Sunday, July 27, 2014

GTR & Exotic Car Event at Orlando Speedworld

Orlando Speed World Dragway held it's 1st ever GTR & Exotic car event this past weekend. It was a grand sight pulling into the lot and seeing GTR's racing Ferrari's and a significant number of attendees.

I stopped by in the afternoon as thunderclouds were sounding off in the distance, typical for Florida this time of year. Despite the heat, humidity and harsh shadows from the sun, the turnout as commendable, especially with high numbers Nissan GTR's (AKA Godzilla)


The Nissan GTR is no joke; it's fast, it's state-of-the-art, it's has 4 wheel drive and 600HP! In terms of Supercars it's a bargain for the performance and loved by Japanese car fans worldwide. They sound amazing ripping down the track and have a great aggressive look.

This black and gold GTR really caught my eye, great color combo and seriously sweet ADV.1 Rims

Speaking of affordable Supercars there was a good number of Corvettes there. I saw a couple of C7's and some really nice Z06 C5's.

This C5 below had a massive turbo kit and a bit of an "Iron Man" theme going on.

Unfortunately as I was getting warmed up with the photography a typical late afternoon "Wrath of God" Florida rainstorm hit. Literally as I hit the shutter on the above shot the sky opened up and buckets of water fell sending me scrambling with my gear back to my car. Most of the exotics sadly departed but that was understandable.

I sat the storm through as most storms this time of year are less than an hour long. Sure enough as the sun came back and the car event carried on. Racing however, never resumed due to a very wet track.

A tastefully modified hardtop Honda S2000  by "All Version Motoring" had also waited out the storm. I am always a fan of a nice JDM and this one made me smile.

I always felt the S2000 never really got as much recognition as I felt it deserved, mostly because soon after it hit the streets the Nissan 350Z came along and took the lime-lite.

After the storm passed many of the racers were just being social. I had a chance to shoot some very nice cars out on the open blacktop including this black Z06 C5 Corvette.

A little rain on the car but nothing major.

I closed out my afternoon with some more shots of the attending GTR's; I really liked this Regal Red color:

That pretty much sums it up, it was a good day despite the rain; great cars and cool owners.

Thanks for reading,

- The Savage

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Asia in my own backyard

Many photographers travel the globe in search of exotic places and cultures different from our own; I love to travel but sometimes such exotic adventures happen right in your own backyard. Cultural festivals are a great way to experience another country when it's unfeasible to do so otherwise.  

Here in Orlando Florida I am so blessed to be in a culturally rich city that such festivals happen locally (or in nearby cities) several times a year. Being part of a multi-cultural household the whole family loves to attend these experiences such as the recent Asian Culture Festival held at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall.

The "Asian Culture Festival" was produced by the Asian American Heritage Council of Central Florida and offered a full day of entertainment featuring talented dancers, musicians, martial artists, artists, vendors and of course amazing food.

This was a show not to be missed.

The thunder of Japanese drums echoed down the halls as the crowd waved a sea of smartphones up to capture the sounds and energy of the room

The dragon dance left the stage and circled the halls of Fashion Square Mall, it was very cool to see dragons flying past all the name brand stores a sort of contrast between old a new worlds, it made the atmosphere something very special.

These ladies from Okinawa were wonderful to watch as they did traditional dances, they had a wonderful stage persona.

The ribbon dancers were a crowd favorite, the bright yellow and pink ribbons created a beautiful illusion of complex patterns and and shapes, The children in the audience were in awe.

Dancers from Indonesia and Thailand really brought a unique style to the event; each had a wonderful elegance to their performance.

The Bollywood style Indian performance electrified the crowd with color and high energy music; The choreography was so much fun to watch and the ending with the ribbons and the flag was fantastic.  

An Indonesian performer brought many smiles with his Vibraphone type instrument and some skillful playing.

Of course the food was excellent, flavors from all over the east (my favorite being Indian) but there was also a candy maker there who not only made tasty treats, she made them quite beautiful as well.

I was a bit sad to leave such a great event, it felt like return home too quick after a wonderful trip but at least there wasn't a 15 hour flight to catch.  With a tummy full of great food and exotic melodies still echoing in my head it was a day very well spent.

So if your looking to get away from the norm don't overlook the potential of the communities in your own backyard.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Corvette Rig Shot


My Corvette rig shot was featured on Flickr Explore two days ago at #356 in the top 500.
I was very happy about that being it was the first time I had attempted a full rig shot in the traditional sense with the whole cross bar and suction cup bracket mounting. Here is a behind the scenes picture of the setup:


I had two assistants: Ryan See and Jacques Rossouw who helped with the setup. In the photo above we had the bar mounted and I was simply framing up the shot before entering the car to drive it.  I was using a 14mm zoom on a Sigma 8-16.

