Welcome to the wonderful South.
The land where overalls are considered formal, dogs are commonly in the family will, and running moonshine is a national pastime that grew into a multi-billion dollar sport. Yep. Let’s not forget about grits… mmmmmmmmmmm grits, and of course diabetic-inducing sweet tea!
This Car and Driver assignment took me from the dirt roads of Eastern NC, through the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, then finishing at their offices to deliver the… um, flavored bottles of water. It was a great throwback to the old age of moonshine running, where the cars doing the transporting weren’t exactly flashy, but had the muscle under the hood in case the fuzz got a whiff of what’s in the trunk. And if the coppers get a good sniff, the Lingenfelter-blown Chevy SS has a pretty good chance of… um, merging into traffic faster. Let’s make that a 3.7 second 0-to-legal-60mph to be exact.
Again, when dealing with the ranks of the Car and Driver staff, my witty blog posts are nothing in comparison to their cream-of-the-crop writers. The full feature story is a real hoot. So if you’ve read this far, do yourself a favor and read the masterwork of my partner in glass-bottle transportation, Ezra Dyer:
…Funny how I have acquired a distinct taste for fine bourbon after this trip. We were generously gifted a box of select bottles from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. 2yr Buffalo Trace for my old fashioneds, Eagle Rare when I want a kick, and Blanton’s for a trip through bourbon bliss.
“Trees are your best friends” was the first bit of advice for my inaugural assignment with Car and Driver. And no, that advice wasn’t given by a tree-hugging hippie with a curly fro, it was from the veteran videographer from MadRam11, the media leader in all things that involve 600+hp machines, big-ass vertical rocks, and mayhem… emphasis on mayhem. “Trees are your best friend because you can hide behind them when a rock bouncer gets out of control, which isn’t uncommon” he says. I quickly made friends with the biggest, sturdiest trees in Arkansas, for this was the 2014 Southern Rock Racing Series Finals… where the word “Finals”, translates to “let’s break as many parts on the last event of the year as possible”.
If you remember the last blog post about shooting the Ferrari collection, this feature is almost like that. No wait, it’s NOTHING like that, other than the horsepower numbers. These tube frame home-built monsters push anywhere from 600-1000hp.. and they need every bit of that horespower because they’re racing UP a wall of rocks, trees, and mud. Looking around the “race course” in the middle of a rocky forest lined off by frail plastic caution tape, I’m stupefied by the agenda that something with 4 wheels will be driving up the terrain.
I’m not even going to begin to further wittily describe the event, considering how masterfully Daniel Pund’s words illustrate the madness. I’ve done my fair share of writing, but Daniel is a true guru of the craft… so get to reading here.
From a photographer’s perspective, there was eye-candy everywhere I pointed my nose. The people, atmosphere, scenery, and beautiful beastly machines of controlled chaos made it hard to narrow down selects for the blog post… so F* it, you’re getting a long wall of southern rowdiness!!!
My poor excuse for a beard and steel-toed mud shoes helped me blend in a little better with the rootin-tootin crowd. I was born and raised in the South, but I admit I was a little out of my element with this bunch… AND I LOVED IT!! As the editor Daniel Pund so elegantly put it, “Natural Light tastes better than it has any right to.”
I did the best I could to illustrate the rock-flinging madness in pictures, but nothing beats seeing these machines muscle their way up vertical jagged walls at full throttle in person. Much of the success of the new sport of Rock Bouncing can be attributed to youtube videos, more specifically from the author MadRam11. The video posted above is just the event I covered… but watch their latest “2014 EPIC CRASH COMPILATION” to permanently have your jaw glued to the table.
If this is a preview of the random assignments that are in store for me with Car and Driver, then 2015 is going to be one hell of a wild ride.
Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian mountain chain resides Phil Bachman. He is a man that lives in the South, where trucks are regarded as luxury items, and a weekend of going “muddin” is to many equivalent to the Concours d’Elegance. To say the least, if you’re a common person living in the charming South, you are lucky to see a dozen Ferraris in your lifetime. Despite the unicorn-like rarity of a Ferrari in his region, that didn’t stop him from filling his garage with upwards of 40 immaculate archival offsprings from Maranello. How could this be in Tennessee!? This is on the same possibility scale of stumbling upon Ross Brawn and Flavio Briatore flinging a perfect 300 at the local hole-in-the-wall bowling alley.
But that is just the cover of the book, the uniqueness of the Bachman collection flows deeper than just a team of horses under one roof. Minus a few select examples (Two F40s, 288 GTO, 512 BBi Boxer, 250 GTL Lusso, and more) every Ferrari model has two things in common: they’re the final production car in a given series, and they’re yellow. “I see the final production car as the one that best exemplifies that model” Phil Bachman proclaims.
Whether you agree with his mantra or not, we can all agree that the Bachman Collection is breathtaking. And I was proud to be one of the few to lift up the skirt of his priceless garage to shoot and write for the distinguished Ferrari-only magazine Forza. I told my video-extraordinaire buddy Will Keown about the assignment and he jumped at the road trip to Tennessee. Which I’m glad he did, because he made this beautiful BTS video of the day, enjoy!: HIGH-DEF VERSION CLICK HERE
After a lengthy, but unforgettable discussion with the friendly Bachman family, Mr. Bachman had one more nugget of information: “I have a LaFerrari on it’s way in a few short years” he said with a modest smirk. “Is it going to be yellow and the last production model?” I ask… then immediately felt daft for uttering such foolish question. It’s good to know that after 30 years, Phil still has the same glow today that attracted him to his first Ferrari. The mark of a true veteran collector. This certainly isn’t the last time I get to shoot one of his cars in the Bachman stable.
Pepsi has been on a roll with their advertising lately, and again I’m excited to be a part of their latest project with NASCAR drivers Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne… and whew, what an action-packed day!! My main job was to grab on-location studio shots of Jeff and Kasey, but I would also be running and gunning around the GoPro Motorplex afterwards for action shots. So, I had to quickly switch my brain from studio, to journalism.
Being quick was the name of the game for this shoot since this project was a surprise for local go-karters Evan York and Steve Szabo. My assistants (Linhbergh, Sarah, and Will Keown) and I arrived when the sun was rising to setup the on-location studio to make sure everything was working perfectly… because, once Jeff and Kasey arrive, WE better be ready. No excuses. After literally 10 minutes with Jeff, and only 5 minutes with Kacey in the portable seamless studio, we focused our cameras to B-roll for the rest of the action-packed day for surprises and racing.
Doing the job for the paramount studio shots was the massive Phase One IQ260 with Profoto lighting (Check out my previous job with a Phase one to see how ridiculously brilliant this $40,000 system is). For the quick & dirty journalism-type photos my assistants and I used more compact cameras like the Canon 5DMKIII and Linhbergh’s Sony A7 sync’d to lightweight portable AlienBee monolights.
All-in-all, it was a jam-packed day where my shutter finger didn’t get much rest. As with any advertising shoot, there is no such thing as being over-prepared, especially when the window of opportunity for shooting the talent is the size of 5-10 minutes. My video-inclined buddy Will Keown followed the shoot from start to finish and put together this great short BTS video! I hope you enjoy… and remember the #1 priority is ALWAYS to get the image, and bringing lots of backup gear reduces the chance of a disaster happening. Once the gear is covered, it’s all up to the squishy thing between your ears.