HAPPY 2016 Y'ALL!!

After spending the last three weeks doing christmas stuff, seeing my favorite DJ live, twiddling my thumbs, having no computer, binge watching New Girl, freezing my ass off, taking a couple of trips back and fourth from the homeland, and driving some random drunk people around until 4AM. It's finally grind time for this fella. 


OKAY SO! Last week I got together with the homies over at Diode Dynamics to capture some images of a brand spankin' new Nissan Maxima that they have torn apart and installed some new LED science in the headlights of this beauty.

For those of you who are not familiar with Diode Dynamics, they're an LED manufacturing powerhouse located right here in good ol' St. Loser. FUN FACT: They're actually the reason I moved here in the first place too. The team consists of a bunch of scientists and automotive nerds who produce some pretty killer shit! One of the best things about the place is that they sit in a room and come up with these pretty wild ideas out of nowhere and through the miracle of science and a ton of smart people make them into a reality. Oh and they also design and manufacture everything in house with a bunch of big science machines. This stuff doesn't come in on a boat people. This time around they took the factory headlights from the Maxima and made the OEM DRL into a switchback LED. 

Switchback LED [switch-bak] n. A functioning LED (light emitting diode) that operates as a DRL (daytime running light) as well as a functioning amber blinker. During regular operation the LED is pure white (5000K) once the turn signal is initiated the LED will switch to a DOT approved blinking amber. Once the turn signal is disengaged the LED will switch back to the pure white DRL for regular operation.

The dudes over at Diode have designed and produced a replacement board to provide this function that is not too intrusive and utilizes the factory operation specs to make it a seamless installation while adding a unique OEM+ look to the vehicle. Pretty dope right? I think so too! They've also got a board that will make the DRL's RGB capable for all you out there who like to drive down the road with some red, blue, pink, or whatever color you desire on the front of yo' whip.


I got to diode somewhere around 10AM and got right to work. Parked the Maxima in the studio area and busted out the Ice light [if you don't know what an ice light is-look it up. It's a baller ass tool and is awesome for shooting cars on a budget] I did a couple of the standard studio shots that Diode likes then packed up the gear and headed to our first location.

This is one of the first shoots I've done where I actually scouted for some locations and had a plan before shooting. Most of my 2015 shoots (like 90%) were all unplanned and for the most part thrown together. It felt really good going into something where I had a vision of how the end result was going to come out. I felt like a kid in a candy store...but with a camera.

I was fucking HYPED.

Since we didn't have any permits for any of these locations I packed super light. Nothing but my camera case and a tripod. The weather conditions couldn't have been better (aside from the freezing cold) The sky was partly cloudy and there wasn't too much wind. PUUUURRFECT.

Location 1 was somewhere in-between a college campus and a hospital (I think) So there was quite a bit of foot traffic, which actually ended up working in our favor because I've really wanted to try incorporating some human motion in my images lately to give more of a Lifestyle feel. We parked the Maxima (illegally of course) and got right to work, fired off a few frames and got everything basically first try. I'm not really used to getting the shot so we spent another hour or so trying out a couple of different things, and since we were featuring a product that worked as a turn signal I wanted to get some panning shots of the car taking a turn with the blinker on. After a few trial and error shots, a lecture from some very religious protestors, and holding up a few cars we got what we needed! I handed out a couple of high fives, said sorry to a few peeps, and we were off to our next location! 


Location 2 was just a nice looking garage door that was actually open when I scouted. We got pretty lucky that it was closed because it was the perfect minimal clean background for a nice front shot to showcase the lights in both functions. We had to be in the middle of the street for this one so we did have to wait a couple of minutes before it died down long enough to fire the shots we needed. Again we nailed the shots in no time and wrapped in a rough total of 10 minutes. Everything was going super smooth, and I was too hyped to give a shit about my ringing phone and notifications that I missed a couple of credit card payments.
                                          AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT KIND OF NEGATIVITY ON A DAY LIKE THAT!

I have no idea why I shot that second shot in portrait orientation. I think we wanted to leave some negative space for copy in case the image was to be used with copy to advertise those killer LEDs!

