A Day In The Life Of A Car Show Photographer

Earlier this month, Rod commissioned some of the Speedhunters team to create behind the scenes stories from a variety of events which we would be attending. To be honest, it caught me slightly unaware as the idea of covering my own processes and habits is a strange one. But on the other hand, it could be the perfect opportunity for me to examine my own methods and try and improve upon them.  I hope I don’t bore you too much …

We usually lay out our calendars in January and February each year. We tend to start by re-visiting events that proved popular with you lot in the past, and then add in some events we’ve maybe never attended before or ones that have the potential to surprise or interest you as well. Last year’s Players Show was a huge hit, so it was always going to make an appearance on here at some stage. Although I’ll know about an event for some time before hand, I usually don’t start dealing with the details until a week or so before the event takes place. This obviously depends on whether press accreditation needs to be arranged in advance, so it’s not a set-in-stone rule.

Travel planning always comes next – examining a route, estimating time required and planning my day from here. Luckily for me, Players is one of the closest shows I’ll attend all year as it’s only a short twenty minute drive from my girlfriend’s place in London.

A sugar filled breakfast is a sure fire way to get your day off to an energetic start (along with a mid-afternoon crash if you’re not too careful). More often than not, my next meal won’t come until I put my feet up that evening as I rarely have the time during the day to eat and I try to avoid the poison in plastic on offer at these events.

Next up is to check any messages that may have come in over night. Social media streams play a big part in keeping the Speedhunters name out there, so it’s something we all try to keep on top of over the course of a weekend.

Breakfast eaten, messages replied and it’s time to pack the car and hit the road …

… my boot is usually a lot tidier than this. Inside is a my big Think Tank Case which holds most of my gear, a laptop bag, charging and cables bag, tripod, light stands, cleaning gear and other essentials.

Players takes place at an air field in Essex which was a nightmare to find last year. This time however, following some mostly inappropriate text messages with Ben Chandler from Scene Media, I was armed with a more accurate postcode.

Traffic in London is usually a complete and utter nightmare. It’s probably the main reason why I haven’t moved over to the UK. I love driving so much, but this city seems to try and suck that enjoyment out of you.

Thankfully before 10AM on a Sunday, it’s more than manageable and decent progress can be made.

The entire journey, like most motorway journeys, is pretty uneventful except for some guy in a 997 Turbo overtaking people on the hard shoulder before swapping back to the overtaking lane at what was easily in excess of 120MPH.

It must be one of those things that any automotive enthusiast can associate with – the closer you get to your destination, the more interesting cars get.

Arriving at the show and parking up, the next step is to pick a camera and lens combination. I usually shoot with two cameras on a harness system – at my left hand is a 1D MKIII with a 135mm F/2.

At my right hand is a 5D MKIII with a 35mm f/1.4 – this is my main weapon of choice for static shoots. You’ll notice that the rubber eye piece is missing, this is because this a loan camera whilst my original 5D MKIII died after a couple of weeks.

I always try to take my time to walk the show first to get an idea where the best cars are located and just how big of an event it is. Players seems to be getting bigger every year, which is great for the organisers and visitors alike, but a nightmare for photographers.

With such a large footfall and the cars tightly packed together, I knew this would be a show to test my patience.

The backdrop for the show is pretty cool though – a couple of large hangers and lots of open space. Every inch of the open space though was filled with cars and people.

These reconnaissance shots were taking on a Sony NEX5 with a 16mm 2.8 & Fisheye converter, so it’s a really wide view and gives you an idea of just how tightly things were packed.

Popping back to my car to upload some images for Instagram, I took some time to formulate a plan of attack for the event. Static shows are, if I’m honest, a nightmare to shoot. There’s very little you can do creatively and you always have to deal with what feels like a million people walking in front of your lens all day.

I’ve had a ND400 neutral density filter in my camera bag for some time, but never got the opportunity to use it before. A neutral density filter essentially blocks out light, allowing you to use longer shutter speeds in broad daylight.

Where usually you could be shooting upwards of 1/1000th of a second in the sunhine, a ND filter  along with a smaller aperture (around f/8) can allow a shutter speed of around ten seconds or more. The result?

