That’s Not A Light – THIS Is A Light

That’s A Light from RHED Pixel on Vimeo.

My pal Rich Harrington did some more behind the scenes video of a commercial shoot we worked on using a 50″ LED light bar from Rigid Industries as a main source of light. While Rigid isn’t known for its contributions to the photography industry, more than one photographer has borrowed this idea from me and several have even contacted my installer asking for help building a similar rig.

LED lighting is becoming very popular and as you can see here, it did a great job lighting the Jag. My work truck is making itself pay in the bargain. Enjoy.

NOTE: Cross-posted at Photofocus.com

Photographic Light Painting A Car

Copyright Scott Bourne 2012 – All Rights Reserved

NOTE: Cross Posted At Photofocus.com

Light painting is a great way to find a new creative outlet for your photography. It’s not rocket science – and in fact there no rules. There’s no right or wrong way to do it – you just do it. But I have some pointers that may get you started if you are new to photographic light painting.

Let’s talk about gear. In my opinion, a good, solid, tripod and a cable release are basic requirements. You also need a camera that is capable of making at least 30 second exposures. Just about any camera you can buy meets that criteria. The next thing you need is a subject and a good location. This is my 2011 Jaguar XJL Portfolio edition sedan. It makes a lovely subject. You also want a good location, preferably one that offers some serious darkness – i.e., you want to get away from city lights. This image was made at the famous “Dry Lake Bed” near Henderson, NV. In this instance it had heavily rained so the dry lake bed was in fact not dry and there was a lake. This worked to our advantage during this shoot.

Oh yeah – and you need a light. Any light will do, depending on what you want to accomplish. For this shoot, we used one of my favorite photographic toys – a Jerry Ghionis Icelight. What makes the Icelight so perfect for this job is that it has a black bevel on one side that helps to focus the light in one primary direction. Many photographers point a light at the subject from off camera position and record the results. With the Icelight, we actually had our assistants move the light into the scene. The bevel kept the light from being recorded directly by the camera. It’s hard to describe so watch the video below to get an idea of how it works. Because the exposure is so long – the person doesn’t show up in the shot.

To make the image above, we waited for the sun to go down and when it was officially “twilight” we started. I set up my Canon 1DX with a 70-200 f/2.8 IS L MK II zoom lens on an Induro tripod and head. I set the ISO at 200 and then my aperture at f/13. I turned on Long Exposure Noise Reduction and then made my shutter speed 30 seconds. This worked perfectly for the shot I wanted but you will need to experiment with your own settings and compare them to your results. Consider what I did a mere starting point.

Here’s a video my pal Rich Harrington put together to help illustrate the point.

Light Painting Photography

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The Most Incredible & Expensive Lighting System I’ve Ever Used In Photography – NSFW

NOTE Cross posted at Photofocus.com

Copyright Scott Bourne 2012 All Rights Reserved!

(Imagine Jeremy Clarkson’s voice reading these first few paragraphs.) It’s not from Chimera, Alien Bees or Broncolor. It doesn’t come with any soft boxes or stands. In fact, it’s not sold in any camera store – not even at B&H or Adorama. That’s because…

It’s a truck.

To be more precise, it’s a 2012 Ford F-150 FX4 pick-up truck which now sports a 50″ SR-Series Hybrid LED Light Bar W/Custom Mounts. The brackets were custom designed and Line-X was applied. The entire bar is permanently mounted to the truck and provides a mostly daylight balanced LED flood light controlled from a custom switch mounted in the truck cab.

(Okay imagine it’s me now – The Stig.)

I’ve wanted to do this for a long time but the design has always been a challenge. I wanted a nice, broad, relatively diffuse light, with daylight balance that would be high enough that it would be able to project with being blocked by any part of the truck. It took me two years to find this particular product and with the help of Four-The-Truck, my customizer, I found a way to mount the bar that was legal, functional and didn’t induce too much additional wind noise in the cab at speed. (Light bars tend to whistle on the highway. My customizer solved this by using an adhesive at three points on the bar covered by a valance.)

Copyright Tom Shue – All Rights Reserved!

