Our Favourite Photographers of 2016

Aston Martin Vulcan

We all love cars. They’re the reason you’re here and reading this now. We love them for their mechanical mastery and artistry, and when we can’t get up close and personal with them, we rely on photos to get our fix. Thankfully for social media, and Instagram in particular, we have 24/7 access to an ongoing gallery from the most creative photographers around the world – and many of them are right up here, in the Great White North.

Anyone can take a picture, but with a talented individual pressing the shutter button and manipulating those RAW image files, we get a glimpse into their world – their ideal perception of the car in its environment. It was famed photographer Arnold Newmand who said, “Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world.”

As an automotive and motorsport photographer myself, I’m not only looking to create and capture that perfect moment in time, but I’m constantly looking toward my peers to get a glimpse inside of their worlds as well. Within Canada, there are some truly inspiring talents.

So, to celebrate World Photo Day, (and building on last year’s photography showcase), here is a list of six Canadian automotive photographers who have made waves in 2016.

Perhaps it will introduce you to some new talent in our great land, and even inspire you to capture the essence of the automobile, and showcase your new skills on your own timeline!

Zach Brehl (@zachbrehl)

Aston Martin Vulcan

Toronto’s Zach Brehl is considered by many to be the ultimate car spotter, though his talents and portfolio show much more than that. His over 50,000 followers are evidence of the population’s love for his work, but it’s his technical talents in the field that really shine through for me.

See, though many of his shoots are set up with various automotive and aftermarket clients, a lot of Brehl’s shots are done guerrilla-style, with just his camera and lens. Still, he manages to make each shot look immaculately clean, with brilliant colours and fantastic subject/background isolation.

For set shoots, his access to cars is also second to none – 458 Specialés, Aventador Roadsters, GT3 RSs, and McLaren 650s seem to be the norm. If that doesn’t impress you enough, visit his profile to see his private shoot of the 1-of-24 Aston Martin Vulcan on a backcountry road, or his exclusive tour of the Koenigsegg factory in Sweden earlier this year. It’s a constant stream of automotive’s finest – and in their real-world elements, Brehl more than does each of them justice.

Koenigsegg CCXR

Zach’s approach is clean and straightforward: a “healthy” histogram, some wheel and body masking, and minor cloning to remove distracting objects. This allows the natural beauty of the cars speak for themselves. Keep it simple, kids.

JL’s favourite works of 2016

Aston Martin Vulcan, Koenigsegg factory tour

Essential gear

Nikon D800, Nikkor 16-35 mm f/4, Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 ART, Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 II, Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8

Ivan Novotny (@ivannovotnydesign)

SVRA 2016 Spring Vintage Classic-02

As a motorsport photographer, I can appreciate the talent it takes to capturing the peak and fleeting moment of a split second in time. The impressive thing about Ivan is that he does it effortlessly, and in his off-time. A graphic designer by trade, he cut his teeth in the analogue days of sketching and paste-up boards. Behind the lens, his visual experience and prowess is evident.

Novotny’s colours and compositions are built around creating a story and capturing the soul of the driver and/or racecar in question. You can find his perspective through the gaps of a guardrail, shooting up a hill and into the sky, or peeking between the crowds of people swarming pit lane. Whether it’s raw speed, isolation down the back straight, or teamwork in pit lane, you’ll feel what Novotny sees in that very brief moment.

As added motivation for newcomers to motorsport photography, Ivan’s kit is admittedly quite affordable compared to many of his peers around the circuit.

Honda Indy Toronto

Paired with his compositions, Novotny is not afraid to push the visual boundaries of colour, saturation, black/white tones, and temperatures. Using his own unique set of Lightroom colour and tonal profiles, many of his scenes take on a cinematic perspective to bring the viewer even further into the scene and keep them looking longer.

On top of his understanding of light capture, Novotny’s trained eye has lent itself to a number of major motorsport design projects, including the new logo for Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Mosport), brand development for CRP Racing, a special run of limited-edition prints for former Corvette driver Ron Fellows, and the logo design for the Michelin Corvette Challenge spec-racing series, all under Novotny’s professional moniker, The Color of Victory, and Ivan Novotny Design, Inc.

JL’s favourite works of 2016

Spring Vintage Classic, Honda Indy Toronto

Essential gear

Nikon D7200, Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 DC ART, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4G, Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8G VR II, Manfrotto 680B monopod, UV & ND filters

Ste Ho (@stehoCA)

Lamborghini Huracan

Returning from last year’s autoTRADER.ca list, commercial photographer Ste Ho has become a mainstay amongst Canada’s automotive photography elite because of his innate skill and keen eye for producing world-class work. His expertise in still and rig shots has led to repeat customers including Audi, Toyota and Lexus, along with impressive projects showcasing Lamborghini and the Nissan Motorsport Always Evolving GTR.

I had the pleasure of helping Ste during a shoot earlier this year and was able to see his acute attention to detail, from the macro (close up) shot all the way out to the wide angle. He sees it all, all at once.

What impresses me most about Ste is that, while he is clearly technically proficient at stills, he is able to translate that vision to rig shooting. Look at his on-track work with the Audi R8, Lexus trio, or NISMO GTR GT3 cars, and his compositions give equal attention to the appearance of the backgrounds just as much as the cars.

