Back in January, I got a call from the folks at Nissan North America, Inc., asking me if I'd like to go out to Nevada and shoot the new totally redesigned Nissan Titan pickup truck. This was a huge opportunity for me, and I can't tell you how excited I was to get the invite. Planning literally began the moment I got off the phone. There were a couple of major challenges to overcome with this shoot. First, there was not enough time to acquire the proper film permits which limited us on where we could legally shoot. Then, there was the little fact that we knew we were only going to have the truck for less than 24 hours. I worked with a very talented Creative Director named Tim who is based in Los Angeles. He and I began looking for locations using Map Quest and Google Earth. Tim was an encyclopedia of knowledge for that area. He could recall specific road names off the top of his head. We had daily discussions either by phone or email about possible locations for the shoot. We talked about every aspect of potential sites: where the sun would be at certain times of the day, potential issues like foot traffic, could the transport truck gain access, etc. Basically, we knew we needed to address anything we could think of that might be an issue during the shoot. It turned out to be an ongoing discussion up until about an hour before the shoot.
While this was a challenge in itself, the biggest challenge we faced was the truck - or, rather, the truck's "schedule." First off, the truck was in Detroit for its global reveal at the Detroit Auto Show. It was also completely booked on events for the next few months following the reveal. It was also the only unit of its kind in the U.S., a bright yellow PRO-4X with gold pearl mixed into to the paint. We were going to have a very small window of opportunity to have access to the truck for the shoot. Nissan transported it from Detroit to LA and then put it on another truck from LA to Nevada. I flew into Las Vegas, loaded up into a rental car and drove South to meet the team and the truck. Along the way, Tim and I were still looking on Google Earth for a suitable location to do the shoot. We wanted to have the most available options possible for any delays that we might encounter while the truck was in route to meet us at the site. We were able to find a dry lake bed near Sloan Canyon about 40 miles south of Las Vegas. I actually saw it from the plane during final approach into Vegas. Everyone started driving towards the location. I was on the phone with Tim, who was on the phone with the transport truck and the agency reps, who were also going to be on-site during the shoot. No pressure, right?
When everyone arrived to the shoot location, we only had about 45 minutes until sunset. We were right in the middle of the golden hour, the time when the light is best for shooting this type of image. The truck had to be off-loaded, cleaned, positioned and shot before the sun set. Everyone jumped in to help out. We had guys from the agency helping wipe down the truck while the handlers, Carlos and Roberto, were off-loading it and moving it into position. I was setting up lights and cameras. Tim was directing traffic to get the truck positioned for the best light. It was getting dark fast.
Click the images below to see the set we captured with only 45 minutes of setup and shoot time. They are raw and unedited, straight out of the camera. The setup I chose for this location and circumstance was to rely mainly on natural light as the key light. I also used two 1000 watt strobes to help fill where needed.
For the most part, I think I got it right in the camera. At first glance, I knew there would be some post production retouch required, but given the circumstances, I was happy with the outcome. There was a little reflection issue in the paint and there were some wild bushes growing in the background that was showing up in the paint but that's all easy enough to remove from the images.
Below, you can see my camera settings in Bridge and you can also see some of the adjustments I made in the Adobe RAW image editor. You'll notice that I shot at 100 ISO @ 5.6 for 1/30 of a second. By the time I shot this series of images, the sun was almost completely gone. While it was dark and definitely not the optimal situation to be in for this type of shoot, it worked. Notice in the RAW editor that I've pushed the shadows and clarity way further than any photographer on earth would dare to go. Again, not ideal, but you have to do what you have to do to make the shot work for the client. (A little tech note here: I push the clarity on the image to help the paint shine. Give it a try the next time you shoot a car. You may have to paint in the clarity with a brush so you don't mess up the rest of the image.)
Post a comment below if you have any specific questions about why I did what I did here.
I normally shoot this type of product at 200mm using my Canon 70-200 f2.8 L-series lens. For this location, that just wasn't possible. I wish I had turned around and popped a quick photo so you could see what I was standing in to get the shot. Every plant behind me had the gnarliest thorns you've ever seen. It was impossible to get far enough away to shoot at 200mm. So, with that being said, I shot at 70mm. I'm just glad it was winter because I can't imagine the little creepy crawlies that were lurking in the bushes around me. It was thick to say the least.
Finally, I posted a couple of pics of the crew. It's important to note that without these guys there to help, this would have never happened. If these guys hadn't stepped out of their "client" and "agency" roles and instead decided to stand around and watch me, Carlos and Roberto get it all done ourselves, this shoot would have been a total failure. It just goes to show the amount of dedication they all have to creating great products in everything they are a part of - no matter how challenging the situation. And for that, I say thank you!
From left to right: Me, Max, Timbo, Carlos and Roberto