Last weekend saw 100’s of beautiful cars descend on The Downs School just outside Bristol to raise money for the neighbouring Children’s Hospice. Find out more about the charity and the cars here and check out my photos from the very wet day below.
It’s advice you’ll see over and over again, not just from photographers but from people in all walks of life: If you want to stand out from the crowd, do something different.
Now while I am not lauding this as the greatest photograph ever taken, but I like to think it’s a good example of “different”
ichelle, owner of this particular drift project S14, was proud to have her car on a stand at Modified Nationals and asked me to take a photo. Unfortunately the car was indoors with no chance of moving it so I had to work with what I had.
At some point during the weekend, an image taken by David Hobby during the shoot out at last years Gulf Photo Plus popped into my head. The idea being to make the car look like a celebrity by surrounding it with ‘paparazzi’. Normally I work with manual flash and simple radio triggers but only having two with me meant I chose to use my 580EXII as an ETTL commander to trigger any available Canon flashes… of which I had only one! So the first challenge was to approach as many Canon toting photographers as possible, explain the idea, and get them in position. (Something I wouldn’t have done a year ago, but thanks to photography I’ve been gradually making my comfort zone larger.) There are even a few Nikonian friends in the final shot with flares from Canon flashes cloned over their non-firing strobes in post.
On the technical side, I had my 580EXII on camera running the show and providing fill flash at minus 1 stop. All the slave flashes we’re set as ETTL slaves in the same group and set to +1 flash exposure compensation to give a nice bright rim effect to separate the black car from the black curtain behind and to light the roof and bonnet.
What could I have done better? Looking back on the image now I can see I should have had more light on the nose and the door and a smaller aperture would have made better star bursts from the flashes and highlights. But all in all, as it was a spur of the moment shot, I’m pretty pleased, and I have learnt what to look out for if I ever do it again.
Another weekend, another show at the NEC and another two days under horrific artificial lighting.
The most popular way to work around it and get some good photos is to use on camera fill flash as you run and gun. But as each hall has a different flavour of lighting, you don’t stand much chance of gelling your flash to match so everyone’s shots tend to look the same. You see ringflash adapters, various brackets and all manner of Tupperware to try and avoid the rabbit-in-the-headlights bare flash look but I decided to even further and make it through the weekend flash-free!
The 5DMkII is pretty happy at high ISOs so I spent most of the time at or above ISO1600, wide open on either my 50mm f1.8 or my 24-105mm f4. As the backgrounds are so varied in the NEC, I found centre-weighted metering was the best bet.
If you read this blog though, you know I can’t resist a bit off off-camera flash in a bid to get something a bit different.
This is Jen with a Nikon SB-28 on about 1/8th power in the passenger seat firing toward her head. Without that kick of light, the interior of the car was pure black and her dark blue outfit just blended in.
Then we have Michelle lit by what looks like a big softbox camera left, which in reality is a full power SB-28 bouncing off a white trailer on the neighbouring stand.
And then there’s Sara and Kirsty with Podzilla, the Santa Pod monster truck. Dozens of other people got basically the same shot, and while they did, I ran around to the back wheel, placed a flash and came back to quickly grab this. Natural light from the skylights (you can see some in the background) acted as the main light while my flash provides a bit of a kick from behind, seprating the twins fro the dark background.
When you are at the World famous Silverstone circuit and you’ve got access to the pit lane, it’s just plain rude not to use it as a location. Especially when you’ve got the lovely Sarah and her equally lovely VW Polo as your subject.
The plan here was twofold – firstly I wanted to get some good shots in the can for Sarah and secondly I wanted to find out just how well my new lighting rig coped in a typical car show situation. Fortunately, it passed with flying colours.
To work in this situation, a lighting rig, for me at least, needs to be;
Light enough to carry: No matter how close you can park, it’s always a distance to anywhere you would want to shoot. I’ve got both heads, both packs and all cabling in a Crumpler Company Gigolo 9500 bag. With my light stands, a few modifiers, and some grip equipment in a fishing rod bag, I am able to move the whole lot short distances on my own. Although this time I had help from Chris Wynne and Darren Skidmore.
Quick to set up: You’ve got to move quickly at a car show as you’ve likely borrowed the girls from a trade stand or a car from a Show n Shine area so time is limited. Another box ticked by the Quadras. The heads are small enough for a Manfrotto Nano 001B stand to support with the pack hanging to add stability and the Elinchrom Deep Octa goes up swiftly. Cheaper eBay softboxes take a while to assemble though.
Power: I don’t always get to choose when a shoot is going to happen and areas in shade aren’t always the best looking locations, so I need some punch to overpower and control the ambient light. For this shoot the solution was to use 3 hot shoe flashes for example. At 400w/s the Quadra packs aren’t the most powerful, but still had plenty to tame the light spilling into the pit lane in this case. Although I’ve yet to try, I am certain 2 bare heads could handle full sun.
Enough talk, onto some images! Firstly to underexpose the pit lane enough to be able to add my own light I had to shoot at around f/18 at my max sync speed. I should probably take this opportunity to mention the Elinchrom Skyport Speed controller syncs withe the receivers in the Quadra packs at my max sync speed of 1/200th without trouble.
All I had to do now was bring in the lights. A simple, bare head setup for just the car and the Deep Octa softbox (in beauty dish mode) added to the camera right flash for the shots with Sarah.
And onto the results. Let me know what you think in the comments.