I love cars, and I love photography.
The decision, then, to become a car photographer was maybe the easiest one I have ever made, although not the easiest one to achieve. People often make the incorrect assumption that the best job in the world must equate to being the easiest job in the world, but I don’t think that’s ever been the case.
I think it’s an important part of any career choice that you are regularly challenged to improve, whether by internal or external forces. In my case, I share a platform with some of the best and most exciting car culture photographers there are. I promise you, there’s no better motivation than ensuring you’re not going to be left behind as others continue to grow and improve.
In any career, you will face difficulties. For creative types, the toughest thing we encounter is often a lack of inspiration or a crisis of confidence. It happens to everyone in the industry at one point or another (I sincerely have my doubts about anyone who claims they’ve never gone through these struggles), but rarely is there one solution to these problems that works for everyone.
My most recent bout of self-doubt was just last year. They occur regularly enough, but my previous tried and tested method of working through it – by literally working through it – wasn’t an option. Since taking over the reigns on Speedhunters, I went from shooting very regularly to barely shooting at all. Year-on-year, I took 62% less photographs in 2018 than I did in 2017, which is a huge drop.
So, I had to figure out a new way out of the slump, and a morning at Museo Lamborghini seemed like the perfect antidote. While my car brain was very excited at exploring the history of Lamborghini in person, my photographer brain was quite apprehensive. The one thing I had working in my favour was that as we’ve visited the museum before, I didn’t need to sweat the details of the exhibits. These places are very much best enjoyed in person, so consider this a spoiler-free look and all the encouragement you might need to go and see it for yourself. I’m sure Lamborghini would be delighted to welcome you to Sant’Agata Bolognese.
Now, back to the discussion at hand.
Typically, shows and static displays are the most difficult places to rediscover your creativity. It’s very easy to come away with what feel like simple snapshots of great cars, and snapshots are not what we set out to capture on Speedhunters. The internet is full of those, so we aim to capture something special and unique every time we shoot.
I had subconsciously made a decision before I flew to Italy to shoot with prime lenses. Primes might restrict you in terms of versatility, but they force you to think much harder about your composition and encourage you to move around seek out a new point of view.
Over the years I’ve shot professionally, I’ve slowly accrued my perfect lens setup, with a balance between fast primes and versatile zooms. One lens that I love, but criminally underuse is my Canon 85mm f/1.2 L. It’s not the current model, it weighs a proverbial tonne, and is very slow to autofocus which makes it redundant for fast-moving subjects. However, when the normally fast moving subjects are stationary, this 85mm really comes into its own.
As a focal length, 85mm takes a little bit of getting used to when shooting cars. It’s long enough to completely compress an image, but not so long as that you need to be backed up against a wall all of the time. It encourages you to find details, and when wide open can comfortably isolate something from the background.
Exploring both floors of the museum, I could feel a weight lifting off my shoulders as I tried to find more and more perspectives to shoot. Without realising it, the earlier self-doubt had all but vanished and I felt completely reinvigorated as I tried to figure out how to make the most of the harsh sunlight falling on the cars through the upstairs window.
I will confess that there is one (and just one) photograph amongst these that wasn’t shot on the 85mm, as I couldn’t bear to leave it out. I’ll let you try and figure that one out, but don’t use an EXIF reader, as that’s cheating. I also know that reading this might be a chore to the non-creatives out there, and for that I apologise. I just hope that the photographs make up for it.
Anyways, what words could you possibly add to scenes like these, which haven’t been written a thousand times before? Sometimes, the photographs tell you everything you need to know.