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Monday, June 11, 2007

Regis Lefebure - Motor Drive Required

In the 200 mph world of professional motorsports, a photographer needs to be able to get ahead just to keep up with the action. Regis Lefebure relies on experience and the right gear to get the shots.

Instant Gratification

Shooting digitally in 2002, I knew I had nailed the image of the streaking silver and yellow Audi, for example. A glance at the LCD monitor of my Canon EOS 1D revealed its arrow-like blurred shape—sharp on the nose and streaking into the frame on the last of a three-exposure burst. This immediate confirmation not only lets me know I've captured the shot, but also gives the ISO, shutter speed and aperture used to achieve it. Free from the emotional confines of shooting in film, where I'd likely slam one roll of film after another into the camera, relying on overkill to ensure the shot, I could choose either to experiment with other creative controls or simply check that one off the list and move on to the next shot.

Working In Post

The latest piece of kit in my digital toolbox is Adobe's newest iteration of Photoshop, CS. For me, one of the most exciting new commands in CS is the Shadow/Highlight correction tool, found under the Image > Adjustments menu. This set of sliders is designed to adjust or correct exposure by brightening shadow areas and/or darkening highlights of an image, whether created with a digital camera or shot on film and then scanned into the computer.

The photograph of Klostertal corner and the climb to the famous Karüssell curve of the historic and vaunted 14.2-mile Nürburgring North Loop circuit was more or less a grab shot, created while on assignment for Porsche. This image reveals the power of the new Shadow/Highlight feature. My job was to photograph, on film, various parts of the track without cars. The images were to illustrate a section of the Porsche website, regarding testing the new Cayenne SUV at the Nürburgring.

This image is a combination of two exposures made with Canon's original D-SLR, the D30, in 2001. The contrast range between earth and sky was far too great for digital, much more so for film, so one exposure was made for the forested terrain, the other some five stops brighter for the sky and clouds. The resulting image was composited in an earlier version of Photoshop. Though not conforming to the agency's original directions (shooting on film), the composite became a key image of the Cayenne website, as it was used in three different ways. One use includes a one-second zoom/pan animation kicking off the testing chapter of the Cayenne site. These uses led to additional fees billed to the client, which wouldn't have been possible had I not made the effort to go beyond the agency's original directions.

RAW Superiority

Shooting in RAW mode gives me color control with tools that are far easier to implement than those associated with film. Processing RAW files as compared to film or even JPEGs from a digital camera allows me to alter the white balance and saturation without throwing away or destroying pixels, among many other things.

The photograph of the #6 ADT Champion Audi in France's 24 Hours of Le Mans is remarkable for a few reasons. One is simply the gritty look of the car after racing 17 hours, from day into night, back to day again. The other is that the image was made just after 10 a.m.; the sun had risen four and a half hours earlier. Seth Resnick (a master of photography, digital guru and Photoshop alpha/beta tester) has described how he prefers to set the white balance of his Canon EOS cameras to the Cloudy setting (6500 Kelvin) while giving a hefty bump to the saturation slider in Adobe's Camera Raw.


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