Flying Cars: Creating A 58 Foot Composite Print For BMW

Sean Madden, creative director from the ad agency Brains On Fire, reached out to me earlier this year and asked if given an arsenal of stunt drivers, the newest high performance BMW's, and a closed race course, could I create a 58 foot long composite print for BMW. My answer? "When can I start?" Watch the video and read the post below to learn how the shoot came together.

Sean sent me an initial rough composite with his own photos for reference before I even arrived on-location in Greenville, South Carolina, which helped the shooting process immensely. I decided to shoot everything tethered to Capture One Pro 7 with my Phase One IQ140 medium format.

Medium formats are not known for shooting action due to their heft and slower focusing in comparison to the newest 35mm DSLR's, but I prefocused the camera on certain points of the track and shot with a closed down aperture and was able to get very sharp images of the cars. Why shoot medium format when I could shoot with a faster 35mm? Because the nearly 13 stops dynamic range in comparison to about 8.5 stops of dynamic range of my Canon in addition to the 40 megapixel sensor would ensure a higher quality very large 58 foot wide print with exceptional detail in the highlights and shadows.

Shooting tethered allowed my creative director and myself to review the images immediately to see how they matched up to the reference composite. I could actually roughly stitch images together on-site to see if the visual perspectives of the background and foreground matched up. See the reference image below for example:

An example of one section from the composite. Each number represents a different image that was stitched into the final image. It was a challenge to shoot the wet track in image "2" to fit the perspective of image 1 because in real life the 2 sections of the track were much further apart An example of one section from the composite. Each number represents a different image that was stitched into the final image. It was a challenge to shoot the wet track in image "2" to fit the perspective of image 1 because in real life the 2 sections of the track were much further apart

Thankfully it was a nice overcast sky during the day of the shoot, which made things very easy by keeping tones on the track and the vehicles fairly even as the sun moved through the sky as time passed. I did use a circular polarizer to help minimize reflections on the cars as well. Any person that shoots cars must have a CPL in their kit! The client and I put together a rough composite using the raw proofs from the photoshoot.

I then went to my retoucher, Justin Paguia, who I use primarily for my crazy complicated composite advertising work and provided him the associated RAW files and sample rough composite with those same files. He stitched everything together very nicely, and after a few client revisions he sent me the final file.

For the last touch, I applied more texture, sharpness, touched up the contrast, and added a slight color cast to that final image that the client liked and requested.

Check out more of my photos and video work at: www.SondersPhotography.com and www.8112Studios.com

Before/after. Color and contrast and texture added to the bottom image. Click the image to see larger

Before/after. Color and contrast and texture added to the bottom image. Click the image to see larger

bmw_m6_performancecenter

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15 Comments

Great insight and video....... dude you have some dust on your sensor...

Douglas Sonders's picture

haha dust on the assistant's camera. she missed it. i know, it bugged me too.

Don't ya just hate when they schedule outdoor shoots in the middle of the summer in the south? =) Gnats and Mosquitos galore! Here in Texas it's just..... hot with a side of hot! Cool BTS, looks like a great final product too. Double thumbs up for doing it in the Humid sticky stuff.

Man you do great but your really should look at another post production team. These could be so much more. Well done otherwise.

Connor Katz's picture

This kind of thing is where the d800 really shines, it would have been perfect for this! Every bit the dynamic range, 36mp and top of the line autofocus.

A D800 image isn't in the same ballpark of a Phase One image. People can argue DxO charts all they want but side by side the Phase files are in a league of their own. =)

It's in the same ballpark given a ballpark is not exactly a close comparison. Perhaps you're not familiar with the expression. The Lumia 41 MP camera is not in the same ballpark. The D800 more than holds its own.

top job as usual, the final print was 58' x ??? was it printed from one continuous roll ?

Wait, were you sat on the floor, cross-legged, a couple of metres from a drifting car at 0:34? Every motorsport photographer everywhere just cried a little.

Dust on the sensor. Dust on the sensor. Dust!

You can get rid of it (especially on areas without detail - like sky and when the camera is not movie) in after effects quiet easily ... it's really distracting.

Apart to a thousands apects I like, to me, it doesn't matter what camera you use, if the final image look so HDRish. way overdone. Sorry, but I really hate that pumped up clarity, in the grass and sky area of the final image.

Thank-you for the wonderful insight and inspiration into the Art and Technique of Motor Photography. I've been following the F1 Grand Prix around Europe this summer and as a lay photographer, my aim has always been to get the car in focus, while showing the speed and topography of the track. With your advise, my shots in Monza will hopefully be much better than the past ones!!
many thanks,
Anthea Whitley

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Chet Meyerson's picture

After awhile, it seems these BTS videos are really just commercials for the products (in this case Tether Tooks, Phase One) with a photo shoot as the backdrop. I wonder if the client even pays for the shoot or is it fully sponsored by the advertisers. This practice seems to me more and more prevalent these days and it becoming annoying...at best. We need full disclosure with these type videos.

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