Home » Feature » The secrets of the best Auto Photographers in the world (1): Nate Hassler

The secrets of the best Auto Photographers in the world (1): Nate Hassler

We start today a series of articles about the best auto photographers. We like cars. A lot! Because if we wouldn’t love them, we wouldn’t be out here. We all had a wallpaper, a poster or a photo of a supercar that we’ve admired for hours or decorated the walls of the childhood room. Even today, a good photo of a car has the gift to make us stop and admire.

© Nate Hassler

© Nate Hassler

But few of us realize what is behind those photos. Hours of work spent on creation process. Other hours to edit. For many of us, photography means a push of a camera button. But in reality it is not. Car photography means hard work under difficult times, always under stress’ deadline. The equipment of a modern car photographer involves bulky luggage, big money and vast editing knowledge. But ultimately the result justifies the sacrifice.

We begin today a series of articles dedicated to the best auto photographers in the world. The ones that are spoken less, but the ones that create images we watch with eyes wide open when a new car is launched. Some already have superstar status and agendas filled with supercars photo session, image production for advertising campaigns and other shiny things. Others are trying to make a name in a highly competitive field where it is not difficult to enter, but much harder to maintain a certain level of quality.

NATE HASSLER: from Portland to Los Angeles

We start with a North American artist, Nate Hassler. Nate is a photographer who lives and works on the west coast of the United States, in Los Angeles, a city which also gathers the cream of the specialized auto photographers in the United States. More precise, Nate lives in Venice Beach, an area to which, he says, his style fits perfectly with the “weird and funky.” Nate Hassler originates from Portland, Oregon, but chose to move to California in 2009, as his career stagnate in his hometown.

Nate Hassler and the magazine in which he debuted as a photographer, Super Street.

Nate Hassler and the magazine in which he debuted as a photographer, Super Street.

I was accused of too many of my photo galleries occur on the beach. But I love this type of photography and I will continue to do that.

His first pictures with cars were produced in 2007. Nate worked with his father in its studio and wanted to photograph a Honda that he personally modified. As he says, his first photos are not the best, but the “love” sent from those the honda-tech forum, where he displayed those images, were motivational enough to improve. The photographed model was a 1998 Honda Civic CX, a car that has been modified to be transformed into a pseudo Civic Type-R. It was the first car owned by Nate Hassler and he really wanted a Type-R, but in United States the only Honda Type-R officially imported was Integra.

Nothing motivates more than the friends’ “praises” on the forum. Nothing is better than a critiques cure to truly light up desire and passion.

Nate's first photo shoot: his own 1998 Honda Civic CX. © Nate Hassler

Nate’s first photo shoot: his own 1998 Honda Civic CX. © Nate Hassler

Nate Hassler has evolved much from those first images with the modified Honda. “It’s a combination between creative and technical. When it is needed and I have to shoot a car in the studio, I will not hesitate to spend two days for a few proper frames. On the other hand, I will not say no to photography in natural light, ‘commando style’ capturing snapshots the city. I won’t not complain if I have to climb a hill on foot or if I have to walk alongside a racing track with a 400 mm lens hanging from my neck. Often that is the only way one can capture that fantastic frame” Nate says when asked how he defines his style.

Nate Hassler flirted with photography since high school, at the age of 18. Also then got acquainted with the first publications where he was an intern, working simultaneously as a photograph. He published his first picture in the Super Street Magazine, in late summer of 2009.

Nate Hassler and one of the photo covers signed by him.

Nate Hassler and one of the photo covers signed by him.

Fascinated by the motorsport photography

If you ask him what he likes to photograph the most, Nate Hassler answers without hesitation: “Motorsport”. On the racetrack he finds the environment that brings satisfaction. Here, near the racing cars, Nate took his favorite photo . “My favorite picture is a BMW M3 GT ALMS racing in the 2011 ALMS season on the Laguna Seca track. I was lucky because I was in turn 11, near the dusk. I was working with a Canon 7D with an 1.4x teleconverter and a 400 mm f2.8 lens, so a long thing. And the images you have in front just before the last corner are exceptional.” The result we can admire below.

My favorite picture is a BMW M3 GT racing in the ALMS 2011 season on the Laguna Seca track. © Nate Hassler

My favorite picture is a BMW M3 GT racing in the ALMS 2011 season on the Laguna Seca track. © Nate Hassler

There is something special when you manage to pull that shot on the track, making all the efforts worthwhile. It simply puts a smile on your face.

Returning to the “civilian” cars we’ve asked Nate which is the photo shoot he remembers with the greatest pleasure. We expected to respond that he prefers exotic models such as Ferrari or Lamborghini, but Nate loves Japanese classic cars. And his favorite of all time is a blue Datsun 240Z, the car that belonged to a close friend. He sold the car, but Nate couldn’t buy it because he didn’t have a garage. However he made but a set of impressive photos with this model on the streets of his hometown of Portland. “It is the photo set that brought me the greatest notoriety, even if the used technique – cars passing through the frame, people, blurred strange areas – didn’t gave me many clues about how the photos will be received. I loved that car!” says Nate Hassler.

One of the best photo sessions of the American photographer. Datsun 240Z. © Nate Hassler

One of the best photo sessions of the American photographer. Datsun 240Z. © Nate Hassler

Saved by his own reactions

We ask him to describe the most impressive car he photographed and a memorable moment at a photo shoot. We found out that Nate Hassler had his camera set on many modified cars, but not many exotic models. The most impressive of them in terms of performance is an AMS Alpha 9 Nissan GTR and as a show car he nominated a Nissan S13 Silvia called Spirit Rei “Odyvia” with custom bodywork and Honda Odyssey headlights.

All of my clients are equally important. I treat everyone with equal respect, regardless of the project size in which I am involved.

Regarding the memorable moment, Nate Hassler remembers how he managed to save a car during a photo session. “I was working on an advertising project for a large Japanese manufacturer. Above the car we had hanging on a huge silk cloth 20×20 feet, and the weather was harsh. The wind was blowing pretty hard. The model doesn’t officially “exists” yet and absolutely hadn’t to be damaged. Someone forgot to properly tighten the cables supporting the set-up and the wind has escalated sharply. I jumped higher than Clyde Drexler (an ex-basketball player from NBA) and I managed to catch the framework flying right into the car!”

In general, if the creative department doesn't give me specific guidelines, I simply do what I think it's cool. © Nate Hassler

In general, if the creative department doesn’t give me specific guidelines, I simply do what I think it’s cool. © Nate Hassler

Sometimes we have to use motion in the picture commercial at customer request, which is not always the best solution in terms of aesthetics. But the photo business is a business, and in these cases the last word rarely belongs to the photographer.

Nate Hassler was extremely kind and stoically resisted our onslaught of questions and clarifications. It is a friendly guy who has a promising career in the car photography field. But he does have his heroes in this industry. Nate admires the work of photographers like Jeff Ludes, Simon Puschmann, Pascal Malamas, Mats Cordt or Sean Klingelhoefer.

Nate Hassler Wallpaper [photo gallery]

Nate Hassler – Official Site natehasslerphoto[dot]com | Facebook Nate Hassler Photo | Flickr natehassler

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