The assignment seemed simple enough: Photograph something mid-engine to reflect a class that was going to be featured at a major concours. To my knowledge, no event had ever shined the spotlight on the mid-engine supercar, so what was needed to create poster and event cover images that properly convey that theme? Do we use a single car, or a group of cars? If so, what should be included, and what is the maximum number of cars?
What to Choose?
As these questions and more were bounced around with the event organizers, little did I realize this shoot would be a perfect case study in what can go wrong and then right with such an assignment.
For a potential multiple car image, something was needed from the early years to give historic perspective of the mid-engine movement. A Lamborghini Miura was the obvious choice, which was why I opted to go unusual and use an ATS, the first ever mid-engine supercar. Ferrari had more mid-engines throughout its history than any other marque, so which one to use? And what about other nameplates? Lamborghini obviously had a number, and there were other machines such as a Ford GT40 Mk III, or a de Tomaso Mangusta or Pantera. And should we use something from the current crop of McLarens, Porsches, and just released Ford GT so the poster wasn’t completely Italian?
Multiple cars add complications though, starting with a location where you can shoot uninterrupted. Have a group of badass “middies” come together, and onlookers come out of the woodwork. Fortunately, one of the owners who committed to the shoot had a large picturesque property that guaranteed solitude. An ATS 2500GT, potentially an AMX/3, and more were lined up, the only remaining decision being which one of the property owner’s Ferraris would be used.
A Back-Up Plan
Then, 24 hours before the shoot was to happen the location fell through, which also axed the ATS. With the clock ticking towards deadline, a new group of cars had to be arranged, as did another location.
I now decided to revolve the shoot around a friend’s a 288 GTO and something current. That landmark Ferrari was a real pivot point in mid-engine history, for it represents the first “modern” mid-engine supercar, with twin turbos, early composite construction, and more. A call to a transporter friend lined up a Porsche 918, and several days later it was over to the San Diego area for the shoot.
The Perfect Shot
A killer motion image was already dancing in my head, where the 288 would be close to the camera, but cropped so you wouldn’t see the whole car but enough of it to know this was not a 308. Put the 918 in the right place, and the 288 would lead the viewer’s eye right to the 918 and make it the focal point of the image, even though it was further back. Plus the Porsche’s darker color would make it fade into the background if you only saw part of the car by having it in front.
So where to pull this off? One of the most challenging things to any shoot is finding the right spot, but in this case location scouting was a joy, for we used the 288 owner’s Porsche Carrera GT to scout (yes, you may now permit your hearts to bleed for me).
Two’s a Crowd.. Three’s a Party
When we assembled the next morning to do the shoot, the word had gotten out with friends of the car owners. Soon there was a small group of people that wanted to see the shoot happen, as more than one had brought along their teenage sons and friends. One of them suggested we look at their family’s sizeable property so a phone call was made to the parents, and off went the group of cars. Once behind the property’s gates, it was clear those picturesque rolling hills and private road running through them was ideal.
An earlier Ford GT had come along just in case it was needed, which turned out to be a blessing. I typically start with static photography, for it’s the easiest for controlling variables and making sure you captured something good. The Ford GT was roped into the photo, but a ladder was needed to make an impactful image, where you would see everything. The cars were carefully put into position and, after several variations were in the can, we moved to the motion photography.
Once panning was done, the tracking shots had me hanging out of the back of a golf cart that was gleefully piloted by two or three of the teenage sons. The image I had pre-visualized days earlier came together beautifully, and would make an ideal poster if the event organizers wanted motion.
An Amusing Conclusion
In truth, the whole day was like a giant party, with a wonderful group of people coming together to celebrate some killer cars and automotive history. But surprisingly, the shoot never made it onto the event poster and program for reasons that ended up being pretty ironic. Still, that was one of my more enjoyable days of 2017, and to all involved, thank you so much for making it that way!
And should any of you have questions on the photos you see here, or how to better photograph cars, let me know and I will do my best to answer them.