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Pit lane Skyline

Pit lane Skyline

Last weekend saw Trax come to Silverstone and another chance to shoot in the famous Formula 1 pit lane. No planning, no preparation – just a beautiful car and an unlocked garage. Rather that just hitting you with the eye candy, I thought I’d de-construct a few of the shots and tell you what I did to get them.

As always, start simple. At 1/160th (a safe sync speed on the 5DMkII using Elinchrom Skyports) at f/6.3 all ambient light was killed allowing me to add my own light. When shooting a car, you can get away with hard light, so this was lit with bare Quadra’s either side.

With the doors opened, and the car turned around, I exposed for the scene outside (1/160th @ f/8) to give the picture some context, then started adding flash to bring it up to the same level.
I quickly realised this wasn’t going to be very exciting though, so I killed the flash, opened up to f/2.8 and kept slowing the shutter until the car was properly exposed and the bright pit lane blew out. A bit of desaturation and floor clean up in Photoshop yielded this:
Time to move outside and shoot down the pit lane using the sun as a back light. To control to sun, and be able to keep it in the frame I had to stop down to f/16 at 1/160th which meant I had to crank my lights to full power (400WS) and bring them in fairly close.
If I’d had my 18cm reflectors I would have had a bit more leeway and would have been able to shoot wider. You can see here how close I needed the lights.

Then at the suggestion of Chris the owner, we tried a wide, side view as if the car had just driven in  for a pit stop. I knew it was doing to be hard to light, but what the heck! Once again I set my exposure for the ambient light and under exposed by about 1 stop to keep some saturation and detail in the blue sky (1/160th at f/9  this time as the suns not in the frame). Here’s the shot unlit.

And with the same settings but with the flashes firing at full power again. I had to have the lights in a little closer than I wanted meaning I couldn’t quite get the end walls of the garage in shot. I’m rearranging my camera bags this weekend to make sure I always have the 18cm reflectors and some grids with me!


Everything in photography is a compromise and working within the limitations imposed by location, subject or gear is all part of the challenge. I’m still happy with the final shot:

And finally, a quick illustration of how a little wink of flash can make all the difference. Its not until you see the lit version that you realise just how much detail was missing from the unlit one.

With and without flash - Animated
Enjoy the final images!
Shooting the JDM Drift Allstars

Shooting the JDM Drift Allstars

I’ve shot various types of motor sport and other fast moving subjects, but two weekends ago I got my first opportunity to shoot some drifting from the right side of the fence. For those that don’t know, drifting is different to most motor sports where speed and times are everything. It’s all about keeping your car sliding while you complete a course and competitions are judged on line, angle, speed, and showmanship rather than who finishes first.

While the sport is different, the basic technique for shooting it is the same because you want to capture movement and sense of speed. You want to slow your shutter speed and track the car as you fire off frames – known as panning.


Panning Tips

Face your body towards the point where you want to take the photo.

Keep your feet planted and twist at the hips as you track the car.

Use one of the focus points in your viewfinder as a cross-hair and try to keep it locked onto part of the car as is passes by.

When your body is in line with your feet and the car is in position, fire off a few frames in burst mode.

Stop shooting but continue to follow through – think golf swing.

Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat. The more you try, the better you get so don’t be put off with early failures.

The real key to getting a good panning shot is finding the right shutter speed. Too fast and the car looks parked on the track. In this case 1/1000th of a second.

Too slow  (1/80th in this case) and you have a blurry mess;

 Unfortunately there’s no magic number I can give you as it depends on how fast your subject is moving, but with a drift car a good starting point is 1/160th. Put the camera Tv or Shutter Priority mode and drop your ISO right down (in daylight) and let it do the maths on what your aperture needs to be. When you’re consistently getting sharp shots at 1/160th, walk your way down in shutter speed. Some of the shots here taken during the drivers free practice session were taken at 1/80th – Some worked, some didn’t so don’t push things too far if it’s your one and only chance to get an image.


On the Birmingham Wheels circuit, 1/100th seemed to be the sweet spot for me so I stayed there and gradually walked the ISO upwards as darkness fell and the flood lights came on.


