This photo has been brewing in the back of my brain since last winter when I shot “Desert VW“. At the time of the previous shoot, my father-in-law asked me to shoot his Baja Bug with the full moon in the background. Unfortunately, the full moon came out looking like a big spotlight aimed right at the camera and I couldn’t get the lighting right. So this past Thanksgiving I decided to give the Baja Bug another go, but this time to do it right. It was a moonless night and I waited for everyone to go to bed so that a) I could surprise my father-in-law on Christmas with a poster-sized print, and b) I could kill off the nearby common room lights that might intrude upon the shot.
I lit the interior of the car with a speedlight gelled redl. I popped the speedlight three times, altering the angle each time to ensure that I had the proper coverage. I then took my trusty LED flashlight and painted the car, paying special attention to the headlights to give the illusion that they were actually turned on. I painted the car with the flashlight from two angles, the front and the passenger side toward the rear wheel. It was a quick and dirty “test run” but the uneven lighting pattern on the side of the car lends it an amount of depth that I couldn’t get by methodically painting an even coat of light.
I wanted to add a sense of motion to the photo, so I walked away and left the shutter open for another 15 minutes. The star trails provide the action as the Earth moves in the scene, although the car does not. The final element, that in my opinion completes the scene, is the starburst that cascades onto the driver-side quarter panel. This is one of those fortuitous accidents. I had accidentally left the outside light of our trailer on, and that light spilled onto the lens during the long exposure. At first I thought of this as a flaw, so I went to trailer, turned off the light, and set up for more shots. However, once I made a few more images, I realized that the starburst adds that little bit of “bling” to the image that lends the car a bit of superstar personality. It’s now one of my favorite elements in the whole composition.
And yes, my father-in-law was pleasantly surprised on Christmas morning. 🙂
You can purchase prints of “Desert Fox” here.