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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


The ETV by Savage Land Pictures
The ETV, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.

Yes it's a real car, created by "The Car Factory" here in Florida, the ETV (Extra Terrestrial Vehicle) can be purchased through

I shot this the night before the Orlando Festival of Speed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

2 Million Views on Flickr

2 Million Views by Savage Land Pictures
2 Million Views, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.

I caught wind of my stats on the rise a little while back and about fell out of my seat today when I saw this number….two million views. I know in this day and age many people have achieved this or a higher level of exposure on You Tube or the like when a project goes viral but when I contemplate this is me and how many people this really is it’s simply overwhelming and humbling.

As an artist all one can really hope for is that the work that we create is seen and it takes the viewer away, even for a moment. Whatever emotion the work coveys in some way it is a reflection of the person who created it…perhaps their dreams, fears, or simply an interpreted perspective.

I am grateful to all those who have checked out my work over the years and chimed in now and then. I am thankful for all the other photographers who have inspired my work as I have progressed and the many I have exchanged ideas with online. I am also very grateful that I live in a day and age that all of this is even possible in the first place.

The life of an artist is often isolated as we work in solitude behind the faint glow of a computer screen for hours on end; you never know if that thing you have worked so hard on will be considered good work. Creativity can be an endless roller-coaster of self-doubt and utter elation….catching a muse is a tantalizing hunt. When the work is done it’s a big moment to let the world see it, clicking “Upload” can be a suspenseful leap of faith.

It’s hard to contemplate that this work travels down a wire and may show up on another screen thousands of miles away… and another screen and another. That some image I created may bring joy to someone who may really need it, show someone something in the world they have never seen or inspire someone I may never meet to achieve their own artistic goals. As photographers we are nearly oblivious to the reactions given to what we put up except for comments and stats that are like flickers of light in the vast abyss of the internet….perhaps that is how “Flickr” got its name.

Cheers to all of my fellow photographers out there and thank you for the support.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Night at the Ritz

Supercar parking only at the Ritz Carlton this past Saturday for the Orlando festival of Speed; Can you believe this lineup?!

©2013 Savage Land Pictures

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Tron Lightcycle and The BatmanTumbler

So how to follow that amazing shot of the Pagani Huayra? Well as fate would have it I got that opportunity the next night when these two Hollywood superstars found their way in front of my lens. I am trying to contain my excitement for this shot but as an avid sci-fi and move fan this opportunity was like Christmas a few weeks early.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pagani Huayra

Pagani Huayra by Savage Land Pictures
Pagani Huayra, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.

The Pagani Huayra took the spotlight Friday night in Orlando Florida during the kickoff Jetport Party at the Festivals of Speed.

©2013 Savage Land Pictures

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fortress by the sea

Fort Charlotte Gaurd House Gift Shop

When traveling to the Bahamas it's easy to focus all your attention on the massive Atlantis hotel that dominates the landscape. To me however, Atlantis while nice architecturally is just another resort and if you go there bring your wallet because it's a playground for those with deep pockets. Most of the main hotel at Atlantis was once more-or-less free to explore but not so much anymore.  Fret not, there is more to Nassau than a modern luxury resort.

Nassau Bahamas - Sunrise over Atlantis

So what does one do Nassau? Well I highly recommend going downtown and grabbing a bag of Conch Fritters, a wonderful treat that normally sells for under $5 with a soda and then hop a cab to a great place called Fort Charlotte.

Fort Charlotte Front

Once you arrive and sneak past the hustling vendors in the parking lot, you will walk up a small hill with a beautiful view overlooking much of Nassau; There to your left will be the massive fort.

Fort Charlotte Nassau

Like the impressive Fort Barrancas in northern Florida, Charlotte was built in sections, quite honestly it is three Forts being Charoltte, D'Arcy and Stanley created between 1787-1819.

Fort Charlotte Right Side

The massive campus is really interesting to check out though some parts of the west end (D'Arcy) are not publicly accessible. No worries though because the parts that you can check out are wonderful.

Fort Charlotte Wall-o-Cannons

No fort would be a fort without the firepower and Charlotte has many cannons on display facing the water.

Fort Charlotte Sky Cannon

One might ask what great battles did Fort Charlotte face? Well it didn't, Fort Charlotte was pretty much a huge threat most notably to France that the island would not be taken easily. From all that I have read nothing states any conflict occurred but this place was ready for anything.

