Ferrari, Bugatti, An Air Strip, And Heat Stroke - Crazy Fun Photoshoot

I had the pleasure to be hired to shoot an amazing car collection last year, which included 2 ultra-rare special Bugatti Veyrons. For example, the silver Bugatti, as you will watch, is a one-of-a-kind 100th anniversary Bugatti called the Sang Bleu… literally 1 of 1. We also had a decent-sized portion of a private airport at our disposal to use for the shoot. Pretty incredible experience. Read on to learn more about the shoot itself and my lighting.

I did the behind the scenes video with my 8112 Studios (my video production company) co-founder, Nicholas Cambata. Nick and I have been best buddies for over 20 years and it's pretty awesome we are able to go on adventures and do jobs like this, especially since we share an equally deep love for everything automotive. Thanks to my friend Alex Rodriguez of Digital Ally for additional video footage!

It was HOT out last summer in Florida. I'm pretty sure we all suffered from various forms of heat stroke, but it was completely worth it to get these shots. It was nice having a single location, a private airport with open hanger, at our disposal.

I used essentially my White Lightning x3200 strobes with silver 7" reflectors connected to a powerful generator we rented on-location. The purpose of the flashes in the bright Florida sun was to use as fill light on the shaded sides of the vehicle (if the sun was behind or above) or to accentuate lines on the car bodies.

I did not allow myself to drive the Bugattis (too much money along with a whole lot of power), but I did get to drive some other pretty awesome cars on that trip. Although, that's a story for another post...

My gift to you for reading, a free desktop wallpaper with one of my Bugatti photos: CLICK HERE

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Fog machine:  I'll be honest... I didn't know how this would turn out at first, but personally like how it came out.

Moving inside for a bit. The hangar door was back lit and semi-transparent and the floor was pristine white. It made for great conditions to take a natural light portrait of the Sang Bleu. Yes I know there are reflections, but I personally kind of like it in this case... it's real.

Also very rare, a Ferrari 599 GTS. The engine sound was incredible.

Prepping the ladies for their close-up. We had a loaner production truck for the shoot... a supercharged Ford Raptor. I was in love.

Planning car placement. I lit each car one at a time and then took exposures for the background. Essentially the final image is a composite of 3 separate photos thanks to help from my retoucher Justin Paguia. This was just a snapshot before lighting was set up to check my framing.

Sleeping beauties in their hangar

An example of one of my lighting setups


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Sick final results dude. I really like these. 

Jason Vinson's picture

i hate you! 

One or two nice ones, rest are way too much post-processed. Easy way to ruin a good photo and idea with stupid over-processing!

James Tarry's picture

I know i always bang on about this over processing issue and for me personally I do agree with Apollo. HOWEVER, sometimes we need to think what the client involved wanted behind these posts and im betting they werent disappointed in the slightest. Nice shoot, cars, work. And i really like the reflections in the hanger shot.

 it's appropriate for the subject matter.

for your taste. It's very important to write that, imho. ( in my humble opinion ). Sharing your work with so many is really brave. Because you are feeding trolls at the same time :) I like cars, and i like what you guys did here :) It struck my taste. Good Job

todays it´s not the photographer anymore... like in dean collins days.... it´s the retoucher.

Douglas Sonders's picture

Coming from a full time working commercial photographer, thats quite a pessimistic view on the industry saying photographers are no longer the artists, essentially. A large majority of my work is not composited and edited by me alone. A lot of it is in my lighting style. I use compositing when I feel that technique will achieve the creative results I desire, which is fairly rare (not that im against it). Being an RIT grad, I just like doing a lot of things in-camera and polishing things in post.

So after watching them assess the natural light, set up their own lighting, adjusting appropriately, composing each shot, you say it isn't the photographer anymore? oh please.

yes i mean what i said. i was in the business for 38 years.

today it´s not the photographer in the same way then it was before photoshop.

with todays tools even a mediocre photographer can get great results with the help of a good retoucher. in the pre-photoshop days many source image, that are used today, would be thrown in the trash.

with digital you can change the lighting in a scene much more (easier) after the fact.... then you could with film. just look how easy it is with Lightrooms local adjustment tools.

today even a "so lala" shot can be transformed into something professionell looking.
you don´t agree?

yes you could/can do some compositing and editing in the darkroom.. and we have done that.
but that was more complicated and time consuming... and expensive.
so it was not used on each and every image.


with the edited image..... do you thing the original looks special?
i think it looks like a snapshot.
the edited image looks special because of the editing (the reduced realism).
it looks a bit like a illustration that´s why it´s interesting.

