Have you ever been going through the magazine rack of your local book store and just stood staring at the cover of a car magazine? No? Ok, well maybe that's just me. But when I see a photo of a blazingly fast sports car clinging to the corner of a race track it certainly piques my interest. Even if you aren't a "car person" chances are you have at least wondered how these cover shots are made. Well there is a secret that all car shooters know that you may not. Automobile photographer Scott Dukes joins us to dissect one of his images for "0-60 Magazine", while also letting us in on the tricks of the trade.
So the car above is clearly traveling at 80mph right? Maybe more. I mean the background is heavily blurred and the wheels are clearly fighting for traction and struggling to stay on the track. The driver must be a pro because surely Mercedes wouldn't trust a few random assistants to maneuver an SL65 AMG Black Series around a corner at speeds like this. The photographer? Well I assume he is hanging out the window of another car driving just behind the Mercedes shooting pictures while praying he doesn't fall to his death.
As amazing as that all sounds, it couldn't be further from the truth. I recently caught up with Los Angeles-based car shooter Scott Dukes to ask him how he has managed to escape death so many times while hanging out of speeding cars.
As it turns out there are no speeding cars; quite the opposite actually. The car in the above shot was probably traveling around 3-5mph…while in Neutral.
That's right, no tire squealing burnouts required...bummer! A combination of the car being pushed in Neutral and the camera using a long shutter speed causes the background to blur. More importantly, an apparatus known as a "rig" is used to attach the camera to the car. Essentially, think of the rig as a huge boom arm that is attached to the car at one end, and has a camera dangling off it at the other end. Therefore the camera is traveling at the exact same speed as the car. This allows it to capture a sharp shot of the car while turning the background to mush. The on track portion of the shoot is only the beginning for an image like this. There is also a series of photos taken when the car is completely stationary. These shots are lit by multiple strobes and later composited over the "on track" car's various parts. Making for a perfectly lit "high speed" car image.
Scott was nice enough to share his image build up for this very shot. He also wrote some notes on each image explaining the steps he took while in Photoshop.
Scott has shot for numerous automobile magazines including "Rides", "0-60", "Automobile Magazine" and "Super Street Magazine". To view more of Scott's work be sure to visit his website. Also, if you are interested in more b.t.s. shots and image builds like the one above be sure to visit Scott's blog. For you social media types you can locate Scott via the following sites: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @scottdukes