It was a dark and still summer night. The sky was black and the air was sweet. The suburb of Langford was enveloped in peace, with no living souls on the streets except for those coming home from late shifts and the odd taxi here and there delivering weary party-goers to their waiting beds. Under a thick blanket of stars, a small group converged at the doughnut shop with a clear and collective purpose. Something extraordinary was about to happen…
This day had been in the plans for months now. I knew we had to get up at 3:45 a.m. to make it down to the rendezvous point where everything would start to happen. As the seconds ticked by, I struggled to get to sleep. With only 2 hours until the alarm was set to go off, my mind ran back and forth over all the finer details. Angles, perspectives, what lens to use… questions raced through my mind, questions I’ve pondered and asked a thousand times before. Yet all of a sudden, all of the previous answers seemed to lack finality, requiring me to revisit the entire plan looking for anything critical that might have been missed. I knew it was going to be a highly dynamic situation with the light changing by the moment. I also knew we were going to get only one chance at this to do it right.
Thus began one of the most exciting photoshoots I’ve ever had the pleasure of performing.
I’d like to introduce you to “Blue Jet”, a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport Coupe. Packing a formidable 6.2L LS3 with 436hp and 434 ft-lbs of torque, this car can run with the best. The very best and brightest engineers working at Chevrolet have put everything they have into this platform design, creating a car that is just as much at home eating up the laps and winning races on the track as it is rolling up to the finest restaurant or night club. This ability to straddle both worlds, and to do the job very well, is a real hallmark of the Corvette brand.
As the sun rises, the situation changes very quickly. After arriving in the city center shortly after 5:00 a.m., I quickly set up to take advantage of the light around us. The first few shots required super-long exposure times, reaching upwards of over 2 1/2 minutes for the +2 brackets. Traffic was nothing like it would become as the day began to unfold, but it wasn’t completely quiet in town. More than once a bracket in the process of being shot had to be tossed due to a car or pedestrian making their way into the frame. You really feel a sense of urgency as literally every 5 minutes the entire scene appears to be painted in differing tones.
Of course, having such a beautiful subject to work with helps. During my planning phase, I knew the results were going to be just breathtaking, but only when we were post-processing all the shots in the digital darkroom did the full extent of this concept really hit home. I have to admit it here, these are some of my favorite images. Ever.
As the blue hour gave way to the golden hour, the scene changed around us. The blue tones in the car really began to pop. The wonderful lines in this gorgeous car begin to emerge, as do the fabulous light reflections caught in the paint. The fountain serving as the backdrop to our scene adds a touch of nostalgia and interest, and the neon colors used to light the fountain accent everything with a touch of color.
It was the picture-perfect setting for a picture-perfect car.
If there was ever a danger of receiving a speeding ticket while standing still, Blue Jet here would definitely be a candidate! Looking mighty formidable and serious with its wide stance and strong fascia, this car means absolute business, moving or parked.
The Grand Sport package features all the ride and appearance details of the Z06, including wider wheels, fender flares, the now famous hood scoop in the front as well as the functional brake cooling ducts. The flowing lines of the car find themselves emulating the elegance that is found in the natural world around us, mirroring a sense of beauty vs. power. As gorgeous as the flowers that decorate the fountain truly are, there is no mistaking who is the real star of this scene.
Fountain Diner makes for the perfect backdrop in this shot, adding further to the feeling of nostalgia that has so long been a part of Chevrolet muscle cars. The bright neon signs seem to blend perfectly with the deep metallic blue finish found on the car itself. Once again, we find that light and shadows intermingle here to bring a touch of drama, as well as to highlight certain lines and edges. The shutter speeds had dropped dramatically by this point in the morning, now requiring around 8 seconds on the +2 brackets. This made for a much easier time shooting as it reduced the odds of encountering obstacles or interruptions during the shoot.
The exquisite contours of the car are really front and centre here. They create long, fluid lines that draw the eye naturally across the vehicle, much like brush strokes in a fine painting. Again as the sun further rises, we find the hues in the blue paint take on a life of their own as more and more golden light drapes across the city.
This is undoubtedly the view that most who come across this car are accustomed to. The dual-mode exhaust system brings two distinctive characters to bear upon the scene; one that is timid and is at home making its way to and from the grocery store, and one that shouts at the very top of its lungs that it’s a true champion and not to be trifled with. Gentle sweeping lines across the back present a distinctive character, one that is definitely unique to Corvette.
