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The Dream Shoot

Published March 12th, 2013

I'm Gil and I am 20 years old. Photography and exotic automobiles have been my passion since before I could crawl. I used to love staring at photos in car magazines; gawking at the works of rolling art in some of the most scenic and breath-taking locations in the world. One of the most memorable series of automotive photos I ever saw was with an article that Road & Track did on the Ferrari Enzo. In the article, the Enzo was photographed at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I will never forget how the red popped with the white, crystalline-like surface of the salt flats paired with the cobalt blue sky. Those images struck me and sparked my desire to learn and master the art of automotive photography; hoping that I could, one day, be fortunate enough to shoot a car - ANY car - at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah just passed the Nevada/Utah border.

Over the years, I've made many connections and formed numerous friendships through my passion for photography and high-end supercars. I've had the fortune of experiencing, first hand, some of the world's most sought after cars with my photography and I often find that I have to pinch myself occasionally when I'm with these machines, just to make sure that it's not all just a dream.

In the summer of 2012, I was conversing with a good friend of mine here in town who happens to own a very well sorted collection of supercars, mostly Ferraris. The pinnacle of his collection is the legendary Ferrari F40, which is one of the finest examples in the world. He is very enthusiastic about his collection and always enjoys conversations about cars and the joy of driving. We were happily ranting on about the F40, which is arguably the most iconic and desired supercar ever made, when he mentioned how he had always wanted to get a photo of it on the Bonneville Salt Flats. I told him how a photoshoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats had always been at the top of my bucket list in the photographic realm. After about a month and a half of planning, the date was set; we would load the F40 into an enclosed trailer and make the trip over to the salt flats for what would soon be the most memorable and successful photoshoot of my career thus far: the Ferrari F40 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I called it, "The Dream Shoot."

Our plan was to leave on a Friday and arrive in Wendover, Utah sometime Friday evening. We would spend the night and get to the flats the following morning, ready for our date with the lady in red and 80 miles of white abyss. As the date neared, we kept a close eye on the weather; all was looking good until two days prior when the forecast called for a heavy rainstorm near Wendover the day we were scheduled to arrive. My heart sank. Was the dream shoot going to be postponed or even cancelled because mother nature wasn't playing in our favor? No, this can't be! I monitored the forecast and got updates every 15 minutes from the National Weather Service. "Heavy rain expected in the Wendover area Friday with clearing skies into Saturday. Chance of rain 50%." That is not what I wanted to see, but I couldn't avoid the truth. We couldn't make the trek out there in the rain and we sure couldn't do the shoot in the rain neither; it wouldn't be sensible, especially with a car valued at over $750,000. We discussed possibly postponing the shoot, but when comparing schedules, the next possible opportunity would be spring or even summer of 2013 - I didn't like the sound of that. We maintained an eye on the weather and on Friday morning, we made the call: we were to depart at noon with an expected arrival into Wendover at 7pm. We were going to take our chances.

Sunny and clear skies raised our hopes when leaving our hometown of Reno, NV. As we proceeded east on Interstate 80, clouds began to form overhead and by the time we reached Eureka, Nevada, we were in the middle of a downpour. We were half-way to Wendover, do we turn back after all this? No, we have to push through; giving up now was not an option. Our drive, which was planned to take 7 hours, turned into an 11-hour drive due to the weather. We reached Wendover just before midnight and checked into our hotel. The rain had ceased by that time and the clouds had started to make way for clear skies, but the ground was drenched and that means the salt flats would be a lake with standing water. We grabbed a quick bite and called it a night; the next morning was do or die for this shoot.