I should probably back up and say – those who know me or have followed me for a long time here know I always have what I jokingly refer to as a “work truck.” Translated, I spend WAAAAY too much money customizing a new truck for fun and then use it in my job and end up being able to justify it for work and writing it off as a legitimate expense. Despite my love for exotic and fast cars, I almost always have at least one truck in my stable.

This particular truck is my latest project and has had tens of thousands of dollars worth of upgrades from the suspension to the motor, wheels, nerf bars, military grade security system, tool box, extended flares, tires, compressor, train horns, sound system, etc. But the most exciting mod (photographically speaking) was the light bar.

I’ve been working on customizing this truck for four months now and the final stage was the addition of the SR-Series Hybrid LED Light Bar.

Copyright Tom Shue – All Rights Reserved!

Unfortunately, this model doesn’t come with a dimmer switch, but the manufacturer is working on a backwards compatible dimmer that will eventually work with this light. For now, you control intensity and fall off by properly positioning the truck. Since it’s a constant light source it’s easy to see where the light falls on the subject and it’s perfect for taking on location to provide a big light for almost any job. In this case, big enough to light a car.

The system runs on a combination of specialty batteries. I replaced the standard Motorcraft truck battery under the hood with an Odyssesy battery. I installed a second Odyssey battery in the tool box. This second battery is powerful enough to run the light bar for an hour. After that, the regular truck battery kicks in and is good for another hour – both without turning on the truck’s engine. Both batteries are charged when the truck is running so as long as you have gasoline in the truck the light will run beyond the time offered by the two batteries. So in short, you could use this light overnight and all day in extreme conditions if needed.

Photo Copyright Rich Harrington

The color and quality of light are infallible and the wide beam covers a very large area. In this case, I waited until sunset and used the light as a front main which allowed me to retain the ambient light behind the car from the sunset.

As backup, I had color-matched HID headlights installed that I could use in extreme cases to fill in the light provided by the LED bar. The combination of both can light up about a third of a football field.

I admit this is a bit overkill, but it is one of those fun things I get to do once in a while that I wanted to share. The total price to buy the lights, batteries, create the custom mounts with labor came to $4300. The truck itself? More than $100k. I know – too much. But what can I say other than you can’t take it with you!

Copyright Scott Bourne – All Rights Reserved

Many of you may have access to off-road vehicles with special lighting. If so, think of these vehicles as specialty lighting and go experiment. You may just be surprised at the results.

NOTE: Lately the images I have been posting are Creative Commons. The images above are under license and therefore not available under Creative Commons – All Copyrights as indicated in the photo caption. Thanks to my hard-working and talented assistant Tom Shue who came to this shoot even though he was injured. Thanks also to my teaching partner Rich Harrington and our production coordinator Pam Berry. Thanks also to our brave, talented and lovely model Nancy.

Professional Car Racing Photography – A Personal Diary Part III Shooting The Race

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

In this third and final installment of my Professional Car Racing Photography – A Personal Diary series, (See part one here and part two here) I’ll cover shooting on race day. When it gets down to it, the race is what matters and hopefully my experience shooting these races will somehow be helpful to you who are reading this and who want to do the same.

Getting ready to shoot the race means charging your batteries, formatting your memory cards and getting your camera setup BEFORE the race starts. Once you have that out of the way, it’s time for the photo meeting.

The pre-race photo meeting is more important than ever on actual race day. Sometimes track access rules change on race day. There are special events like Air Force fly-overs, the National Anthem, dignitaries, celebrities, etc. that you need to know about. If you have the right access, you also need to go to this meeting for victory lane photo assignments. Credentialed photographers will usually have a chance to shoot in victory lane. If you want the podium shot with the racer, the trophy, the celebration, etc., this is where you get that shot. Unfortunately, there are usually more photographers than there are spots so the track photo supervisor usually assigns these slots based on things like publication, circulation, seniority, etc. If you miss the photo meeting, you almost certainly miss your chance at a victory lane shooting slot.