To actually take the photo my assistant Ryan sat in the passenger seat while I drove the Corvette at around 5 MPH. Jacques ran along side of the car in case something went astray with the setup.

 The Canon 6D has a remote shooting ability via Wi-fi Canon app so Ryan could see what the camera was viewing on my smartphone and activate the shutter. I would then stop the car and tweak the settings via the cell phone and do another run.  The final settings were about 1/10th of a second at around F25 due to the bright sun, but this still gave a nice effect of speed. The Sigma is a dome shaped lens so a ND filter was not possible to attach.

Supplies needed for such a shot:

Crossbar $50
(If you have a heavier camera like a Nikon D800 you might consider a more heavy duty cross bar, I would suggest aluminum piping at Home Depot or the like) or perhaps a speaker mounting pole like:

2 x Fat Geko's $50ea

Oben Ball Head $75

2x Monfrotto Superclamps with stud: $30ea

2 x Female adapter for Manfrotto Stud (hooks the bracket to the clamp) $4.50ea

1 x Double sided stud (to mount ball head to pole) $7

And of course the camera and lens of your choice.

In post the rig was removed via cloning and the color was adjusted to be dramatic.

Tip: To make the rig removal easier in post, on location before you take the camera off the rig set up a tripod and match the cameras height and perspective. Remove the rig from the car. Place the camera on the preset tripod position and take a shot of the car. You can now easily mask out the rig items that were attached to the car instead of endless cloning.

A super cool project that resulted in a very cool shot.

Thanks for reading

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Full Circle

Papa's got a brand new bag

Well say hello to my new set of wheels. I have been between sports cars for a couple years now and as much as I appreciate Honda’s family cars I was very anxious to get back behind the wheel of a great handling and visually striking car.   My search was originally for a Lotus Elise but I started weighing in all that I needed out of a sports car (including space for camera gear) the long road brought me to the car I adored as a child, the American sweetheart known as the Corvette.

As I dug deeper into the reviews and owner feedback I found of all automobiles I had considered the Corvette had an overwhelmingly strong response.  It was winner of one of Motor Trends “Car of the year” and a car with a 9.5 out of 10 overall rating by over 500 owners on Kelly Blue book, the case for the biggest bang for the buck was strongly in favor of the Corvette.

Considering I have for over two decades been the biggest import car fan I hadn’t even considered searching for an American car but this beautiful red head won me over in Daytona and after a day with her I knew this was the driver seat I was meant to be in.
The first day I drove her with the roof off on a winding road, I was a kid again….this car left me speechless and smiling. The thunderous purr, the wind in my hair, the bright red paint shining in the Florida sun…it was heaven on earth.

Another runner in the night

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Gamemaker by Savage Land Pictures
Gamemaker, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.

It wouldn't make more than a Google search to discover my connection with the video game industry by the end of this year I'll have done some combination of sound, music and or direction on over 50 title from EA and EA Sports. So when asked to give a presentation on my past experiences for the studio and provide a recent self-portrait I opted to try out the famous "Joel Grimes" three light array and do a sports cover shot.

As for the Football, a little story about that. If you work at Studio Tiburon for around five years or more John Madden will personally sign a football for you (you can see the signature right under the front crease). The ball represents a sort of right of passage to veteran game development.

This year I'll have been in game development 12 years and have made games on nearly every gaming platform since the PS2 era.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Endurance Race Of Creativity

Happy New Year everyone!

As the New Year rolls in I don't think I am alone in wanting to dive deeper into creative projects.

In my last post I talked about wanting to pursue image creation that told a story in 2014; This got me really thinking of what that really entailed. I have been looking at a lot of creative shots on Flickr for inspiration and reminisced about projects I had attempted in the past that were more than just pretty lights, cars and color.

I recently gave a talk in Orlando about the importance of a vision in assisting creativity in photography. In this lecture I also made mention that it is "artistic vision" that help answer both the questions of "How can one stand out when everyone seems to be a photographer these days?" and "What is a professional photographer anyway?" I also talk about the importance of having a creative circle of friends or peers to help the artist deal with things like being creatively overwhelmed, creative block or the inability to progress.

