All hail the pipe

All my life, I have adored automotive photography. Okay, fine, photography as a whole. It has led me down a great path of adventure, and highly satisfying pursuits both in photography and video production. But, automotive and transportation photography has always held a special place in the corners of my creative and curious mind because, at it's best, the impact of the image can sometimes transcend the design and perfection of the vehicle itself.

The 2009 Mini Cooper S is hard to beat, ladies and gentlemen.

My creative co-conspirator, Vince Estep, finalizing the details of transcending the design and perfection of the 2009 Mini Copper S.

One of the most impressive, and well-utilized techniques of the past decade (or more?) for professional automotive photographers has been the use of the so-called "automotive rig"–an extremely long, lightweight pole attached to the vehicle using high strength suction cup mounts, and average sized DSLR still cameras. It's a simple concept, but done well, it fools and creates question in the viewer's mind as to how a camera could be racing with a car, in such close proximity, at such high speeds to achieve the image that is finally seen!

This is how!

In reality, it is one of the most basic photographic techniques of rolling a very long shutter to capture and blur even the most miniscule amount of motion, making it appear far more dramatic than reality could ever achieve. I became interested in the "automotive rig" technique a year or two ago, and as I recently have begun working more with automotive and transportation photography clients, it quickly became a method and kit I wanted to work, experiment with, and perfect.

Lookin' down the barrel of a... pipe?

As said, the basics of the method are very simple: suspend a camera a distance from the vehicle; move the vehicle very slowly so as not to move the camera on it's axis; run the shutter at two to three seconds (more, or less, depending on your intended effect) open; and, leave some room for creativity in touching up the image in Lightroom and/or Photoshop. Ultimately, the only thing you NEED to do in Photoshop is use the Clone Stamp, and other various tools and tricks to erase the pole from the shot. But, in the hands of the best photographers, the image is usually augmented quite thoroughly to create an incredible dreamscape using various post-production methods and visual effects. The funny thing is, the part most people think is "Photoshopped"–the motion blur–is the most pure, analog, straight-from-camera element of the entire final image.

Wat'cha gonna do with all that pipe? All that pipe up in your shot?!

In fact, the great thing about the "automotive rig" shot is that, while it does require some finesse and refinement in the effort and execution, it creates such a perfect and realistic image, it is hard to match for absolute realism in Photoshop with synthetic directional blurs and filters.

Pipe -0 / Me - 1

Much more to share soon from various personal, and professional projects! And, of course, if you are an automotive (aerospace, etc.) photographer utilizing the "automotive rig" method, or anything else clever and interesting, please share it here!

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