Douglas Sonders's picture

well, first of all, being a traditionally trained shooter that went to RIT, i can say the tools have evolved but the essence of photography is much the same. Sure some "mediocre" shooters can be great photoshoppers, but few of those folks shoot for the cover of Time or Rolling Stone. Also, you referenced a shot of the cars "before retouching". That is an iphone snapshot of the set, without any of my flashes set up. The importance of compositing in that image is because I otherwise would have needed 10+ flashes and multiple generators to get the same effect, but thankfully, photoshop allowed me to do it with 4 lights and 3 exposures. Sure, I could have done it with 10 lights and a bunch of flags and 3 generators, but thankfully, as I said, the tools have evolved and allow me to do things easier. just my 2 cents

....."Also, you referenced a shot of the cars "before retouching". That is an iphone snapshot of the set, without any of my flashes set up".....

the exif data says it was shoot with a canon 5D.... ??
and it looks very much as the source for the final retouched image.

btw: no need to post your credentials. i know your work. :)
i was not attacking you... i just wrote about my view of the business.

Douglas Sonders's picture

my bad, my memory could have been off. shoot was a year ago. Thought that was one of my iphone shots. Nonetheless, was just a snapshot for framing without any of my flashes, lighting or gear

or maybe i checked the wrong image file because now the exif data is gone.

but as i checked i was pretty sure it said 5D...

Douglas Sonders's picture

the entire shoot was done with my 5D Mk2 and behind the scenes pics with my iphone, nonetheless, the concept remains the same. Not fair to judge a snapshot with no lighting set up

i thought that was a "before - after" shot and that´s why you showed them.

but after a closer look i see it is not the same image. the camera position has changed a bit.

yes seeing the original source for the editing would be more helpful then.

Douglas Sonders's picture

in response to James Tarry: totally reasonable. a lot of post-processing, much like photography itself, is a matter of preference. Some will love what you do, others will not. I knew at least of couple of these would spark some comments regarding the post production. For my tastes, I am pretty pleased with how these came out, as was the client. ALTHOUGH, you guys are totally allowed to have your preferences regarding how these were post-processed and value hearing your opinions. Its interesting hearing the perspectives of others in the creative industry

James Tarry's picture

never going to please all the people all of the time :)

The client's happiness is what matters at the end of the day - it's awfully hard to make a living if you get your reputation tarnished because clients don't like your results.

W van de Kletersteeg's picture

I envy you. A lot.

Agree with you apollo!! The cars in first photo looks like 3d models!!!

Definitely one of my favorite photographers. But isn't this like 3 years old?

Douglas Sonders's picture

Thanks! its a little over a year old but the video was never posted on the Fstoppers page

Great job Douglas, thanks for sharing.

Amazing as always, Douglas

james taylor's picture

the processing made cars look like CG

Rebecca Britt's picture

I like that it looks like 3D models, and I love the processing. Commercial photography can be interpreted in so many different ways, this happens to be one of them. Douglas's and Justo's style of retouching happens to be one of my favorites.  The cars look great and I love the reflections on them. 

I happen to shoot a lot of automotive and yes the retouching is very heavy handed and kinda unnecessary fore my tastes, but that's for my tastes. There are a million different ways to edit cars. Many people will be very crucial on photographers when they are heavy handed on cars we happen to love. The fact these gentleman gained access to these types of cars, shows they not only have the skill but the reputation to boot, thus allowing them to shoot such rare automobiles. 

Are there other ways to shoot these two cars minus the lights and hdr exposures, sure, but at the end, these are for the client and not personal work that these two will remember long into their impressive careers. They got the job done and that's all that matters to me. 

On an open forum like this, I feel people should be allowed to comment as they please but I also admire the way these professional photographers respond with respect, and grace. This to me speaks more about their professionalism than their work shown here.

The airport hanger and Ferrari image are spot on perfect. 

Anthony Chopin's picture

HANGAR people HANGAR!!! A HANGER is something you put your clothes on!!

I like hanger better because you knew what I meant.