So a few months back I started talking with a car owner over Facebook messenger and asked him if I could shoot his car. I love finding rare muscle cars and telling their story through digital art. This rare 1970 Buick GS Stage 2 was no different! Of course all my photo shoots are free, so he said yes. Needless to say we were both excited - so we set a date and I started to look for places to shoot the car. The biggest issue with photographing a car is that good paint is like a mirror, it reflects EVERYTHING. So getting a nice large open parking lot to shoot in was going to be a task. I reached out to a few organizations that have large parking lots to see if we can set something up at a quiet time so we wouldn't be in anyone's way - and there is no room for illegal trespassing!
The Strikers Fox Valley Soccer Club in Geneva, IL let us use their parking lot with no issues and they were glad to help out. Here's an aerial view of their parking lot. It's right next to a AAA baseball stadium so I knew we were good to go with tons of space - there will still be reflections, but just not as much and they'll be easier to manage in post production editing. And no, the burnout markinging in the map image is not from the shoot. (:
As we're talking, Pat mentions that he wants to re-create an image that was taken in the 1970's at a drag strip. I think to myself that will be interesting. Then I saw the photo that he texted me - my mouth dropped!!
I looked at the image above and thought how in the world am I going to get the car to look like it's launching off the line.... I told Pat to give me a few days to think about how to setup the scene. That night my creative brain started working. We'll jack up the front end of the car to the right height as in the picture. That will give us not only the lift in the front but the squat in the rear. Just rotating the image in post processing wouldn't do the trick - we need to keep as much reality in the final image as possible. So we had a plan and I got to work sketching out what all needs to happen the day of the shoot. That's correct, photographers have to plan for what they will need to do when the day comes. That includes factors such as sun, camera angle, lens, tripod, strobes, how many images to take for stacking, etc etc. It's not just show up and start clicking - there is a science to this process.
So we get to the lot and now it's time to set up. I positioned one strobe light just to get some unified lighting across the side of the car near the rear quarter panel tilted towards the front quarter panel. It took a few shots to get the camera angle as close as possible to the original image. Then we jacked up the front end of the car to get to the same height as on the original image.
I took roughly 35 images of the car - changing my focal point to different areas of the car. This way when I stack them in post processing I can get a nice smooth and sharp image across more of the car than I would with just one image. It makes the final printed image stand out and pop when printed in a larger format - this one will be 24"x36".
Once all the images were taken it was time to start working on the post processing. This is a more time consuming task than taking the images. I always focus on the small details to make the scene look uniform and realistic, even in a difficult shot such as this one. This image was going to be our base image - as you can see there's lots of work to do. Just a few items that are on the list that need to be done - erase the jack, the background, some of the foreground, the tire in the rear needs to be wrinkled - after all the scene is set when the car is launching from the line right... (Remember we want the scene to reflect reality as much as possible)
Next was the wrinkle in the tire - this process took about a day to get right. I went through about 3 different designs until I perfected it. The Firestone letters made this task even harder to get right. But here is the progression of the effect - it came out amazing and was worth all the effort of getting those little details perfect!
Now we've got the rear tires looking like it should - now we start the editing process. Won't go through all the details, and if you want more information feel free to reach out to me! I love sharing details behind the madness.
So now we have an image that's getting there - the tire is done, the jack is gone, and the background is gone; nothing left but the car - now we can start to build the scene that was in the original image.
First we build the road and the sky
Then adding in the track lines...we're now getting a better visual representation and the scene is starting to make sense to the eye.
Adding in the trees - as close as to the original image as possible...
Now adding in some exhaust smoke because remember we're at full throttle coming off that line. Want to keep all the little details in mind so the scene makes sense.
Finally we need to add in a driver right...can't have a ghost car at the track...
The image now flows, and as you're looking at it, you feel that the car is in motion. We're still not 100% done; now there are some more editing that needs to be done to bring out the details and adjust the colors and make sure that we're ready for printing. I use a 12 ink printer instead of what most people use - 8 or 4 - so I can get even more details out in terms of color and contrast.
Then there is the final image that's ready for printing!
This was one of the most satisfying images that I have produced in the 10+ years that I've been shooting cars. The time and effort that went into this image was worth it - seeing Pat's face when everything was all said and done was priceless. This is a special car for Pat and I'm glad that I was able to do it justice and make sure that he has a high quality image of what he's been looking to do for a very long time. If he ever sells the car, which I hope he doesn't, he'll always have a great image to look at and have a ton of memories consume him once again.
To read more around the history of this beautiful car - please follow this link to a great article done by BangShift - https://bangshift.com/general-news/amazingly-rare-1970-buick-gs-stage-2/
Thanks for reading and feel free to share, comment, and reach out to me if you have any questions about the details that went into making this image. Subscribe to the website to get updates on when there are new blog posts too!
Where American Muscle Meets Art