Location 3 was one that I was pretty uncertain of since it was in the parking lot of what seemed to be a pretty busy operation. We did have to wait for a few cars, golf carts, and commuter busses, but I'm glad we did! I loved this spot! and I wasn't about to let it get away from me. I really wanted to try and shoot in a location that had newer architecture and a neutral color scheme since we were shooting a white car.


I had a lot of fun working on these and providing 2 different but similar looks for this location. Again utilizing a little bit of negative space in the portrait oriented image for copy and such. 

Location 4 is where one of my favorite images from this set was shot. I know as soon as I saw the dark grey building that had good depth that it would be perfect for a more eerie and darker image. The timing was perfect since the sun was going down and we had some really nice soft even lighting and very minimal color cast from any nasty yellow incandescent street lighting. AGAIN we got the shots fairly quickly and super painless. I can't stress enough how hyped I was that everything was going so well.  How many times do you think I'll use the word 'HYPED' in this post? A shitload. Thats how many.

This particular image was one that I knew EXACTLY what I was going to do in post, which adds to my excitement that we were able to get it so smoothly. I knew that I wanted this image to be a little darker to give the fog LEDs a chance to show a little bit of their brightness output. Once I got the background darkened and made the car pop a little bit I added a little smokey steam to give it a little more drama. Once I got the smokey goodness in the image I went back and did some subtle adjusting to give the effect that the light was actually hitting the smoke to make it appear a little more realistic. I think it turned out pretty neat! But I'll let you be the judge! 

Location 5 was our final location of the day. I can't even believe we were working fast enough to cram 5 locations into a day of shooting. This never happens. This location was on top of a parking garage downtown. Diode wanted a shot with the car and a few city buildings in the background. This proved to be a little more difficult and I actually didn't scout this location, but after driving around for a few minutes we found our hero garage and headed straight up- until we were rudely interrupted by some traffic cones that were blocking us from getting there. After realizing that the top was only blocked off due to the lack of occupants in the garage we swiftly moved those rude bastards and headed right to the top. Typically the roof of this particular garage is flooded with nasty yellow streetlights that are just the worst. Luckily they were turned off and it was dark enough to bust out the ice light and paint away! We probably spent about 15-20 minutes shooting and right as we snagged our final frame those hellacious lights turned on. The timing couldn't have been more perfect! I do wish we would have been able to grab a couple of more compositions but by this time we had overly satisfied our list of shots and were already over on time. So we packed everything up, reviewed our captures for the day, high fived, and headed back to Diode. 

On the way out as we were going down the tightly constructed spiral to get to the exit of the garage, I decided to hop out and see if I could grab a couple of motion shots incorporating that loopty loop. These probably won't get used for anything but it did give me a few ideas for some future shoots in this location! I like the way they turned out, but I know for sure they could be a lot better. I can't wait to get back to that spot and make proper use of it! WOO!!

I couldn't be happier with the way the day went. Being that this was my first shoot of 2016 I really wanted to set the bar for myself. I tried a couple of new post techniques that I'm pretty pleased with so far, and can't fucking wait to see how they evolve throughout the year. 

REGARDING THE TITLE OF THIS POST: I've been shooting on the same 5Dmkii and outdated lenses since I started my professional career. The older technology definitely has its handicaps especially shooting with available light in darker locations, and has a shitload of noise when doing longer exposures. But working through these challenges has strengthened my post production skillz and honestly I don't see an upgrade coming any time soon (my wallet doesn't either) The reason I'm telling you all of this is because I know that a lot of people are concerned with having the newer and better technology and spend ridiculous amounts of money to do so. 

My advice is this: Pay more attention to how YOU shoot/process and don't force yourself into an upgrade until its absolutely necessary. Learn every in and out of your camera, be resourceful, and rent if you absolutely need to, but don't let your lack of gear stop you from creating to the best of YOUR ability. My main reason for not upgrading to a better camera system or better lighting gear is simple. PLENTY of people have created images that completely SHIT on my best images with the SAME or LESS than what I have. So until I reach the level that I know my gear is capable of I'm sticking with it. Unless I win this billion dollar lottery. Then I'm buying ALL OF THE SHIT.








Travis CarrollComment