Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tools of the Trade

Words by Ben, Snaps by the POWAA Crew and friends

Every now and then I get asked what it takes to be a car blogger, and what equipment you need to do it, so it figured it was about time I wrote about it to share with you guys.

Who knows, maybe this will motivate some of you to get out there and start your writing your own features! (If you do, tag me, I'd love to read your words!)

So here are 9 things you need in order to run a motorhead blog.

1 - Passion

The first thing you need is passion. I know it sounds quite obvious, but when you see the investments in time, efforts, but also in equipment (especially at the beginning), for virtually nothing in return, you'll quickly see that without passion, it'll never work.

2- A sturdy camera

Equipment-wise, I run on a bare minimum. I started off doing car photography for a previous blog of mine 4 years ago, back in 2011, with nothing more than an Olympus PEN EPL-1.

Within 3-4 months, I decided to invest in a proper DSLR in order to have more control over my shoots. This was the biggest financial investment I did for the sake of my desire to share my motorhead fix with the world.

I thus bought a Nikon D7000 body, along with a second hand Nikon 18-200 lens. And aside from a Nikon Speedlight SB-900 and a circular polariser, I have not bought any other camera equipment.

All the shots you see on POWAA Garage are owed to this trustful camera and lens combo. From long range track side shots to car interiors, I only rely on this one lens. And it's been through a lot. From the grime of tyre dust, the unbearable heat of track days, to the tropical rains, it's been through a lot, and it's still here reporting for duty to bring you sights of my passion, every single time!

I admit, I am far from being the best photographer around, and am often amazed by the shots some fellow car journalists take, but I still regularly take shots that tell a story, make me smile and feel excited, and in all honestly, this works for me.

Yes, I am regularly tempted to buy more lenses to widen my photographic capabilities, but then I stumble upon a bucket seat / set of high cams / coilovers / [insert car part here], and my priorities shift. I am a motorhead first and foremost, after all!

3- A supportive girlfriend (or no girlfriend at all)

If you want to go down this line, you will need either an understanding girlfriend, or no girlfriend at all. I am lucky that June is understanding and supportive of my passion, especially when it means standing for hours in the sun, breathing in carbon monoxide and the occasional burnt tyres.

It's not just about attending with me, she also helps shooting, and even covers some events when I can't be there myself. I could not ask for more!

She puts up with all this on top of my motorhead addiction to modifying my car and racing, and that's A LOT, as some of you would know.

4 - A good sunblock

You're going to laugh at me, but when you look at how many hours you'll spend shooting in the sun, having a good sunblock will make a difference.

I owe this one to June - I used to do shoots in the sun without sunblock, and had to deal with 2-tone, half-burnt arms style, and the peel-my-skin-off-my-face look the next day when going to work. Sexy.

Since she got me a nice SPF 30 sunblock from Dermagold, I don't look like a weird skin-shedding animal the days after a shoot!

Personally, I hate putting sunblock on, especially since they usually leave the hands oily, which results in slippery fingers when you use the camera, or a sliding grip on the steering wheel, two things you don't want to have to deal with.

I'm lucky this one doesn't give that bad oily feel, so I can quickly slather it all over my face and run to shoot cars the next minute! And best of all, it doesn't leave that white cast over my face, I don't look like an "ang moh" (read white guy) tourist either!

5 - Friends you can count on

Another very important thing you need to make your blogging worth it, more enjoyable and easy too, are friends. Once again, it's an obvious statement, but without Darren and Sam, things would just not be the same.

Sam has moved to Taiwan and is now growing the influence of POWAA Garage in Taipei. He's wiggling his way in the car groups, and you might have seen some pretty interesting rides which he posted recently on the POWAA Garage Facebook page (give us a like if you haven't already done so!).

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing some features from Taiwan!

6 - Location, location, location

While you will probably never see any words from Darren on these pages, his presence is much stronger than you can imagine. He is the location spotter for POWAA Garage. He has an uncanny sense for finding those lost roads and great settings on which to shoot car features.

He is also the one to whom I owe all my rolling shots. I have shot from the boot and out of the rear windows of his Lexus more times than I can remember.

His wife's Copen too has been helpful for some shots too, such as you can see here, for the Cannibal EE101 feature. Convertibles are just awesome for rolling shots!

Oh, and he always makes sure to wear bright colours to give nice reflections on the car's body when I shoot.

7 - Contortionist skills

Rolling shots are all fun and games, until the boot decides to call it a wrap and politely smashes down on your head just when you were about to get that perfect shot. 

Window sills are not much more friendly, and will gladly help rearranging your innards when you want to get those super low rolling shots. Unless you have abnormally long arms, that is.

You can go a long way with standard shots, but sooner or later, you end up wanting to shoot a rear suspension brace, and you'll have no choice but to start rolling yourself on the asphalt with your camera, just to get that perfect angle.

You'll end up always keeping an eye on your surroundings, so a drain to crawl in, to a ladder to climb up to

Shooting while lying down is a common thing (at least for me), as you can see on this behind the scenes shot of the First Love feature.

You can also see in this shot Darren's commitment to marking a shoot with colourful reflections, which leads to the next item... 

8 - 'Toshop!

Yeah, not all shots are perfect.

Photoshop editing and photo manipulation are skills you'll grow with time. It'll start off with some light adjustments, then you'll realise your face is reflected on the high polish paint of the car you shot.

Freelance photography shoot for a client

And then there's Darren and his bright orange t-shirt appearing on each of the 10 spokes of the polished chrome rim. And the owner peeking through the side mirror on your interior shot. And your foot, somehow in the shot. A duck. A leaf. Any random thing that will tug at your OCD and make you want to kill yourself.

Sadly, you did not pay enough attention during the shoot. Or maybe you were tired. Luckily, Photoshop is here!

9 - Time

It all boils down to this. Time. The most precious and elusive resource on earth. Doing all this take an ungodly amount of time.

From hunting for cars to feature, organising and doing the shoot, to sitting down to edit the photos and write the stories, everything will guzzle up your time like a 1,200hp Supra down full throttling down a drag strip. And this is where passion is needed too.

Running a blog on the sidelines is tedious. Imagine coming back from a draining work day only to have to plough through your brain again for another few hours to write a story. It's exhausting, and know that you'll be doing this for nothing tangible.

What makes it all worth it for me is hearing how happy the car owners are after reading my words about their story with their cars. I often wonder why I started POWAA Garage, and why am I still carrying on writing even though my work's eating up most of my time and brain cells. And then I finally publish the next feature, and hearing the praises from the owner just makes me want to write a thousand more.

And with this said, I need to get back to writing more features for you all to read!

Till next time!

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