With the cars remaining stationary and people constantly moving around, the people begin to ghost and become less distracting – focussing your attention on the car and little else.

Here’s Ben. Ben would like to publicly declare his love for Ribena Blackcurrant juice.

Here’s Stephen. Stephen makes films with his crane and other film making devices. He makes me appreciate the fact that I don’t have to carry or push a huge crane around all day.

After a solid day of walking around and photographing things, and then photographing them again just to be sure …

… it’s time to pack up and hit the road.  I’ve obviously cut out many hours of mundane photography business here, but you can see what I was shooting in tomorrow’s Players Show coverage.

With no pressure on leaving, we could take the scenic route home.

Stopping off only for a refreshing beverage in the autumn sunshine.

On returning to the house it’s time to download memory cards, check images and realise that one my lenses is back focussing slightly which, to be honest, isn’t ideal.

Next it’s time to make my picks, edit, export, watermark, upload and format a story before writing it up, proofing it and publishing it. After all of this? Well, it’s time to move on to the next one …

-

Paddy McGrath
paddy@dev.speedhunters.com

Players Show on Speedhunters


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48 comments
Josh Busby
Josh Busby

I am a Photographer In Maine, I hate shows with a billion people that wont move out of the way. Hard to get creative. You guys should attend World of wheels. I have to be there for a few companies. Would love to meet you guys!
busby.joshua@hotmail.com

Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier

Have you tried to set the AF microadjustment for the lens that's backfocusing? As you probably know, both of those cameras do support it.

greenroadster
greenroadster

Rather cool, isnt it? Still, I think you should change that diesel for a gasoline car, at leat 320. Either that or put a diffuser and a sticker on your bootlid.

ConorLuddy
ConorLuddy

Really cool writeup dude. Great to hear about things on the other side of the lens :)

markriccioni
markriccioni

Awesome write-up Paddy! Now do one showing a car feature where you spend 45 minutes waiting for the owner to clean a car 'cus they didn't realise cars need to be shiny when they're having a feature done... ;-P

reno808
reno808

pretty cool seeing how you guys do it

MykeChevy
MykeChevy

you have such a fresh ass job bro! 

envyxf
envyxf

great post mate. especially for a teen like me who is hoping to become a photographer one day. this gave me a real incite into what you do. and straight after reading this post I went and brought a cheap natural density filter for my 550D, what a great idea!

Simon Smith
Simon Smith

How intense do you get in Lightroom? Is there enough time to finesse each image individually, or are you trying to get a working set as quick as possible?

Curlytop
Curlytop

Amazing post like to see what goes on behind the scenes. Also more natural density shots liking them!

Ben_A
Ben_A

Nice article Paddy, I also had to resort to using filters inside the hanger! Its good to see im doing the same as the pro's ! I also spotted your car just before I headed home! 

roeby
roeby

why a 1D and a 5D? why not two 1D's or two 5D's?

ding0tr0n
ding0tr0n

do you guys have superhuman strength in your forearms?  my arms get tired after a bit.

 

that neutral density filter shot is pretty cool!

 

awesome post!  MORE GEAR POSTS!!

Paterson Photo
Paterson Photo

Loving these new behind the scenes posts. Great work, Paddy. Maybe one day i'll make it to Players!

Kyle Barnett
Kyle Barnett

Its good to see someone who else who agrees with static shows being frustrating. Sometimes its almost comical as to how many people can get in your way in such a short period of time. Great post Paddy! 

 

 

roeby
roeby

Do any of you speedhunters get reconised when at events like this.

Also, i cant wait for the coverage, i've been waiting all weekend to see it.

Nikhil_P
Nikhil_P

nice....how long does it take you on average to go from taking all the pictures, picking them, watermarking them to making a post on speedhunters?!

BrynAlban
BrynAlban

I think Brooksie needs a bigger watch, they can't quite tell the time from space on that one....

daveylad
daveylad

Nice article Paddy! Interesting to see how you work and the crows must be a pain at static shows. Neat trick the ND Filter.

Fernando Fotografia
Fernando Fotografia

It's very nice to read your story. Good to know that the rush is so worldwide!

Congratulations for the work quality, simplicity and above all made ​​with dedication and love.

