For those of you following my escapades, a short while ago I drove Matt Farah's Million Mile Lexus LS400 from New Jersey To Los Angeles. Here's a secret: Driving through most of America can get mind-numbingly boring. Here's how to take some great pictures in the meantime and curb the monotony.

What You'll Need:

  • DSLR Camera or Micro 4/3 mirrorless Camera with wide-angle lens
  • Sturdy suction mount
  • Intervalometer or WiFi capability on the camera (for remote shutter operation)

Procedure:

First, you'll need to set everything up beforehand. Camera equipment can be cumbersome and finicky. Don't be a dummy and fiddle around with settings while driving.

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If your car has a sunroof, this is a great place to place your mount for a panoramic "POV" shot. If not, you can use a back window, or side window. Here's how I set up my mount. I'm using a Canon 6D camera with battery grip and Rokinon 14mm wide angle lens.

If you have a WiFi preview feature, you can use this to set up the shot without having to get in the backseat and fiddle around with upside-down controls. If not, just set up the framing the best way you can. I made sure that the A-pillars of the car were symmetrical in the corners of the frame, with the camera looking more towards the dashboard, as I wanted a more top-down view of the road.

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Next, you'll need to put your camera into Manual mode, where you have full control of all settings.

If you're shooting during a sunny day like I was, put your ISO as low as possible (100), and set your aperture, or f-stop to the lowest that you can without having a shallow depth of field. My lens, at f/2.8 is quite sharp, so I went with that. I'd recommend having as much light as possible enter the lens to start off, so you get a good base shot.

Meter the shot (by half pressing the shutter button on the camera or intervalometer) and set the exposure you want.

If you do it this way, you'll likely have a high shutter speed, producing a sharp, still picture, but without any real sense of motion, like this one I took in Rocky Mountain State Park:

If you want a more dramatic motion blur effect, you'll have to increase the exposure time, and to guard against the picture being too overexposed, drop down the aperture to something like f/10 or f/11, checking that everything is still in focus. Now you should have a good half-second or more of exposure, which can provide some cool results:

I toned the exposure back, both to give a more realistic sense of speed and to give the surrounding area more detail:

You can also toy around with different angles, mounting it on top of the car, or on a different window. If you have another person handy, they can take the same basic settings and take a shot from their perspective:

When editing, make sure to flip the pictures 180 degrees, because they'll all be upside down - which will be readily apparent when you look through the files anyway.

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Again, this is all about experimentation. If you're driving across the country, you'll have nearly countless hours to hone your skills and take some awesome pictures. If you'd like to check out more of my stuff in particular, or ask any questions about your setup and brainstorm on a shoot, feel free to head over to my Facebook page for photography.


Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.

You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He won't mind.