Photo of the Week – Hayley and the Corvette

Photo of the Week – Hayley and the Corvette

I seem to have a thing for barns in Peterborough!  As part of the Hot Rod & American Custom Car show, Hayley was hanging out in an empty barn with a 50’s pinup outfit and matching Corvette.

This was taken with a Canon 24-70mm lens with my back to the open door of the barn. Diffused afternoon sun was being bounced in but in general the barn was pretty gloomy – a great chance to pop up some lights.

There are two lights in this scene. An Elinchrom Quadra in a 28″ Westcott Apollo softbox and a bare hot shoe flash behind Hayley to separate her from the background to give the hint of the sun possibly setting out of frame behind her.

Behind the scenes

1. The lovely Hayley Sams

2. A classic Corvette

3. An Elinchrom Quadra head in a Westcott Apollo 28″ softbox

4. The Quadra pack on a very low power setting

5. Canon 580EXII speedlight with a slight warming gel atop a Manfrotto Nano stand and trigger with a Skyport.

6. Shoes, models own

7. Bloke with the camera


Big thanks to Darren Skidmore for the BTS shot.

Don’t get hung up on the gear though, this could have easily been shot with a couple of used speedlights and a cheap shoot through umbrella.

I positioned myself so the kicker light was hidden behind Hayley’s head to give her a rim light. If I moved too far, the light crept into shot making the backlit effect over the top.


But with the right framing and some final tweaks in Lightroom (including bumping the saturation up a little and warming the image overall to add to the sunset illusion) it looked like this:


Looking back at the shot a few weeks later, I noticed the overly bright windscreen and the shadow cast by the rear view mirror. It looked too contrived. I could live with the slight reflection of the softbox at the bottom left of the windscreen but the light blasting in from behind  bugged me. So into Photoshop I went.

Luckily, at one point I took a shot where I’d set the rear flash not to fire. Using Photoshop’s fantastic panorama tool I was able to very quickly align the two photos and just mask in the naturally lit glass. You can see the frame with the unlit windscreen aligned over the image I want to use.

Images alinged


The layer mask is very simple – the upper layer is hidden except for the windscreen.


Here is the final result. As always any feedback or questions are welcome in the comments below.


Hayley’s Rat Rod Drag Race

Hayley’s Rat Rod Drag Race

If you are going to absorb a piece of photography advice from someone you could do a lot worse than Ansel Adams’ often quoted “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”. With that in mind I teamed up with good friend and talented photographer Darren Skidmore to fake a desert drag race… in Peterborough!

From the outset we knew the photograph itself was never going to the the final product so care needed to be taken to light it correctly. As the final composite was going to be set in the desert sun, we needed to fill in the shadows with some flash.

This was the set up:

The set up

There is an Elinchrom Quadra pack about 10 feet behind each car at half power pumping light into the shadows to give that high noon look, resulting in this image. The double shadows are something that need to be addressed in post production.

The original photograph
When shooting at a car show held on an agricultural showground you are never going to have a clean background to work with. Cutting the straight edges of the cars out in Photoshop wouldn’t pose much of a problem so we concentrated on timing the shots so there we no people intersecting with Hayley.

With that, it’s over to Photoshop. Admittedly there are a few layers here but they can be easy broken down into 4 groups covering the road and background, the cars, the shadows and the tyre smoke. Most are just masked layers to drop in elements from various source photographs with a few curves adjustment layers to balance colours.


Big thanks go to Darren for taking the shot, Hayley for getting our idea, Performance Direct for their support and hospitality all weekend and of course Pip Hitchcock and Lee Freeman for building such awesome cars.

Enough talk, here’s the final image. We’d love to hear what you think.

Hayley's Rat Rod Drag Race



Photo of The Week – Garaged

Photo of The Week – Garaged

Here’s a photo taken earlier this year in a cattle shed near Coventry for today’s Photo of the Week. The event was Race Retro and between sessions on the mini rally stage a selection of classic rally cars gathered in the makeshift parc ferme.


When left to it’s own devices in AV mode, the camera wanted to take the exposure at 1/125th, f5 at ISO1250 so I knew I could overpower the ambient light pretty easily with just a speedlite. If I had to stop down to f16 I’d have had a problem, but the final image was taken at f7.1 – no problem for a 580EXII.

Once I had the exposure dialled in it was a case of adjusting the power of the flash (I think was on about 1/4 power) and then finding a spot where it looked good. The idea here was to make it look as if there was a pool of light spilling in from the skylights in the roof above the Mini Gem GTE.

The original shot

Over in Photoshop, the first task was to clean things up. Specifically the open barn door that’s distractingly bright and the reflective metal parts up in the roof space. This was done with a mixture of the Clone Stamp and just painting with the brush tool. I decided to leave the tape between the pillars above the car in as it matched the red and white paintwork so well.

