This post should be read in context with the last post I did regarding getting ready for a big shoot.
No matter how long I spend making photographs, I am never quite fully prepared for how things work out. I have always have high hopes and it doesn’t hurt that I am too stupid to know I can fail, but in this case the weather helped and a little luck was also on hand.
First – there was the rain – or thankfully – the lack of it. The clouds made for a great day of shooting and we were lucky that they didn’t drop any water until after we left. Usually Las Vegas is cursed with bald blue skies about 10 months a year so clouds were a definite plus. Most of the shots I really like from this shoot couldn’t have happened without the clouds.
I only had one of the two assistants I planned on so I wasn’t able to do as much behind the scenes stuff, but I will have at least one more post next week from this shoot with more BTS.
As far as gear goes, I have to say the more I shoot with the Canon 1DX the more I fall in love with it. I may be re-thinking my gear decisions now that I know how great this camera is. (See my Canon 1DX review at Imaging-Resource.) The 1DX was the main camera for this shoot. I never used the EP-3 for anything other than video. I only ended up using one GoPro Hero 2 because we didn’t have enough help to run the time-lapse. Everything else was the 1DX. I used all three lenses I brought for it – i.e., the 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens (I love the close focusing distance of around 11 inches) and the reliable 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 MK II zooms. I didn’t need the extension tubes or the 1.4 TC.
We did make good use of a reflector kit, primarily for diffusion and as a scrim. Some of the shots were made in direct sunlight and would have been UGLY without the diffuser. All the tripods came in handy. And even though I planned as well as I could, my high-end stereo mic got put in the bag with the power on and the batteries were drained before we even got to the shoot so I didn’t get to use it because we couldn’t find 9v replacements. Yes – I just ordered a 12 pack from Amazon to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
One of the things that helped me get the shots I wanted was being VERY familiar with the track. The opening shot for this post is an image I’ve wanted to make for years. I see the sun rise there every time I’m out at the track but 99% of the time there are no clouds and the photo would be boring. This day we had clouds so I left 15 minutes early to get to the exact spot I’d scouted a dozen times and boom – I got the shot I wanted.
The same goes for most of these other shots. I knew the sun would be bright on the orange garages and I wanted to shoot the car against that background. I knew that turn four would be backlit and the strong leading lines that came from the fence helped make another shot I’d seen in my mind’s eye.
The tunnel shot was another of my favorites. I’ve driven through this tunnel 40 or more times and always wanted to make this picture. But in this case there was nobody else there so I finally got to make the shot.
None of this would have been possible without my assistant Tom Shue. Every professional photographer looks at their assistant differently. I look at my assistant like a golf pro looks at his/her caddy. The caddy is part of a team. The caddy suggests a club, knows the layout of the course, measures the yardage, memorizes the breaks on the green and gets a sizable amount of the pro’s winnings for all that help.
In this case, I relied on Tom’s keen eye to make sure I didn’t miss any details. He helped me refine a few shots because his fresh eyes combined with my experienced eyes made for better vision. I like an assistant who actually participates in the creative process. Tom offered the perfect balance of traditional “hand me the 40mm lens” type of help with the less traditional “did you see those trees in the background?” kind of stuff.
Of course Las Vegas Motor Speedway was awesome as well. If you come to Vegas spend 20 minutes and drive north on I-15 and visit the track. It’s got a great gift shop and you can take a tour of the big oval in a van.
Now me, I got to tour the big oval by myself – in my new 2012 Jaguar XKR at speed. THAT was probably the most fun part of the day and Tom did a great job making some behind the scenes shots of me driving.
Very few people get the kind of access I had for this shoot. I had the whole facility to myself for two hours in perfect light. I’m very grateful for that and the opportunity to shoot my own car for a calendar that many others will enjoy.
I’ll have at least one more post next week on some techniques we used during the shoot.
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