LouisYio
LouisYio

Paddy, you should do another post about your bimmer. It's been awhile since the last one, if I remember correctly. Are there any new tasteful modifications?

trampaonline
trampaonline

Very interesting article for me. I'm curious, how do you guys stay hydrated/fueled on a shoot? I guess in the UK, under a tent, like in this article, it wouldn't be too much of a problem, but what do you guys do when you're outside in the summer heat? I ask, because I live and mostly shoot in Florida, so staying cool, keeping hydrated, and avoiding heat exhaustion are constant battles for me and I'd love to hear a pro's opinion. Maybe get some tips.

SVT_Bryan
SVT_Bryan

Nice article.  As someone new to photography, thanks for talking about the lens choices and filters and how you used them.

crazybiscut
crazybiscut

i sort did this last sunday, but i felt every and their mother had a Dslr i think about changing to a sony NEX

Mike Garrett
Mike Garrett

"You always have to deal with what feels like a million people walking in front of your lens all day."

 

Story of my life!

Jordan_Burgess
Jordan_Burgess

Ahh, what I wouldn't give to spend a day in the life of a Speedhunters photographer! Nice feature

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @greenroadster I'm pretty happy with the diesel as a daily in this part of the world, would like an M car at some point for weekends and trackdays though.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @Simon Smith Generally not very. It sounds clichéd but try and get as much right in-camera as possible and it'll save you a lot of time in the editing process. For example, I edited a 40 image feature car set last night in around 25 / 30 minutes. Choosing and organising the images took the longest amount of time.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @roeby I usually bring four cameras to each event - 1D MKIII, 5D MKIII, 7D & NEX5. They all serve different purposes even if I'll usually only use two cameras at a time. The 1D is primarily for fast paced on track action but works really well as a second camera at static shows thanks to its 1.3x crop sensor. The 5D is pretty much my full time static work camera from shows to features. The 7D doubles as my remote camera if a car needs to have a camera attached to the outside of it but I'll also use it if I need the extra reach of a 1.6x crop. The NEX5 has a fisheye adapter attached to it which makes it handy for tight spaces plus its small size makes it easy to carry around.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

I use a Black Rapid shoulder harness which carries both cameras in comfort and leaves me hands free when not shooting.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @Nikhil_P Good question and I guess there's no real set answer. I can pick / edit them pretty quickly but for me the hardest part is finding the words to go with the pictures. The quickest I have done was maybe an hour with the longest being closer to five / six hours when things aren't going right.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @BrynAlban It is convenient that I can just always looks towards Liverpool no matter where I am and know the time. It's a public service really.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @LouisYio Maybe in time, I've still a lot more planned for it but since the last time I've changed wheels and tyres to Hankook, added a Brembo BBK to the front and a small upgrade to the rear brakes, a new exhaust system, carbon CSL bootlid, new headlights and another couple of maintenance things here and there.

Jonathan Moore
Jonathan Moore

 @trampaonline That's a very good point – it's an easy thing to forget and it is incredibly important, especially at race meetings where you might be walking miles around the track for hours at a time. Plenty of water is the simple answer! I use Sigg bottles hanging off my ThinkTank belt system.

Even last week at Goodwood I didn't pack a bottle and was delirious by lunch... though that might be just a reaction to the Revival! :) 

trampaonline
trampaonline

 @Jonathan Moore I'll have to look into that belt system. I've so far just used a camera shoulder bag, but there isn't really a place for water. And I've had that delirious woozy feeling on a couple of outside, as you said, race meetings. It's even worse the next day. All I was able to do was sleep.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @Jonathan Moore  @trampaonline Thankfully the weather at Players was quite mild, but like Jonathan I usually bring bottles of water in lens pouches to keep me going throughout the day. I also cover up in good sun screen too which I find helps a lot also.

Paddy McGrath
Paddy McGrath

 @speedhunters_dino  @Mike Garrett Squat to take photo // person stands in front of car // person stays in front of car staring at something // person still standing, still staring // legs starting to cramp // losing will to live // person moves off // press shutter just as another person walks in front of camera // FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU ...

Jonathan Moore
Jonathan Moore

 @trampaonline I just use a carabiner or S-clip to hook the bottle's lid onto – that's the handy thing about those Sigg bottles. :)


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