On set with DC Chavez – Part III

Written by DC Chavez on . Posted in Battery-powered Flash, Lighting Tips

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A 3 1/2 hour traffic-filled drive, 2 cups of coffee and 2 hours of waiting on set followed by 30 minutes to set up, take photos, tear down and leave the facility. Another day shooting photos. icon smile On set with DC Chavez   Part III

I met up with the Rockstar / Etnies Ford Fiesta at an undisclosed location on set of an undisclosed TV show. This vehicle is piloted by Tanner Foust- three-time X-Games Gold Medalist, two-time Formula Drift Champion, stunt driver, host of Top Gear USA etc. In 2009 Tanner even bested that one German F1 driver Michael Schumacher in the Race of Champions. Basically if it has 4 wheels, Tanner has driven it- faster than pretty much anyone. I was hired by one of the race team sponsors to shoot this rally car for a poster for the upcoming Global Rallycross Series. The assignment sounded easy enough. Drive to the middle of nowhere, wait until the TV show got done with the car and shoot a few frames in a unique location.

The building was built over 3 years ago as a hub for a large logistics company, but when the economy turned south, they bailed on the project. Bad for them, great for photographs. The location itself was insane- two football fields long by two football fields wide of untouched warehouse. Tanner sent me a photo of the warehouse the day before as the sun was setting—golden light streaming through the back windows of the empty building. I was excited to take advantage of the glowing ambient mixed with the cold concrete and metal beams.

tanner foust ford header On set with DC Chavez   Part III

A 3 1/2 hour traffic-filled drive, 2 cups of coffee and 2 hours of waiting on set followed by 30 minutes to set up, take photos, tear down and leave the facility. Another day shooting photos. icon smile On set with DC Chavez   Part III

I met up with the Rockstar / Etnies Ford Fiesta at an undisclosed location on set of an undisclosed TV show. This vehicle is piloted by Tanner Foust- three-time X-Games Gold Medalist, two-time Formula Drift Champion, stunt driver, host of Top Gear USA etc. In 2009 Tanner even bested that one German F1 driver Michael Schumacher in the Race of Champions. Basically if it has 4 wheels, Tanner has driven it- faster than pretty much anyone. I was hired by one of the race team sponsors to shoot this rally car for a poster for the upcoming Global Rallycross Series. The assignment sounded easy enough. Drive to the middle of nowhere, wait until the TV show got done with the car and shoot a few frames in a unique location.

The building was built over 3 years ago as a hub for a large logistics company, but when the economy turned south, they bailed on the project. Bad for them, great for photographs. The location itself was insane- two football fields long by two football fields wide of untouched warehouse. Tanner sent me a photo of the warehouse the day before as the sun was setting—golden light streaming through the back windows of the empty building. I was excited to take advantage of the glowing ambient mixed with the cold concrete and metal beams.

When I arrived on set, I was taken back at how large the building was and by the sunlight that poured in from the large rear windows. As the filming was taking place, I used my Sun Seeker App to plan where the sunlight would be as we approached golden hour. Since the production was utilizing the entire building, I could not set anything up ahead of time. All I could do was watch the filming take place as the sun slowly dropped- light getting better with each passing minute. As 6:30PM approached, I started getting anxious… I could see the shadows growing longer a the sun neared the horizon—my favorite time of the day to shoot was slipping away. Being the optimist that I am, I was sure that once I got the green light I would have time to set up quickly and get at least a few frames of the sunlight. I was wrong.

7:30PM- the production radios echo through the vast space “Its a wrap!” By this time, the sunlight was long gone- all that was left was a navy blue horizon fading quickly into a black sky overhead. A quick reading on my Sekonic L-358 gave me Eu (Exposure out of Range). The only ambient light was coming from the overhead metal halide safety lights. It was a recipe for disaster, but I knew I needed to make something happen. It was time to go to work, 5 1/2 hours after I left my house.

I had the race team clean off the car while I pulled my truck in and started setting up. Before I could unload my first Tenba Air case, I was greeted by the Executive Producer. He said, “We are only permitted to be here until 8PM, so can you shoot the photos and be out of here by then?” I nodded yes as I systematically started assembling C-stands, a tethered workstation and the lighting. I pulled out the new Pro-B3 AIR, a set of D1 1000 AIR monolights and a Batpac to shine some light on the Fiesta. As the last light went on a stand, the 2.0 Liter 800+ horsepower Fiesta pulled up with an angry growl—I think even the car was tired and wanted to go home.