Toyota Camry SE

His Photoshop work is also impeccable. Many of his shots are taken at unique, carefully scouted locations, but unless you know, Ste can also be a master of manipulation. That beautiful forest background? The city in the distance? They may be real, or they may be Ste’s illusion to bring the car into an alternate, heightened sense of reality. The best thing is, you can never tell.

JL’s favourite works of 2016

Lamborghini Huracan, Toyota Camry SE

Essential gear

Sony A7R, Zeiss 24-70 mm FE f/4, Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod, Westcott Icelight, Custom 7.5m carbon fiber automotive rig

Matt Berenz (@matt_pfafftuning)

Pagani Zonda R

The social media and content specialist for Pfaff Automotive, Berenz has the unique position of being part of one of Canada’s most successful dealership groups, and even more so, having access to some of the finest cars that the world – let alone our country – has ever seen. Fortunate for us viewers, he also possesses a unique talent behind the lens.

While he may not be snapping photos full-time, Berenz has undoubtedly shot some of my personal favourites of 2016. The bare-carbon Pagani Zonda R and the Huayra BC (the first of 20 to be made), to be specific.

The latter was shot in Pfaff’s all-black studio, and is a perfect example of why Berenz is on this list. Going through his photos of the Huayra BC, it’s evident he has an understanding of lighting – considered a black art for many photographers. Each curve is accentuated and highlighted as it should be, and even more difficult, he was able to separate the black carbon tub and bodywork distinctly from the black studio background.

Pagani Huayra BC

In my humble opinion, his side profile photo of the Huayra BC (shown here) opened up should be on the wall of every exotic car enthusiast, young and old. It’s pure poster material.

We can only wait with anticipation what the remainder of 2016 has in store for Pfaff and its media guru.

JL’s favourite works of 2016

Pagani Huayra BC, Pagani Zonda R

Essential gear

Canon 6D, Canon 24-105 mm f/4, tripod, LED light

George Bucur (@gbphotog)

Brixton Forged x Varis BMW M4

Toronto-based George Bucur has had a busy year. He’s been honing his talents while working with some of the most exclusive luxury and supercars in the GTA, with special thanks to Tony Bet and his company, Driving Emotions Toronto. From Drake’s brand-new Aventador Roadster, immaculate Rolls-Royces, and the Brixton Forged x Varis wide-body BMW M4, Bucur manages to capture the unique aspects of each of his subjects, with impeccable post-production skills to finish them off.

Using a mix of natural, set, and even artificial (post) lighting and other visual effects, Bucur enhances reality and pushes his work into another dimension by exploring his Lightroom and Photoshop boundaries.

How does he manage to get so much of out his photos and push his shadows and highlights to the limit? By bracketing his shots with the help of a remote and a tripod, Bucur captures multiple exposures (short, middle, and long) to get the most information possible. The short exposures mean darker blacks but also darker whites, the mid shots are traditionally perfect exposures (+/-0), and the bright exposures enable him to get details from the shadows, while also allowing him to pop the whites if he wants. Each of the three (or more) shots are blended carefully in post and tailored to his specific needs.

Drake Lamborghini Aventador Roadster

Finally, if you’ve noticed, his scenes are carefully selected to show off his “diamonds in the rough” – the juxtaposition often helps convey the beauty of the machines he shoots.

His attention to detail results in images that continue to pop with perfection.

JL’s favourite works of 2016

Brixton Forged x Varis BMW M4, Drake Lamborghini Aventador Roadster

Essential gear

Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8, Nikon speedlights, carbon fiber tripod

Nick Busato (@nick.busato)

Mclaren 675LT

I’ve been following Nick’s work since his l’endurance e-magazine days in 2009, and today can happily call him a good friend in this industry. His skill set is obvious from a quick look at his shortest selection of photos.

A former engineering student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Busato built his reputation worldwide on his motorsport photography, focused on fantastic light play and his ability to capture incredibly crisp panning shots at very slow shutter speeds.

Not afraid to shoot into the sun, he took a number of those compositional techniques and moved into a creative partnership with Brian Makse of VVUZZ. Here, Busato showcased his talent even further; his commercial-quality shots contained the perfect amount of magic, but never strayed from simply being incredible photographs.

Then, seemingly without any effort at all, he translated those visuals to the medium of video.

Aston Martin Vulcan

For 2016, Busato stepped away from his full-time lens work for an incredible opportunity as senior graphic designer at Multimatic, Inc., a global (Canadian) engineering supplier and manufacturer of automotive components. It’s also the development and manufacturing home of the new Ford GT supercar race car. Here, Busato has returned to his engineering roots, creating photo-realistic CGI renders of many of the company’s projects, as well as some secret stuff he “just can’t talk about.”

Busato points to CGI as a key component for developing pre-production cars and avoiding those pesky spy test shots that spoil the surprise during the development stage.

Still, when he gets the chance, Nick snaps automotive dessert from Multimatic’s lair, and he’ll even get back to the pavement once in a while to show just how he made a name for himself in the first place.

JL’s favourite works of 2016

McLaren 675LT, Aston Martin Vulcan (CGI)

Essential gear

Always carry a CP filter!

Motorsport: Nikon D3S, Nikkor 500 mm f/4, monopod

Road car: Nikon D810, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.2, tripod

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Jordan Lenssen

Jordan Lenssen

Jordan Lenssen is a Toronto-based editor and photographer specializing in the automotive and motorsport industries.
Jordan Lenssen

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