Cooley On Cars
Insider secrets to taking car photos like a proHow to take great pictures of cars with the camera you already own, demystifying the jargon of modern car design and why cars are getting better gas mileage -- but you don't notice..
-Just a sync and here we go. Take great car photos with your digital camera and these skills. Demystifying the jargon of modern car design and why cars are getting better mileage, but you barely notice. Time to check the tech. We see cars differently. We love 'em on the road and under hood, but also check the tech and are known for telling it like it is. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET on cars. Welcome to CNET on cars I'm Brian Cooley. This is the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. And as you know, one of the best things about being into cars is taking pictures of them if you know what you're doing on. And Michael Alan Ross certainly does. He's one of the preeminent car photographers. You've seen his stuff in a lot of big car magazines. We tagged along to try and pick up some tips we can all use with our digital cameras. A beautiful location, great morning light, and a dove gray Porsche 356 Outlaw. Pretty good toolkit for Michael Alan Ross to use as we do a photo shoot today. I'm here to look over his shoulder for you to find out what technology he uses and more importantly what trips and tricks we can use in the snapshot of cars we take. -The backend of this car is so unique with the lubers on it. -Yeah. -And I just love the way those little red-- you know, those little simple red lights look right now. -So, what I'll do now is I'll do some full shots of the rear of the car. Do it in 2 different angles and then what I'll do is I'll put the long lens on and I'll actually go in and compress all these little images around from the headlights to the tail lamps to the-- -Those are your detailed shots. -to wheels, all my little detailed stuff. Get that out of the way. The interior is absolutely stunning. -So Michael, what are you doing now? What's this-- What's this current kind of shooting at this hour? -You know, in my line of business, you're always dealing with the light, so you have to work when the light is right. And that light is either right first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. -Most people think about a long lens for when they can't get to the subject. You can get right to that car, but you're using a long lens. What's going on? -Yeah. The reason I'm doing that is I'm compressing the car a little bit, compressing the image. It will really bring the focus in on the car and illuminate everything else. It will really make that car pop out 'cause everything else becomes soft and everything else becomes not that important. An automobile is reflective. I wear dark clothing all the time. -You told us as we were coming out of here, no white sneakers, no light clothes. -Please. -They never thought of that. -Everyone goes to like a car event. You know, they're taking pictures of cars. How many times do you try to get rid of that white sneaker you wore or the guy next to you wore? Those khaki shorts. -It's right here in the door, right? -Yeah. A car-- You have to realize you're shooting a big mirror. -Why so many shots? -It gives the art director a little bit of variation. It gives them a much broader scope. I kind of do it the old way. I like to see all the images in small thumbnails on the screen no matter what whether it's digital or film. That is still the same. If it looks good this big, imagine what it's gonna look like when it's big. -So, I'm gonna switch to 70-200 image stabilization lens so that I can utilize this light that we have right now. So, pop this one off first thing I'm gonna do. I hate dusts, so I try to keep my lens down. Even though there's, you know, sensor cleaners here and all that, I still do it the old way. We make sure that the body is open as little as possible. -You're using flash now for the first time today. What are the tricks to make it look good? -Less is more. Direct it another direction. Use it to bounce off of something else. If I had a white card here, I'll bounce the light away from the car into the white and then have that fill the whole thing evenly. You know, most people would put the flash in here, but with this-- I take it up. Not only I take it up, but I'm gonna angle it. If it's too much, I just swing it the other way. -What go guys do all the time? What does any car person do? You know, they-- Oh, let me see-- Look into the hood. How do you make this sexy? That's the thing. -Everything is so precision like in there and I wanna bring that out a little bit and show you how beautifully simple it really is. -I'll do everything nice and crisp and then I will go in and do some shallow depth to field thing. -Works better against the red, I think. -You look for the right car and you look for the right photographer and the right eye. There's just-- There's all those sorts of things that's all the technical and then there's just a feeling and some of that is captured in the moment with good-- with good equipment and a good eye, but also a lot of it is now captured after the fact and post-production. Michael is one of the few who applies treatments that work for me. -It's basically like a chef in a gravy, you know. -You'll show us a few of these steps, but there'll be a few ingredients you leave out. -Of course. -Of course. -I can't give you everything, Brian. You know, it's-- -So typically, what do you do to most shots? -The greatest hits for me in terms of touchup, I usually crop in the camera as much as I possibly can, but a lot of times there are little things that you miss. It's always better to have more and be able to come in-- -Uh-huh. -than to be too tight and then miss something. So, first thing