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Eric Forsythe – Capturing automotive passion one frame at a time

Photography has always fueled passion in the automotive community. With the advance of technology, new optical sensors and new sharing platforms have enabled the communication of unique and inspiring content. Photographers are modern-day “magicians” capturing the spirit of the moment, which becomes a legacy for future generations . One of the most intriguing photographs I have come across recently is that of a Ferrari 488 rear.

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What makes an otherwise very dark photo so special is the direction and quantity of light, which is just enough to completely outline the curves of the bodywork.

Flat areas, with an incidence of light at a 90 degree angle, reflect bright silver, almost white, whereas at points of intense body curvature, light is reflected away from the lens, delivering a dark gun-metal, almost black shade. Between the two extremes, a beautiful gradient reveals the ingenuity of the Ferrari designers. Drawing in their Maranello offices, they are probably unaware that their work has become the object of investigation – and admiration – for a very unique photographer some 9,000km (5,600 miles) away.

Eric Forsythe is based in Houston, Texas, but his passion “guides” him to continuously explore new geographies, in search of optical stimuli.

He has been a full-time photographer for over a decade and during this time his images have been shared on Larry King, Pierce Morgan, Good Morning America, Jimmy Fallon, to name a few. The Ferrari Club Magazine, Success Magazine and Time, as well as several regional journals are publishing his work, enriching their pages with impressive visual content. In Eric’s clientele one can identify automotive icons, such as Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini, colossal entertainment producers like MGM, Paramount Pictures, Capitol Records and Integrity Music, as well as major oil companies and prominent preachers. A varied product portfolio is an indication of a multifaceted talent and that was enough to trigger my curiosity.

Black: Eric, what is the purpose of photography for you?

EF:  For me photography is not something motionless. It is about movement; life. In my car photography I always try to photograph the metallic objects as living, breathing creatures. So, with inanimate objects such as cars or motorcycles, I like to shoot them with the headlights and dash lights on, or throw some reflections on the cars to make them come alive. Likewise, I also try to instill a sense movement in my portraiture, thus my subjects are always moving when I push the shutter.

Black: I have noticed that some of your pictures are very dark, while others are flooded (not sure this is the right word in your profession) with light. How do you use light and what is the effect?

EF: Manipulating light is a personal “struggle” in keeping my photography off the beaten track. I use constant lights or strobes, (ProFoto B1x) to “sculpt” with light.

I like to highlight the curves, flares, and vents of the car.  I use low light to capture the dim lights of the instrument panel and gauges.

In some cases, my focus is to portray the beautiful reflections under intense light. A good example of that is the photograph of Michael Schumacher’s F1 steering wheel.

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In this one, the carbon-fibre details are reflected back to the lens with phenomenal definition

Black: I am one of those people who believe that in many cases sponsors’ logos affect the pure aesthetics of a racing car. However, I have come across some of your racing car photographs, where logos add to the overall appearance in an impressive way. Does that have to do purely with a photographer’s qualities or is there more to it?

EF: One of my greatest joys was to shoot for the Risi Competizione team at their local races at the Circuit of the Americas. I especially enjoyed Miles Bradley, #1 Mechanic and Mark Sims, Chief Mechanic (son of the legendary David Sims). Miles I believe was responsible for decal placement, so I guess that makes him the “Master Sticker Putter Oner”. He has a great talent in identifying the right place for a logo.

The car must still look good and achieve high sponsor exposure. Not an easy job.

Black: Was your professional advice sought?

EF: I had nothing to do with it honestly! I do find the highly reflective decals to be a real challenge using strobes though.

Black: Sounds challenging enough, but let’s focus on events. What is the biggest challenge for a photographer during a race or event?

EF: Access! Roped off areas for the exclusive cars are characteristic of many events and apart from the visual obtrusion around the car, this almost guarantees you are not getting inside either.

Races can be very dangerous near the track or the pits, even for people working in this environment for years, so unless you are embedded in a team, options are limited.

The other challenge is anticipating an overtake or a crash.

Black: Can you really anticipate a crash? I just thought that the sheer number of photographers present ensures someone will record the crash.

EF: Ha! Well, no one can accurately predict the future, but if you do your homework, look at the track, identify the “weak points” and do some background reading, you stand more chances of being in the right spot at the right time. You have to be proactive and imaginative.

Black: I know from personal experience that creativity can sometimes be “influenced” by marketing departments. Are marketing professionals generally interfering with the style of photography, limiting your imagination or are you solely responsible for delivering a good result, without any input?

EF: I usually have the free reign to produce the images I think the client wants and from the feedback I am getting, the outcome is rewarding and perfect for their purposes. That being said, I sometimes have to pitch my artistic/creative desires out of the window, because the client has very specific wants and needs.

Black: What happens then?

EF: I focus on giving them exactly what they require in a professional and efficient manner. And again the clients are totally satisfied with the outcome.

Black: …but you’re not…how do you deal with it?

EF: I just don’t post the pictures on Instagram

[both laugh]

Black: I have noticed your Instagram profile…there is a certain feel to it. What makes it so special?

EF: The fact that I post only photographs that are special to me.

I only post captures I am truly passionate about and I believe best represent my approach as a photographer.

Black: What are the most extreme conditions you have encountered as a photographer and how did you cope?

EF: I prefer to work in cooler temperatures, just like anyone else I suppose. Shooting in far west Texas and Arizona in the summer can be unbelievably brutal on the photographer.

