The Birthing Of A Racing Car

A lot of attention has been given to the new Nissan GT-R LM NISMO since the launch of the car during the 2015 Super Bowl.  I've been involved with the project since May of 2014 and thought I would give a little bit of insight on the documentation of this project.

It was last May, when on very short notice, I was asked to fly to Japan and photograph the teaser photo that would accompany the Nissan press release announcing the Japanese manufacturer's return to the prototype racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Endurance Championship.  The day after the TUSC event at Monterey, I flew from SFO to LAX to NRT, and then made the short drive to Yokohama, home of Nissan corporate offices and NISMO.  I was met by a small film crew from the UK and together we created images of a new production car and the teaser photo of the new race car.  While the new GT-R LM NISMO had been conceived many months earlier, this Nissan image told the world "we are expecting."

Several months went by as the final design of the car was completed and the building took place.  I made several cross country trips documenting the construction of the car and the early testing days.  It was magical to witness the car being crafted by dedicated mechanics and engineers.  Time consuming minor details being worked out, honed, and fitted, refitted, and refined.  And that process continues on the GT-R LM, as it does with every racing car, no matter the age.

The early days of testing a race car is much like watching a child learn to walk.  Stumbles occur, patience is required, but confidence grows as crawling turns into baby steps, which turns into jogging, which turns into sprinting.   A fast steady marathon is a the desired end result and this simply takes time.

I finally saw the completed race car in mid December at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.  The COTA circuit was flooded with a huge production crew filming the Nissan Super Bowl ad.   What an education that was.  The production was a logistical exercise of a small Army of highly skilled professionals, each designated with a specific task that had to be prepared and ready to perform at a specific time.  Action shots with single cars, multiple cars, at night, during the day, a crash sequence, a podium sequence, and dozens of other shots that had to be captured in a 72 hour period.   Add the demands of wardrobe, make-up, lighting, track prep, catering, FX, etc., the list is endless.  And it all went off like clockwork.   The set up still photography was squeezed in a 45 minute on day 2 and a 3 hour early morning window on day 3.   That was all that was needed and the results speak for themselves.

The car was "born" during the 2nd quarter of the Super Bowl, along with the 2016 Nissan Maxima.  A great double header debut orchestrated by the folks at Nissan.  Online content was released a few minutes afterwards and additional material will follow in the coming weeks. 

A couple of notes about the images I shot.  The images were taken on Nikon D4 bodies and 4 lenses were used , 14-24/2.8, 17-35/f4, 24-70/2.8 and a 70-200/2.8.  Profoto power packs and heads were used for lighting.  The static shots were taken during a lunch break on the 2nd day.  Profoto was responsible for the killer lighting and one can easily see the difference it made when compared to the images were shot at exactly the same time by another photographer working for a monthly magazine and did not have the benefit of Profoto gear.  The rigged shots were taken over a 3 hour period during the early morning of the 3rd day.  Cameras were rigged to both the car and the tow vehicle and given the limited amount of time, several views had multiple cameras rigged and shooting at the same time.  The reason for the D4 bodies and not a Nikon D810 is quite simple.  I own two D4 bodies and only one D810 (that is about to change as another D810 is coming my way) and I wanted the image quality to be consistent shot to shot.  Using two different bodies would not have accomplished that goal.

The response to the images has been very positive.  Needless to say, it was a very good shoot.  The entire campaign from the printed material, to the online material, to the video both on television and online, and to the next wave of material that is forthcoming, is the end result of very talented people all working together to accomplish one goal - a kick ass campaign that resulted in one of the best launches of any race car in the history of the sport.  To those individuals that worked with me on my minor part of this project, and the people who gave me this wonderful opportunity and can only say thank you.  

Several years ago Steve Jobs spoke at the commencement ceremonies at Stanford University.  The message of that speech was "Don't Settle."  The good folks at Nissan and NISMO have lived this motto for the last 10 months and will continue to do so for the life of this race car.  And one other motto applies to this entire experience:  "Epic."