At the Front of the Pack
Can a camera make you ‘braver’? And if so, what do we mean by ‘brave’?
For Dominic Fraser it’s about having the courage to push the envelope both technically and visually, creating automotive images with a greater and greater dynamic impact. Because, after all, cars are meant to move, and look beautiful doing so. It’s the photographer’s job to nail that, just like it’s a racing driver’s job to run the red line and lean into the corners.
© Dominic Fraser | Sony α7R III + FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS | 1/20s @ f/11, ISO 50
There are plenty of ways to shoot moving cars, but one of the most dynamic is the tracking shot: a car-to-car image which sees the photographer shooting the subject from a moving vehicle, keeping the car sharp, but filling the rest of the frame with motion blur, so there’s a real sense of speed.
“Car photography, whether it’s for a manufacturer or a magazine,” says Dominic, “is about making the product stand out – after all, it’s the pictures that people see before they read the words. And car-to-car tracking is the staple way of doing that. It's the shot that shows all of the car in motion – and cars, while they can look like amazing pieces of artwork, are designed to move and be driven – so that’s how people want to see them.”
© Dominic Fraser | Sony α6400 + FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS | 1/1000s @ f/5.6, ISO 640
Several features come together in his Sony gear to make that easier, and one of the principle things is in-body and lens image stabilisation. It’s something that Dominic has seen as hugely important, right from the point he switched to Sony with the α900 DSLR back in 2009.
“The thing is,” he explains, “shooting car-to-car on film at 1/60sec looked really, really good, but back then on digital cameras, for some reason the same shot would look a lot more static, so you needed much slower speeds like 1/20sec. But when you're bouncing about in the back of a car it’s really difficult to keep anything sharp at that speed without image stabilisation. The α900 gave me that, and now the α7 III is doing it even better.”
© Dominic Fraser | Sony α6400 + FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS | 1/30s @ f/10, ISO 100
‘Even better’ means five stops of image stabilisation combined with a stabilised lens like the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS.
“One of the shots here, of the red Aston Martin Vantage AMR, is 1/8sec. I would never have considered that before. Admittedly the road surface was good, and that’s important because it’s not only your own stillness that makes a difference, but the environment and relative speeds of the cars – but the stabilisation of the α7 III lets me be really brave with that. Also the α7 III’s frame rate increases your chances of success, along with the high ISO performance, the dynamic range, the autofocus, the EVF, and more.”
“I was an early adopter of EVFs,” says Dominic “and they’ve come a long way since then, but the benefit is the same. That instant feedback means I don’t have to worry about the exposure.” It’s the same with the α7 III’s dynamic range, he says, because “almost invariably, skies are brighter than the car you're shooting, and it’s not like you can mess too much with grad filters in these circumstances… or you might be moving down a road that goes through trees on a sunny day, so there’s lots of contrast. But you don't have to worry anymore because with the α7 III you can always claw those highlights back.”
© Dominic Fraser | Sony α7R III + FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS | 1/20s @ f8.0, ISO 100
“The whole system so just so reliable,” he concludes, “which is brilliant, because you never have to have to question the results. I just do my job and the camera does the same, even when you’re shooting in really terrible conditions. A great example of that is with the Aston Martin Ulster in the rain at Goodwood Festival of Speed preview. We had only three hours to do it, and the heavens absolutely opened pretty much the second we started, and because of the aerodynamics, sitting in the back of the tracking car felt like I was in a washing machine, but we had to do it and the α7 III came through and gave me some really great images. Just like I knew it would.”
"Although I embraced digital photography early on I still try to shoot with film like principals. I want photography to remain photography and not digital compositing. I don’t want to deceive through digital manipulation."