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Photo of the Week – Drag Ford Escort

Photo of the Week – Drag Ford Escort

I’ve gone back into my archive for today’s Photo of the Week. I saw this monster Mk I Ford Escort at The Fast Show 2012 being wheeled out by a group of people and fired off a few shots but got nothing special. It wasn’t until the bonnet was lifted and they gathered around the engine bay, neatly spaced, all looking at the same spot that the image came together.

Drag Escort

I shot this with my 70-200mm f2.8 at 95mm so I could stay at a distance to not influence the scene. I’m at f3.2 for a shallow depth of field and at ISO 800 to allow me to keep my shutter speed up.

Lightroom Edits

I had 1 and 1/3 stops of exposure compensation dialed in as despite being a flat grey, the sky was quite bright and I wanted it to blow to white, simplifying the background and making for a more peaceful image.

I took that a little further in Lightroom by pumping up the highlights and muting the colours a little.

It’s not a huge edit (it didn’t even leave Lightroom) but I think it smoothes out the background and focuses the eye on the subject well. Here’s the before and after:

before-and-after

Photo of the Week – Jet Car

Photo of the Week – Jet Car

As you’d expect from its name the Fire Force jet car is fast but I think the sheer amount of noise it produces is what makes it hard to shoot. Couple that with the fact it’s literally halfway down the strip at Santa Pod in the blink of an eye and you’ll understand why I still only have a few good shots of it.

On this occasion I decided not to try panning as it passed me just off the start line and instead shot a bit wider facing down the down the track, waiting for it to enter my frame. This was the original shot. Composed with the car dead centre so I had my most sensitive focus point on it, AI Focus mode and high speed drive. This was one of a batch of pretty average “raw material” shots that I hoped I might be able to get something from. What stood out on this one was how the heat haze caused as the engine kicked out 5500lbs of thrust made the crowd looks almost like an oil painting.

Original shot

I saw enough in this shot to make it worth a little tweaking in Lightroom. I started with a fairly tight crop to improve the composition (this is where 20+ megapixels comes in handy) followed by a contrast boost, a little desaturation and a slight vignette. I’ve also applied one of my favourite Lightroom tweaks here and that’s the gradient filter. I use it to quickly put some interest in the sky. If there is some detail in the clouds I’ll use it to pull down the exposure and boost the contrast and clarity, but in this shot the sky was just simply flat grey. In this case I  pulled the colour temperature to the cool side and increased the saturation to add a little blue to the sky.

Here’s the result:

Finished item

Gymkhana Grid Finals 2012

Gymkhana Grid Finals 2012

A couple of weekends ago, Ken Block’s Gymkhana Grid finals landed at Santa Pod. Winners form the four previous rounds in France, Germany, Holland and the UK came together to go head to head in a battle to face off against Vaughn Gittin Jr or Ken “This is my sport” Block.

I was lucky enough to be there trackside – Here’s a flavour of the hooniganery!

Luke Woodham finished runner up in the RWD class (And had some spare tyres he didn’t want to carry home it seems!)

Remmo Niezen was the man who beat him to first place and got his chance to go head to head with Gittin.

Vaughn Gittin’s RTR Mustang makes a noise the like of which I have never heard.

Rally Crosser Liam Doran was also on hand to slay some more tyres.

There was even a drifting truck.

While not quite on the same epic scale as the official Gymkhana Grid video, I put together some on and off car footage on one of the finalists, Jake Archer.

When the engines had cooled and the smoke had cleared I got a chance to get spend a little quality time with the cars. To go with Ken’s Fiesta at the top of this post, here’s Luke’s S14, Remmo’s M3, Liam’s DS3 and Vaughn’s Mustang.
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.

Shooting the Ripraw Girls at USC

Shooting the Ripraw Girls at USC

Another weekend, another car show and this time it was USC (Ultimate Street Car) at Santa Pod.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have any secluded barns to shoot in this time so it was a case of making the best of a bad lot. And at car shows, it’s a very bad lot – even when your subjects are the Sextons Direct / Ripraw girls!

You’ve got cluttered backgrounds, harsh mid afternoon light and crowds.

First of all, I toured Santa Pod looking for a location without people, cars or fairground rides lurking in the background. Luckily Santa Pod is out in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside and backs onto some open fields and I was able to find this on the edge of the showground.

I chose this partly for the view but also as facing in the this direction the sun would be coming from behind my subjects – about 2 o’clock from this view. This way, the girls weren’t squinting into the bright light and I’d be able to add my own soft, diffused fill light from camera left.

Which leads nicely onto Problem Number 2 – the harsh sunlight. As it was coming from over the left shoulders of the girls it served as a nice separation light which, if I under exposed the background slightly, would make them really ‘pop’. But that would also leave faces in shadow, so out came the lighting.

Working in manual mode, I set my 5D MkII to sync at it’s max sync speed (1/200th) but in order to get some detail in the bright sky I was having to shoot at f/10 which meant needing to drive the flashes hard. So hard in fact that in order to keep a decent recycle time I had to gang 3 SB-28 at 1/2 power though a single shoot through umbrella. Think Joe McNally‘s speedlight tree on a budget! Not pretty, but effective.

With lights and locations sorted, it was time to bring on the car and the girls. This always draws an instant crowd at car shows but thanks to the location, apart from a few passing cars, the onlookers were behind the camera.

And onto the results. Punchy images that stand out from the norm at one of these events. Well worth a bit of location scouting and 5 minutes of set-up I think.