Shooting Stars 2014 competition jury members Royce Rumsey and Teymur Madjderey on automotive photography and the competition.

Shooting Stars 2014: automotive photography in the spotlight.

Automotive photography calls for a sharp eye, superior technical skills and, above all, passion. We caught up with photographers and Shooting Stars 2014 competition jury members Royce Rumsey and Teymur Madjderey to gain insight into this fascinating discipline – and the competition itself.

The perfect pic.

Quite often a challenge due to unpredictable conditions, and often yielding some of the best results when shot at high speeds, automotive photography celebrates the stunning design and power of classic cars.

That one rewarding shot that captures everything perfectly, celebrates these engineering masterpieces.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé.

Passion through a lense.

For most photographers, shooting for one of the biggest automotive firms in the world is purely a dream. Fans of Mercedes-Benz classics have been given just that opportunity, through the Shooting Stars 2014 competition which will see 12 winning images selected for next year’s calendar. Participants posted their photo entries to the competition via the Mercedes-Benz Museum’s “Shooting Stars“ Facebook app, and the top 100 images have been selected. Joining the ranks of some of the world’s most famous photographers, the winners will be part of the ongoing legacy connected to these classic vehicles. We caught up with two of the judges, Teymur Madjderey, a Cologne-based photographer covering a wide range of subjects, and Royce Rumsey, automotive photographer and product designer living in Laguna Beach, California. We asked them about their passion for automotive photography, the competition itself and some of their most memorable shoots.

How did your interest in automotive photography develop?

Teymur: It was an organic progression. I’ve been a petrol-head all my life, and when I picked up photography again it was the thing that made most sense. Photographing cars is a big challenge, but also gives you a lot of possibilities. And I believe in shooting what you’re passionate about and enjoy challenges.

Royce: Although the visual arts were not part of my strict Fundamentalist upbringing, the exposure to Frankenheimer’s “Grand Prix”, Yates’ “Bullitt” and McQueen’s/Katzin’s “Lemans” fuelled a desire to be a car racing photographer. And racing’s halcyon days of the mid-60s and 70s provided great subject matter – even to a no-budget, young kid with a war-souvenir Voigtländer and an East-German Hanimex Praktica…

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Do you think about background context when shooting cars? How important is the setting?

Teymur: Oh, of course. The problem is rather, is there the time and/or money to get everything together. On a proper commercial production – or even just shooting for the portfolio – you can usually plan and work out a time line, but with press events time is often very limited and you need to act quickly and be able to make compromises.

Royce: Settings are critical and most photographers will spend a considerable amount of time and resources scouting for good locations. The surroundings not only establish context, but also greatly affect both the presentation as well as the look of the car. When shooting at an event, there are usually many visual elements to contend with that can both distract and compete with the car for attention and focus. Of course, many times these elements (surroundings, position and weather conditions) aren’t in one’s control—the key is to then work with the situation to provide a balance of contextual “information” and focus upon the primary subject.

What would be your dream shoot?

Teymur: One that comes to mind thanks to my recent visit to the Mille Miglia: the Stirling Moss SLR that David Coulthard drove this year. I would love to see it in an island setting, one of the greener Hawaiian Islands perhaps. A fictional adventure.

Royce: My dream shoot would include a classic location like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the infamous “North Loop” of the Ring, Monza etc. cars associated with those respective settings, like Penske’s Mercedes-Benz “push-rod” Indy cars blistering down the front strait at Indy, a 300 SL racing sports car at the Ring or Monza. Of course, having some dramatic morning or dusk light with some slight fog and dew to “wet down” the track surface would be ideal.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3.

What was your most memorable shoot, and why?

Teymur: I guess I would have to say the day I spent at Paul Ricard shooting the SLS Electric Drive and Black Series. It was an action packed day, with a lot of work shooting photos and video at the same time. Tons of fun: the combination of that wonderful track and the fantastic beast that is the SLS Electric Drive made for a very memorable shoot.

Royce: Shooting the legendary 722 Mercedes-Benz SLR with Sir Stirling Moss on the fairway grounds of Pebble Beach is easily my most memorable shoot – for obvious reasons – one of the most famous and stunning of historic racing cars, combined with the legendary pilot and at the gorgeous setting of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Could you tell us a little about the competition?

Teymur: I have to say I really appreciate the effort that has been put into Shooting Stars 2014. It was a great opportunity for all the Mercedes-Benz and car fans out there: to see your work published in an international car manufacturer’s widely published calendar, and get properly paid for it. Stuff like this rarely happens, even to most professionals. So this was a fantastic chance for all the enthusiasts out there.

Royce: With so many enthusiastic Mercedes-Benz owners and fans taking great photos, the competition was a great way to celebrate that community and the Mercedes marque. Digital cameras have greatly “democratized” photography, and this competition takes advantage of that.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing.

What qualities were you looking for in the competition winner’s work?

Teymur: The technical aspect is important, it was one of our main criteria. The photographer was to have an eye for what he/she shot: what’s the context, is the placement of the car deliberate, and so on. And ultimately I was looking to see photos that show passion for these beautiful cars, and for the brand.

Royce: In a phrase: “something different”. Naturally any image of consideration needed to meet the basic requirements of focus, exposure and composition, but then what sets a photo apart is uniqueness and creativity in “point of view”, and an overall look that is innovative and compelling. I was also particularly impressed by images that integrated a visual narrative.

Do you have any advice for budding automotive photographers out there?

Royce: Simply, get out there and shoot! Every time one shoots one has the opportunity to see something different, and also become more familiar and intimate with the camera, to the point where the camera becomes an unconscious and fast extension of the photographer’s eye. That only happens with commitment and repeated practice. Digital photography has made photography simultaneously more accessible, less expensive and of higher quality. The only thing holding people back from becoming better photographers is the dedication and discipline photography calls for.

Thank you both, for these insights and for providing the stunning photographs!

Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing.
Mercedes-Benz SL.

And the winners are.

And the winners are: Rashid Shahid, Jan. J. Freiberger, Siow Yih Teo, Marco Chiapponi, Lorenz Weibler & Angela Marie Koch, Nasser Jafarzadeh, Mario Schmidt, Alexander Jacobi, Johann Hinrichs, Frank Croes, Brett Devine, Kostas Koufogiorgos. Have a look at the winning photographs here.

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