Copyright Scott Bourne - All Rights Reserved

The most important things to shoot at the actual race are the start (green flag) and the finish (checkered flag.) In between, you want to be lucky enough to capture and crashes or other incidents. You also want to capture cars pitting, refueling, being repaired after crashes, etc.

If you’re new, the best thing to do is keep your eye on all the veteran photographers. If you’re in their general area, you are probably in the right place. You can of course scope out your own angles. During the Smith 350 NASCAR truck race Saturday, I knew they’d do driver introductions in a way that the crowd could be involved. NASCAR drivers/teams are closer to their fans than any other kind of racing. I found out they planned to walk the drivers through the crowd, down the main grandstand and over a ladder in the fence down onto the track. Most of the photographers positioned themselves at the bottom of the ladder. I crossed it and caught the drivers coming right off the stairwell and had an uncluttered background.

You eventually have to commit to a spot. Sometimes the roof of the grandstand is best if you want an overall view and the best chance at the flyover. Sometimes one of the photo holes is best because you can do double duty, catching the important pre-race pageantry and then being in position for the green flag which means it’s time to go racing.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

For the Smith 350 NASCAR truck race, I selected the photo hole closest to the start/finish line. This gave me a good angle on pre-race stuff and left me where I wanted to be to get the actual race start.

I scoped my options out the day before and this is why it’s important to go to the track early. The drivers and the photographers have one thing in common. The better they know the track, the better their day will be. I try to walk the entire track on the day(s) before the race to judge every possible angle. I look for sun angle, backgrounds, shooting holes or platforms (there are 22 photographers’ holes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but only one photographers’ platform) and anything else that might help me figure out the best place to be and when.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

For instance, at LVMS in October, the sun angle works in favor of shooting on the inside (from the pits) in the morning, and shooting on the outside (from the grandstand-side) in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always matter. Sometimes you have to shoot in extremely backlit situations on a race track. There are shots you can wait to make. I wanted a shot of the entire race track with the cars near the start/finish line. I went up on the grandstand roof in the afternoon during a re-start after a caution flag and got the shot in better light than I would have had if I shot from there during the actual start of the race.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

When you’re working from the photo holes, make sure to remember this is a dirty, loud, dusty, and dangerous place. During the truck race here on Saturday, a truck crashed RIGHT AT the photo hole one photographer was standing in. Due to the protection of the safer barrier he was un-injured, but he was a bit shaken up. His headphones were blown right off his head and he was covered with dust, dirt, sand and debris. Be sure to remember to bring a bulb blower and micro-fibre towel with you to the race because you will need to clean your camera and lens often. I highly recommend that you do NOT change lenses in this environment. If you do, you’ll be cleaning your sensor for a month afterwards.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Some of the things you need to think about while shooting the race are related to mundane things like focus and shutter speed. If your camera has a high-speed shooting mode, you’ll want to use that. You also want to think about pre-focusing on certain points in the track because at 220 miles per hour, it’s not always easy to just put your sensor on a car and track it through the shooting position. I like to also experiment with shutter speeds. You can use a super fast shutter speed, like 1/4000th of a second and get most everything tack sharp. But you also run the risk of making the car look like it’s standing still in a parking lot if you freeze the action. A good compromise is to try to get about a one-quarter or one-half wheel turn blurry with the rest of the car sharp. The shutter speed you select to accomplish this will depend on how close you are to the cars, how fast they are traveling and what lens you are using. For most cases, I like to start at about 1/1000th of a second. That usually works well enough to get a result that shows some movement in the car. I like to experiment with both slower and faster shutter speeds, especially if I can pan with the car.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Otherwise, the main events to shoot are the pre-race celebration, the green flag start of the event, any cautions such as crashes or other issues, pit stops and the checkered flag. After the race, you want to try to get pictures of the winner’s circle. In LasVegas, there is a victory lane that is pre-templated for photo access. Photographers, according to seniority, publication and seniority are granted access to a set of risers directly across from the Victory Lane. In places like Vegas – and at other major venues, it takes yet another credential to access the victory lane.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

At LVMS for the NASCAR/INDYCAR weekend, we actually had three races. So our assignments for victory lane were for the entire weekend. I was given a purple ticket with the number 36 – indicating the position I was to shoot from in Victory Lane. The risers were marked with masking tape and fortunately for me, my spot was dead center near the top. I try to get shots of the winner and his crew as well as any other special guests.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Shooting the race is fun, hard work and yes, very dangerous. At LVMS we had a serious crash in every race and a death – Dan Wheldon. On day one, during the NASCAR truck race, a truck crashed right at a photographers’ hole. It was such a hard hit that a track caution light was turned around on its stand and damaged. The photographer working that hole had his headphones knocked off his head by the force of the impact.

