Behind The Camera – Photography Car Rig Shots

There is nothing worse then a bored photographer. Cold weather, food coma, overcast and rainy skies will stifle even the greatest creativity. And this past month, I was in a bit of a creative funk. So I decided to break out of my comfort zone and try a new type of photography: Automotive Photography with a Car Rig.

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I have always admired car photography and loved the look of the images on car magazine covers.  Low angles, motion blur, sleek, fast, sexy. So I figured I’d give it a try. And afterall, I had the perfect model sitting right in my driveway: Nadia, my 2006 Pontiac Solstice.

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Let me first say, try this at your own risk. And please be cautious where you do your photography in case something should go wrong. Safety should always be the #1 priority.

And the first step to any photography project is to research, research, research. After looking at numerous sites, it became clear that a professional camera rig was quite expensive. But conceptually, the setup was simple: a pole with a camera on it, a wireless trigger to fire the camera, and something to secure the pole to the car. And after a little more searching, I came across this example on Flickr. It was exactly what I was searching for. So off to the local hardware store I went.

I picked up the following items:

1 x 6 foot Painters Pole, extendable to 12 feet ($20)

2 x Dual 200lbs Suction Cups with handles ($10 each)

1 package of zip ties ($10)

And on eBay I picked up a Phottix® Cleon – Wire/Wireless Remote C8 ($30 shipped from Hong Kong)

I already had a Bogen Super Clamp ($30) and a simple ball head ($10)

So once I had all my items, I assembled them and hit the road…hoping my Canon 20D (my old backup camera) and 10-22 mm lens wouldn’t literally hit it.

Well, the first attempt was less then successful, but showed potential. I put the camera in Shutter Priority mode and just drove around and snapping away. This was the best that I got. The second shot has the pole removed in Photoshop.

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I realized that even when I drove faster then 5 mph, the camera would start shaking up and down, and thus give a blurry image. The slow speed was meant to keep the car in focus and use motion blur to blur the background. But that was just not happening. I also decided to find a way to reduce the weight and go back to the hardware store in search of a painters pole that wouldn’t flex as much with a 3 lb camera on it.

So I found another pole ($30) and some hardware: a 2″ long 1/4″ thread bolt (the same threading that would screw into the bottom of your camera or that is found on your tripod), and some washers. The flat washers for the gap between the ball head and the pole and the starred washers are for additional grip of the bolt and the pole.

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The bolt would allow me to secure the ball head directly to the pole and eliminate the need & weight of the Super Clamp.

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I also picked up four 6″ pipe clamps ($1.5 each) to secure the pole to the suction cups and 6 ‘ pipe insulation ($5) to cover the pole and ensure Nadia doesn’t get scratched up.

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And here’s the full pole, not extended.

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And then I sat and waited for a clear and sunny day. Contrary to popular believe, it’s not always sunny in California…especially in winter. But it finally happened yesterday. 68 F and a beautiful day to drop the top and take some shots.

I set the camera to aperture priority mode @ f/22 (this gave me the longest possible shutter speed at the proper exposure) and started driving around really slowly. I noticed that if I had the pole extended too far out, it caused more camera shake, so I kept it as short as possible. And to further minimize shaking, drive slow, have a newly paved and smooth road, and shift as smoothly as possible.

For the shot below, I mounted the suction cups on the hood of the car. Sprinkled a little water for a secure seal and they were not going anywhere. I took the car up to 20 mph and the pole stayed solid. The camera shook quite a bit, but still stayed on. Granted I wouldn’t recommend going that fast. One pot hole and say good by to your camera.

f/22, 1/5 sec @ 100 ISO…10mm…5 mph.

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While I ended up with only a dozen sharp shots out of 500 (the camera was on continuous shooting mode as I drove), this is much better then my first attempt. I do think that a more sturdy pole would give me a higher success rate, but this will do for now.

Here’s another shot with the pole secured to the trunk. f/22, 0.6 sec @ 100 ISO..10mm..10mph

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I hope this inspires you to get out there and try something new and different.

10 Replies to “Behind The Camera – Photography Car Rig Shots”

  1. Just wish to say your article is as astounding. The clarity in your post is just great and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the rewarding work.

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