I recently participated in a photography challenge posted by the Facebook group, "Automotive Photography education." In this challenge, participants were to go about the process of planning and photographing a cheap/ordinary vehicle. There had to be preproduction planning (location selection, time of day, lighting) as well as an artist's statement sharing this information. Also needed in the statement were settings and editing details. Here is what I came away with..
In an attempt to properly capture an ideal environment for today's Crossover vehicle, I decided to find a location that offered the attractive scenery of a road trip along with a family friendly event space. Working with a base model, I figured that the location should reflect a destination fitting of the owner's financial situation. Sure, they'll still go places and do things but perhaps those activities would be more budget friendly and less grandiose.
Having already planned to visit Colorado this month, I chose to do a little investigating via Google Maps. Happening across their rodeo grounds, with plenty of parking, and views along the horizon that helped sell the idea of adventure, I knew I had my spot. Coupling that with mild weather around sunset seemed like the best choice. A little texture in the sky from some clouds would help provide interest and color. The warm tones of golden hour would be ideal for creating a summer feel, selling the story, "It's OK to stay out late tonight. Tomorrow is the weekend."
I used the natural light provided by the sunset for my images. The camera (Canon 6D) was placed on a tripod, set to bracket for three exposures (-1.3, 0, +1.3), at F9 and ISO 100. I used a Canon 24-70L with a Tiffen CPL and did two turns resulting in six photos total. I shot these at approximately 50mm. I had two reasons for shooting at this focal length:
1. To reduce wide angle distortion on the vehicle.
2. To capture a wide enough image to produce a nice scene. I wanted to show an environment where the vehicle fit in without drowning it in the surrounding neighborhood or making it look like it's deep inside the mountains, off-roading.
After taking my photos, I ran them through Photoshop's Camera Raw to pull back highlights and bring up shadows a bit. I then opened all six images into Photoshop, layered and blended them manually to accentuate highlights and shadows where I wanted. My next step was color grading through a couple built in Photoshop LUT's and Gradient Maps. Once that was done, I pulled the image back into Camera Raw to crop, sharpen, and make a few small adjustments with contrast and clarity.
Unfortunately the rodeo grounds didn't have any events planned during my time in Colorado - a realization I came to once I arrived. While I wasn't able to capture the essence of the event location in use, a prime component of my plan, I do feel like the location was still a nice fit for the vehicle. That said, I should have been more prepared and come up with a contingency plan to avoid ending up in this kind of situation.
Gear: Canon 6D, Canon 24-70 2.8L, Tiffen CPL, Sunpak Tripod
Post Processing: Adobe Camera Raw & Adobe Photoshop