Remember that race photography is dirty and dangerous. It’s fun, but there are risks involved.

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Professional Car Racing Photography – A Personal Diary Part I

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Using A Slow Shutter Speed & Panning Gets A Better Sense Of Motion In The Final Image

NOTE: This series is dedicated to Dan Wheldon who lost his life during the Indycar race at Las Vegas

One of the reasons I moved to Las Vegas just more than a year ago was the access it affords to great race tracks. One of those tracks is the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. If you are a car person or are interested in racing, then this place is about as close to Disney Land as you’ll get without going to California or Florida. It’s one of the most fan-friendly, accessible, professionally run race tracks in the world. And I’m lucky enough to shoot there.

Recently, the LVMS was busy. The IZOD IndyCar Championship had it’s last race of the season and the season point winner was crowned. The Indy Lights teams also ran as did the folks who race trucks in NASCAR in the Smith’s 350.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Danica Patrick prepares for her last IndyCar race. This image was made with a fisheye lens. An "over-the-wall" photo pass is required to make an image like this. Note some photographers in orange vests on the right side of the image standing behind the wall. I like the string of light stands in this image top right.

With all those races, the practice and qualifying that goes with, and the surrounding events including tech inspections, fan events, etc. there are tons of photo opportunities.

Lucky for me, I got to cover the races and had an all-access photo pass to help me accomplish that goal.

A pretty horrible self-portrait made after shooting qualifying. Note the Racing Electronics headphones and radio, along with over-the-wall pass, general pass, Nikon D3s, Tenba bag on my shoulder, etc.

In this series of posts, I’ll outline some of what happens when you photograph a professional, national-level motorsports event. Think of it as a diary. I’ll just give my impressions and recite some things that I think other photographers might like to know.

So let’s get started…

It all starts with gear. Know what to bring – and what NOT to bring is the beginning of a successful shoot. This list is pretty exhaustive but I am sure I forgot to mention something.

CAMERA GEAR

Nikon D7000
Nikon D3S
Nikon 400mm f/2.8
Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S
Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro
Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye

Extra Batteries For Both Nikon Bodies

Olympus EP3 Body (x2)
Olympus 12mm f//2
Olympus 45mm f/1.8

Extra EP3 battery

Manfroto Monopod
Kirk Lens Plates
Induro BHD1 Ballhead

Misc 32gb Ultra Fast CF and SD Cards (I don’t use any specific brand of memory card. They all seem to work pretty well for me.)

Tenba Transport 400 mm Lens Bag

Tenba Medium Messenger Camera Bag

You should also note that use of a tripod is almost universally forbidden at most race tracks, including LVMS. You may use a monopod in very limited situations like while at a photo hole or out of the pit area. There are safety concerns in the pits that preclude the use of monopods and tripods.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - E.J. Visio sits in his car awaiting a practice session

CLOTHING

Long pants – preferably SPF 20 or better. NOTE Most major motor sports events won’t credential someone wearing shorts. It’s a combination of safety and professionalism.

Long sleeve shirt – preferably SPF 20 or better. I use the Columbia fishing shirts because they have a high SPF factor and sunburn can be a real problem. While a long-sleeve shirt can be hot on a summer day, it’s better than getting skin cancer.

Closed toe shoes. Safety first.

Hat to block the sun. (With me but not shown in my photo here.)

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Lockers in the media room at LVMS

MISC

Credentials/Parking Pass

Sunblock

Ear protection (I use the Racing Electronics Uniden Sportcat radio with Racing Electronic Platinum Headset. The headset provides a 24db NRR Rating and simultaneously allows me to monitor individual drivers’ radios as well as the race officials and radio/TV broadcasts of the race.)