7:41- The first click of the shutter was a baseline to measure ambient light- seeing if/how I could utilize the warehouse light. After 6 clicks I found a balance that I was able to work with. 2.5 second exposure @ f/9, ISO 400. This is where I started at:

BTS FOUST FIESTA AMBIENT1 On set with DC Chavez   Part III

Behind the Scenes -- Ambient Exposure

From here I could use the strobes to pull the car from the background. For my key and fill lights I had two Pro heads attached to the Pro-B3 AIR with the standard zoom reflectors. For location shooting, I love these light modifiers as they produce a hard light with a small specular highlight on the paint. If I was to use a softbox, I would have a large white square reflecting on part of the car—not what I was going for. I can also set them wide enough so that they illuminate the car with a very nice falloff as you reach the edge of the frame. Here is how it looks with the 2 lights:

BTS FOUST FIESTA KEY 570x380 On set with DC Chavez   Part III

Behind the Scenes -- Rockstar Fiesta Key and Fill

After a few tweaks of the angles of the heads, I was able to minimize the hot spot on the ground in front of the car. The next thing to do was add some light to the rear corner of the car to prevent it from looking so flat and blending into the dark background. I also wanted to add some light to the front grill to show the Rockstar branding. I had placed a gridded D1 just out of frame camera left and right. The grids help to prevent light spill onto the floor and lens flare in the camera. Note how the roofline in the rear and the branding on the front bumper pop with these lights in place.

BTS FOUST FIESTA FINAL 570x380 On set with DC Chavez   Part III

Behind the Scenes -- Rockstar Fiesta Key / Fill / Edge

Here is what the light setup looked like:

BTS TANNER FOUST FIESTA 570x336 On set with DC Chavez   Part III

Behind the Scenes -- Rockstar Fiesta Setup

The AIR system allowed me to remotely dial in the output of each monolight without having to run the 45 feet to each light- something that with such little time saved me precious seconds. The Pro-B3 also had the AIR System built in, with the transceiver on the camera, everything fired at once. Once everything was dialed in I captured a few frames and then flipped the car to get a shot of the rear. Due to time constraints, I didn’t even move the lights. The only difference was that I dialed down the output of the light that was aimed at the rear bumper. Here are the two final images from the shoot:

tanner foust ford fiesta 570x348 On set with DC Chavez   Part III

Behind the Scenes -- Rockstar Fiesta Final Image

BTS FOUST FIESTA REAR 570x380 On set with DC Chavez   Part III

Behind the Scenes -- Rockstar Fiesta Final Image

7:51- final frame captured. From there it was a mad dash to tear down the gear and get out of the warehouse. Before I even knew what happened, it was all over. Hours of anticipation and waiting for 11 minutes of shooting. 16 frames total-including BTS shots. I watched my ideal light slip away and had to make a backup plan- quick. It just goes to show that having the right gear and knowing how to use it without thinking is essential to success.

I hope you all enjoyed this behind the scenes look at what goes into making a photograph. Please let me know if you have any questions.

DC Chavez

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Comments (2)

  • alex ulleri

    |

    I have a question DC. I am trying to understand the choice of ISO 400 instead of say, 100 iso since there is no movement in the shot. Theoretically you could just use a longer exposure and get the same result at 100 iso. I just want to understand your choices.

    After some thinking I am wondering if 400 iso is used so you don’t have to use full power out of the stobes or at least give you some play up and down for the final balance of exposure. The other thought is maybe the warehouse lights would bloom to much with a longer exposure.

    Great shot btw and what a cool location. Well done sir.

    Reply

    • DC Chavez

      |

      Alex-

      After shooting with the 5D Mk II for a while, I have found some subtle changes in dynamic range when shooting at various ISO’s. In my not so scientific observations, I have found that when shooting dark scenes with long exposures, I have a lot of flexibility with ISO 400. Highlights don’t get too blown out and I still retain some detail in the blacks. This gives me a good foundation for post-production on the images. Like I said, its not empirical research like you would see on dpreview, but its just my findings after hundreds of thousands of clicks of a shutter. Thanks for reading- DC

      Reply

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