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Nissan North America

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2016 Nissan LEAF

Not much has changed on the outside for the 2016 Nissan Leaf but Nissan says that the electric car will be getting a new, larger battery option and a step up to what it claims is best-in-class range. I had the opportunity pop up several months ago to shoot the 2016 Nissan LEAF. The LEAF was the first mass-produced electric vehicle in the world. I wanted to challenge myself so I decided to use a technique called light painting. Light painting is a technique where you place the car in it's spot and then use a strobe light to paint each part of the car, one shot at a time, and then blend them all together into one amazing image using Photoshop.

So the image you see above is twenty seven (yes, I said 27) different layers (images) blended into one image. First, I shot the image at an average exposure setting. From there, I shot images using a 1K strobe with a six foot strip box to expose small sections of the car and background until I had everything I need to complete the final composite image. The last image was a thirty second exposure of the sky. The sky was not shot at the same location, I used an image of the sky I had shot about a year prior at a different location.

You can see how I used the strip box to light the car in the image above. Basically, I walked the entire car and kept clicking the shutter every two seconds as I walked.

Once in Photoshop, I brought in each image as a new layer. Created an inverted layer mask and painted in whatever section of the car I was working on at the time. Once I had the entire car painted in I moved to the background and used the same workflow.

This was definitely an interesting project. The LEAF is the ultimate high-tech product. I love high-tech toys so it certainly was a pleasure working on this project.

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2016 Nissan Titan - Behind the Scenes

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?

 Product Photography for Public Relations and Social Media

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.

Technical Information

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

 

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PROJECT TITAN - Wounded Warriors Project Truck

Nissan North America contacted me a few months ago and asked if I'd like to shoot some product shots of a heavily modified Nissan Titan they were going to use to send wounded warriors on adventures within Alaska. The request came in on a Wednesday. The challenge was that the truck needed to leave the following Monday for Alaska. That is an extremely compressed time frame to plan and execute a product shoot of this size. I told them that I was all-in for the project.

Automotive Photographer John Murphy Project Titan

I remember hanging up the phone and immediately calling the folks at Vulcan Materials in Franklin, TN. Kevin McCarty answered the phone. I told him about the project and asked him if I could shoot the truck at their rock quarry in Franklin. He jumped into action. This was not a simple request. Rock quarries are heavily regulated by the government and have some of the strictest safety guidelines you'll ever encounter for a photography location. Kevin was a true warrior in the way that he was able to (a) convince his management team to allow us to do it, and (b) convince the government regulators that it could be done safely. In my opinion, Kevin worked a miracle. He called me back in the late afternoon the following day and told me that he was able to work it out. He only had one request. He wanted to be able to bring their veterans down to the shoot location to see the truck. I said no problem, let's do it. I told him that I would even shoot some pictures of Vulcan's veterans with the truck for their internal news magazine.

Looking back on the project, there was no better location for this truck. This thing was a beast. When I pulled into the quarry there were rocks the size of houses. It was the perfect location for the shoot.

Automotive Photographer John Murphy Project Titan

As you can see from the photos, this was a spectacular location. One of the constant challenges during the shoot was trying to keep the truck clean. At the very end, we didn't even try to clean, we just shot it dirty. And, wow - it looked good dirty!

This was an amazing project to work on. One of the best moments of the day was when the veterans that work for Vulcan joined us at one of the locations to look at the truck. They were so happy to be a part of this project. I really enjoyed getting to meet them and hear their stories.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this shoot a huge success. The folks at Vulcan Material really went the extra mile to make this happen, and I couldn't have asked to work with a better group of guys.

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