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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
How I Photograph Cars…
at Least This One Car

by Joe Farace 

I made this month's photograph of a limited edition Jaguar with a Canon EOS 1D Mark II. I showed it to my friend Steve who had just borrowed the camera to make a few shots of it for our club's newsletter. While looking at it, he said, "I just don't see like that." So I thought it might be fun to give you some idea of how I came to make this particular image.

One fine Saturday, a Colorado Springs Land Rover dealership celebrated the groundbreaking of its new Jaguar dealership and invited some people, including myself, to bring their cars to the site for an informal show. All kinds of interesting cars showed up, including a Sterling Moss limited edition XK-R Jaguar coupe that, I think, is one of the more beautiful contemporary sports cars.

On this particular day, I was only planning on making some snapshots, so I had just one lens. It was Canon's EF 16-35mm zoom which, based on the 1.3 multiplication factor that this camera produces, might have been a better choice for an indoor show, rather than outdoors. I had the camera set at ISO 200, which is the speed of the film I formerly used with film SLRs for these kinds of events. Setting the EOS 1D Mark II at this ISO, gave me some extra depth of field without adding a noticeable amount of digital noise. At least, I couldn't see it in any of the RAW images shot with the camera.

The first image I made was just a "walk up to it and click" shot and shows the lines of the car and a few of the distinguishing characteristics (stripes/wheels) of the XK-R and a whole lot of stuff around it. I walked around back and made another similar uninspiring image of the XK-R's dainty derriere. Then I went back to the front and made a similar shot, only from a lower angle. I didn't like any of 'em and walked away to hang with my homies. All three shots were made with the camera set in P mode. 

Later as I was making some pictures of some old Land Rover fire trucks, I kept thinking about the XK-R. Being one of less than a dozen in the world, it needed a shot that made a real statement. Two things stood out for me: the red fender strips ala Corvette's Grand Sport, and the three-piece racing wheels atypical of the standard luxo Jag. With the camera still in P mode (I am one lazy dude!), I racked the lens out to 16mm (effective 21mm) and started looking at the front left wheel because I liked the lighting on that side.

I knew I had to shoot from a low angle with the camera pointing up to minimize background clutter, so I knelt down to get this low perspective. While composing this shot, I saw those two little powder-puff clouds in the background and damn near yelled "Eureka" when I clicked the shutter. 

I made only one exposure. I had been shooting all day and found that exposure compensation tended to be the standard stuff: underexpose black cars, overexpose white ones, but this silver car was as Goldilocks once said "just right." I don't usually overshoot and during downtime tend to chimp like crazy to toss out the junk.

The image was originally shot as a horizontal at f/10 and 1/400th of a second but after I opened it later in Adobe Photoshop CS, I preferred a vertical orientation. And no, I didn't crop anything. I seldom do, preferring to get what I like on the viewfinder and since the EOS 1D Mark II shows 100% of the shot, what I saw was what I got. There is little or no tweaking, other than processing the RAW file using Adobe Photoshop CS Camera RAW 2.2 plug-in. (I guess that makes it a "real" photograph.) Some people tell me "it doesn't look like a Jaguar," but they are missing the traditional "growler" cap in the center of the wheel. 

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