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Photo of the Week – Driftworks AE86

Photo of the Week – Driftworks AE86

Any shows at the National Exhibition Centre are notoriously difficult to shoot. Orange overhead lights, red carpet, messy backgrounds and crowds of people make it hard to come away with anything other than snapshots.

I like the challenge though. It makes me think about my composition more, keep an eye out for moments and think about what I can do with a cheeky bit of off-camera lighting.

In this case I thought I’d do something a bit different with the star of the British Drift Championship stand at this years Autosport International – the new Driftworks AE86. This car was getting a lot of attention and the stand was crowded all day, compounded by the presence of Maxxis girls Holly and Michelle.

My idea was pretty simple – I wanted to light the car so my shot looked different from the thousands of others taken over the course of the 4 day show but there was no chance of closing the stand or even keeping people back so I had to work fast

With no time or space for lightstands, I’d typically set the camera up on a tripod and walk around the car holding a flash and remotely fire the shutter to capture a range of  images to combine in Photoshop later… But I had no tripod.

This is where Holly and Michelle came in handy. Not only were they my Voice Activated Lightstands, but they added a bit of colour co-ordinated glamour to the shot.

I fired a few test shots holding the flash about one meter from the car to get my exposure and flash power dialed in then briefed the girls on what I needed them to do. I was going to be stuck in position at the front of the car staying as steady as possible to make aligning the images easier so I wouldn’t be able to coach them.

Then it was time to shoot. The girls got into position holding my speedlights and triggers, I convinced the gathered crowd to move back a couple of meters and 20 seconds and 7 frames later we were done.

Component images in Lightroom

Then it was over to Photoshop. Because the component images were shot in such a rush and in difficult conditions, this needed a little more work with curves than I’d have liked. I’m a big exponent of getting it right in camera but when you don’t have the opportunity to re-shoot or add a fill light you just have to rely on fixing things in post production.

Photoshop layers

As you can see, there a quite a few layers involved but they can be split into 4 main groups. There are visible layers like the background layer with the unlit car and on top of that are masked layers to add light and girls. Then there are curves adjustment layers clipped to those layers to correct exposure. Above those are more far-reaching curves adjustment layers for overall colour and exposure correction and finally there are a few layers to add a little haze to the visible light sources.

So here’s the final image – As always I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

The final composit

The Girls of Autosport International 2011

The Girls of Autosport International 2011

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.

Clothes Show Live

Clothes Show Live

Just a quick update today to showcase some of the photographs I took at the fashion show held at Clothes Show Live. A little bit of a break from the norm but surprisingly good fun!

On the technical side, these were all shot with a 70-200mm f/4 lens so I had to take the ISO up to around 2500 to avoid camera shake. The combination of the 5DMkII’s high ISO performance and the noise reduction in Lightroom 3 is outstanding.