Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Eclipse 2017

Eclipse 2017
Eclipse 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

1976 Corvette - A Challenging Shoot for an Iconic Sports Car

The Corvette, America's iconic sports car has survived the test of time. From beginning's in 1953 it grew in favor and reputation until today where the newest cars are so filled with technology those of us who remember the good old days can hardly fathom the engineering used to create these marvelous machines. The first one I remember seeing and knowing it was a Corvette was a black 1963 Stingray. I was 11 years old and a neighbor down the street parked his new sportscar in his driveway. It took about three minutes before every person in the neighborhood hovered around this beauty. I've been fascinated with them ever since and even today as I am able to work parttime at the National Corvette Museum, I find their styling and mystique as endearing as ever.


A friend of mine, an ex-Navy guy and former co-worker Jim Rhea, some years ago discovered an early model icon sitting in disrepair with weeds growing out of the engine compartment and vines wrapping themselves around the body and inside the cab . The floor was rotted, windows busted, upholstery torn and frayed, and the wiring in disrepair. Even so, he saw not a ruined derelict, but a great project full of potential, one that would eventually take him over 18 months to restore. When he was finished, a 1976 Corvette was raised from the ash heap of forgotten dreams and restored to its former glory.

We met up again recently to spend a couple of hours photographing his re-creation using another symbol of this beautiful car as a backdrop; The National Corvette Museum (NCM) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This is the story of how we pulled off a challenging photographic session.

My goal on this shoot was to capture a single exciting photograph of this beautifully restored vehicle. One that captured not only the car's styling but the car's muscle and pedigree. Photographing a white car against a dark background is not an easy task when using speedlights. The risk is over exposing the white and underexposing the darker areas.

The first problem was to identify the basic process. I decided on using four speedlights, wished I had five, one with a softbox positioned so as to capture the lines and aesthetic values of the car. The idea was to position the car in front of the Sky Dome at the NCM and shoot around the dusk hour so we could capture not only the car but the dynamic flavor of the cone-shaped Sky Dome as the backdrop. I decided to once again use the flash sync process known as Rear Sync, where the flash does not fire until the end of the shutter cycle. This would allow for burning in the background and then filling in the car with light at the last moment.

We also needed to figure out how to best position the car in relation to the Sky Dome which took some trial and error. Once we had the basic configuartion figured out, it was a matter of positioning the lights to illuminate the car while we also captured the background in the same shot.

The basic exposure values were ISO 400 - f/8.0 @ 2.5 seconds with the lens set at 20mm and secured on a tripod. I used manual focus to make sure the car was the primary focal point Once the exposure was set, the camera was not touched and was fired using a remote cable.

The lights were setup in this manner: The main light with a softbox was positioned about 6 feet in front of and slightly to one side of the car somewhat above eye level with the softbox rotated to the horizontal position. It was also set to about 1/4 power initially. This was my key light. One speed light, set to 1/16th power and zoomed in tight, sat on the ground slightly pointing toward the front tire. This not only brought life to the tire, it created a seam along the front curve of the body fender. A third light, also set to 1/32nd power, was pointed toward the rear tire well which rounded out the side lighting on the body. The fourth light, set to 1/64th power was positioned so it would shoot into the cab area thus illuminating the inside of the car.

My camera was positioned at about 45 degrees from the front and was positoned above eye level. With this as a starting point, we made several exposures and checked the results, then tweaked the lights as needed moving them in and out or to one side to even out the light on the car. We eventually had Jim hold the key light and angle it down so as to illuminate the top of the car with more light.

Although not bad for a first attempt, there are a few things I would do differently next time. Even so, the shot came off pretty well. Thanks to Jim for allowing me to capture his iconic car in front of an iconic museum.


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