At the end of 2012 I was commissioned to shoot a Falken Tire advertisement involving forty-five Honda Tuner cars organized in a massive group photo. The final ad would be printed on the backside of Honda-Tuning magazine and shown for the entire year of 2013. The original concept involved shooting from a helicopter to achieve an aerial perspective of the ground with the group of cars laid out in the shape of an "F" for the Falken Tire logo. Due to time constraints, it was decided to forego that idea and find an alternative.
The empty parking lot at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana | © Steve Demmitt
As you can imagine the sheer scale of the photo shoot would involve some serious planning. After a few mockups and some back and forth discussion, it was decided to shoot the cars in a tight symetrical formation. A scissor lift would be used to achieve a high enough angle to position the camera so that all the cars were in view. To accomodate a large enough space for the photo shoot, we scouted various locations and decided on the parking lot at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The camera used for the photo shoot was a Hasselblad H4D-60 w/ 80mm Lens. A medium format w/ digital back capable of capturing 60 megapixel images with a 8956 x 6708 resolution. For lighting, we used a combination of ambient light, Alien Bees B800 strobes w/ Vagabond power packs and PocketWizard remotes to trigger them.
Scissor Lift w/ Hasselblad H4D-60 and Tripod | © Steve Demmitt
The cars couldn't just be positioned haphazardly without any flow so coming up with the right layout was key. Finalizing that configuration was done by utilizing Hot Wheels cars in various positions. Once a configuration was agreed on, a picture was taken for reference. A variation of seven cars was also setup and shot before shooting the forty-five car image. You can catch a glimpse from that set in the gallery below.
Hot Wheels configuration for the forty-five car image | © Steve Demmitt
John Zhang (left), Jesse Lee from Falken Tire (middle) and Richard Thompson (right) slacking on the job. | © Steve Demmitt
John Zhang and Richard Thompson, both accomplished automotive photographers were my assistants for the day. They were tasked with moving the lights (Alien Bees B800 Strobes w/ Vagabond power pack) around as well as helping in positioning the cars.
Forty-five car configuration in an ambient exposure straight out of the camera | © Steve Demmitt
Looking through the viewfinder of the Hasselblad H4D-60 | © Steve Demmitt
Camped behind the viewfinder of the camera I was able to relay information to John and Richard via walkie talkie on where each car needed to be placed. From there the camera was locked down and the lights were brought in. The massive number of cars in the shot meant that externally lighting all of the cars would prove near impossibile to do in one exposure. Because of that, each car was lit (Alien Bees B800 Strobes w/ Vagabond power pack) seperately as an exposure and the images were later aligned and combined in post production. Over fifty exposures/images were used to create the final shot.
Richard Thompson and John Zhang at work | © Steve Demmitt
32gb of RAM.....Where did you go? | © Steve Demmitt
Having to work in Adobe Photoshop with over fifty exposures at nearly 9k resolution put my computer to the test. The 32gb of RAM I upgraded to just months before proved to be well worth it for this job. The computer maxed out the RAM on numerous occasions and I had to merge layers and condense the image a few times in order to go any further. The finished image was then sent to Falken Tire's creative department where they laid out the design/text for the ad.
Final Image | © Steve Demmitt
Falken Tire Ad | © Steve Demmitt
Next to positioning the cars I would say the most difficult part of the day was enduring the cold weather. Some of you may laugh at the notion of it being cold in sunny Southern California but I kid you not, the temperature was in the low 40's that day and none of us were prepared for that. Having to stand on a scissor lift for much of that time without the ability to move around proved to be quite a challenge. At the end of the day I had to let my brain thaw for a good two hours until I was back to normal.
End of the day....the last car leaves the parking lot | © Steve Demmitt
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Tomek Stas Thursday, 21 March 2013 12:43 Comment Link
That´s a good job, well done. And sure a success 4 you Mr. Demmitt. Best regard´s
Greg Szoda Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:13 Comment Link
Awesome write up! Looked like a fun shoot!
Doc Fluty Friday, 12 July 2013 01:07 Comment Link
How did each car get lit? I see that each car was shot by an AB and merged with other layers... but was each car (shot) metered, TTL or did they just walk up to a car at random distances and you triggered them through the pocket wizard?
thanks for the awesome walk through and results.