One afternoon, I got a text message from my friend David, asking for a hand with a photoshoot he was about to do. I was curious, but I wanted to know the details. It was going to take place on Monday, July 28th in Larkspur, CA, at the ungodly hour of 5AM. This would mean I would have to drive for two hours that morning to get to Larkspur, effectively starting my day at 3AM, and most likely cutting into my workday significantly. It did not sound like a good idea at all. Until David told me what we are shooting - the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO of proud owner Tom Price. All hesitation on my side vanished instantly.
First, a little bit of background. The Bay Area Ferrari Owners' Group (FOG) had been interested in doing a shoot of this prized 250 GTO for months. FOG had reached out to Tom Price many times, but time with the vehicle was all booked up, as it was flown out to showings, auctions, and track events. Finally, on a day in late July, the vehicle would be resting at home in Larkspur and FOG would get a chance to photograph it for its magazine publishing. To perform the demanding task of capturing this timeless classic in all its glory, FOG contacted one of their usual suspects, David Bush. David is by no means a stranger to car photography. Capturing sheetmetal is David's main gig: http://davidbushphoto.com/
Fast forward to the day of, at 4:55AM on July 28th, David and I arrived at the scene. A quiet, foggy, and tranquil drive across the Golden Gate had brought us to Tom Price's collection depot, on the beautiful shore of Larkspur. Inside, lay a vast stable ranging from two small Alfa Romeo GTVs, a tiny WWI era VW film delivery truck, and all the way to 10-litre engine behemoths.
Tom's assistant mechanic, Lee, greeted us at the gate. He showed us onto the property and let us look around, so that David could pick the spot where the GTO would be positioned. After one glance, David was sold on a spot of pavement with a rock cliff face as the backdrop. The sun was about to appear on the horizon, so David suggested we get everything in position fast before it rose up overhead. The advantages of shooting at dawn, you may ask (as I did that day)? Soft shadows or none at all, minimal reflections, and the ability to use synthetic light sources to light paint.
To get the GTO to the location of the shoot, Lee moved a late-1960's Camaro out of the way at the garage entrance. The American classic roared awake angrily as it was shaken up from a cold sleep at this forsaken hour. The note of the Camaro was an unrefined, raw, metallic burble. Quite loud, a true muscle car sound. Then came the 250 GTO. The contrast could not have been starker (except maybe the hum of a Nissan Leaf). The GTO let out a refined, tuned tone resembling the harmonic noises of a precise, calibrated printing press. It hissed as much as it purred out of its quad exhausts.
The mechanical sound emanating from the cold engine just behind the front axle was almost as prominent as the hot air gushing out the back. All of these sounds were quite mechanical, and that of a naturally breathing, naturally spinning machine without the presence of forced air wheezing or throttle blipping pops formed by the unnecessary ignition of unburned fuel solely for aesthetic purposes. This sound was pure. One could not ask for anything truer than the song of these 12 cylinders collectively contributing, with each of their 250cc's perfectly in tune with the rest (summing up, of course, to a perfect 3.0 litres).
Once in place, this crimson beauty sat motionless as Lee started more than an hour of highly detailed polishing. This beauty had to be captured in all of its beauty, and Lee was going to make sure of that. The car had bugs splattered on it, dirt splashed up on the fenders, and even some dust had gotten sucked up in the headlight enclosures. How, you ask? Racing, of course. Its owner, Mr Price, apparently takes this set of ponies out to the track on a regular basis.
As the sun rose, and more and more of the GTO had been rendered spotless, the paint began to sparkle and David continued to work from all angles. Lee repositioned the 250 GTO for the camera a few times, to get every body curve in the best possible light and optimal reflections. David would look for a good angle on the car, then move about 30 to 50 feet away and set his camera down. Once in position, he would ask yours truly to hold a strobing light at various angles to the body. Each flash of the strobe would induce a unique highlight on the seemingly infinite number of curves on the GTO.
No body panel, wheel, air intake, or interior piece went unphotographed. This was one rare chance to lay eyes on the classic, and David took full advantage. When time came for the interior, and the doors opened to the world inside the cockpit, it was quite a paradox. What looked like a meticulously sculpted work of art on the outside, was rather utilitarian and bare inside. This car was a racer afterall. Not only was, still is. From the bucket seats to the roll cage, from the racing harnesses to the pressure gauges - this cockpit was all function without the frills. Anything that might add extra weight or otherwise interfere with the racing function of this vehicle, was long gone.
Eventually, as the sun rose and the day progressed closer to noon, David had fairly exhaustively captured the famed Ferrari from all angles sufficiently. To a camera, any more shots would be redundant. To the reader of the FOG magazine these photos would end up in, any additional pages filled with various angles of this fine Italian would seem superfluous. But in person, to a viewer with his naked eyes, the thirst for looking at this creation was insatiable. Few cars, if any, have been so well proportionately put together as this.
As the clock approached noon, our time with her had come to an end. All time could afford us was one last shot at the garage entrance, whereafter this beauty would once again rejoin its brothers and sisters, to be preserved in time at the stable in Larkspur.