Another scale model commission, this time from a collector who wanted me to create some posters of some of his collection. I selected the models that I felt were the most photogenic, namely the primary coloured muscle cars plus a couple of others, all 1/18 scale. Since most collectors of the real versions spend a lot of time tinkering in the garage I decided to build a scale garage to put them inside and photograph. Basically a few sheets of cardboard sprayed with concrete texture paint with a window cut out of one of them. A few items of paraphernalia, such as springs from clothes pegs and a black drinking straw doubled as suspension springs and an exhaust pipe respectively. A vaping device and a small lamp outside the window created the musty, smokey atmosphere that I wanted, giving the cars presence, vintage and mystery. The client also wanted some action shots (naturally) but with the strict caveat to not cause any damage to these precious collectibles. Thus the hardest part of the set-ups was ensuring that the models remained in mint condition before and after the shoot. They did. Black bars were added to the top and bottom of the images to give them a 'cinematic' look. Once again, success was all about finding the right angles and lighting, along with a few practical effects.
Possibly not as thrilling as last year's racing but we nevertheless had a great time in the company of our friends Nat, Rob and young Harry at this annual event in Powys. The stubborn rain slowed the pace somewhat, clogging the track and no doubt many wheels, but the determined drivers battled through the resistance to send mud flying and smoke billowing in every direction. In any case, I could barely hold my camera steady laughing so much at the commentary offered by a hilarious duo blaring over the field through the ubiquitous speakers. They clearly enjoyed their drink and it was worth attending just to listen to them. Good weekend, good fun.
Less of an epic drama and more of a random assortment the client gave me three of his small Formula One models to photograph. Luckily he didn't give me a deadline and wasn't concerned about showing a surrounding environment, which fortunately meant I didn't have to construct a winding track, spectator stands or advertisement banners. In fact, as the models were detailed he was more interested in close up and dynamic shots, which is indeed what I returned to him.Formula One racing is a little too boring for me to ever watch so I tried to find interesting angles and add a little drama with some smoke and light. The small models, around 10cm each, had enough details to allow some macro shots in addition to wide angle and zoom shots. Now I'm wondering what I could shoot if I could get near the real thing...Being Alpha Whiskey there naturally had to be at least one obligatory collision/crash shot and for this I used the birthday cake sparkler. Shooting models this way allows one to get into angles and positions that might not be practical on a real scale, for example the worm's eye view in front of the oncoming cars. The video montage of this shoot (with music) can be seen here. Anyway, job done, another client happy; on to the next one...
Another scale model commission turned into a project, this one an epic action extravaganza of 43 images, of which 25 are chosen to be presented here. The client wanted bespoke posters for her son's bedroom, giving me the briefest of briefs, namely a chase involving police cars. Naturally. These were all shot with 1/36 die cast scale models using as much practical effects and props as possible, such as the road and grass and some of the smoke. Editing filled in the rest, including the backgrounds and debris. Not all the images are convincing, of course, but they all collaborate to tell the story, the full version of which can be seen on video here. Once again, despite the outward appearance of merely playing with toys, this was an exercise in composition and framing, finding the right angles to make the images as dynamic as possible. The photography didn't take too long but the editing took a while, with some images requiring upwards of 25 layers. This time was obviously factored into my fee. Anyway, I hope you get a flavour of the action below. There aren't many people shooting this kind of action with die cast models so hopefully this brings you something fairly original.
A somewhat intriguing departure from the small clique of scale model clients or those wanting help with their travel photos, interior photography adds to the ever eclectic mix that I am grateful to enjoy.This post won't presume to offer any instruction but merely a flotilla of ideas using examples below from a number of stately homes and historical properties.
Another year, another visit to the Royal International Air Tattoo, this time in the company of friends. Much the same aircraft and displays as last year so we didn't stay for the full show and perhaps the limited variety of this set reflects my indifference. Still, the incredible pilots put on a good show despite the oppressive heat under the searing sunshine. Blinding rays pierced through the rings of undulating vapour trails as the deafening afterburners roared through the sky. These machines could undoubtedly find a missile lock far more easily than our cameras could a focus lock, our rattling shutters presumably no match for the cannons on the underbellies of these aerial knights. As they careened past in all directions it proved a trifle difficult to keep up but the show was efficiently organised and we enjoyed what we saw. A worthy distraction.
Not the greatest images in the world but great to see the planes over the Mall as they celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Royal Air Force. Forget Top Gun, these guys know how to do it and make it look good. Some were on display at Horseguard's Parade. Happy 100th Birthday RAF.
Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is a pleasant if unspectacular city, whose friendly and laid-back atmosphere belie the fact that the country was at war a mere quarter century ago. The city is modern and developed, with a plethora of beautiful churches, the most dominant being the Saint Sava Temple with an as yet unfinished interior. The outwardly unassuming Alexander Nevsky Cathedral probably has the most beautiful and colourful interior, while the Ruziça Church on Kalemegdan has chandeliers made from bullets and swords. The city's history is exemplified at Kalemegdan, a large ascending park at the top of the old city whose summit hosts the Belgrade Fortress. The open military museum here allows one to walk amongst divisions of tanks and rocket launchers while marvelling at the huge dinosaurs in the Jurassic kids park nearby. The Victor Monument overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers provides a classic sunset venue. The long city streets are replete with bountiful shops and eateries, Skadarska being a popular evening destination with its cobbled streets and live music. Lots of museums too, we only had time to enjoy the impressive art collection, including many by Yugoslavian artists, at the National Museum. We thank the friendly and helpful inhabitants of Belgrade and their tasty food; it made our short visit enjoyable despite the oppressive heat.
Some real cars this time rather than the models. Another year, another display of pretty much the same old wheels and another challenge to shoot them from interesting angles. Thus, a lot of low shots with a wide-angle lens looking up to capture their imposition and scale, and processed with a slightly vintage look in keeping with their ages. The Corvette Stingray is a personal favourite of mine, hence the cover photo; they simply don't design them like that any more. Logos, wheels and even the exhausts underneath the vehicles were all fair game. And then it got a little too hot for comfort so I packed up and left.I used a variety of lenses, all of which had a polariser to cut out reflections, except the 45mm.
Always a safe bet for a good day out, Waddesdon Manor once again impressed us with its opulence and scale. Despite the heaving masses that clearly had the same bright idea as us, I managed to eke out a few shots absent of people. Possibly similar to ones I had taken before but this time all accomplished with one lens. Beautiful and ornate exteriors, well tended gardens and luxurious interiors are all characteristics of Waddeson Manor, built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to display his art and to entertain his guests (a rather exquisite weekend retreat).Excellent guides, gardeners and volunteers made this visit as enjoyable as previous ones.
Serene silence in the desert is suddenly and brutally assaulted by the sound of speed, a relentless roar of powerful engines becoming louder with frightening intensity. Diesel chokes the air with plumes of thick pungent smoke. Dust and sand swirl upwards in a chaotic fog as burning rubber spits it everywhere. They are here. Red and blue chase each other like metallic warriors in a chariot race to the death, airborne over the ridges and slamming into the dirt below. Chassis reinforced with steel roll cages defy the impact as they stubbornly race forward through a tornado of debris. There can be only one winner...Ok, I'm starting to get requests for these kinds of projects, this being one such example. The client wanted to have custom posters for his young son's bedroom, his son being a car and racing fanatic. I took a few more photos than he needed so that I could make a project out of it. Two rally models, both 1/36 scale, were hung over a bed of breadcrumbs and showered in it through a straw while smoke was blown over them with a vaping device. Some debris was added in post, as was some of the smoke, the sky and of course, the headlights. I think this particular project demonstrates the importance of finding the right angles and using the right kind of toning to make the cars look more convincing. The client and his son loved the images they selected so job done. Of course, he paid my fee but I guess you can't put a price on a child's happiness.Some people have also asked that I make images using scale model versions of their actual cars in scenarios that they wouldn't dare place their expensive or prized vehicles. Not a bad idea. Once again, another project that helped me revise and practice composition, lighting and framing, as well as demand some creativity and craft. All shot with mirrorless gear. The video of this project can be seen here.
The idea, which wasn't mine but suggested to me by my frequent collaborator, was just a car bursting through a stack of barrels at night. So, clearly it wasn't just me that grew up on a diet of 1980s action TV and Fast and Furious movies. But once the idea was nascent it wouldn't let go until I nurtured it to fruition. For this project I used two scale model (1/36) cars, one to burst through the barrels and one to act as a parked obstacle. Everything was handmade, from the barrels to the traffic cones, the making of the former, at least, can be seen below. I realise a stack of wooden barrels aren't likely to be seen on a highway but they offered the camera more texture and I had some brown paint left over from my previous project. The smoke was a practical effect from a vaping device, as was the small torch giving off the blue LED light. Photoshop was used to remove wires, blend layers and spin wheels. And add a little debris and some headlights. And add colour and contrast. I added a skyline backdrop to two of the images (from my Toronto archives) to fill in some dead space. I left the other shots (facing away from the skyline) blank as I didn't want it to be a distraction. The main image was the red car bursting through the barrels but as with previous projects I was encouraged to tell a story (before and after the stunt) so I arranged the other 'pick-up' shots. And like a stunt scene in a movie I wanted to show it from several angles. But whereas a movie will typically use multiple cameras to cover a single stunt I, alas, had only one camera and thus rearranged the scene in different positions in front of the camera. Anyway, I think the result is satisfying to me and it's on to the next project. The video of this project can be seen here.
