“Would you mind shooting a Wraith?”…
I have been shooting for Rattanak Kiri for over twelve months now and every couple of weeks, I receive a call from Paul, the Editor, requesting my services to shoot the latest feature car. These cars have ranged from the little Citroen C1 to the stunning Audi R8 V10, as well as many more. I was very fortunate in my early days to shoot a Rolls-Royce Ghost, a car that still haunts me to this day as one of the best cars I’ve ever shot, and also the car that made me sit up and take things seriously. Shooting cars became an obsession and made me want to push myself hard to get better with every shoot.
As a photographer, and all round car-lover, it is never really a problem to go and shoot whatever is on offer. However, when Paul called me and said ‘would you mind shooting a Rolls-Royce Wraith?’ I pretty much had to restrain myself from shouting obscenities down the phone at him! Deep breath, ‘Yes old chap, I would be much obliged’… to say I was excited was probably an understatement. My thoughts shot back to how excited I was shooting the Ghost, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the big coupe!
Fail to plan, plan to…
When I shoot a car, I follow quite a simple process. I do my research, study the look of the car, and get a feel for what the car is about. I storyboard and come up with ideas of ‘what’ I want from a shoot and then go about finding locations. The Wraith automatically posed a few problems, the biggest being, well, its size! This thing is huge! The locations were going to have to be large, and that meant somewhere with a lot of open space!
When we shoot a feature car, we generally have a few days to do it, which is great, as it allows plenty of time to have a good look at a car and pick out all of those little details that can sometimes be missed. The first time I saw the Wraith, I think I was so in awe of the car that for once in my life I didn’t even take any pictures, I just stared. The staring was something that seemed to be infectious as everywhere we went crowds of people seemed to be magnetised to the car, which caused us another headache.
Will it even fit down this road?
We hit the road and found a great piece of the black stuff surrounded by fields and decided to get some ‘moving’ shots. Most car photography that you see in magazines or adverts will be ‘rig shots’. This is basically strapping a large pole to your expensive car and dangling your prized photographic equipment off the end of it and if that isn’t risky enough for you, the poles themselves are upwards of £1000 and some go all the way up to £30-£40k – that’s out of this photographers budget, so we enlisted the help of an assistant and shot car-to-car instead.
Getting the settings right for this kind of shot are crucial, you need a slow enough shutter speed to get those nice blurry backgrounds but fast enough so that your shaky hands don’t blur the car as well. Throw this in with some adventurous seating arrangements in the boot of a Mini ‘Cooper S’ to get those low down close to the road shots without burning your hand on the exhaust and it’s a wonder that any of them came out at all – risking life, limb and a very expensive camera is all in a day’s work for a car photographer.
You’re not seriously driving it into a field?
After shooting on the same piece of road for nearly an hour, we decided to go further afield, literally, to a field! Now I’m not just saying this in case there are any prying eyes from Rolls around, but when you’re reversing quarter of a million pounds worth of motor into a field, you check the ground! I mean you check it like you’re searching for a hacked off finger in a crime scene, not a single inch is left unturned. Even with the largest of crews, but particularly with our small crew, lifting a car the size of the moon out of a hole was not something I fancied doing. Quick tip – When photographing cars, wear comfy clothes, I would never normally dress like this!
So much of photography is about good light, and the times just after dawn and around dusk provide the best of it, hence being called the ‘Golden Hour’. I wasted no time snapping some beautiful golden exterior shots before moving into the luxurious innards of the big beast.
We headed back into Birmingham City Centre to grab some ‘night-life’ shots. I had the idea in my head of a real high action ‘panning’ shot, which is focusing on the car as it goes past with the intent of blurring out the background – something you will see a lot of in Motrorsport photography.
On the way home, we happened come across a couple of friendly guys in a pleasant Gallardo who wanted a close look at the Rolls-Royce Wraith, they knew it had all the performance of a supercar but with the kind of interior finish you find in a stately home.
Over the coming days we shot the car in several different locations. I like to find a mixture of plain backgrounds such as brick walls, and some juxtaposition; basically putting a car in the kind of place you would never really find it. It is all too easy to put a car like the Wraith in front of a mansion but you don’t see many shots of it in front of some old factories in the West Midlands, not that I’ve seen anyway.
Still scared of Ghosts? No, but I am Wraiths…
Overall, the experience of shooting the Wraith was a bit mind-blowing. You can’t really put into words the other-worldliness of the size, expense, and quality of a car like this. At the end of the day though, you still have to get the shot. Looking back there are always things that I would have done differently but I’m pretty pleased with the results. The strange thing is that it kind of left me feeling a bit empty inside afterwards, I mean, where do you go from there? (Phantom, Phantom, Phantom….)
Bonus Behind the scenes shots
Author & Photographer:
Behind the scenes shots – Paul Hadley & Ross MorganFull GalleryRead the Review5 Day Diary