Shooting a tire photo contest with m43

I like photo contests that start and end in a one month period because I don’t want to wait a year to find out I lost again.  Toyo Tires (of Japan) holds an annual summer contest to promote car culture, photography and of course Toyo Tires.  This year they tweaked the rules and required all entries be shot in black & white.  I was instantly on board thinking that I might finally have an edge in the competition because of my experience and understanding of black and white images.

Many people think that B&W photography is just photography without color.   They are mistaken.  B&W photography is about contrast and shapes.  It’s about simplicity.  It allows you to see deeper into an image and makes establishing a connection with that image easier.   All this is possible because frankly, colour can be a distraction.

But what subject am I going to shoot?   I have never purchased Toyo tires nor do I know anybody who has an interesting car that might be shod with Toyo tires.  But the rules never stipulate that you have to shoot …. a real car with real tires.   This would be the most dynamic application of forced perspective photography yet.

It is quite common for a lot of commercial print photography ad work to be accomplished with miniature models because of the efficiency and financial economy that ensues.  So I began looking for a 1:18 scale model with a Toyo Tires tie in.

I found a Maisto 1:18 Ford Mustang GT with an RTR (ready to rock) wide body kit with a wonderful Toyo Tires windshield banner and wearing Toyo Tire Proxes as can be easily identified by its distinctive asymmetric tread pattern.   The Mustang is an ideal subject since it is an everyman vehicle, not some wildly unaffordable exotic supercar with an equally unaffordable maintenance schedule.  Even if you are a conscientious owner and treat your exotic car well, the problem with low volume manufacturers is that once they run out of spare parts, they will not make any more.  After all, they only want you to buy a new supercar.   –   This image was intended to be a homage to the 1976 Claude Lelouch short film entitled C’était un rendez-vous which translates to It’s a date.  In that original film, Lelouch drives his Ferrari 275GTB in light early morning traffic from downtown Paris up to the Sacre Coeur Catholic church in the heights of Montmartre to meet his girlfriend.  But he drives very fast and does not stop for any red light.  Many view this as the origin of modern day street racing.  Others viewed it as irresponsible film making. 


When one desaturates the colour from an image, the result is quite often dynamically flat. You have to exaggerate the contrast in general and highlight specific areas that have natural contrast. It’s important to increase the contrast of the Toyo Tires windshield banner. And also to make the tread pattern of the driver’s front tire visible, the light colored paint on the side view mirrors, front splitter, and side graphics. In the final iteration I lighten the interior of the cabin so more detail is visible, add front and rear light beams and light up the cloudy night sky.  –   I added several micro LEDs to improve the realism of the model and ran my rubber tipped Dremel to simulate burnt rubber tire skid marks on the cork board asphalt.  OM-1, Leica 15mm f/1.7 @ f/10  ISO1600


But maybe I’m overthinking the concept. Not everyone knows the Lelouch film. I’m about to throw out my Porsche 917K racecar from the 1970s Le Mans victories when I realize that she still has one more race left in her. I buy some water transfer decals and decorate her windshield and rear flank with Toyo Tire sponsor stickers. I originally thought I’d stage the scene on a highway but shooting from even the shoulder with hundreds of cars speeding past is very dangerous and sure to attract the unwelcome attention of the police. I chose a quieter and slower city street that featured a streetcar and shot from the spaces between parked cars.


I had already punched up the contrast of the darker upper body paint work, the next stage was to make the car number circle brighter and whiter, emphasize both Toyo Tire decals, lighten the cabin to improve visibility of the driver and darken the seams between all the body panels to further imply that the doors actually open, and the rear and front nose sections lift off. Finally I increase the brightness and crop the image to give the impression of the car driving off the right lower corner of the image.   The imperfections of impromptu street photography selling the reality.  I purchase a 1:18 scale race car driving figure and amputate his forearms and legs.  It takes several more slices from his abdomen until he finally fits with his helmet just clearing the cabin roof – just like in real life.    –   The problem is that Toyo Tire marketing executives might deem this as promoting an illegal act, since this car can never operate on any city street.   It’s a fantasy race that every car enthusiast would enjoy but it might also make Toyo Tires suspect I’m not shooting real cars.  Porsche only made 36 of the short tail K varieties and there are even fewer replicas around.


So this is my final version, and I defy anybody not knowing to suspect that this is not the real thing. The real building and street light reflections are things that no Photoshop artist could ever anticipate to implement. The cobblestone pavement and tram give the image a distinct European vibe. The selective use of background blur sell the idea that the speeding Mustang GT was shot from the open back of a lead vehicle. I selectively lightened the nose of the car to reveal the detail of the dual radiator grills and the famous galloping horse emblem. And if you look carefully, you will even see a smiling driver enjoying the ride.    –   In the big city, strangers rarely strike up a conversation but I had several curious people ask me what I was doing and seemingly to enjoy the explanation!

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