I Can’t Drive 55

It’s finally happened. I bought the car of my dreams. As pictured, it’s a 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1. It has a 351 powerplant and has no want for power. The best part is that it gets 8 miles to a gallon! Ahh, the price for good ole’ American muscle.

 What Cheveron wants you to drive

If I have had the pleasure of meeting you in person than you know that I know nothing about cars. The extent of my knowledge is where to put the key, and if it doesn’t run, I have my AAA card handy. So how did I come up with all of the specs on this particular car? Easy, I read the box the car came in from Walmart! OK, so I tried to pull a fast one.

This week is a twofer. This is actually a macro and off camera flash shoot all in one. When I was running all over the town late at night, I would run into cars that had ground effects installed. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are basically neon lights that are installed on the bottom of the car so it gives off a “floating” color as you are going down the road. I always thought they were neat, but I would never install them on my car. In my college days, I was driving a 1987 Chrysler New Yorker. That would be a sight, a New Yorker with purple neon going down the road. You would expect to see Cheech driving it. Anyway, I wanted to create this same look with a model car and some flashes.

This isn’t hard to set up. First, I used two shoe boxed that were the same height and would also be high enough so the flash would fit in the middle. The second part is a piece of plexi. I went to Home Depot and got a 24” x 24” piece of clear plexi for about $15.00. This will sit on top of the shoe boxes and act as a floor for our car to sit on. You will notice that my sheet of plexi has been well used with all of the scratches in it. I’ll just say that the janitor didn’t clean my garage floor very well. It’s my lie, I can tell it how I want.

Next, I placed the car on the plexi and placed a flash with a purple gel under the plexi and lined it up with the car. As a side note, all of the flashes were triggered using the PocketWizard Flex TT5 for Nikon. I set up another flash at camera left and zoomed out the head to 105mm. I aimed it at the front grill of the car. To finish up the flash part of the shot, I prepped a third flash that will be hand held.

For the camera set up, I put the camera on a tripod and fitted it with an electronic release. Since this is going to be a macro shot, any slight movement will cause a blur in the final photo. For lens choice I used a 105 macro lens. This lens is amazing and has served me well. If you ever get into macro work, I highly recommend getting a dedicated macro lens. Also, even though this is a macro lens, it can be used as a portrait lens. It opens up to f/2.8 and it a prime lens. To finish the camera set up I fitted the hot shoe with another Flex unit and the AC3 controller.

I knew that I would be working really close so I wouldn’t need much flash power. I started with ISO 100 at f/11 and 1/250 for a shutter speed. The shutter speed worked out great as it knocked out all of the other ambient in the room, which gave me a black background that I was looking for. I took a test shot and made a few changes to flash power and got it dialed in. It was OK, but the rear tire was not in focus. I cranked the lens down as far as it would go which was f/40! I increased my flash power to compensate for the aperture change and took a few more test shots. It was better, but I thought I could tighten it up a bit. Then it hit me, that whole rule on depth of field. I was focused on the front corner of the car. I shifted the focus to where the windshield and driver’s door met and we were in business. If you don’t know, here’s the deal with depth of field. When you focus on something, the subject is sharp a third of the frame in front and two thirds in the back from the focus point. This might sound confusing, but it’s not really. This is why when I shifted the focus a third of the way back into the car, the hood and back tire is now in focus.

This is a short little post, but I hope that this might make you think about shooting macro with flashes if you haven’t yet. I have a few more projects coming up that will demonstrate other things that you can do.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. I thought that you had bought a real 7o mustang. Great leason I will have to try it. I have several dozon model cars. I was a car nut as a teen. Racing from one stop light to another. Lucky I didn’t get caught. Thank you
    Dave Kern

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.