Setting up a studio in a museum

Studio museum

I’ve just come back from shooting for a  couple of days at the fantastic Donington Grand Prix collection. I have a regular double page studio spread in F1 Racing magazine and have built up a large archive of F1 cars photographed in the studio style but need to keep adding to it all the time.

Thinwall Special -2w
Thinwall Special -2w

I had 4 cars on my shooting list and fortunately 3 of them were together in one hall so I set up my black background cloths and trusty Bowens monolites and got to work. I use a wireless Elinchrom Ranger flash system to trigger the other flash heads and a strong back light usually made up of a pair of soft boxes to give depth and add highlights to show shape.

Cars on the list were: 1950 Thinwall Ferrari Special, 1954 Vanwall VW2, 1955 BRM V16 Mk2 P30,1983 Williams FW08C

BRM V16-1-w
BRM V16-1-w-un-retouched image

The first 3 cars were green or dark green which, without careful lighting can lose their colour and end up looking black. The way around this is to use the flash heads with only spill kills on them and point the lights straight at the car. Be aware of where the reflection of the light, or pings, as I call them , appear on the body work.You can’t avoid these but make sure they reflect into a panel that can be easily retouched and don’t spread onto any detail that might be lost. The BRM was darker than the others so I set up a white sheet and banged a flash head through it to give a broader highlight along the bonnet.

Vanwall VW-2-w
Vanwall VW-2-w

Comping two images together

One of the images I try to shoot if there is time is a locked off shot of the whole car with the bonnet on and off comping these together to give a shadowing effect of the engine through the bonnet. It’s critical that you don’t move either car or camera between images to maintain the size and angle for the post production final image to be a success.

Thinwall Special comp-w
Thinwall Special comp-w

Top 10 places to shoot action at Goodwood Circuit

The hugely enjoyable Goodwood Circuit Revival and Members meetings have become some of the best classic motorsport events in the world. At the Revival meeting I met a photographer who had never been to the circuit before and was faced with the daunting prospect of not wanting to miss anything by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ideally it’s a good idea to walk the circuit to spot the best places to shoot from before the event but if you don’t have time here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

There are many great ways to cover the track at Goodwood but I’m going to pick out by top 10 places to shoot action if you are an accredited photographer. We’ll start at the very beginning, as they say it’s a very good place to start, with 5 places to shoot the start.

GW start-1
GW start-1 70-200mm f5.6 1/500th second

This view of the start on the pit straight is hard to get anymore as the Motorsport Association who govern the safety at race meetings have deemed it a ‘Red’ area but you can still shoot it from over the fence .

GW start-2
GW start-2-70-200mm f8 1/250th second

This view looking across to the clock tower is another option from the same place as the first.

Goodwood-start-w
Goodwood-start-70-200mm f11 1/125th second

Looking the other way towards the control tower panning the camera as the flag drops.

Goodwood-start-w
Goodwood-start-w 70-300mm f5.6 1/640th second

From the roof of the Race Control building, the one with the clock on it, this long lens image flattens the perspective drawing the elements together.

Goodwood start turn 1
Goodwood start turn 1 -70-300mm f5.6 1/640th second

Looking back down the start straight from the beginning of turn 1, Madgwick, is a dramatic place to shoot the first few laps .A fast shutter speed is essential with the cars coming towards you at over 100mph and jostling for position.

Documenting a restoration

One of the best ways to record the restoration of a classic car is to take photographs along the way. Not only will your pictures be a great part of the future history of the car but they may help you put it back together again afterwards.

Porsche 356 restoration
Porsche 356 restoration

If you get the chance shoot some photos of the car before it is dismantled and don’t be shy about including people involved in the work in your images as it brings them to life.

Porsche 356 restoration-2
Porsche 356 restoration-2- 1/8th second f8

Remember you are creating a record with your images so make sure you shoot all angles and try to catch as many of the processes as you can.Many workshops can be a bit dark so use a tripod , crank up the ASA and fill in the foreground with flash. Don’t get to close to any dangerous grinding or cutting and never look directly at any welding or you may damage your eyes.

Porsche 356 restoration-3
Porsche 356 restoration-3- 1/30th second f5.6

Ask the craftsman to pause if he can so you can catch the image. Mix up your angles and lenses to keep your pictures interesting and don’t be afraid to go in close….if it is safe.

Porsche 356 restoration-4
Porsche 356 restoration-4-1/15th second f8

Don’t worry too much about your white balance, it is more important to get a set of accurate images to document the restoration.

Adding contrast in an infinity cove

Another way to boost contrast in camera in an infinity cove studio shoot is to add black cloth or boards to reflect back into the car seen here in this very complicated Mazda RX7 shoot I did back in the days of large format film. The highlight in the side is created by black polyboards stood up between 1-3 metres back from the car creating a horizon line and forming the lowlight below and 2 or 3 lights focused onto the wall reflecting back into the side. The windscreen highlight is done by focusing a light onto the floating ceiling and then flagging it with hanging cloth on a pole or another board over the car.

unedited studio image showing a large format sheet of film with Mazda RX7
unedited studio image showing a large format sheet of film with Mazda RX7

White boards on the floor reflect back into the wheels where more black cloth has been used to fill in any gaps in the shadow down the side of the car and the black boards stapled to the back wall of the studio give a cut out line to the top edge of the car along the roof and bonnet.