Computer/Power Supply/Card Reader for offloading cards.

iPhone for marking locations, tracking sunset/sunrise times, mapping shooting locations.

Water – and plenty of it.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Photo vest, credentials, racing electronics gear

NOTE: The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of the top race facilities in the world. It’s certainly the nicest track I’ve ever photographed at and the media center is the best in the business. There are large media rooms with desks, power, free refreshments and lockers. The photo staff assigns lockers and hands out locks. I store everything I don’t need for each shooting session in the locker. The media room is under heavy security so I feel like it’s safe. It’s easier to get to the drivers and their cars than it is the media center! Unfortunately, this kind of luxury isn’t found at most race tracks. Call ahead to see what amenities the track offers for credentialed photographers.

Next on the list is access. Having access is the most important thing when you want to photograph any pro sport, including motorsports.

To get access you have to get permission which usually means you need a client or a good friend with the connections. At major tracks like LVMS it’s much harder than your local drag strip. In either event, don’t try to arrange access the day of the race. This sort of thing is usually arranged well in advance.

Credential office at LVMS

Here at LVMS there is a separate “credential shack” on Craig Road behind the speedway. You go to this building to get your credentials. Depending on what and who you’re shooting for you get different levels of access. Each event is different. Some require hot or cold passes and these have to do with where you can be when there is activity on the track. At most events at LVMS there is no hot or cold pass but there is an “over the wall” pass which is required to go over the pit wall for any race.

Once you have credentials you pick up the schedule. This isn’t the schedule that the event posts on its website. This is the media schedule. This document details press conferences, media avails and other information needed to cover the race.

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Helio Castroneves jokes around with other drivers as they prepare for the mandatory IndyCar driver's meeting.

At this race (and most national races,) there is a photographer’s meeting – much like the driver’s meeting. In this mandatory meeting you find out all the rules. The organizers will tell you where you can and can’t shoot, go over safety rules, discuss further credentials such as a photo vest and even handle mundane stuff like passing out meal tickets. (Yes at the big events they even feed us!)

The most important part of the pre-race photography activities is the safety talk. Believe me when I tell you there are few things in life you’ll photograph that are as dangerous as a major auto race. Read on below to see some examples. Everywhere you go you are in danger so be alert!

Copyright Scott Bourne 2011 - All Rights Reserved - Shot From A "Photo Hole" at the finish line using a fish-eye lens on what the track officials call "The Outside." Anything on the pit side of the track is "The Inside" and anything on the grandstand side of the track is "The Outside." At this track there are 20 holes for photographers. These holes are three feet from the track, behind the "Safer Barrier." Don't let the name fool you. If a car impacts the wall at the location you're shooting from, you're in danger. During the truck race a truck crashed right at a photo hole here at LVMS.

Rule number one is never turn your back on the track when it’s hot – i.e., cars are on the track. You never know what might be coming at you and if you’re facing it you have some chance of avoiding it. You also want to be aware of your surroundings in general. The garage and pit area are very dangerous. There are tires rolling around, cars charging out of the stalls, engines catching on fire. You don’t want to relax in this environment because you might end up getting hurt.

The crews and drivers generally don’t think much of photographers. They see us as a necessary evil as best. They’re not usually in a very good mood when we’re around so don’t expect them to go out of their way to look out for your safety. That’s your job. Pay attention at all times. Give them enough room to do their jobs, which are also very dangerous. Work together.

No matter how much I talk about safety in these posts, it can’t be enough. Ed Reinke, a well-known race photographer with decades of experience, died after he fell and suffered a head injury while covering the IndyCar race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

In 1971, the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 slammed into a photographers’ stand. Nobody died but there were several serious injuries.

In 2005, four photographers were injured in the pits at the Daytona 200 when a car slid through a pit stall.

I’m not trying to unnecessarily scare anyone. I just want to make sure all race photographers understand the risks and prepare for them.

In the next installment I’ll cover shooting behind the scenes stuff on pre-race days, practice and qualifying.

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