FAST CARS, FAST LIGHT
PORSCHE 911 PHOTOGRAPHY IN FAST CHANGING LIGHT
It’s 5am in London. It’s supposed to be quiet on the streets, especially on a Saturday!
How wrong was I ?
I really would prefer to do a shoot like this on a Sunday morning, however the weather wasn’t been nice and this was a window of good weather I didn’t want to miss. Up at 3:30am, quick bite to eat and some strong coffee. A final check on the day’s weather – it’s looking great!
We set off at 4am and headed into London city. I was expecting it to be a bit quieter then it was – there were taxis and buses and a few tourists (?? don’t they sleep anymore?) around. More vehicles on the road then it would have been on a Sunday but it is what it is.
Quick review and jig around of the plan. It was still too early for my key shot – no light in the sky yet, so first stop London Eye. Park around the back with the massive Ferris-wheel looming in the background.
PARKED UP WITH LONDON EYE BACKDROP
We’re on public property here so didn’t need permission this time. Sometimes all you need is a well (or not so well, depending on whose perspective you’re looking at it from) security guard to run you off the property.
The Ferris-wheel was lit up, but not moving – I wanted the lights on the London Eye to be pin sharp and I didn’t want any blur in them which would render them together and I’d end up with a streak. It is still very dark and a slow exposure time was needed to bring the colour out in the sky and give me some detail in the trees. I can’t light up those trees with the equipment I had, so I needed to drag the shutter to about 1 second exposure to bring out the tiny light in the sky. If the wheel was moving then a 1 second shutter would blur the lights a little.
I set up some lighting in the foreground; 2 x Nikon SB-900 speed-lights with small soft modifiers. I just put them down on the road – hopefully out of harms way should a car come along – one either end of the Porsche 911 and pointed them up.
Camera on a sturdy tripod I made the exposure. 1 second at f/10 and 16mm – with a pop of flash to light up the car.
We needed to quickly move onto the next location, the sun just peeking over the horizon now and the sky is getting brighter.
ZOOMING OVER TOWER BRIDGE
First we zoomed TO the bridge, then I walked to the middle of the bridge (not quite zooming, coffee wearing off) whilst the driver waited for my signal. I set up the shot composition and waited until the sun came up more. I really wanted the tip of the Shard to be lit up with the pre-dawn light so it was about a quarter of an hour before I gave the signal for the Porsche to drive over.
I instructed the owner of the Porsche 911 to turn his headlights on and close the windows, a car always looks neater in a shot with the windows up. So many cars coming both ways over the bridge. I wanted a moving shot and every time the Porsche owner drove over there was a bus, or a truck or van or something in the way. I would then have to radio him to turn around (which meant all the way over the bridge and drive about half a kilometre away, turn around, go past me again in the wrong direction, turn around and come back) and try again – a good 8 minutes between attempts.
Heck yes; the sun was rising fast and the colour I wanted for the shot was going to disappear if I didn’t nail this soon.
C’mon the sun is rising pretty fast now. 4th try – Boom! One for the bag.
I had one more shot in mind for the sunrise sky and it was close by so we went over to the Lloyds building in the City of London.
SITTING IN THE FRONT OF LLOYDS
During the early morning light, before the sun rises fully, we have ‘blue’ hour. This is generally before the golder light appears and is pre-dawn light. Everything looks blue and cold before it’s warmed up nicely by the sun’s rays.
I had planned for some Porsche 911 photography and a blue hour shot with some cold steel industrial looking background – perfect building in London for this! Enter Lloyds!
The light was warmer by this point, still 6:30am but still parts of the sky had a cool colour thanks to the absolute clear sky.
I had to lay down on the ground for this one, the concrete was cold and I really found it hard to get into position for the angle I wanted. Making sure the Porsche logo was aligned correctly, the yellow brake calliper showing and the steel building all included was a bit of a challenge.
A small pop of flash from my speed-light sitting on the ground lights up the rear wheel and tyre, the flash with a coloured gel warming up the light as I kept my white balance cool to give my the blue hour shot I wanted. I love the contrast of cool and warm light with this.
DRIVING ALL ALONE ON A BUSY HIGHWAY
This is the A40 right in the middle of London during the day.
You wouldn’t think so because there are no other cars on the road. Only a couple of ways you can get this shot without closing the roads.
We could have held up traffic at the top and then raced toward the photographer at 100MPH – but that wouldn’t have guaranteed no cars on the other side – and unwanted attention from police!
So a little trick photography was needed for this. It’s about 07:30am now and there was no chance of getting an alone overhead shot like this. I set up on an overhead bridge with the camera locked into a tripod and composed the scene.
The Porsche 996 and it’s owner were parked up around the corner waiting for my signal. I fired off multiple shots, with all other cans and vans in the shot, never mind. I made sure that I had at least some clear road in each of these shots for what I had in mind for post processing later. I radioed to the driver to drive in the leftmost lane and he came down the road a few minutes later where I took this main image. there are about 7 other cars in the original image here.
The post processing was laborious. Each of the photos I shot earlier and the photo with the Porsche 911, I combined and carefully edited out all the other vehicles in the shot, ending up with the German car all by itself on such a busy road.
UNDER THE ARCHES
This was one of the last moving shots of the day before a late breakfast and then onto the ‘studio’ (a carpark) for the static, detail shots.
West London, a road heading under the railway arches of the London Underground, District Line.
This is in a resedential area where evryhone is cutting though, there are cars parked everywhere and with only one lane going under the bridge there is also a queue of 2 or 3 cars waiting for oncoming traffic. Early afternoon isn’t a great time for this but we would be rewarded with patience. (Fingers crossed kinda patience).
I set my camera up on the opposite side of the street and aimed a 200mm lens between two parked cars.
I could see any cars on my side of the bridge and I could hear any trains coming along. The trains are quite noisy on the elevated tracks so you have a few moments warning.
When I heard one coming I radioed the owner to drive though the arches, with headlights on, and then stop until the train had passed overhead and I had the photograph.
Geez – We repeated this more times then I could count – every time he stopped, another car would pull up behind him or another car would enter the shot from my side. Or there was no train (a misjudgement on my part calling him too early or late).
He drove through, I couldn’t shoot because of another car in the shot. He’d come through, turn around and go back and wait on the other side waiting for the next opportunity. I don’t know how many times we repeated this but looking at the times on the frames, we were there nearly an hour.
Got it in the end though and I am loving it. I love the movement of the tube train overhead and the blurred red and blue. I love the old brickwork of the Victorian train line and the beautiful Porsche 911 996 x50 turbo waiting in the shadows.
We spent 12 hours photographing this Porsche and the client is over the moon with his wall prints and coffee table book that shows his pride and joy.
You need to work fast to photograph a fast car and think on the spot and change plans on the fly. Light changes so quickly and can make or break a photography session like this.
More soon /JF