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Going Underground

11/06/2012 Car specialist Rip packed his Hasselblad H4D-200MS for a tricky three-vehicle shoot in an underground car park where a bron Octa Reflector took a starring role in front of the camera.


Car shoots tend to be complicated and involve affairs at the best of times, but specialist photographer

Rip (published as Ripley & Ripley) faced a particular challenge when he was handed a commission by Top Gear Magazine to shoot pictures of three recently released hatchback cars in an underground car park in Newbury.

A confined space and a setting that was essentially nothing more than an uninspiring bare concrete shell meant that all of Rip’s experience would be called upon to achieve a result that was fit to grace the pages of the world’s largest automotive magazine. However, Rip had a cunning trick up his sleeve - one that would see a piece of lighting gear that is usually kept behind the scenes brought out and used center stage.

“I’ve worked with Top Gear for the past eight years and shot many of their covers and main features,” Rip tells Hasselblad News. “And although my work is published as ‘Ripley & Ripley’, in reality, it’s just me doing the photography, retouching, and art-directing. My objective here was toshoot pictures of the three cars being tested: the Hyundai Veloster, VW Scirocco and a Vauxhall Astra GTC. As this was a location shoot, the team involved wasn’t huge; just myself, an assistant and three guys from the magazine who were there to drive the cars.


We arrived on site at around 7pm when the car park had closed, and we shot through the night, finishing at 5am. It took a while to complete everything because not only did I need to shoot the main images, but there were lots of interiors and detail shots required as well.”

The camera for the day was Rip’s usual kit: a Hasselblad H4D-200MS used in combination with a 35-90mm zoom. The camera’s Multi-Shot ability allows it to produce a mind-blowing 200 million-pixel resolution if required - perfect for the kind of high-end studio car photography Rip specializes in.

However, as was about to be proved on this occasion, the camera is equally at home in Single-Shotmode where it can be just as versatile and flexible as a standard issue H4D.

“I’ve used this camera ever since Hasselblad asked me to provide automotive imagery for the camera’s global launch campaign about ten months ago,” says Rip. “I liked it so much that I just had to go out and get one! For this shoot, I primarily used the camera in Single-Shot mode (50MP) to give me speed of use on location and to help me capture the movement that was involved.

In the studio where I do around 90% of my work, however, I would normally shoot using the camera’s Multi-Shot capabilities, employing 4-shot or 6-shot mode to achieve the highest resolution and quality.”

Being a fairly dark underground space and given the speed that the subjects would be moving, there really was little alternative to setting up some powerful portable lighting. “I primarily use constant light for the majority of my work in the studio,” says Rip, “but for editorial shoots such as this, where perhaps there isn’t the budget to pull in all the gear you would ideally want, then portable battery powered flash equipment is the way to go.”

“I was introduced to broncolor via my link with Hasselblad, and they were able to supply me with aset of 1200W Mobil A2L heads that were fast charging and powerful little packs that suited the bill perfectly. I ended up using three to four of these to light the scene, and I also took along with me a single bron Para 170FB reflector. This is quite a large and impressive piece of kit and I had been hoping to go even bigger with the Para 220FB or the largest 330FB, which is enormous (over tenfeet tall) but unfortunately, there were none available at the time the shoot took place.”

The light that a Para reflector is capable of outputting is beautifully soft and all enveloping to the point where this can often suffice as the only light on a portrait shoot.


Here, however, Rip wasplanning to do something a little special with his reflector and not just use it to light his subject but to be a key component of the final image as well.

“I came up with the idea for using the reflector after being invited to the Hasselblad studio in London for the launch of the 2012 Hasselblad Masters Competition, for which I was a judge,” says Rip. “They had a reflector set up there and I thought that it could work well as a prop should the right situation come up in the future.

I originally wanted about six to seven of the Para reflectors for the shoot, but broncolor only had the one available and so I had to be creative during the shoot and lock-off the camera’s point of view and then move the reflector about in order to make it seem as though I had lots of them. I then did asimple composite in post production to pull all of the elements together.”

The result is a bizarre landscape of shape and form that makes ultimate use of the Para reflector’s attention-grabbing appearance to add a sense of style and intrigue to the final shot. It’s a great example of a photographer thinking out of the box a little and, for once, putting one of the accessories that is usually kept out of sight behind-the-scenes firmly center stage.

More information: www.ripleyandripley.com