I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna go in and I'm gonna crop this little piece out that I don't like. -Crop. -Yeah, crop. I don't like things that are centered. Your right has to start somewhere. It has to go on a journey. -Uh-huh. -If you start in the middle, where do you go? Let the mind take a little journey and then come back and rest. We're so used to high def television and everything's really popping right now. -Yeah. -So, a lot of times I'll take an image, pump up the blacks a little bit. By pumping up the blacks, we're actually making those other colorful pieces pop out even more. -To contrast. -Exactly. All these little details around the window, that's gonna get a little bit darker. All of a sudden that blue starts to come out a little bit more. -Uh-huh. -Another look it's really popping right now. If it's kind of car has got a little bit of an edge to it, bleach it out. Make it really, really different. Now I've got an attitude there. I've lost the blue line here. I've lost the color, but I've got a real kind of interesting little effect. It's really about the mood. -I've seen you take some shots and kind of just around the perimeter on the very edges kind of bring a little bit of a shadow, a little vignette. -A little vignette. You don't wanna go too far where you'll notice what I did. -Yeah. -I never wanted to do anything that makes it look like, oh, the photographer did this. -Yeah. -I want you to look at the photographer and go, wow, that's cool, and not notice any of that. That's the key to it. Not go too far. -You may not be a pro shooter, but with a few tips from guys like Michael Ross, you can shoot cars like this pretty damn well. And the nice thing about vehicles is that they're the best piece of moving tech we encounter everyday. Of course, nobody likes to get into an accident. But it's even worse when the whole thing's a scam. Detecting when that's the case and using a little personal tech to stick it to the scammer's networks and that's of interest to the smarter driver. Nobody likes getting into a car accident unless you do it for a living. -Well, schemers do cause an accident with an innocent person and make it that innocent person's fault. Simplest scheme is to pull in front of an intersecting driver and slam on your brakes. Any vehicle that they know is gonna have insurance. Our partners at State Farm say FBI figures indicate these crooked collisions cost insurance company some $20 billion a year and you know who ends up paying that. Now, staged accidents start off looking like accident accidents. But here are some red flags to keep an eye out for that make all the difference. Everyone in the other car complains of neck and back pain even though the collision was minor. Lots of witnesses come forward at the accident scene right after it happens. Those could be plants. The driver of the other vehicle offers to find you a great repair shop, doctor, or lawyer. Now, avoiding a staged accident is a lot like avoiding an accident with a particular emphasis on space around you. You know, the scammers will try stuff that involves being close. They'll come up right behind you. They'll come right in front of you and jam their brakes on. Or they'll wave you in for a lane change and then come right in and clip 'ya and then it's all to the insurance claim. Luckily, personal technology, mobile devices can really help you in the event of and right after a staged accident. Use your smartphone to take lots of photos of the car damage. Licensed plates, insurance card and IDs, even the other parties. You've got a panoramic photo feature, use it to document the entire scene. Sketch out what happened while it's fresh in your mind or use an app like State Farm has where you can enter the accident report digitally right then. And consider installing a drive cam in your car that always records a few seconds before, during, and after an accident impact. Coming up, translating all that body shop jargon into something that makes sense as CNET on cars rolls on. Welcome back to CNET on cars coming to you from our home here at the Marine Clubhouse of Cars [unk] just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. You know, modern automotive styling has given rise to a lot of jargon around the different names for parts of a car. And yes, your e-mails are correct. We occasionally use that jargon without explaining it. So, let me make amends now with a very good car tip 101 for every driver. The names of the parts of your car's body. First, the basic body styles. A sedan is a 4 door. A coupe is a 2 door. Convertible can be converted from closed to open regardless of the number of doors. A station wagon is a sedan with a rear box, but there have also been 2-door wagons. And a hard top is a 4 door with no center pillar, but it's sort of an archaic term. Now, the fender, hood, bumper, cover, grill (if your car has one) combined together are called the front clip. I've heard a lot of explanations for the term. None of them make sense. Fender used to mean the kind of outboard fenders you imagine on a vintage car. They originally were there to keep stuff from flying off the tires into your face. On modern cars, the fender of course is integrated. It's this whole piece of sheath metal at the left and right front corners, but it is detachable. Just after this whole front clip stuff is something called the cowl. This is very deceptively subtle. A whole lot of the proportions of your entire car are determined by this top of the firewall. Any given 2 door, 4 door, convertible, and wagon of the same model car will typically share a cowl and get much of their family identity from it. Now, as you come around from the cowl, you get what's called the greenhouse. That's all these stuff up here; your glass and your roof, everything above the beltline which is this line