Fort Charlotte Cannon

Fort Charlotte Flag

Fort Charlotte Back Deck

One of the more intriguing aspects of the fort is that much of it is below the surface. There is a small labyrinth below a flight of steps in the east courtyard that opens up a fantastical side to this gem of the Bahamas.

Fort Charlotte Back Stairs 2

The stairs go to a larger room that is close to both the dungeon and a deep water well.

Fort Charlotte Lower Room 1

The well is a massive black pit that goes down likely 50-70ft. A modern pipe along the side indicates that some of that water is still being used in the fort.

Fort Charlotte Well

Fort Charlotte stairs and air vent

Across from the dungeon the decent continues into rooms the soldiers once worked and slept.

Fort Charlotte Main Room

There was also an area that the troupes of the day created artillery and "Hot Shot" by heating up cannon balls to torch any ship in the bay that would be foolish enough to start trouble.

Fort Charlotte Ironworks

Once you have found your way through the depths of the belly of the Fortress you come up near a large courtyard. If you climb the steps at the west end you will get a stunning view of Nassau.

Fort Charlotte Top Deck

Exploring the far east side of the fort for more beautiful views and a nice gift shop.

Fort Charlotte Back Courtyard

Fort Charlotte Gaurd House

Considering a trip through this fortress will only set you back maybe $2-$5 you will leave with a smile. Fort Charlotte is more than history it is a fascinating building with wonderful complexity and it's very photogenic as well.

Fort Charlotte Barracks

On your way out don't forget to see the Armory on the far east side of the parking lot, you can even climb to the roof for another wonderful view.

So there you have it, a great alternative to the uber-pricey Atlantis with all the charm of "Pirates of the Caribbean", with the money you will have left over you can go shop for trinkets in the parking lot or better yet more Conch those things are good!

Thanks for reading,
- Jesse

Saturday, November 16, 2013

St. Bernard de Clairvaux

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Cloisters 2

The one thing I love about Florida more than anything is that it's always full of surprises; the kind that usually involve someplace that will leave you in awe.  I felt that way visiting here as a kid and it's likely the reason I long for so many years to live here...I have been here over a decade and Florida keeps offering up gems to feed my wonder-lust.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux

There is a great book called "Weird Florida"  that is full of folklore and unique places in the Sunshine State; one such place caught my eye...the one that said "800 year old Spanish Monastery" near Miami. Wait, what? Do the math on that one, that pre-dates the Spanish even crossing the ocean by a couple hundred years, so how did a place built between 1133-1141 AD end up in Florida? All you need to hear is the name William Randolph Hearst and things start to make sense.

Hearst was a multi-millionaire newspaper publishing tycoon in the late 1880's whose father had struck it rich with a Silver mine. William's mother used some of that money to take him to Europe and teach him all about art. A long story short, when William Hurst was able to inherit his parents money he started collecting art on an epic scale. I'm not talking about just a rare painting here and there I'm talking statues, vases, rugs and historic buildings in part or in whole.

Hearst built a fairly tale like castle in the hills of San Simeon California. I went there years ago and was in awe the entire tour.

Hearst Castle  Hearst Board Room Indoor Castle Pool

Neptune The Neptune Pool Roman Pool

So back to that Spanish Monastery, it's called St. Bernard de Clairvaux and it was purchased in 1925 by Hearst before he lost most of his money in the Great Depression. It had been taken apart and sent over to New York. It sat in a warehouse for over two decades until Colonel Robert Pentland, Jr bought it and brought it to Florida. However the building blocks has lost their ordering and it took many people and several million dollars to bring this Monastery back to life but here it stands and it is stunning.

  Walking thought the garden gates and the Monastery seems a bit small and unassuming:

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Gardens

However things change dramatically once you enter the Cloisters in the main part.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Cloisters back hall

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Cloisters

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Mary

There is a serenity here that is hard to explain, there is also this feeling that you have left the present time.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Prayer Room Window Right

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Prayer Room Front

One thing that I found particularly unique about this place was the old Europe look with the tropical landscape outside, it was so fantastical.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux - Prayer Well

The inner chapel was smaller than a common modern day chapel but very elegant and certainly had a more spiritual presence than modern day drywall style rooms. This room has seen history and tens of thousands of souls over the century's.

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Chapel 

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Altar

As I took photographs, many being long exposures I couldn't help but be taken by the St. Bernard de Clairvaux, it is truly a treasure and a time-capsule. I spent the better half of two hours wondering the halls and really enjoying this masterpiece.  If you are ever near Miami you must come see this wondrous place for yourself .

