forward a 3 years… I made the move to Canon and purchased a XSI and a few lenses and lots of other goodies. Currently, I shoot with a Canon 7D and have five lenses to use depending on the shot I’m trying to pull off.
Anything related to details of the car such as gauges, fuel lines, brake calipers, emblems, etc., I use the 50mm. I love this lens because it allows me to highlight the intricate details in a creative way. When the car is static, I’m shooting with the Canon 70-200mm L and my Manfrotto tripod.
I think my favorite type of shot related to automobiles has to be any kind of action shot. Sure, you can shoot a car static and you will get a sense of the power or grace it has, but when you capture it in motion, the shot is completely different. You can almost hear the exhaust note and smell the rubber of the tires.
My determination and desire to create quality images is starting to pay off. I have published images on the cover of JC Whitney Classic VW and the cover along with a two page spread in the May 2012 edition of Stylin’ Trucks. I recently completed three freelance assignments for 8 Lug Magazine, two for Gauge Magazine and I was recently assigned a SEMA project for Truckin’ Magazine in June. To say that I’m thrilled is a complete understatement.
To have some of the biggest names in the automotive industry appreciate the end results of my passion is…well, an absolute honor to say the least. I never dreamed that my hobby would turn into what it has.
More about Brad Stillwell:
Do you also want to be “In the spotlight”? Please let us know.
Mail your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.