Here it is the night before a big shoot I have planned at Las Vegas Motor Speedway tomorrow. The client is a calendar company that specializes in car calendars and they want my very own 2012 Jaguar XKR convertible in the book. I’m excited because I’m getting paid extra. Once for the use of my car and once for shooting the car. I also get the thrill of being on a race track. (Frankly the pay rate is so low that the racing part is my real compensation but what the heck? I love the smell of race fuel in the morning!)

Before any big shoot there’s a bunch of stuff to get ready. First I spent the morning detailing the car so it would be spotless for the shoot. Then this afternoon I went over my checklist for the shots I need – front, back, front right 3/4, front left 3/4, driver side, passenger side, motor, interior, etc.

I’ve also been in contact with the Las Vegas Motor Speedway track staff. Getting access to a super oval is never easy but fortunately – I got a guy on the inside so we’re in! There are actually 10 race courses at LVMS but a very lucky few get to drive the big oval. Sometimes I love my job!

We’re watching the weather because this is “monsoon” season in Vegas – that means this is the week we get some rain. It could help or hurt the shoot. We almost cancelled but we’re betting we’re safe as long as we start early. We have a 6:00 am call time. My diligent assistant Tom will be ready to work at Oh-dark-thirty. I have to leave the condo no later than 5:15am ready to go in order to be on time.

I have all those logistics figured out. Even though I take less and less gear with me on these shoots, I always end up taking something I don’t need. And I’m sure this trip will be no exception. But in any event, the next order of business is gear. I’ve got portable Motorola short range radios in case we decide to do some dynamic (moving) shots of the car. It’s much easier to communicate with the driver over a radio than with hand signals.

I’ve also got water and a first aide kit just in case.

Since I’m going to document some of this shoot for Photofocus readers, I need to have at least one camera shooting video and another shooting time lapse.* (*The time lapse will only happen if I can arrange a second assistant.)

I’m going with the Olympus E-P3 and a 12mm f/1.8 lens (EFL 24mm) for the video camera connected to a camera-mounted 3d Mitro mic. This setup will sit on an Induro CT-212 tripod with Induro BH-1 head.

I’m also going to shoot time lapse with a GoPro Hero2. These are great little time lapse cameras with a wide field of view. I”ll mount this on a Gorilla pod or wrap it around the catch fence on the track depending on what view I want. I might even set it up in the starter’s tower for a while. (I pre-set the GoPro’s to the proper shooting mode – i.e., video or time-lapse in advance, the night before and then label them accordingly. I also make sure they have clean, formatted cards, and are in their proper mounts in advance so I don’t have to futz with this while we’re chasing great morning light.)

I’ll also have another GoPro Hero 2 to use both in-car and mounted to the car exterior for some B-roll as a dash-cam. Once we finish the calendar shoot, weather permitting I’m going to put some track time on this baby. The “R” in XKR stands for RACING! I’ve diligently broken in the motor and now that it has 500 miles on it – it’s time to play. But back to work!

My main camera for the shoot will be the new Canon 1DX with the 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 zoom and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom. I’ll have extension tubes and a teleconverter with me if I need to get closer than 11 inches or want more lens. I’ll shoot some video and some stills with the 1DX. The 1DX will be mounted to the beefier Induro CT-414 with BL-3 head. I’m also taking the Philip Bloom Slider in case I want moving video.

I’ll also shoot another Olympus EP-3 with 45mm f/2 (EFL 90mm) hand held for some of the beauty shots. It will work as a backup video or time-lapse camera should we need one. Tom is bringing a new 5D MK III so we will have plenty of cameras.

All my cameras are set to the appropriate ISO, shooting modes, metering modes, AF speed, image stabilization, white balance etc the night before. That way when I arrive, I only have to dial in small changes based on circumstances.

Of course I’ve also done all the basics: made sure I know how to get to the venue and sent a map to the assistants. Confirmed and re-confirmed our track access. Charged up the batteries, (for cameras, mics and short-range radios) formatted ALL the memory cards we’re taking, and pre-inserted formatted memory cards in each camera. I’ve made sure the cameras that needed straps have them and that they are properly installed. I also have backup batteries – including the 9-volts required for the stereo mics. I also tested the tripod legs and made sure all the tripod leg locks are in good working order.

We’re not using any artificial light on this shoot but will bring a reflector just in case we need a little kiss of light. We’ll also use diffusers and scrims in case we have too much light. We’ll also bring gaffer tape, buggy cords and several Gorilla Pods just in case we need to mount cameras in odd places.

On this shoot I have extra gear that serves both as props for the shoot and then functionally as protective safety gear should the track be open for practice laps. I have a full-face, Simspson Snell SA2000 helmet, Nomex flame-resistant clothing and gloves and racing shoes. The car is gassed up with 100 octane street-legal racing fuel. I have a fire extinguisher on board and am ready to run at race speed – although it’s highly unlikely I’ll be able to. But just in case. Track conditions, track fire and safety stewards, etc., all have a say in such things. But even fat guys like to go fast so I can always hope. If I am able to go at race speed I’ll keep the car under 150 just to be safe. After all Geico doesn’t insure against accidents on 19-degree banked racing ovals and this new Jag is a bit expensive and not something I’d want to have to replace out of my own pocket.

My assistant will help with operating cameras (and backups.)

The time to get yourself geared up and ready is the night before a big shoot – especially one that starts early in the morning. I’ll have some pics for you on the other side.

Tomorrow I’ll let you know how it all went.

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