Black: …and when did it all go wrong?

EF: There’s been a couple of occasions [a short pause, as a mischievous smile emerges] …and it wasn’t even during work!

I always shoot with two Nikon D4s. They have yet to fail me, which is very impressive. I have however, failed Nikon.

One time I offered to do the shooting at a friend’s wedding [as you do]. I was running to my Porsche to get to the wedding reception from the church and placed the Nikon D4 with my 85mm 1.4 lens on the roof of the car. Placed my second camera in the passenger’s seat and drove off! All was fine till I braked at the stop sign and launched my camera off the roof, watching it land on the tarmac in front of me! The lens and body separated. I dusted it off, reattached the lens and miraculously enough it worked!

The other time I placed my D4 with the 24-70mm lens in a sink to go to the bathroom, because it was either the sink or the floor. It turned out to be an automatic sink and I drenched the lens. It died on the spot…

Black: Quite a stressful experience I imagine. Is there anxiety about the outcome or are you totally comfortable before shooting?

EF: I have always thought that it’s good to be a little nervous before a shoot. If you are not at least a little bit, I feel you might be losing your edge. I over-prepare and always visit the location days before to get a feel for the place, if it is unfamiliar.

Black: Does a wide range of activity improve the quality of the photography or is it best to have a focused approach to achieve higher levels of expertise?

EF: Good question! Years ago, I used to operate television cameras for a couple of large organizations and when I left to start my own photography business, I dedicated myself to just still photography. I consider myself a specialist in this field now. However, opinion on the matter is divided. Some claim that photographers must provide video in their services to succeed.

I prefer to focus my effort, provide exceptional photography and refer video requests to exceptional videographers.

Black: It is generally believed that all pictures we come across on media are edited to improve the visual qualities. Is this the case and to what extent is a good photograph the result of good software or a good photographer?

EF: Even back in the film days photos were edited. They were just done in the dark room with dodging and burning. Now in the digital world we have very powerful tools to edit images. That being said, it can obviously get out of hand and some news outlets have received much criticism over manipulated photos.  With car or product photography the sky is the limit.

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So, many car photos seen in magazines and online are literally impossible to shoot with a particular exposure in camera.

Snapping a photo with a camera is only half of the equation of Photography; the other half is editing. And that is an art form of its own.

Black: Do you travel a lot?

EF: I travel quite a bit in the Unites States with little travel overseas, although I am beginning to receive an increasing number of requests from other countries recently. As a result, I will be leaving to shoot in Milan and Lake Como, Italy, in a few days. I really get energized every time I visit a new place. I am fascinated with the way other people live their lives.

Black: New places you would like to visit and why?

EF: Monaco! Both the dramatic landscape and the ancient history of the Principality have always fascinated and inspired me.

Black: Is Monaco GP in your professional aspirations then?

EF: I would LOVE to shoot the F1 race in Monte Carlo. Access is so limited and I believe I would be getting a real charge out of all the pomp and circumstance of the world’s top motoring event, at such an exclusive location.

Black: But someone might be jealous back home. How does photography affect relationships?

EF: Well, funny you should mention that…Let’s just say it could be very good or very bad. I have not experienced any in-betweens.

Being successful in my photography business means I have to be available and very often on short notice for my large clients.

That can screw things up if one is in a relationship with someone who likes a regular schedule.

Black: What do you do to chill out?

EF: I read about photography and new techniques. I collect photography books on several photographers. I have a large collection of vintage arcade games from the 1980’s.  It’s like collecting refrigerators! I am a car nut as well. I have owned a Ferrari 348 TS Challenge, Porsche 911 Carrera 2, Porsche 911 Turbo and recently an Alfa Romeo 4C.

I love to just jump in and drive. It was always an event driving these cars, even going to the grocery store…

Black: What’s your favourite car and what makes it visually attractive to you?

EF: My favorite car is the Ferrari F12. There is just something about those body lines and the ridiculous power of that V12.

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I believe it is one of those Ferrari icons, designed the way Enzo intended for his cars. That just stirs my soul…

Black: I saw your picture with the American flag and since we are in Houston, Texas I’d like to ask you how you feel looking at this picture.

EF: I am a United States Navy Veteran. I served aboard two aircraft carriers during Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the early 90’s.

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When I see that image I captured, I think of my home and have a sense of pride that I served my country to the best of my ability.

Black: Talking of serving a cause, what is your ultimate goal as a photographer?

EF:  One is personal and it is self-fulfillment. It’s hard to describe the satisfaction I feel when I understand that our goal has been achieved in creating photography that will be used for world-class marketing and press material. The other is social. Every December, I get several Christmas cards from people I have interacted with over the years and the images on these cards are my captures! Being a photographer is a great way to make friends and have rare and wonderful experiences from all walks of life.  So, my ultimate goal as a photographer is to enrich people’s lives with my images, as I enrich mine, capturing rare moments that will be gone in the blink of an eye.

One of the great achievements of the people at Maranello, is their ability to encapsulate all that Italy is, in a shape.

The Ferrari transforms in different environments and under different light, but always retains the ability to stir up passion in the most profound and stentorian manner.

Having met Eric Forsythe in person, I can’t help but feel intrigued to witness how he will continue to “capture” this passion, one frame at a time.

Eric’s work can be enjoyed on

Eric Forsythe Photography

Facebook

Instagram

where you can contact him with your requests.

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