“Again, with the one shot thing? How am I ever going to get into Longshots like this?!” you ask? Yea . . . turns out you’re just going to have to step your game up. Like Los Angeles’ own Julian Morales, who explains his disgustingly lit (in a good way) shot of this CCW’d, Spoon-infused Honda S2000:
2006 Honda S2000
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Shot location: El monte, CA
Equipment: Canon EOS 40D, 17-55mm f/2.8 lens; Alien Bee B800, Vagabond II battery pack; silver umbrella (some shots); Manfrotto tripod; Adobe Bridge, Photoshop CS4
Shutter: 13 seconds
Focal length: 17mm
Subject-camera distance: 20 feet
Camera height: 1.5 feet
From the Artist
As with many darker/nighttime automotive shots, the lighting is the biggest factor in making or breaking the picture, and artificial lighting via flashes or strobes is a great way to control that. Starting out, I was never satisfied with my results with controlled lighting, until I started shooting with artificial light and utilizing the techniques of light painting and post-process compositing.
For this shot, I found a location, imagined how I’d shoot a car there, and then did my best to set up what I imagined in real life. Next came thinking about the lighting. I knew I wanted the car to “pop” from the background, so I decided to underexpose the background (moderating shutter speed), and artificially light the car with my Alien Bees strobe for a proper exposure (moderating intensity with the light, and aperture of the lens with the camera). The only problem was: I only had one strobe.
With my camera secured on a tripod and kept in one place the whole time, I made five different exposures, each while positioning the strobe in different places to light different parts of the car, either stationary, or moving it over the car using only its modeling light and an umbrella, for the duration of a long exposure (13 seconds, on average). Those different exposures were then opened up in Photoshop, and the parts of each that I wanted to use were merged together via layers and masks. Next, the background was evened out, the lighting on the ground was faded and blended, and I made some adjustments to levels and color balance as I saw fit.
I’ve gotta give credit to a good friend of mine: photographer Clifford Sutrisno (www.timeatk.com), who really taught me this lighting technique and helped me get it down. Maybe the best advice I can give is: Learn from the best!