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Photo Of The Week – Bearing Down

Photo Of The Week – Bearing Down

For this weeks photo of the week I’ve gone back a few years to pull this from my archive.

It might look like a long exposure rig shot but this is actually my first ever car-to-car shot. In principle it’s simple – you drive the camera car at the same speed as the subject car, pick a fairly low shutter speed and fire away. Actually doing it is a bit harder!


For this shot, I stopped down to f/20 which gave me a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second. I had some ND filters in the bag, but going any slower than this didn’t end well.

Keeping the cars moving at the same speed (about 20mph in this case) isn’t too tricky, but with everything moving in three dimensions any bumps, turns or gradients in the road make the cars move relative to each other and cause too much motion blur.

The camera for this shot was mounted on a tripod with its legs open wide and wedged into the back of a Smart car. I was actually driving the TT with a wireless shutter release in the hand you can’t see on the wheel. We drove along the lane 4 times, totalling about 10 minutes, shooting 2 or 3 frames a second and this image was one of only 4 sharp ones.

Rig photography – It`s OK to talk about it.

Rig photography – It`s OK to talk about it.

Even if you’ve not heard the phrase “rig photography” before, you’ve almost certainly seen examples of it. It’s the technique used to capture those images of cars speeding down the open road you see in adverts.

Only it’s not half as dramatic as it looks. The cars aren’t speeding for starters. They have a long metal boom attached with a camera on the end and they are being pushed to minimise vibration.

It doesn’t sound like rocket science or witchcraft but for some reason, almost nobody involved in rig photography will discuss their particular method of mounting the camera to the car, let alone show pictures of their rig.

Why? I have no idea. To me it’s like being cagey about what tripod I use, or what shoes I prefer to wear when taking photographs!

And on that note, Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, version 2 of my rig. I say version 2, but I am not sure my first attempt, comprising B&Q suction cups, a pole I found in the shed and duct tape, even warrants a number. This ones made from slightly better quality kit.

2x Manfotto/Arri LF.1000.A Pump Cups: These 6″ suction cups are the core of my rig. Because the bases are flexible rubber, they cope well with the curvature of car body panels and they won’t just let go suddenly like cheaper suction cups. The red line around blue pump button only appears when the cup is loosing grip and is your cue to tap the button a few times to restore full suction. The spigot adjusts to any angle via a heavyweight ball & socket joint and slots perfectly into the next time on the list. Make sure the cup is clean and you wont mark the paint work either.

3x Manfrotto Superclamps MN035: Basically THE clamp. Built like a tank and designed to work with all manner of standard lighting and photo kit. Press the button on the side and push it down onto the pump cups spigot and it won’t come off. Tighten the thumb screw to stop it rotating.


Turning the lever on the side opens and closes the jaws which can grip onto and tube or pipe up to 50mm. Be careful not to over tighten or your crush it. It even comes with a little plastic wedge that will allow you to clamp it onto flat objects like doors, tables and shelves. Seriously useful for mounting anything anywhere, especially when used with a:

Manfrotto 244 variable friction Magic Arm: This articulated arm with a pivot in the middle and ball & socket joints on either end (all tightened by a single knob in the middle) lets you position pretty much anything in almost any way you like. Even NASA use these things on the Space Shuttle program. In the case of my rig, I have a SuperClamp on one end and a camera mounting plate on the other.


So that’s 2 pump cups to hold the rig to the car, 2 clamps to attach the boom to the cups and a magic arm at the other end to give some freedom in positioning the camera. Simple, and when assembled and installed it looks like this (and yes, that is an aluminium painters pole acting as the boom! It’ll be replaced in version 3).

The final 3 images show the final the setup, the RAW image as captured and final post processed image from today’s tests.

Not the most exciting rig shot, I’ll admit, but it does show what can be achieved with off-the-shelf kit costing just over £100