Photographing Supercars In Miami With Phase One Medium Format And Intel

There's this "man rule" that every red-blooded male should drive at least one 12-cylinder vehicle before they die. This is one of those jobs where I got to assert that rule with a golden fist. A gold-plated Lamborghini Aventador and a 1965 Shelby Cobra replica with a BMW Alpina suspension and late model Mustang 5.0 engine... both incredible vehicles created by the team over at Prestige Imports and both sets of keys left in my care alone. One of those jobs where you pinch yourself and ask, "how did I get here again?"

Intel flew me to Miami and made me a part of their new marketing campaign for the new Ultrabooks, giving me a chance to photograph and drive around around these awesome cars. They wanted a commercial photographer that could showcase the power and capabilities of their new Ultrabooks. Now, I will say that I have used macs for a long time, but I was very impressed in how well that little Sony Vaio handled my nearly 200 megabyte each 60 megapixel Phase One IQ160 files while I used Capture One software and Photoshop. The computer packed a punch for a more affordable price than its competitors. Now, I will add that I was not paid to say that, just an honest observation coming from a native Macintosh user.

Shooting cars with a medium format system, like the Phase One body with an IQ back that I use is fantastic for many reasons, one of which is the fact it has 12.5 stops of dynamic range, where most 35 mm DSLR's only have about 8 or 9. This means every photo has 4+ more stops of image information in the highlights and shadows. Want to photograph a burnout or action? The camera has a flash sync speed of up to 1/1600 thanks to its leaf shutter design. It also has a retina touch screen on the digital back which allows me to check focus and exposure more accurately without absolutely needing to shoot tethered while on a location job.

I've said this before, but for those that do not know, I am a portrait shooter. That is where I do most of my business, photographing people. Although, I LOVE cars and I enjoy the challenges of learning to be a better car photographer. I take inspiration from buddies of mine like Nate Hassler, Garrett Wade, and our secret online society of car shooters whom have both taught me a lot about taking photos of these giant reflective surfaces. Every time I do one of these shoots I learn something new about how to composite and blend in post-production and how to better light these vehicles. Trust me, there need to be plenty of car photography tutorials to be made on future Fstoppers posts.

Many people have asked me, "do you get to drive the cars?" The answer: you bet I do. Not always, but very often. There have been times clients have parked $250k cars at my place for a weekend and said, "get some good photos of this somewhere around town over the weekend." Of course, I'm giddy like a little kid every time this happens. Its a pretty awesome perk of photographing cars. Now, I'm always respectful when I am handling someone else's vehicle (I have nightmares about having to make a phone call about smashing someone else's Ferrari and thus this makes me extra careful), but I do get to have some fun when a client encourages me to push a vehicle's boundaries or to "open 'er up." Besides, driving a 500+ horsepower 1965 Cobra with open side pipes at ANY SPEED is friggin awesome enough. The engine sounds like a medieval monster at 3000 RPM. Pure joy courses through my veins any time my foot would slightly coax the pedals. I've had the opportunity to drive and photograph some incredible and rare vehicles (including 15k lbs armored troop transport vehicles), which isn't bad for a portrait guy, and I kiss my camera every time it delivers me on a new adventure. It's a reason like this alone that photography keeps me feeling like a little kid in a candy store. Below is an example of one of my favorite such memories from the past year or two:

Above, I'm at the helm of a real screen-used Knight Rider car, my favorite TV show as a kid. Drove this across Orlando literally chasing after the Cannonball Run Countache. Amazing. A top favorite car memory. You should have seen the looks on people's faces as we flew by. Meanwhile, I had to get over the fact that this was really an early 1980's Pontiac with excessive fiberglass and a half steering wheel, and not the talking supercar I had come to love.


A photography career delivers new challenges every day (creative and business-wise), it pushes your boundaries and always leaves you wanting more. This career has required me to risk literally everything over the years, but the rewards have been immeasurable. Even on the days when my entire body hurts, I'm exhausted on no sleep for days, and I haven't seen my home in I don't know how long, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I did a blog post on my personal site about the risks and reward of a commercial photography career a little while back.

Special thanks to Nik SoftwarePhase OnePrestige Imports of Miami, and the Gawker team for giving me a shot (so to speak).

Thanks for letting me share with you guys!

Read more about this shoot on the Gizmodo homepage on this hotlink.

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I combined 3 separate exposures for this final image.

Setting up the shot with the Phase One IQ160 (above)

Here is a teaser for something I shot recently and am working on to share with you guys. Got lots of video and an opportunity to burn some rubber :)
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Tam Nguyen's picture

No exterior shot of KITT?

Douglas Sonders's picture

haha, MAYBE in a future post. This was originally a post about shooting supercars in Miami, but I went off on a tangent. haha. you can catch some footage of it though on my "about me" video:

How did this happen in the city I live and I knew nothing about it!

(Talking about K.I.T.T. driving through Orlando)

I see you use a Mac but you are advertising for Ultrabook PCs. Although nothing in the ad is false, because the new Ultrabooks are high end.

The keyboard to the ultrabook looks pretty similar to the MacBook, in case that's what you were referring to in the video. 

The last picture shows a Mac screen.

Douglas Sonders's picture

yes, as the caption below it says, that is an unrelated teaser of a future post I will be doing. that is a screen cap of one of my macs that I use as I state in the article

What's with all the reflection on the windshield? Was that on purpose?

Douglas Sonders's picture

yes, the car is gold-plated. I decided I wanted to accentuate the reflective nature of the car. I was limited in time with the vehicles and would have been more precise on the shoot

Filip Knoll's picture

dougles i wonder if the tattoo on your hand is german boxer. :)

Douglas Sonders's picture

It was my American boxer, Winston Churchill, that passed away:

good eye!

Final photos of the lamborghini looks like were screen captures from need for speed ... way too overdone for my taste

erm... i was expecting more... :(