Enjoyed a great day in the sun with friends this weekend past at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII's second wife. King Henry came into possession of the property after the death of Anne's father and then bestowed it upon Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, upon the annulment of their marriage. In the early part of the last century, the castle was restored and used as a family residence by the American William Astor.The castle and grounds were grand and sumptuous, beautifully neat gardens and walks decorated the vast landscape within the castle's view. Particular highlights were the Yeomanry Museum and the Miniature House exhibition. The castle rooms were typically ornate and well furnished, including a bedroom for King Henry himself.Had too much fun to take many photos so here are just a few. Mostly shot with the Panasonic 8-18mm F/2.8-4.
My latest scale model project is a tribute to a classic vehicle stunt.The highlight in perhaps one of the weaker Bond movies, and the first stunt to be modelled by a computer, the Astro Spiral jump was a bona fide act of daring long before the modern era of CGI.Rather than copy the scene (or sequence) exactly, and it is possible to buy a model of the AMC Hornet used in the film, this was merely an homage, chosen because I love vehicular acrobatics (guilty of some myself!). And also because it was entirely possible to construct the two bridge halves and create a simple diorama around them. I used what I felt would be a slightly more exotic car for the period, the Lamborghini Miura. The bridge was constructed from strips of cardboard and mounted on a frame made from food skewer sticks. Everything was painted from a small tester tub of brown paint from a DIY store. Luckily, because it was meant to look dilapidated and collapsed, nothing had to be perfect, neither the construction of the bridge nor the paint job.The ground was a doormat made of artificial grass, cut in two to make way for a river of foil. The embankments in the background were made of folded flowerpot liners (!). There shouldn't have been any river banks but the cut doormat edges had to be covered so I lined them with breadcrumbs. My friend and frequent collaborator Brubaker helped me hang the car in various positions. The only things added to the scene in post were the sky, headlights and debris trails. I possibly could have added more to the background as it's a little empty but I imagined this bridge to be abandoned in a remote place and I didn't want too much clutter around the car within the frame.I wasn't originally going for a continuous sequence (you can see the lack of continuity in the colouring), hoping each image would work as a standalone pic. Anyway, maybe I should stick to 80s TV shows. Had a ton of fun doing it, though :)The video for this project can be seen here.
Spoiler alert: BMW loses.So another trip back to the 80s, this time with Airwolf, a mach one attack helicopter with the most advanced weapon systems in the air today.... Ah, you had to have seen it. Well, I wanted to make just a few random shots with the die cast helicopter model but my friend Brubaker suggested we make a series.Oh boy. It seemed like more work than I was intending to give this project but hey ho, more opportunities to eat and drink. So these were made with a £2 1/43 scale die cast BMW that I found in a supermarket and that happened to be a similar relative scale to the helicopter. I would have preferred a model of Street Hawk but nobody seems to have one.Once again, and on two separate occasions, we set up the shots on our makeshift studio table, arranging the car and helicopter at the positions we wanted. Airwolf was either hung from above with string on mounted on its accompanying stand (later edited out in post). As before, we tried to have as many practical effects and elements as possible to achieve as much as we could in camera. For instance we used smoke for mist in the lair and breadcrumbs for gravel/desert. For the black road we spray painted a sheet of cardboard and stuck two thin strips of yellow electrical tape down the centre. For water we used a pre-crumpled piece of aluminium foil with a blue sheet in the background so that it would catch the colour. We tried to create chain gun bullet impacts in the breadcrumb gravel but our attempts were unsuccessful so I had to try it with brushes in post. The explosion around the BMW was once again from a section of the exploding galaxy I had used previously. The die cast helicopter actually has a button-activated spinning rotor but I decided to create the rotor effects in post too.More often than not we photographed the background first as a master shot before placing the car and the helicopter in the scene. These were then cut, copied and pasted into the master shot along with any of the desired effects. As before, backgrounds were added from my archives (mainly from Colorado for this set) and headlights were added in post too. Everything was edited with layers. My friend Natalia provided valuable feedback on each edit. Despite the potential for ridicule I can honestly say that photographing scale models can teach you a tremendous amount about lighting, composition, framing and processing, all of which are essential to any genre of digital photography. It's certainly not as easy as you might think and does require a modicum of thought, imagination, invention and planning. In that respect it has been just as stimulating as taking images on my travels. Anyway, I'm reasonably happy with our results. There are a few people out there shooting scale models and dioramas (and being paid handsomely for it) but I have yet to find anyone else creating these kind of action scenes. Arguably no one else is that sad! Once again a fun time was had by all and we more or less got the results we set out to achieve. That in itself made completion of this project satisfying.