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Portland Car Photography Experience #1


One of Three Portland Corvette Photo Shoots

Corvette Car Photography

Nikki tolerated the colder photography studio temperatures during our photo shoot in Portland.

The Technical: I was photographing six models at Gordon Jone’s photography studio in Oregon, including Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough, Nikki M., and Devon, in a garage being converted to a photography studio and I was doing my best to keep my brain from freezing when I took this photo, as even though the furnace was new, with the weather barely 30-degrees Fahrenheit outside, the studio was only about twenty degrees warmer, so working fast was imperative.

Normally my shooting style is to “keep it simple,” usually using a one-light technique for most of my photography.  On this occasion, I couldn’t resist using multiple studio flash heads as not only did we have so many models, but we had several Corvettes to photograph them with as our props.

When lighting cars in photography, in order to bring out the detail, multiple lighting is normally required and these become critical setups.  Some of these lighting setups would obviously change throughout the shoot as darker cars require more lighting than lighter cars.  In the case of this featured Corvette, it was a darker, red colored car that would absorb light, so more lights were required than when we’d photograph the white Corvette later during this weeklong photo shoot.  You’ll see photos of the models with the white Corvette in future Lens Diaries™ posts.

For this photo of Nikki, we used seven studio lights (lighting setup below), all Hensel Integra 500 Pro Plus monolights fitted with various light modifiers including 7-inch reflectors fitted with 10- and 20-degree grids covered with Rosco 1/8th CTO gels.  The main light for the front end of the car was fitted with a Hensel (white) 22-inch beauty dish while the main light for the model was another Hensel 22-inch, white beauty dish, though it was partially flagged off with Rosco black Cinefoil to prevent spill light from affecting various areas of the car.

Cars are very reflective, especially new sports cars with their clear overcoats, not to mention Gordon had the cars all waxed and detailed for the shoot. It’s important to understand “the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection” rule in photography to prevent your light modifiers from showing up on your car.

Photographer’s Toolbox
Camera: Olympus E-500
Lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital ED
F2.0 set at 37mm
Effective Focal Length: 74mm
Shutter Speed: 1/30
Aperture: F/8.0
ISO: 100
White Balance: 6000K

While most of the photos of these models were created with the Leica R9 film camera fitted with the Leica Digital Modul back and a Leica Vario-Elmarit-R 100mm lens, this particular image was more a lighting check and I shot it with the more amateur DSLR, an Olympus E-500 fitted with a Zuiko Digital ED
F2.0 set at 37mm (effective focal length 74mm) at F/8.0.  The ISO was set at 100 with the white balance at 6000K.  While the E-500 DSLR camera retailed at about $500 back then, the key here was the glass, Olympus’s version of a 70-200mm lens with a maximum aperture value of F/2.0.  As mentioned in The Pots and Pans of Photography article, it’s the glass in a photograph that can make the difference.

I also wanted to capture the neon light emitted from the Corvette sign in the photograph, so we “dragged” the shutter down to a 1/30th of a second and used a tripod to hold the camera steady.  While I’m not a big tripod shooter, more a monopod shooter if I need the stability, I used Gordon’s tripod as the duration of the flash was the shutter speed for the models which keeps them tack sharp, but in the case of the neon signs, which emit continuous light long after the flash has fired, the situation required a steady camera.  Though I can hold a camera steady at 1/30th of a second, in cold temperatures, that’s a different story, especially when your teeth are making more noise than a cracking ice cube.

Photography Studio Lighting Setup

Birds-eye view of the photography studio, car lighting set-up.

The Story Behind The Image: Years ago while working on my first two photography books, I’d go work with photographer Gordon Jones at his photography studio in the Portland area.  While his photography studio location is outside of the bustle of Portland, it’s not immune to the ever changing weather of Oregon and this trip occurred during a time when the temperatures decided to drop into the freezing ranges—though that didn’t stop Gordon, the dedicated models or myself, so we did what all great photographers and models do, paid our dues to get the images we wanted.

We had six models with us, Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough (at the time her issue was in print production but not on store shelves), Nikki, Devon and two other models.  I’ll focus on first few models as in this diary entry all three were in the photography studio at the same time and while I photographed one, the other two would sit in chairs, covered with blankets doing their best to stay warm.  While they had the choice to go back into Gordon’s beautiful, heated house, they all chose to stick it out in the colder photography studio to save time.

Photography studio photo lighting setup

Front view of the photography studio, car lighting set-up with Devon in the background.

Besides the beautiful sports cars, the setup was interesting as Gordon was still in the process of converting part of his massive two-story garage into a studio so unfortunately the new furnace installation just raised the temperature up to a tolerable working environment, but not totally warm.  In the end, everyone paid their dues tolerating the cold tempertures, but we captured some fantastic images, Gordon with his Canon cameras and myself with my Leica and Olympus cameras.  I’m still a Leica photographer, but I also have evolved to the Canon 5D Mark II system.  What’s important with any brand of camera is the quality glass that’s available for each system and all three photography vendors make some great glass.

An interesting point during this shoot was that Holley had made Playmate for Playboy, but the magazine was still almost two-months out from being released, so you’ll see a future lens diary where she is sporting her Playmate diamond necklace. The moral of the diary, sometimes you’ve just got to freeze your butt for some great images.

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  1. wow–great backstory and set shots. These types of posts are great learning tools–thanks for sharing

    • Thanks, I’ll be sharing more soon as this is one of a few from that shoot. Thanks, rg.

  2. HI Rolando, in the Photographer’s Toolbox said Camera Olympus E-1 but in the text said Olympus E-500 wich one is the correct or do you use both?

    • Thanks for that catch, problem when you edit your own work and you use the cut and paste shortcuts. All fixed, thanks, oh, it was the E-500. Thanks, rg.


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Welcome to (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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Our primary photography focus is digital photography and digital cameras. From iPhones to Canon’s and Nikon’s, you can count on us!