After cleanup

Photoshop layerThe final job was a little colour toning and general exposure tweaking.

Starting at the bottom of the Photoshop layers panel on the left you can see the background is the original image. Layer 2 is the Clone Stamp work I did to fill in the open barn door.

The Curves 1 layer is a Curves adjustment layer that’s just to lighten the side of the car that was nearest to the camera. It’s a slight bump in exposure painted only onto the area needed with a layer mask.

The next layer up is a Hue/Saturation adjustment again layer masked so it only shows on the areas of the mask painted white. This is just desaturating the background whilst keeping the car and tape nice and bright.

Levels 1 is applying the colour toning. It’s not an obvious effect but its adding a little cyan to the shadows and warming the highlights a little.

And finally, Layer 3 is adding just a little haze around the skylights to simulate dust in the air. All this takes is some dabbing with a soft brush sampling a couple that’s already present in the light, a little Gaussian blur and a drop in opacity.

Here’s the final image. As always I’d love to hear what you think.

The final colour toned image

Photo of the Week – Chew Valley

Photo of the Week – Chew Valley

Light is everything in photography and sometimes it’s so good it’ll make you stop the car, grab your camera and jump over hedges to capture it. That’s what happened on Boxing Day two years ago.

I was cresting a hill not far from where I lived and saw the rays of light hitting Chew Valley lake. I know conditions like this don’t last long so I was out of the car and shooting in seconds. I had my 24-70mm f2.8 lens on the camera and no tripod so I worked with what I had. As Photoshop is so good at stitching images into panoramas these days, even hand held ones as long as you’re careful, I went for a nine frame pano to fit the whole scene in.

The nine individual images


In this case, careful included keeping my shutter speed up to eliminate motion blur and 1/250th at 70mm is pretty safe. I stopped down to f7.1 so I had decent depth of field. Again, being at 70mm helped with this (the wider you go, the more depth of field you have at any given aperture) as did focusing about a third of the way into the scene. If you want to know more about Hyperfocal Distance, there’s a great post here. Choosing that shutter speed and aperture meant bumping my ISO to 400 to keep the overall exposure right.

Normally when shooting a panorama I’ll hold the camera in portrait orientation as this gives more leeway if you drift vertically as you move left to right but for some reason I forgot on this occasion. Luckily with such a clear horizon I kept level.

The post production side of things was pretty simple. I exported from Lightroom and let Photoshop create the pano in auto mode. Once complete I flattened the image (it reduces the amount of RAM needed and speeds things up massively), cropped it to trim off any white space caused by lens distortion and applied a few adjustment levels to bump the saturation and contrast. Here’s the final image:

Chew Valley Panorama

I went on to get a couple of copies printed by the fine folks at Pix2Canvas who were able to make a custom sized canvas frame. At 150 x 30cm and nearly 200 megapixels it looks pretty impressive!

Photo of the Week – Rally Day

Photo of the Week – Rally Day

For this week’s photo you can probably tell I wasn’t actually behind the camera! I’ve positioned my GoPro Hero 3 against a tyre wall and retreated to a safe distance. If you look carefully, you’ll see me in front of the Race2Recovery truck on the right, leaning over the hedge. I’m using the GoPro app on my iPhone, right on the edge of wifi range, to trigger burst mode. That’s 10 shots per second for 3 seconds in this case.

After a few test runs to get used to the lag (being able to wirelessly review shots with the app really helps work this out) I was getting shots like the three below.

The 3 source images
Layers in PhotoshopThese got opened as layers and auto-aligned in Photoshop. The shots were taken a few minutes apart and so much debris was hitting the camera that it moved a little so the auto-align came in handy when masking.

As you can see, it’s quite a simple file. Just the main exposure with an (artificially) blurred wheel, the chase car and the flying rocks.

So here is the base exposure. Because it’s shot with a GoPro, with no manual controls, you pretty much get what you are given. The quality is decent enough and 12 mega pixels gives plenty of opportunity to crop in but the real reason for using it in this case was the ability to get it VERY close to the action.

Main image

With no control over shutter speed, the wheels on the Bowler Wildcat were frozen still. I selected the wheel, popped it onto its own layer and applied a radial blur, masking out everything but the bits I needed. There is also a little motion blur added to the other wheels using the Smudge tool – literally the only time I use it!

Blurred wheel

Next up was the chase car. This was shot on completely different track session but I think its addition adds a little drama to the final image. Chase car

Finally, the flying rocks. These were kicked up behind a different truck as it was trying to get closer and closer to my camera each lap! Again, with the GoPro shooting at whatever shutter speed it needs to work with its fixed 2,8 lens, the rocks were frozen in mid-flight so to add some movement I applied a very slight zoom blur. I’ve then masked the layer to control where the rocks appear.


Which leads us on to the final image:

The final image

As usual, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.