I’m the luckiest guy I know. Thirteen years into my career at Adobe, and I still get excited Sunday night about going to work the next morning. The reasons are really pretty simple: my passion for photography spills into work and work then spills into my passion for photography. The only thing that has ever been a competitor for this (aside from fatherhood, which trumps them all) is motorsports – specifically cars. While photography found me at age 7, it was my early teen years before cars became an obsession. My step-father, both an amazing driver and a Civil Engineer, was responsible for turning Laguna Seca Raceway into the legend it has since become. He dragged me to every race and driving school on the calendar! We both now volunteer at the BMW High Performance Driving Schools and Car Clinics. I grew up at Laguna. When most kids were getting their learner’s permits, I was being drilled on double-clutch, match-speed and heel-and-toe downshifts.
A product manager wears a lot of hats, one is worn inside with the engineers and product team I collaborate with, the other outside with customers and partners. There is no role that my outward-facing self enjoys more than demonstrating our products. You can imagine my excitement when it was suggested that I conduct a workshop on automotive photography! The stars aligned almost immediately as I approached old friends at lynda.com (thanks to Michael Ninness). The amazing staff there quickly offered up their immaculate facility, professional staff and an abandoned warehouse -they just happened to be clearing out- for the main photo shoot.
With an event on the calendar and a full day for a dry-run of vehicle lighting, shooting and software education – I was all set to go to lynda.com. I started to get really excited…because lynda.com is way down in Carpinteria, I’m way up in the Bay Area…and my favorite back roads just happen to connect the two. I told myself that I’d use the drive down to produce some video footage (having obsessively managed development of Photoshop CS6’s new video features. So, I ventured forth with more spirit than smarts (video, as I’d soon discover is a very different animal) and no shortage of gear. I told myself that video as it pertains to Photoshop is about doing things easily in a world that knows stills…this meant applying adjustment layers and filters to short clips of video from common devices.
My arsenal consisted of:
- My Canon 5D Mk. II with a borrowed (thanks to my friends in the lab) 24mm lens
- My Canon S95, which I love for its portability and raw shooting in a small package
- My trusty iPhone 4S; the camera I shoot with the most…and pro or not, is representative of what so many of us gather our day-to-day footage on.
- And last, I finally had an excuse to get a GoPro Hero 2. I had been amazed at the results I’d seen on YouTube and from friends (thanks to Sarah for all of the advice).
- I also picked up a suction cup mount to affix the 5D inside the car.
I had made the last trek to lynda.com in my commuter car (a 2011 VW Golf TDI), but having done the drive in my M3 prior, I knew I chose wrong just miles in. I would end-up leaving both at home, as my step-father isn’t just a designer of dream tracks, he’s a (very generous) car nut…and so he offered me my choice of his 2011 M3 Convertible or recently acquired 2007 Porsche Cayman S. I chose the Cayman, which was the combination of something new along with a healthy respect for history. (James Dean navigated many of the same roads in the platform’s predecessor on his last day.)
The drive, was…as always, unreal. I learned a lot of lessons:
- You can shoot or you can drive, you don’t really enjoy either as much if you try to divide them (funny, I thought I learned this lesson when I shot freelance motorsports before coming to Adobe!). Some of my favorite stills were taken out the passenger side window at a slow shutter speed.
- Stabilization is everything; it’s extremely important shooting still, more than most admit or practice…but the exterior shots of the passing car (we stopped a LOT) are the simplest and yet most pleasing (to me at least).
- Audio. What’s that? AUDIO. I guess my attitude was that in the same way that I dreamed of combining stills and mixed media in a let’s-see-what-happens style, I would somehow do that with sound. I ended up with a silent movie because of this!
- Bring a travel companion. My girlfriend was along for the ride and having an assistant helped tremendously. From driving to working one of our many cameras, she really proved invaluable.
Hats off to anyone doing video production; the combination of composition, stabilization, planning, preparing, lighting and audio all over TIME…let’s just say it is nothing like still.
The good news is, Photoshop CS6 did exactly what it was supposed to; I was able to import stills and video from each device quickly and easily. I adjusted color, cropping and filtration through the tools that I’ve known and loved for years. Fades, dissolves and transitions were quick drag-and-drops. Animating stills was as easy as clicking a button. The end result is the clear work of a rank amateur, but then I knew that going in.
I now have a bunch of footage to keep working away on…and don’t forget, I was en route to do something I actually knew how to do! lynda.com has got some great training resources with experts like Rich Harrington, who provides some helpful tips.
To see more photos from my trip, click here.
Stay tuned for more about my time shooting some amazing cars at lynda.com…
- Bryan O’Neil Hughes Senior Product Manager, Photoshop