Great Automotive Rig Tutorial By Nigel Harniman Using A Phase One

You may recall my previous automotive rig tutorial with the Green Hornet Black Beauty. My buddy, award-winning commercial photographer Nigel Harniman (, recently put together another great automotive rig tutorial post using his Phase One ALPA and a Ferrari. I think the shot came out awesome and I definitely learned a few things, which you can read about below!

According to Nigel:

The Long and the Short of Automotive Rig Photography

With the backdrop of the Teme Valley behind me, I paired with Car Camera Rig’s Justin to show how I produce the images you see advertising the fastest cars.

Rig Test

We couldn’t have chosen a better location we filmed at Shelsey Walsh Hill Climb, the oldest active motorsport event in the entire world.

Although most rigs I use are bulky and need their own transport, this shorter, lighter version is ideal for quicker, more ‘portable’ shoots. You’ll see it does the job just as well while adding extra functionality as the weight allows it to be attached with suction cups rather than bolted to the chassis!

Through the video you’ll recognise my equipment as an Alpa, which is fitted with a Phase One back enhancing the ability to create an image without distortion (regardless of movement) in high resolution. The front bears a Schneider lens, which you’ll see is instantly recognisable, and fitted with various filters.

From the Shorter Rig to the Longer Exposure

The video gives you details of specifications, but just in case your speakers are out, remember this. The longer the exposure the better. It takes practice to make this work, and I think I’ve perfected it so I can shoot between 8-30 seconds which seems insane to some just starting out!

Discover how far the car travels to get the shot I want!

Push and Pull

We chose a pulley system for this frame, taking advantage of the slope of the hill climb track, then we were good to go.

See if my strategy worked and dare to try it yourself… of course if you need a short rig, get in touch with Justin at Car Camera Rig.

Original Soundtrack – Dirty Whispers by Famous Elf Records.

Follow Nigel on Facebook!

Nigel's blog with lots of tutorials:


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Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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Ah, fun with blocks and tackle! I wonder if using high-grade sailing "pulleys" vs hardware store ones would result in any difference in the transmission of vibration into the setup. I would guess not when you are pulling a car?

I bought these pulleys back in 1997 for rig work and you are right sailing pulleys are better engineered but these have not let me down in terms of smoothness. I think your last phrase is spot on "when you are pulling a car"

There are some really slick features in sailing blocks, like selectable ratchet feature as well as various cams and cleats to lock it in place not to mention fantastic all-weather bearings. Those features do, however, come at quite the premium!

Yes I can image

I love the cut-away throws, adds just a bit of dry humor to an informative video. there are a couple things in here that i need to borrow for my own rig photos.

how do you deal with the camera shake caused by such a long pole that the camera is mounted too?

Using a smooth technique and long exposure

Breitling Bentley watch. The rest i dont care about. JK

When I shot the worldwide launch images for the Bentley Continental, probably ten or so years ago Breitling also used the images up for their worldwide press campaigns hence the watch.

i'm wondering if there is less whip in a CF pole than an alloy tube one, i'm looking into CF fishing poles for replacing my alloy rig

Carbon all day long, torsional stiffness is much better with out the weight disadvantage of ali

Look into used windsurfer masts. They are not as long as the one in this vid, but they would be lots more stable than a fishing rod. Also they come in different flexibility ratings.


"handle with care" *tosses off screen*

Just a bit of fun, the guy in the slips is an extremely good cricketer.

haha, I just thought it was too good to not acknowledge :)

I wish there was a before and after post shot. I can't imagine that pole was easy to photoshop out.

OK will do tomorrow,



Thanks a lot man! great work in your facebook/blog/everywhere you put your pictures! definitely going to follow you everwhere and learn every thing i can! Thanks again from Argentina!

You, sir, are awesome!! :) Thank you so much!

Absolutely gorgeous shot btw!

My pleasure !

So the car was obviously shot separately. Too sharp, including the reflections - at least those would have been blurred by the motion of the surrounding. So the video is actually just about the moving background.

Hi John
Thank you for your assumption but unfortunately completely wide of the mark better luck next time. ;)

Damn! Ah well, can't win 'em all ;)

Yeah you mentioned under mounted rigs and them being a similar process but wouldn't they be easier to edit out?

Anyway, fantastic image so it doesn't really matter does it.

Yes and no it is very much dependent on POV

If you were to do this without attached booms and rigs and everything, what would your suggestion be?
After watching this I want to go try it out, I have a skateboard with a camera mounted to it and was planning on mounting a long pole to one of the tow eyelets under the front bumper.

Give it a go but I am sure that you might end up with a lot of soft car images ;)

Stunning shot. I wonder why Nigel prefers to use rigs over software? Freaks the hell out of me attaching anything to a vehicle.

I use both but I must say my preference is for real rig shots, reason more organic and the light painting effect over the metallic surfaces that you can achieve.

Thanks Nigel, it's a stunning shot of a stunning machine. I'm intrigued about the light painting on the metallic surfaces, I must admit I haven't used a rig or software to get that true motion effect. I do shoot exotic and luxury cars from time to time, and have pondered using a rig, but my insurance only covers me for $250k damage to a vehicle, so I just stick with static shots. I wonder, do you have the owner sign a damage waiver or agreement before you shoot, or how do you handle the potential for damage to the car?

Big insurance policy always helps to convince people but have never damaged a car using a rig. Crashed a few off roading ;)

The original image is 11.5k pixels wide and here is a close up crop @ 100 percent

Amazing! I dont know why I thought that rig would have been hard to remove. It's actually fairly unobtrusive.

I like the pulley idea. Easier than pushing by hand, or driving for sure.