along the bottom of the side glass. The greenhouse is held up by pillars and you letter 'em going back; A, B, C. And if you've got a wagon or an SUV, you might have a D. By the way, if the C pillar or the last pillar is really huge, it's called the sail panel. At the rear of the car is the quarter panel. Unless you drive a model T, you don't have rear fenders. You have quarter panels. Quarter panels are analogous to front fenders. See, you serve a similar purpose with one big difference. They're integral to the body's shell. They don't come off unless you've got a torch. By the way, this piece of glass over here, most folks call that the back window. Technically, it's the backlight because it's not a moveable window at all unless you're driving a mid 60s Mercury with the breezeway option. That was cool. -In the rain, the rear window shines. Sun worn, the styling shapes the backseat. -A vehicle's wheelbase is the distance between the wheels on the side of the car measured at the hub centers. Go the other way. Measure left to right and that's your track. It's like 2 feet on this Fiat. But on most cars, wider is considered better. -Wider is better. -This piece of body work underneath the door shut line between the wheels, that's your rocker panel. Carry that line farther out beyond the wheels and those are your overhangs. Now you know the names of your car's anatomical parts. Helps you in a lot of ways as you watch and read reviews. And it also helps you decode what the body shop guy's talking about when he does your estimate. Coming up, cars get better mpg today. We'll run down 5 top technologies you can thank for that as CNET on cars rolls on. This car was a star. 1955 and the Lincoln Futura is the talk of the car show circuit. From there, a lead role in It Started with a Kiss-- -Oh, it's the most beautiful car in the world. -as Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford-- -[unk] -tour around in the Futura incongruously in the Spanish countryside while La Gente go absolutely nuts. Later, the car is sold by Ford to Customer Car God George Barris and he turns it into the bat mobile in 1966. -To the Bat Mobile, let's go. -Today, it's retired in the Caymans looking fresher than most of the human stars of its day. You know, an MIT study a few years ago indicates that cars on average use about 20% less fuel than they did in 1980. Pretty impressive number. Now, performance and weight have gone up much more than that, but that's another story. Here's the top 5 list of the most important technologies that mean our cars use less fuel today than they did a couple decades ago even if not as much less as we'd like. Number 5, a multistage oil pump. Total savings: about 1%. Yeah, and we're starting small here. The idea here is an oil pump that only pumps as much oil as the engine needs. Radical idea because most oil pumps today are dumb and they just pump more oil as the engine revs higher, not as it needs more oil and lubrication. The upside here is the engine spends less time turning all the load against the pump and more of its fuel moving your car down the road, which is what you wanted to do. Number 4, CVTs and DCTs. 6 to 7 percent improvement. Continuously variable transmission (that's the first one) and dual clutch transmission (that's the second one) have become much more common lately. The former saves fuel by keeping the engine running at the perfect sweet spot. The latter by always having a lock engagement of the gears like a manual transmission because it is. It just does the shifting for you. Number 3, active cylinder management. About 7.5% improvement. You may have a 6 or a V8 in your car, but that doesn't mean you need one all the time. Engines with active cylinder management can shut down, say, half their cylinders when not needed. It's not a new technology, but now it works so seamlessly you won't even know it's happening. And if it sounds wimpy and green, know that it's standard on the new corvette stingray for example. That's part of how it does 455 horsepower and 29 mpg on the highway. Number 2, brake regeneration. About an 8% savings. Hybrids have always done this, but they no longer own the technology. Many conventional gas engine, BMWs for example, today recharge their battery by harnessing the kinetic energy of the car when it's coasting or breaking instead of always driving this draggy alternator with a belt. Less drag on the engine means better efficiency. Before I get to the number 1-- and wow, what an improvement it makes-- I just know you're adding up all these numbers in your head say, hey, Cooley, if these numbers are right, cars would be getting an average of 50 mpg right about now. Well, here's the problem. We prefer comfort, safety, and speed to go with our fuel efficiency. An MIT survey found that between 1980 and 2006, mpg went up 15% on average, but at the same time car's average weight went up 26%. And performance? 107%. Had those last two numbers sat still, mpg would have been up a giant 60%. And yep, we'd be averaging somewhere close to 50 in most cars. Okay. Our number 1 fuel saving technology, it's really gaining some traction lately, is clean diesel. This is the big one. 30 to 35 percent more efficient. Diesel engines get a lot more energy out of each drop of fuel largely thanks to the fact that they compress it more for a bigger bang. No other technology has such as huge delta. The downside, Americans hate diesels. We still think that they are slow, stinky, loud, and smokey. I've driven a lot of the latest ones. They are none of those things and you probably still don't care. I hope you enjoyed the show and thanks for watching. If you have questions or suggestions, send them to me on firstname.lastname@example.org. And for show links or past episodes, it's cnetoncars.com. see you next time when we check the tech.