Thanks to Niall, the rest of the JDM guys and the other photographers for a great day of shooting. See you all at Wembley for the final.


The Marangoni Girls at USC

The Marangoni Girls at USC

Ultimate Street Car is one of the biggest weekenders on the modified car show scene and title sponsor, Marangoni Tyres had the busiest stand at the show. And on their stand they had Jen and Sarah who you may have seen on the blog before along with Torrs. I’d spoken with Sarah in the week leading up to the show and arranged to make a few pictures, but I have learnt that you can’t plan too much at shows like this. It’s a case of seeing what you have to work with and coming up with ideas on the spot.

In this case the idea was pretty clear on arrival. Marangoni were promoting the fact their tyres are available from KwikFit and to the side of the stage was a fully kitted out mobile tyre fitting van. I think you know where I am going with this…

The Van/Studio

If the people running the stand and paying the promo girls are going to let me take their girls away from their main job for a while, I need to try and give some value back. In this case, producing some images emphasising the Marangoni/Kwik Fit connection worked for Chris, the man in charged, and the KwikFit fitters on site.

Five minutes later, the KwikFit guys were tidying the van, I was unpacking my Quadras while the girls wielded lip gloss and hair brushes.

I’d passed the van a few times and had already formed an idea: A CTB (blue) gelled light filling the van, with a CTO (orange) lighting the girls, gridded to stop the spill drowning out the blue. Then by setting the cameras white balance to Tungsten (the same colour temperature as the CTO gelled flash) I brought the girls skin tone back to normal and sent the interior of the van an even deeper shade of blue.

So after a quick explanation of what we were trying to achieve (while Jen warmed up!)…

The Briefing

The Briefing – Phot by Darren Skidmore 

…it was time to test the lights. (The photo above is also a good indication of how different the ambient light was to the light in the final images). I do this one at a time to simplify things, getting one right before moving on to the next. I this case I set my camera about 2 stops below ambient to stop daylight spilling to the van too much and set the power on the blue gelled Quadra in the back of the van. It only needed to be set just above minimum power to get a nice rich blue colour – any higher and the colour got paler.

Background light

That’s a bare Quadra head back there (no reflector) as I wanted light bouncing around in the van to fill in the shadows and the sheet of blue gel is held on with… chewing gum! Finally, before I show you the finished images, a quick shot of the CTO gelled main light positioned outside the van. There is a 30 degree grid spot in the standard reflector to keep it from overpowering the blue interior of the van. This light was moved quite a bit during the shoot to make sure it was aimed correctly and to maintain the flash-to-subject distance as the girls moved about the van.

Shooting Sarah

And finally… the resulting images, the first of which was used in an upcoming Marangoni/KwikFit flyer.

Tasha vs The GT

Tasha vs The GT

I had a great opportunity to get an exclusive at Modified Mania in Devon last weekend.

Kyle Martinez of Dice Wraps was unveiling his new Porsche Carerra GT project car and was keen to get some photographs. So ten minutes later we have the car out of the showground  away from the cluttered backgrounds and crowds of onlookers. The icing on the cake was provided by Plymouth Calendar Girl finalist Tasha making this her second ever shoot.

The pretty simple set up for this was two Elinchrom Quadras running close to full power allowing my to stop down enough to get some drama into the rather bright, but flat grey sky.

Enjoy the images, and of course all comments are welcome.

Bristol Comedy Garden

Bristol Comedy Garden

Bristol Comedy garden kicked off in great style on Wednesday night and once again I was lucky enough to be working for the team as their photographer. Here are a few images of the amazing line up.

Night 1: Host Dan Atkinson, Alun Cochrane, Pete Firman and headline act Russell Howard.

Night 2: Host Craig Campbell, Stewart Francis, Angelos Epithemiou and headliner Ed Byrne

Night 3: Host, Mark Olver introduces Isy Suttie, headliner Stephen K Amos and a last minute stand-in for Sean Hughes

And finally, Night 4: Host Josh Widdicombe, Shappi Khorsandi, Milton Jones and headliner Ardal O’Hanlon.