Daniel Dmochowski is a photographer from Chattanooga, Tennessee. When he’s not working his day job as a Physical Therapy Assistant or capturing snapshots of his daughter growing up, you can find rigging his DSLR to a fast car. We chatted with Daniel to get a glimpse into how he captures some beautiful automobiles in motion.
How did you get into photography in general and specifically shooting cars?
When I was a younger, I had two careers in mind if money was no consideration. The first, like many kids, was to be a race car driver. My brother and I were always reading car magazines and fantasizing about which cars we could get and what we’d do with them. Both of us have been modifying cars ever since. The second, was to be a photographer, either photojournalism or covering automotive racing. Like most people, the fear of finding a job and knowing I had to make a living at something after high school made me push those dreams to the side. But when my daughter was born 3 years ago, I finally have an excuse to get a DSLR like I’ve always wanted.
I began shooting pictures of my daughter and family, and slowly branched out to shooting my own car. I spent countless hours watching instructional videos on composition and editing. After countless free sessions with people, I realized automotive photography was where I really wanted to go. My day job, and an understanding wife, has allowed me to focus on this specialty without having to worry about how many clients I am booking. I can take my time, do a lot of self critique, and learn from online feedback.
Walk us through the setup for automotive photography, specifically rig photoshoots.
Once on location, the first step is positioning the car. If the road is slow just park it and set it up there. Next, the boom goes together and the cups and clamps are attached for the correct angle. The boom will go into the clamps and get locked down. Lastly, the magic arm and camera go on, and we are ready to do some test shots.
Key things to remember are to not rig on freshly painted cars, don’t put both cups on one window, spread them out across the boom as much as possible, and dab a bit of wax on before application of the cup. This will avoid creating pressure rings in the paint, or breaking windows or denting the body work.
Here is the typical gear list for a rig shoot:
Rig-Pro 20 foot boom, 3x Manfrotto super clamps, 2x Rig-Pro suction cups with various extensions, a Manfrotto magic arm. For the camera system I am currently shooting with a Nikon D610, I take my lenses but especially my Tokina 17mm prime for the rig shots. I will use B+W filters 10 stop ND if too bright or a CPL. I also bring some lighting which often doesn’t get used on rig shots. Lastly, a cable pull system and back up rope for if there is no tow hook.
I spent months and a bit of money trying several different booms before giving up and buying one from Rig-Pro. My home made version had a lot of shake and sway, I should have bought their’s sooner because I would have been successfully rigging months earlier.
How complicated is this technique?
The technique itself is pretty easy just time consuming. You use the filters (or shoot at night) to allow you to hold the shutter open for anywhere between 3 to 10+ seconds. This creates the blurred effect, but you take several shots and incorporate different aspects from each shot to create the final picture. I have learned to take a longer shutter for a big blurred effect in the background and use a shorter shutter for increased detail in areas where I want more detail like the road or maybe some grass on the shoulder. I have also been banking various sky and star shots that I add into pictures to help give the final picture a little something extra.
The car movement is done either by parking on a slight hill and letting the brakes slowly off, or by using a rope or cable to pull the car for the desired time. This method I have found is better than what I used to do, which was hide behind the car and push it or pull it.
What advice do you have for someone looking to get into rig photography? Any must have resources?
You need to make sure you have a firm grasp of the basics like composition, how the camera functions, DOF, how to use light to achieve what you want before you move on. From there, you can easily move on to Rigging. Rig photography is interesting in the sense that you don’t need a D4 and 200mm f2 to make amazing shots. Since the shot is very dynamic usually shot at low ISO and a small aperture, things like noise and DOF usually are not an issue. Focus more on your rig setup, and unless you have access to a machine shop I would just save yourself the trouble and get a boom and mount system from a professional source, like Rig-Pro. Just like with any other form of photography, the key to success is practice and learning from your mistakes.
Favorite car you’ve shot?
My personal cars. This might seem kind of boring but it’s when I try my new techniques and really push myself. I dont wait until I am with a client to try something new. Plus there is no pressure when shooting my own car, I am free from time constraints and can just focus on the task at hand.
What’s your personal dream car
I have always been partial to the Porsche brand, and if I could have any car it would be a GT3 RS. There is nothing like a race car made just street-able enough to take home. I hope one day I can rig up that beauty!