Motorsports photographer and automotive journalist Vladimir Ljadov recently picked up a macro lens, putting an unusual and visually stunning twist on his automotive photography. PetaPixel spoke with Ljadov to learn more about his close-up car images and motorsport photography at large.
“For as long as I was photographing, I always enjoyed close-ups, patterns, and shapes in automotive photography,” Ljadov tells PetaPixel. Even when shooting with his tried-and-true 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens at car shows, “Quite often you can see me zooming in on those curves,” says Ljadov. Purchasing a macro lens, in this case, a second-hand Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens, was a natural progression. Ljadov also says he was inspired by fellow photographer and Type 7 creative director Thomas Walk.
The Unique Challenges of Macro Car Photography
Compared to more traditional car and motorsports photography, Ljadov says macro photography is a “delightful change of pace.” Unlike when photographing a race, Ljadov can avoid contending with moving subjects. He can take his time and study his subject — there’s ample opportunity for artistic experimentation.
“The main technical challenge is getting enough light for a proper macro shot, which can be tricky in the evening when in the shade,” Ljadov remarks.
Overcoming this and other challenges is well worth it for Ljadov. “Searching for close-ups ignites my creativity, allowing me to tell a more diverse visual story,” he says.
The Artistic Freedom of Car Photography
Like with any specific genre of photography, it’s easy to think that all car photography can fit neatly into some specific box. However, Ljadov isn’t one for rules. One of his favorite aspects of photography is the creative freedom it allows.
He’s able to use his instincts to guide him while shooting. Equipped with a macro lens, Ljadov can get up close and personal with cars, which allows for exciting and unique images and lets him connect better with his subject. It’s a fruitful change in perspective.
The Close-up Future of Ljadov’s Car Photography
After purchasing his new macro lens, Ljadov will always keep it in his photography kit.
“If I have spare space in my photo bag, I always throw the macro lens in there,” he says. “I’m excited to develop my unique style and incorporate macro into my motorsport photography.”
Capturing a Car’s Spirit and Character
Vladimir Ljadov’s article on Speedhunters, “It’s All in the Details: Experimenting with Macro Car Photography,” helps illustrate why he was keen to try macro car photography.
“I believe that from time to time, it’s necessary to focus on and remind ourselves how complicated cars are,” writes Ljadov.
When photographing cars from a distance, as Ljadov does when doing motorsports photography, it’s easy to lose sight of the thousands of carefully-engineered parts that comprise a car.
When using a macro lens to photograph older cars, it’s possible to see the history of the vehicle in a new way.
“While newer cars indeed mostly showcase the mechanical aspect, old-timers give us a very different type of expression: personalized style, masterful craftsmanship, unique patina patterns, little designer touches, a certain zeitgeist or a reminder of the past,” Ljadov says.
Practical Tips for Macro Photography
Any photographer should understand exposure, composition, and lighting, regardless of their lens. However, when using a macro lens, there are unique challenges.
“In my practice, shutter speeds around 1/400sec are the best for eliminating any small jitter that could smudge the result. The aperture depends on your style, but raising the f-stop will improve the depth of field. In simple words, a higher aperture will make more parts of the object sharp in your image,” Ljadov says.
When in Doubt, Get Close
The legendary Magnum photographer Robert Capa said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” Ljadov adds that it’s proven an effective motto for his car photography. Ljadov’s suggestion is clear, “Go macro for a change!”
Image credits: All images copyright of Vladimir Ljadov