Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Behind the Scenes: A Day with Motor Photojournalist Dino Dalle Carbonare

In a departure (well not fully) from my usual posts about me and my car, this post is about a full day I recently spent with a good friend of mine, Japan-based automotive photo journalist Dino Dalle Carbonare (also known by his initials “DCD”), as he covered the last day (May 2) of the Spring Drift Matsuri at Ebisu Circuit in Fukushima Prefecture in northern Japan.

He does a lot of work for Speedhunters.com, but some of you may know that Dino used to have a blog - coincidentally his last post was on July 7, 2007 - which turns out to be the first day of THIS blog...

As a motor photographer and journalist, Dino has what to many might seem to be one of the best jobs in the world – driving, reporting on, and photographing some of the most interesting, beautiful, and noteworthy cars in the world. Both here in Japan as well as around the world, on some of the best driving roads!

Check out this beauty, one of his masterpieces both in photography and vehicle selection!!! LOL!

(photo used with permission of Dino Dalle Carbonare)

The job description, as well as his increasing fame, has probably led many people to want to emulate him, and embark on a career as an automotive photojournalist. (Men want to be like him, women want to be with him??... maybe not the latter, but the former certainly…)

Unfortunately I neither have the drive nor the talent to do what he does, but in spending the day with him, I realized that his job, while certainly glamorous, is not as easy as it seems. There are other necessary and required skills, including physical stamina, a critical yet appreciative eye for anything with an engine, extreme amounts of patience, an ability to meet crazy deadlines, and the creativity needed to “set up” what later becomes a memorable, “desktop” worthy photo.
All of this takes years to develop to the level Dino has taken it to, and in the process, he’s made friends and contacts in the industry, giving him an unquantifiable and insurmountable edge that solidly cements him as one of the premier non-Japanese auto journalists in Japan.

Anyway, enough buttering up. His ego needs no (additional) inflating. Here’s how the day began for me at 0600 Sunday morning, Tokyo station - an amazing ride, yes, but nothing close to what I would later experience that day!

3 hours later, Dino was waiting for me beside his workhorse Subaru Legacy wagon at Nihonmatsu station, the closest station to Ebisu Circuit.

Once at the circuit, Dino proceeded to immediately hunt out the best possible shots. This is much harder than it sounds.

It isn’t about walking around looking for interesting/interesting looking cars – although he does that too. In order to get interesting shots, he has to be creative, even risking injury to himself for that perfect shot:

Note: I was right behind him, and when the cars passed by us, we both swung around, backs to the track, to protect ourselves from the gust of wind generated by the passing car and the brake and tire dust that comes flying at you! It was THAT close...

Getting the best angle is very important – sometimes it’s interesting what cars look like from above I guess. And as the photos later show, it’s not just about the angles – he’s simultaneously playing with different lenses, ISO speed, aperture, etc. and all those other technical camera settings.

Here he is inviting me to check out the view:

Behind him, I can see that not only is this position safer, but...

...it also allows a rapid series of photos to be taken as the cars come flying down and then take the corner at full speed.

He also has to risk getting his clothes dirty – here he is in the “sniper” position, focusing on a very interesting (to him) wheel on a red Nissan.

Note how he strategically parked his Subaru in front of this red car to make sure it didn't drive away!!

This allowed him to produce the shot found here:

(photo used with permission of Dino Dalle Carbonare)

Getting the “right shot” often also requires him to place himself into awkward positions, or even worse, potentially embarrassing situations:

But, most of the time it’s about patience – standing for minutes, or hours in one location, waiting for the right moment. Believe it or not, these photos were taken about several minutes apart. Notice it's the same car he's trying to get in a perfect shot:

Minutes later, the guy next to him is getting bored and I am getting tired... yet Dino keeps trying to get The Shot.

In the end, while he continued his work, I lost interest in taking photos of him and watching him work. (I suppose he has to take hundreds of photos just to get a few publishable ones...)