The talk is about  creative vision in photography, feel free to listen in here:

Beyond that it was requested by one of the attendees of the local lecture that I walk them through the entire creative process of a shot from concept to creation. I was happy to find in my archives that I had enough material to show how back in 2009 that a creative group of friends and I were able to bring a video game character to life in a project called "Photographs from the Mirrors Edge"

The Mirrors Edge Cosplay Photo breakdown 

My top 4 Creative Vision tips:
- Design a vision: Start with a storyboard or description on paper.
- Form a creative circle of friends: The cure for creative block!
- Never give up: Many people give up not knowing how close they were to success. Learn and try again.
- When it comes to gear: Own the vision – rent everything else

Looking for more inspiration?

Recommended reading:
Eric Curry - Painting with Light: Lighting & Photoshop Techniques

Recommended viewing:
Ric Burns – PBS Ansel Adams Documentary Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius J.J. Abrams: The mystery box

Ben Shapiro – Gregory Crewdson Brief Encounters
This movie is on Netflix currently

Creative Photographers on Flickr

Aaron Nace -
Benjamin Von Wong -
Emily Soto -
Kirsty Mitchell -
Marco Villani -
Eric Curry -
Kim Carrier -
Rosie Hardy -
Elena Kalis -
LaraJade -
anka zhuravleva -
An Le - jackbritboy -
Benjamin Bjorn -
Hannu Huhtamo -
Joel Grimes-
Ben Heine -
Chris Hutchison - Dark Stars Photography -
Norbert - Noro8 -
Whendell S - 
Crystal -
Brad Wagner -
Eve North -
David Talley -
Alexstoddard -

Creative Groups on Flickr
Light Junkies -
.:Utterly Surreal:.  -
dream or reality? -
Anime Cosplay Photo Magic -
Dramatic Portraits -
d r e a m s c a p e s -

I hope you find some inspiration in all of this and have a wonderfully creative start to 2014!

- Jesse

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Best Photos from 2013

2013 was a fantastic year for photography, so many diverse projects and wonderful opportunities for me.
I had a lot of fun working with medium format film seriously for the first time as well learning a whole lot more about creative lighting.

 Here are my absolute favorite images from the year and a little back-story for each.

Number: 1
Name: "Vegas Baby"
Why: The pure artistry of it
The Story:  The short version: body-paint artist Kyle Vest, model Christie Matheis and I came up with a very unique vision, an avatar of Las Vegas. Shot in only 12ft of space using only auxiliary lights as the main strobe was out of commission, we created something quite unique and very artistic.

The full story including a short behind the scenes video here "Vegas Baby"

I have a large canvas version of "Vegas Baby" in my office and it looks just like a painting, it's very inspirational.

Number: 2
Name: Black tie affair
Why: The exclusivity of it
The story: Two AMG SLS's in a private airport hanger, how can that not lead to a great story and great photos?

This particular shot was done through a door frame as I set up a second half-day of shooting the SLS coupe and roadster with the exclusive (and at the time not publicly seen) MEC Design tuner packages.

This is one of the first large scale automotive shoots that I incorporated the use of medium format film and the results were stunning. The IMAX sized frame captured a heavenly depth of field effects and wonderful dynamic range.

The full behind the scenes story can be found here:

Number: 3
Name: Pagani Huayra
Why: Reversing the rules
The Story: While shooting the Orlando Festival of Speed I opted to put my Canon 6D up on a platform above an admiring crowd. The center of attention was the $1.7 Million Pagani Huayra.

Typically when I compose shots I try to create a focal point using depth, light and or color. In most cases I make the subject the most colorful element in the shot but in this case the subject was black with wonderful colors all around; I decided to go with the flow and reduced the saturation of the automobile to immerse it in a circle of color.

The shot was pulled off using the remote WiFi shooting ability of the Canon 6D, the single feature that has completely won me over to this camera.  I remember looking at my cell phone as the photo popped up and the person next to me saying "Oh my gosh did you just shoot that with your cell phone?!" my response "Well sort of."

Number: 4
Name: Red Bull GT3 - shot 6
Why: Taking complete control of mid-day sun.
The Story: Of course this Lotus with an amazing history of being designed and raced by Adrien Newey is enough (full story on that here however on the technical side - this shot (and the series with it) took a lot of ideas I have had about light-painting and strobe photography and mashed them together.

Early in the year I had read Eric Curry's book "Painting with Light: Lighting & Photoshop Techniques for Photographers" that really opened my mind to painting specific details with light one shot at a time and layering them together. This shot was done with a 900 watt powered strobe allowing me to achieve very controlled light under what normally would have been considered harsh mid-day sunlight.  Using a small dolly with the lighting rig, I was able to rotate around the car getting all the details I would need. After a little masking and layering in post the shot that I was ultimately after came to life.

