Formula Ford on Location
We were commissioned by Ford Design and Ford Motorsport to do a series of photographs of the new Formula Ford car. Traditionally the series was the stepping stone from karts to single seater racing, akin to that of motorsports top flight, Formula One. Drivers such as Johnny Herbert, Ayrton Senna, Eddie Irvine and Jenson Button all cut their teeth on this racing series.
The car had been given a major overhaul in both design and engineering, using Ford’s award winning One Litre Ecotec engine. The first version to be released had no aerodynamic package i.e. no front or back wings. This has always been the case, relying on driver skill rather than any driver aids but a year later a version with wings was produced as well to give a taste of aerodynamics. In this post, I’ll show an amalgamation of a few images of both shoots, and how we achieved the clients brief.
First of all let me dispel the myth that all car photography is about one image meticulously lit, spending hours on one view. I've been shooting cars for enough years to know it’s no different than any other commercial shoot. You have one or two days to shoot and a list of what the client wants to achieve, which is usually beyond what you will ever complete in the time allowed. So the first job is to set realistic targets for you and your client to aim for, with an ‘if we have time list’ at the end.
Our first shoot consisted of two humorous shots. We put the car on the forecourt next to a load of Ford Fiestas with all the “Best Buy” & “Finance Available” signs on, as well as a shot of a racing driver parking his car in the car park surrounded by hundreds of family saloons. This shot made the Ford calendar and it was a simple shot to light. It consisted of one Bowens head, flashed from the cherry picker to lighten the shadows and give the car and driver a bit of ‘bite’. This shot was still 90% natural light.
We also needed to shoot at a garage and take a few shots on the track and road on day one. The first image is at the Ford Rapid Fit Garage in Dunton Essex. The idea was simply to show off the car in an environment that it’s not usually seen in. We had already done a recce so I knew what time the sun would be behind the car, giving the building cladding shadow which made for a very graphic affect.
I set the camera up first, a Nikon D3x with 24mm shift and tilt lens as it was essentially an architectural shot. We then pushed the car into position and raised it as if it were in the pits on raceday for a tyre change. Rather than a pit crew, we had one solitary mechanic scratching his head as if he was expecting a Ford Mondeo.
We placed the first head, a Gemini 500Pro with a Travelpak and High Performance Reflector, directly in front of the car. We did this because the car was now 50% silhouetted due to the daylight. In the studio, we always bounce the light on the walls and ceiling or smooth poly boards to light cars. On sunny days I light the car to match the sun, this meant aiming the flash straight at it.
I also thought it needed some side light so another 500Pro Head and Travelpak was positioned to the side, but a little more to the rear to give some glow from the tyres on the camera side. The purpose of the flash was not to overpower the natural light, but to compliment it. I wanted to make the car ‘ping’ without isolating it completely.
The next shot I’ll talk about was on the hill leading to Ford’s test track (now nicknamed Damon Hill). This was more of a street race scene with Fords UK headquarters in the background. A simple graphic picture with the car as the hero. The sun had gone by this point, so all the light is created by my 500Pro's. One main light - quite high on a stand to the right emulating the sun, and a head in the front to light the other side of the car, adding depth. I might add, I also use a polariser in these images to control the amount of natural light reflected in the car and sky.
We tried a few versions of this with it rolling slightly to get a bit of motion blur, but decided that the static shot below looked best with the addition of some blur on the tyres. The blur was created from a previously taken moving shot added in post production.
The last shot was the trickiest.
We had the only two cars produced as this was still at the testing stage. This meant we couldn't take the cars off site. I had wanted to do a moving shot. For this I hired a Manfrotto Arm to attach to the suspension with the Nikon D3x and 17-35mm lens set to 19mm. We were only going to be at walking speed so I attached a cable release to walk by the car and shoot manually.
Only one car had an engine so we started on top of a hill and pushed the cars to get them rolling. Adam, my assistant, had a Travelpak attached to him, holding both a Bowens 400Rx head and a High Performance Reflector. He was to follow just behind on low power. This gave a generous amount of contrast and ‘ping’ without looking like we had used flash. It also filled in the shadows on the body work - camera side - which was subtle but made a difference to the final aesthetic.
So far so good, but always expect the unexpected...
We planned to push the cars down the hill with the drivers using the brakes to hold position long enough for me to get the white and blue car overtaking. Unfortunately, one of the cars wouldn't stop.
Soon we were jogging, then running, while our client was in hysterics. Adam, ever the professional, was still pointing the flash at the rear of the car. We coasted to a stop some 150 meters further along than anticipated when the driver in the black car announced that he had no brakes!
A fun shoot and a happy client. All you can ask for.
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