So I decided to enjoy the Drift Matsuri – here I am with Allen from Tomei Powered, getting ready to experience the thrill of a lifetime in Allen's very special AE86!

I then was offered a ride with Andy Gray of Powervehicles – I took the following in-car video.

Words can’t adequately describe how this all felt, and the video does not do it justice either. Simply awesome! Thanks again Andy.

Meanwhile, Dino continued to do his job, taking photos all day long, until well after the event ended (I was off taking to people, taking naps, etc.).

We drove back to Tokyo together, getting back into the city about 1100pm. After which, Dino rushed to make his deadlines. The results can be seen here:


That's a LOT of HARD WORK!

I for one could not do this kind of work. While we do share a passion for cars, Dino certainly has a way of staying focused and energetic while working. I think the conclusion is, like any profession, the guys who have invested time, energy and resources are the ones who make it look easy, and rise to the top. Shortcuts don’t work here, either.

Final word – thanks Dino for the invite to tag along at Ebisu, and for letting me write this up. My hope is that with this post, readers can have a better understanding and appreciation of your work!

PS - Dino, you really need to change your taste in music...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Front Spoiler Modification

So I recently had a close call with scraping my newly protected front lip spoiler, and my friend Miguel had suggested using some aluminum sheets to protect the spoiler - his idea was to rivet aluminum sheet(s) onto the bottom side of the spoiler, making the aluminum piece sacrificial. Compared to the rubber add-on lip spoiler I had on before, it was bound to be sturdier, and further, the noise it would make on bottoming out would give me early warning, more so than the rubber piece.

Anyway - so today I had some time, so I jacked up the front of the car, and using a 0.8mm aluminum 200cm long "L" shaped piece, decided to give the idea a try.

First, I used some red tape and centered the aluminum piece.

I then used my Dremel and proceeded to make cuts every 10cm so I could bend the aluminum to fit the curve of the spoiler.

After test fitting, I sprayed with heat resistant flat black primer paint:

Then carefully riveted the aluminum piece to the plastic lip spoiler, so that the alum was about 5mm back from the edge of the lip spoiler:

Removing the red tape and cutting off the rivet leads, got me a clean look - you can barely even tell!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spring Cleaning - and Some Painting!

Ok as this week was "Golden Week" here in Japan - a bunch of single day national holidays conveniently strung out over a week, thus making for, in conjunction with the weekend, a 5 day holiday, so of course I was able to do some cleaning of the car.

Yes, I washed and then used my porter cable to apply some zaino... but also took the opportunity to try to figure out where a squeak was coming from in the rear parcel shelf - I took off the shelf and hunted down each item that might possibly be loose, and either glued, foamed or tie wrapped it down. At the same time, I noticed that the stock paper speakers had met their demise, and so went ahead and purchased some mid grade universal fit Pioneers (16cm) as my friend Alex has promised to upgrade my entire system with me - these speakers are only to tide me over until then. (and then, will be used for "rear fill"). I will go into depth in another post soon.

Meanwhile, a while ago I had also noticed that the washer tank had gotten old, and was possibly leaking. I noticed some rust below the plastic.
(PS not sure why this photo and some others below are showing sideways - will try to fiddle with them over the weekend).

Anyway, I had a while ago ordered a new piece, that looks like this.

 So I proceeded to remove the old tank, and this is what I found:

So, inspired by an idea from my friend Dino (DCD), I took out the bracket, removed the rust, and then resprayed in anti-rust black paint.

I used my Dremel and some elbow grease and sandpaper to get this:

After this, it was pretty easy to simply paint with a spray can.

While I was waiting for it to dry, turned my attention to the base, which was rusted. I used sandpaper and the Dremel again, and got rid of the rust (down to the bare metal!). Found some automotive primer at the local hardware store, and began to paint:

As you can see I had no newspaper, so used towels and this wrapping paper to mask off the rest of the engine bay.  End result is:

Nice and clean. Then it was only a matter of bolting up the bracket (this time using stainless steel bolts)

And then it was simply a matter of installing the new washer tank and adding some washer fluid.