Photographer's Perspective

Photographer’s Perspective: A P1 in Death Valley

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By Gil Folk, Folk|Photography

I do quite a few photoshoots each year, but it seems that every year, there’s one “destination” style photoshoot in which I travel to some iconic location to photograph a legendary car.  In 2012, it was the Ferrari F40 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.  In 2013, it was the Ferrari 458 Spider in San Francisco, California.  In 2014 it was the Porsche 959 in the forest just outside Santa Cruz, California.

(See Also: 458 Speciale, 911 GT3 and 12C by Brian Rozar)

For 2015, not even a month into the new year, I photographed a McLaren P1 in Death Valley.  This was a car I had been wanting to photograph for a very, very long time, and to do so in one of the most mesmerizing and photogenic locations in the United States was an opportunity that will never be forgotten.   The combination of car and location looked like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

We drove to Death Valley on a Saturday in our support vehicle, arriving around 3 pm.  Several hours passed as we scouted for locations, marking potential places on our GPS.  Soon after, the sun had set.  We grabbed dinner and finally received a text from a transporter that the P1 had arrived.  It was just past 8 pm when the car was unloaded.  The sky was clear and shined brightly as an array of stars and a full moon lit up the stark desert floor.


Certain angles and curves were accented as the metallic finish of the Volcano Orange paint glistened in the moonshine of the night; the McLaren P1 looked like a UFO as its low-slung stance crept through the valley to our first photo location – Devil’s Cornfield.  The full moon and dazzling display of stars made for great conditions for night shots of the P1.  Every angle of this car under the light of the moon made me weak in the knees.  We wrapped up our night shoot just after 10pm and headed back to our hotel.  We needed rest as the following day would be a long and exhausting one,  a full day of shooting starting at sunrise.

Five hours of sleep was all that we managed before we had to pack up and head out to catch the sunrise in Death Valley.  We took the P1 to Badwater Basin, about 17 miles outside of Furnace Creek, to conduct our sunrise shoot.  We positioned the car on the road, mile-marker 16 to be exact, and set up as the sky turned from black to magenta as the sun began to rise.


Not a sound could be heard except for the flash of my strobe and the release of my shutter.  It was eerie how quiet it was that morning.  I guess that’s all part of the mystique that Death Valley has to offer.  About an hour later, the sun had risen and we headed back to get some breakfast and plan out the rest of our day.

We stopped at Devil’s Cornfield again to grab some day-time shots.  Miscellaneous photo locations presented themselves to us as we drove the P1 through the desert.  Everywhere we went people looked, waved and stopped to get a glance of this foreign creature of a car.

One of the main goals of this photo trip was to get shots of the P1 on Artist’s Drive during the late afternoon and sunset.  Artist’s Drive is a one-way road that twists and winds its way through Artist’s Canyon.  It truly looks like you’re on a different planet when you navigate through the mountainous landscape.  With our support truck behind us to keep traffic at bay, we headed into the canyon at around 3 pm.


For the next 90 minutes, we scrambled to get as many photos as possible; the location and car were so photogenic, it was damn near impossible not to get a good photo.  We hit the highway again at around 6 pm to get some last minute sunset photos before loading the P1 back into the transporter and saying goodbye.  We were exhausted, filthy and worn out, but overjoyed with our results.

The day after was spent driving back home and talking about our photo trip and our time with P1.  It’s an incredible car, and one that truly redefines the supercar, just like Ferrari did with the F40 back in 1987.  The P1 will be an icon for as long as the automobile lives – a new footprint in the evolution of the automotive industry.

The P1 has made me think twice about this hybrid technology in a supercar.  It’s like nothing else out there.  I cannot wait for many more photoshoots with the P1 in the future.  Until then, enjoy the photos from our time in Death Valley.

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