Desert Jeep Photo Shoot

| January 1, 2011
jeep wrangler photo shoot

Jeep in the Arizona Desert

Well, I went out to the desert tonight at sunset to shoot a cactus and I ended up shooting my dad’s jeep instead. It seemed totally appropriate to use his 4WD as a subject in the middle of the desert. What’s more, as the sun set it generated a beautiful orange glow on the rocky backdrop, which complemented the blue Jeep perfectly. It is exciting to shoot late in the day. I have about five minutes or so to get the shots I want while the sunlight is ripe with color. In all, I blasted off about 20 three exposure brackets during the time that was available.

Having shot a few cars now, I have found a few tried and true techniques to get that car brochure look. They are:

  1. Use a tripod to eliminate camera shake. As the light waned, the shutter time increased. I shot this photo at 100 ISO to keep sensor noise to a minimum, which also contributed to the longer shutter times.
  2. Shoot low. You may have to get your knee dirty but cars always seem to look better when they are shot lower. For this one, my camera was about 18 inches off of the ground.
  3. Use a zoom. This photo was shot at 70mm with my 24-105mm f/4.0L USM Canon lens. The zoom compresses the scene nicely by bringing the background forward. Step back from the car and zoom in. You will be amazed how much cooler the car looks in the photograph.
  4. Clean the car. Part of the fun here is seeing and using the reflections to your advantage. With this setup you can see a tree in the door and the setting sun in the lower part of the grille.
  5. Blur the background. The car will look much sharper when shot against a slightly blurred background. To get the blur on this shot, I used the zoom combined with an aperture setting of f/9.0.

To get the full dynamic range of the scene, I took three exposures and blended them with Photomatix Pro 4. I did not tonemap the image. I just blended the exposures to get all the details I wanted in within light and shadow. After blending, I post processed the image a bit with Topaz and OnOne Photoshop plugins. Key plugins used were Topaz InFocus and Topaz Simplify combined with OnOne Graduated Density Lavender and Angel Glow.

For reference, below are the thee exposures I used to create this image.

jeep wrangler photo shoot

Desert Jeep Bracket

And below, another angle using my 16-35mm lens instead of the 24-105mm. The same basic post-processing techniques were used here as well.

jeep wrangler photo shoot

Wide angle shot using 16-35mm Canon lens

Category: Photography

Comments (4)

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  1. Jim Rogers says:

    Lee, I was first made aware of your website by my wife, Ann Rogers, a painter. She told me I would love your work. And she was right. Absolutely gorgeous. My wife also suggested I write you about a dilemma I’m in now. Our home was broken into two days before Christmas while we were running errands. The result, I was relieved of my Nikon D70S Digital SLR, lens, bag, flash, and other accessories. As a result, I’ve been investigating what to replace my system with and I’ve considered Canon very seriously. After having talked to people ranging from serious amateurs to full-blown professionals, I’ve had two cameras recommended to me and one lens…..Either the Nikon D90 or the Nikon D7000 using the 18-200MM Nikkor lens on whichever one I would decide upon. I still think that I need some more opinions when it comes to Canon, of which I’ve received none. But it seems that I am seeing more pros and really serious photographers going with Canon, and since you seem to be a Canon aficionado, I would really value any input you might have, if you have the time. Obviously, after losing my Nikon system, I feel that they’ve stolen a part of my body, since to me a camera is damned near as personal as a toothbrush. And I don’t intend to make another purchase once I’ve replaced what was stolen, so I want to be sure I’ve made the right decision. By the way, as far as photographer, I’ve done photography professionally earlier in my career, but I’d be considered by most to be a serious amateur who loves to shoot mountains, forests, desert, sunsets, beaches and candids of people.

    So there you have it. I would value your opinion(s). Thank you!

    Jim Rogers, Dallas TX

  2. Lee says:

    Thanks for the question Jim. My response is pretty long so I popped you an email. Bottom line is either will work great. Just buy one and start shooting!

  3. Jim Rogers says:

    Lee; a personal note of “Thanks” tp you for responding to my e-mail inquiry of January 2nd (now posted on your site). After receiving your response, I took your advice, concentrated on the camera line I was most familiar with (Nikon) and spent more than I should have, based on your theory that I wouldn’t regret the extra cost in the long run. Bottom line: my stolen D70S has been replaced with a D300 and a Nikkor 18-200MM VR lens. In all my research, for a professional grade body and a superb lens, this is pretty hard to beat, unless you want to jump WAY up in the Nikon line, spending more than $2 for just a body. Thanks for your input. Just sorry that we’re not closer so we could grab an occasional lunch or cup of coffee and just talk photography…..from shooting RAW (which you explained wonderfully in your latest tutorial), to post software, to filters and all those little things enabling one to enhance color, boost details, etc. I will say that I look forward to your upcoming tutorials, in that the one posted currently on working with shadows and highlights with Aperture 3 was a real eye-opener. I’m assuming I’ll be able to get the same things accomplished with my PhotoShop software. In closing, let me say thanks again, you’ve a new “student” looking forward to your sharing of your obvious extensive knowledge of photo techniques, both on-site and on-computer. Have a GREAT 2011. My best, Jim Rogers Dallas TX

  4. Lee says:

    My pleasure Jim and thanks for the very kind word. Looks like you are all set. Congratulations on some fine equipment choices! I hope to meet you at some point but until then let cyberspace be our place for sharing ideas and experiences. We can all learn from each other and I look forward to seeing your results!