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Prayer Room Window Left

St. Bernard de Clairvaux Prayer Room

Regardless what your faith you will leave this place spiritually connected.

As always thanks for reading,
- Jesse James Allen

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nassau Awakes

Nassau Awakes by Savage Land Pictures
Nassau Awakes, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.
I rarely see the sun rise much less the "Blue Hour" favored by many landscape photographers. I arrived in the Bahamas early in the morning on a ship and only had a few hours there, so I went up on the 17th deck and saw this beautiful sight. The water was so dreamy aquamarine and the visibility was clear all the way to the famous water tower in the center of Nassau.

A few hours after this shot I was standing next to that yellow watch tower enjoying a bag of Conch fritters with my girl; we had a great morning exploring historic forts in the area.

It's the kind of photo one takes to always remember the good times :)

To get the shot I clamped my 7D on the deck railing with a super-clamp and shot two long exposures. It's a stitched image from an ultra-wide lens.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Red Bull Racing Exige GT3

Red Bull GT3 - 2

Let me introduce you to quite possibly the most stunning version of the Lotus Exige you will ever see. This very special Lotus was built, tuned and driven by the legendary Adrian Newey the chief technical officer of Red Bull Racing; that statement in itself is enough to cue the pictures and roll the credits if you know anything of what Adrian has brought to the table in F1 Designs.

Red Bull GT3 - 1

I first discovered this car at the Festival of Speed in Orlando last December and I remember then even among a sea of Supercars finding myself absolutely taken by the design of this Lotus. Perhaps its form was the inspiration for the Hennessey Venom GT but I tell you this - the Red Bull GT3 is one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen.

Red Bull GT3 - 5

I tracked it down to a shop in Vero Beach Florida named, while waiting for the GT3 to be unloaded from a recent car show I also shot my previous entry the K24 S1 Elise, also an amazing car but when the crew unloaded and rolled out the Red Bull GT3 I instantly remembered why I had driven 3 hours to shoot this...I mean wow!

Red Bull GT3 - 4

The GT3 was a collective project from Lanzante Motorsport combining the talents of Adrian Newy, Dean Lanzante, and Alistair MacKinnon. It was prepped for the "Britcar" endurance racing series in the United Kingdom.

Red Bull GT3 - 10

On March 28th 2009 this beast hit the track at Silverstone.  It took 1st place in GT3 and 4th overall in the race (class 1/2/3... edging out a Mosler MT900 I might add) with a blistering lap time of 1.28.287, the same overall results happened two months later at Rockingham as seen in a clip from this video... 1st in GT3. basically the Red Bull GT3 was built to race and it did so very well.

Red Bull GT3 - 7

Being an audio engineer I must mention at speed the Red Bull GT3 sounds orgasmic (a clip from the Spa Euro Race in July of 09):

The interior is as expected - sparse, just essentials and nothing more than a pull cord to open the door.
This machine was all about power to weight and at 345HP in a car weighing less 1500 pounds ..well yeah this is a track attack monster.

Red Bull GT3 - 3

Talking with the mechanic at Wirewheel this Red Bull project cost over $300,000 and once the back deck is popped on the engine bay you start to see how radical this GT car really is.

Red Bull GT3 - 8

The massive intake feeds the Toyota 2ZZ engine that is powered up by a supercharger.Gold insulation keeps things nice and heat efficient.

Red Bull GT3 - 9

The gearbox is a Hewland PCT 6 Speed sequential, that does auto bliping as to waste no power getting into lower gears.

So was I right or what? An amazing Lotus with a very cool legacy to boot.

Red Bull GT3 - 6

Thanks to Wirewheel for all the help on this shoot, it was the best way to spend a Monday afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE 11/10/13

Automotive fans and judges at the 2013 Concours d'elegance in Winter Park Florida brought this amazing Lotus in for yet another win; The Red Bull GT3 won best in competition class!

To Victory Lane Once Again

Make way for a champ

Heading for the win

The Red Bull GT3 wins best in competition class

Presenting the award was THOMAS L. duPONT Chairman and Publisher of duPont Publishing, Inc.

Welcome to center stage

Well deserved praise for a historic automobile.

Adoring Fans

Thanks for reading.

Jesse James Allen

Photos and story by
Jesse James Allen
© 2013 Savage Land Pictures