Number: 5
Name: A dramatic entrance
Why: The inspiration
The Story:  There is this photo by Larry Chen of drift champ Mad Mike that I saw this while working some heavy hours in the video game business. I swore that when I got a free weekend that I was going to find a way to try to get a shot that captured that kind of intensity. Considering that Larry Chen is perhaps one of the absolute best automotive photographers in the business this was going to be no small challenge.

W-Drift America had made a stop in Orlando during the month of May. I found a way to make a window in my schedule to shoot the event.  I shot all afternoon getting pretty good shots from different positions along the race wall but none that grabbed me the way Larry's photo had; suddenly an unknown driver blasted past the grandstands in a Nissan Silvia, I saw the moment I was after and took the shot. The single frame captured all that I was after, looking close you can see the intensity of the drivers concentration, the heat of the tires as they melted away below the car and the beautiful blur of the trees that sold the speed factor; together it was all that I was after.

I still think Larry's photo is a work of art but I am grateful for the inspiration.

Number: 6
Name: Lair of the Supercars
Why: A great shot under pressure.
The Story: Considering the the caliber of automobiles in this shot it is an obvious choice. With over $3 million dollars in front of the lens it was a dream opportunity, however the challenge was to light the room and shoot this on medium format film in 15 minutes. Needless to say I am grateful for having all my equipment in order for a fast set up, I was able to shoot this and a few other shots from this extraordinary collection and walk away with some truly impressive images.

Number: 7
Name: 1965 Lamborghini 350 GT Back
Why: The perception of another era
The Story:  Shot at 6:30 am in the morning outside a historic home in central Florida for RM Auctions, the elegant lines of the Lamborghini 350GT and the beautiful architecture behind it transports the viewer back a half century to a quaint village in Italy. The soft morning light was accented by a high powered strobe through a massive beauty dish to bring out all the subtle details in the automobile, most notably the wire wheels.

Number: 8
Name: Awakened
Why: Collaborative work
The Story:  Flickr photographer Jason Sha'ul and I worked together on this series Ferrari 458 of photos. The entire project was based in experiments in light painting. Shot on a golf course in the middle of the night, Jason and I used a set of inexpensive video lights attached to monopods to light up the night.  We both set up our cameras in different spaces and made the light-paint dash after the camera timers were set. Having two people light paint in tandem can really make shots exciting.  I know most photographers are super secretive about their work and techniques but let photos like these exist to say, working with other photographers can yield amazing shots and honestly even with us both in the same environment our shots came out pretty different as no two people see or photograph the world the same way.

Number: 9
Name:  Alyx Vance, Half Life 3
Why: Bringing the virtual world to life
The Story: Many photographers who have a significant other get asked to do photoshoots of them for Facebook or the like. I have done several for my better half here but this time out I wanted to try something a little different.

Most know that I also work in the video game industry and in doing so am a huge video game fan. Half-Life 2 was one of my top 5 favorite games and anyone who has played it knows both Alyx Vance and the Gravity Gun are synonymous with the game.  It took me a month to build the Gravity Gun from scratch including all the wiring for it. Alyx's clothing was picked out based on some concept art I had seen for Half-Life 3.  I finally had the ingredients for a cool Cosplay shoot but I opted to take it a notch higher by shooting the series on 220 medium format film in an industrial park, I really thought this shot fit the nature of the Half-life series...a lot of work but well worth it.

Number: 10
Name:  The Tron Lightcycle and The Batman Tumbler
Why: Oh come on, Batman and Tron together at last!
The Story:  While shooting the grounds of the Festival of Speed before the main event I heard the Tumbler roll in. When I looked over the hill and saw it there I was in near disbelief, so much so that I abandoned the shot I was attempting on a Lamborghini. As I waited for another photographer to finish his set, the Tron Lightcycle shows up. My friend Jason and I plotted out what would be a great set of shots and when the opportunity presented itself we captured this still with a tandem light-paint.  It is a great scene of two very iconic vehicles. As the shot popped up on my lcd screen the owners were in awe.


So what are my intentions for 2014? Well to be honest I really hope to move on artistically to shots that tell a story. I have been very interested in the work of Gregory Crewdson as his images are visually stunning and have so much depth. I am looking deeply into the concept of telling stories about the human/automotive relationship...staying true to what I am passionate about but venturing off into something that is more emotionally dramatic.

Wish me luck and as always thanks for reading. Have a great new year.

- Jesse