After a rough and sleepless night, we gathered our belongings and left the hotel at 7am. The roads were dry and that raised my hopes, despite being exhausted from a night filled with anxiousness and hope that the salt flats would be dry. As soon as we got back onto Interstate 80, white ground was in sight and our destination was closing in. From a distance, all looked good. As we approached the turn-off road, we could see mud on both sides of the road from the water-logged soil; the salt flats were 5 miles ahead. We arrived at a cul-de-sac at the end of the road where the muddy desert terrain met the salt flats. A wooden monument sign stood erect with "Bonneville Salt Flats" etched into it; facts about the land-speed records and Indie stickers garnished the front of the sign. I looked out into the vast empty space and an eerie feeling came upon me; it was as if I was standing at the edge of the world. The sky reflected off the standing water on the salt flats - almost as if I was standing on the very edge of our dimension. "So that's it," I thought to myself, "we came all this way with such high hopes of a dream shoot and it all ends here without a single snap of the shutter." I was devastated. We contemplated other ideas such as photographing the car on the road next to the salt flats, but I didn't want to compromise; it was all or nothing for me. We noticed the sun start to crest over the mountains to our east and we watched as the blue and magenta sky morphed into a golden yellow horizon as we felt the warmth of the rising sun creep over the mountain tops. After an hour of sitting, waiting, and contemplating our next move, we decided to unhitch the trailer from our truck and scope out higher ground on the flats where standing water may be non-existent. After 15 minutes of searching, we found our spot; a 200' long and 80' wide patch of dry salt. This was it - our perseverance had paid off. We jumped in the truck and raced back to the road to get the trailer; we would not drive the F40 onto the salt by itself. We hitched up and followed our tracks back to our dry spot. After an hour of carefully unloading the F40 by hand onto bath towels and then onto the salty surface, I was set to fulfill a life-long dream.

We moved the truck and trailer clear from the F40 and set up our equipment which consisted of our cameras with various lenses, some ladders, a few tripods, and our camera bags. We both took a moment to take it all in; it was better than anything I could ever have imagined. I took my time with each photo; carefully planning out the composition for each shot as I knew this would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; I wanted to make each photo count. After about three hours of shooting, we loaded the F40 back into the trailer and packed up all of our equipment - the dream shoot was a complete success.

A blanket of relief enveloped me as we started our long drive home that day. I was constantly looking through the photos on my camera and we were both very, very happy that it all worked out for us. We shared laughs, and raved about how stunning the location was and how well the car paired with it. It was an experience that will live in both of our minds for a long, long time.

We got back into Reno at around 9pm that Saturday night and I arrived back at my house at around 11pm. Despite not getting any sleep in the 36 hours previous, I was too excited to catch up on it. I spent the next 4 hours sorting through my images and going through the post-processing part of the job. I didn't want any heavy editing with these shots; I wanted the true, natural beauty of the car, scenery, and atmosphere to shine through and make their presence in each image. After all post production was said and done, I smiled and nodded my head. "Truly a dream come true," I thought to myself. I uploaded one photo before heading off to bed; visions of salt and red Italian ecstasy danced joyously in my head. I had just completed the shoot that will go down as the most successful and memorable shoot of my photographic career thus far.

To this day, I get comments, and often overwhelmingly positive, feedback on images from this series. And even I go back at least once a day, to look at these images and reminisce on that day. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

Ferrari F40

My dream photoshoot: A red Ferrari at the Bonneville Salt Flats. What better example than to use an F40. Much more from this shoot to come.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • NIKON D3000
  • 19mm / f/5.6 / 1/320 sec

Ferrari F40 | Bonneville Salt Flats

Much more to come.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • NIKON D3000
  • 20mm / f/10 / 1/125 sec

Ferrari F40 | Desolate

F40...Salt Flats...Nothing Else.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • NIKON D3000
  • 50mm / f/16 / 1/60 sec

Ferrari F40 | Storm's End

Ferrari F40 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The clouds over the mountains are the remnants of the storm that passed through the night prior.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • NIKON D3000
  • 19mm / f/10 / 1/125 sec

Ferrari F40 | Isolation

Ferrari F40 aimed toward the abyss.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • NIKON D3000
  • 14mm / f/10 / 1/100 sec

Ferrari F40 | Eye of the Storm

The clouds left over from the storm provided for some awesome skies.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • NIKON D3000
  • 10mm / f/10 / 1/160 sec

Flat Runner

I will remember this scene for as long as I live. Quite possibly the most surreal and breath-taking scene I have ever witnessed. The atmosphere was just stunning; words, nor photos, do it any justice.

  • October 13th, 2012
  • Nikon D3000
  • 10mm / f/10 / 1/100 sec

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Joshua Singh  over 5 years ago

Epic photos - epic story.

Jordan Adkins  over 5 years ago

I love the story and the photos that follow. You are amazing, bro!