As the light made its way across the central court, compositions and photo opportunities revealed themselves from all angles. For a car that sports such striking beauty, it’s really amazing to consider that it is just as much at home in getting the commuter to and from work on busy city streets as it is on the track running flat-out. These cars are remarkably reliable and in all actuality get surprisingly good gas mileage due to their lightweight nature and design.
Sweet and low are the words of the day here. The quad tipped exhaust pipes further remind those traveling behind this beauty who is truly in charge at the moment. One of my personal favorite parts of the Corvette are the tail lights… even our 1987 Corvette Roadster sports the same lights. This continuation of certain nostalgic elements of design fosters the strong sense of dedication and pride that most Corvette owners seem to possess.
As light and shadow compete for the stage, the sun is now just above the horizon and is creating its own unique elements that produce an ever-changing scene. Shutter speeds are now much more normal, and I found that during our post-processing phase I had to constantly change tactics to deal with the water fountain to make it look the way it does to the naked eye.
Light was glinting off almost all of the surfaces of the car, bedazzling it in shimmering jewels like a beauty queen proudly sporting her shiny tiara. We couldn’t help but feel that we were a part of something special this day, that we had managed to capture a few moments that belonged to us alone.
The Grand Sport moniker is a storied one with its history rooted in the racing heritage that helps create the reputation that Corvette has on the track. This Wikipedia article states:
In 1962 Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov initiated a program to produce a lightweight version based on a prototype that mirrored the new 1963 Corvette. Concerned about Ford and what they were doing with the Shelby Cobra, Duntov’s program included plans to build 125 Grand Sport Corvettes to make them eligible for international Grand Touring races. After the GM executives learned of the secret project, the program was stopped, and only five cars were built. All five cars have survived and are in private collections. They are among the most coveted and valuable Corvettes ever built, not because of what they accomplished, but because of what might have been.
The cars were driven by famed contemporary race drivers such as Roger Penske, A.J. Foyt, Jim Hall, and Dick Guldstrand among others. Dick Thompson was the first driver to win a race in the Grand Sport. He won a 1963 Sports Car Club of America race at Watkins Glen on August 24, 1963 driving Grand Sport 004.
This is a mighty rich pedigree, well deserving of the respect it merits. Even today, the Grand Sport name is spoken in a hush amongst circles of car enthusiasts, almost as if they are talking about a sighting of a fabled unicorn.
The cockpit is where all the business decisions are made. The short-throw shifter affixed to the 6-speed transmission makes for easy shifting for the pilot with a quick flick of the wrist. This is a highly responsive environment, one where the driver is in firm control of all aspects at all times.
This is one of my personal favorite photos of the day. The two-tone leather seats make for a perfect cradle for the driver, keeping you firmly planted in the seat as the car performs its spirited duties. The Grand Sport logo is exquisitely embroidered onto the headrests giving a personalized touch to a beautiful interior. If you look closely, you can also see the Corvette logo on a ball cap sitting in the back area of the car.
The perfect balance of class and distinction vs. power and prowess comes to a point here. The quad exhaust ports deliver dulcet tones as you make your way around the city, but when pressure is applied to the gas pedal that all changes as the car roars to life producing sounds that only a finely tuned V8 performance engine can. It’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and will elicit howls of excitement you didn’t even know you had buried deep inside you.
The tail lights are an icon of the Corvette, maintaining an anchor to its design history with this familiar view. Very few changes have occurred in the design over the years, mostly just focused on subtle changes to the lines to create the contemporary look that everyone has become accustomed to.
As we wrap up this feature of Blue Jet today with this final image, we can honestly say we had a great time being involved in this project. Our love for everything mechanical runs deep here at Toad Hollow Photography, and we can’t help but take pause when something truly special and unique crosses our path. This car has the ability to generate excitement whether you are driving it, watching it move gracefully or just admiring it parked. The quickening of the heartbeat, the sweat forming in the palms of the hands… these are all signs we stand in the presence of greatness, and these are all signs that we are truly alive. What a great way to celebrate this.
We really do love to photograph anything mechanical; cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats… there isn’t anything we don’t love and admire. If you’re interested, please see our Automotive Photography page here on our site, and please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your specific requirements. If your needs fall outside our packages offerings, we’re all too happy to create a personalized quote for you so please feel free to call (250) 510-7693 or email us at [email protected].
To see the entire collection of 35 HDR images of Blue Jet, please visit our gallery “Blue Jet – 2011 Corvette Grand Sport“.