When writer Kent Black headed to Las Vegas for a 36-hour test drive and My Ford photo shoot in the 2014 Taurus SHO, he anticipated gawkers on the Strip, the adrenaline rush on a track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the twists and turns of nearby Red Rock Canyon. He just didn’t know he’d spend a bit of time in the doghouse, as well.
“I think I was in the car for about 30 hours out of 36,” he says. “I barely got any sleep. On the morning I was supposed to meet Daniel (photographer Daniel Byrne) at Red Rock Canyon, we were supposed to get going at 6 a.m. I overslept and was 40 minutes late.”
All he could think of was how many great shots Daniel may have missed in that 40 minutes of lost early morning light. “I felt like I was late to my graduation.” Black says. “I was a dog with my head to the ground. Daniel may have gotten payback at Red Rock, though. He had me take that car slowly around a certain corner so he could get a shot – and he had me do that about 15 times!”
Daniel got his Red Rock Canyon shots and much more. But each location came with its own particular challenges, he says: “On the Strip, I’d sit cross-legged in the back of a van with the tailgate open, strapped into the vehicle with a harness.” (The harness is bright yellow to make it noticeable to any Las Vegas police officers who just want to make sure the guy with the camera isn’t going to come tumbling out of the van and skidding right into the “Sirens of Treasure Island” live pirate show.)
If you’ve ever driven Las Vegas Boulevard, you’re likely wondering how Daniel finessed that shot of the Taurus pictured alone on the road. With Daniel’s photography assistant driving the van, and Daniel strapped in and ready to shoot, Black following behind them in the Taurus. The trio repeatedly pulled over to the curb to let surrounding traffic go by. “Then we waited for the light to turn red for traffic behind us, and we pulled out and got the shot,” says Black. Do that little shuffle many, many times and you end up with the sweet shot that became the opening spread for the piece.
Compared with the hurry-up-and-wait experience on the Strip, driving the Taurus in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just 17 miles west of Vegas, was a whole different animal, Black says. The 13-mile, two-lane, one-way road runs through the canyon in a loop. Maneuvering the twists and turns on the sparsely traveled route was great fun, and Black ran the loop a number of times in a row. Of course, that meant going past the Bureau of Land Management official at the gate each time—and “getting the stink eye” from him after swooping through the loop in just 11 minutes, Black confesses.
Shooting the Taurus on one of the tracks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway truly tapped Daniel’s photography—and physical—skills. Lying on his stomach in the back of the van, Daniel leaned out and held the camera about six inches off the ground. “I had a big gyro on the bottom of the camera to help keep it steady,” he says, noting that speeds of up to 35 mph were required to create the slightly blurred look on the road that gives the feeling of speed you see in the finished photo.
Of course, Black got to hit the gas a bit more than that for his test runs, reaching about 60 mph. “Only 60?” you ask? The small oval track features a straightaway that lasts for just five to six seconds at that speed, and those curves come at you in a hurry, he says. Head over there and take a spin the next time you’re in Vegas. (The track specializes in bachelor-party groups, by the way.) You’ll quickly see what he means.
At the end of a long day of driving and shooting, “we were exhausted and on sensory overload,” says Black. Time to hit the tables? No thanks. So the team ended up finding “an excellent Thai restaurant, where I taught the bartender how to make a martini,” he says.
Las Vegas mission accomplished.