Ferrari F40 Demands Sun Shine
Road trip, from & to: Reno, Nevada, USA to Bonneville, Utah, USA and back
Distance: About 485 mi each way
Photographer: Gil Folk
I’m Gil and I am 20 years old. Photography and exotic automobiles have been my passion since before I could crawl. I used to love staring at photos in car magazines; spellbound by the works of rolling art in some of the most scenic and breath-taking locations in the world. One of the most memorable automotive photo features I ever saw was with an article that Road & Track ran on the Ferrari Enzo. I will never forget how the red popped against the white, crystalline-like surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats paired with the cobalt blue sky. Those images struck me and sparked my desire to learn and master the art of automotive photography; hoping that I could, one day, be fortunate enough to shoot a car–ANY car–at the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah.
Over the years, I’ve made many connections and formed numerous friendships through my passion for photography and high-end supercars. I’ve had the fortune of experiencing, first hand, some of the world’s most sought after cars through my photography and find that I have to pinch myself occasionally when I’m with shooting, just to make sure that it’s not a dream.
In the summer of 2012, I was talking to a good friend who happens to own a very well-sorted collection of supercars, mostly Ferraris. The pinnacle of his collection is the legendary Ferrari F40, which is one of the finest examples in the world. He is very enthusiastic about his collection and always enjoys conversations about cars and the joy of driving. We were happily ranting on about the F40, when he mentioned how he had always wanted to get a photo of it on the Bonneville Salt Flats. I immediately responded that the Bonneville Salt Flats had always been at the top of my photographic bucket list. After about a month and a half of planning, the date was set; we would load the F40 into an enclosed trailer and make the trip over to the Salt Flats for what would become the most memorable and successful photoshoot of my career thus far: the Ferrari F40 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I called it, “The Dream Shoot.”
Our plan was to leave on a Friday and arrive in Wendover, Utah sometime that evening. We would spend the night, then head to the Flats the following morning, ready for our date with the lady in red and eighty miles of white abyss. All was looking good until two days prior when the forecast called for a heavy rainstorm near Wendover that Friday. My heart sank. Was the dream shoot going to be cancelled because Mother Nature had her own plans? No, it couldn’t be!
I monitored the forecast obsessively, receiving National Weather Service updates every fifteen minutes. “Heavy rain expected in the Wendover area Friday with clearing skies into Saturday. Chance of rain 50%.” That is not what I wanted to see, but I couldn’t avoid the truth. We discussed postponing the shoot, but when comparing schedules, the next opportunity would be almost a year later–I didn’t like the sound of that. We kept an eye on the weather and on Friday morning, we made the call: we would depart at noon with an expected arrival into Wendover at 7pm. We were going to take our chances.
Sunny and clear skies raised our hopes when leaving our hometown of Reno, NV. But proceeding east on Interstate 80, we noticed clouds forming overhead and by the time we reached Eureka, Nevada, we were in the middle of a downpour. We were half-way to Wendover, should we turn back? No, we had to push through; giving up now was not an option. Our drive, which we’d planned to take seven hours, became an eleven hour ordeal. We reached Wendover just before midnight and checked into our hotel. The rain let up and the clouds had begun to clear, but the ground was drenched, which meant that the salt flats would be a shallow lake. We grabbed a quick bite and called it a night; the next morning would decide our fate.
After a rough and sleepless night, we gathered our belongings and left the hotel before sunrise. The roads were dry, buoying my hopes despite an exhausting night spent tossing and turning. As soon as we got back onto Interstate 80, white ground was in sight and our destination was closing in. From a distance, all looked good. As we approached the turn-off road, we could see mud on both sides from the water-logged soil; the salt flats were five miles ahead. We arrived at the end of the road where the muddy desert terrain met the salt flats. A wooden monument stood with “Bonneville Salt Flats” etched into it; facts about the land-speed records and indie stickers garnished the front of the sign.
I looked out into the vast empty space and an eerie feeling came upon me; it was as if I was standing at the edge of the world. The sky reflected off the standing water on the salt flats–almost as if I was standing on the very edge of our dimension. “So that’s it,” I thought to myself, “we came all this way with such high hopes of a dream shoot and it all ends here without a single snap of the shutter.” I was devastated. We contemplated other ideas such as photographing the car on the road next to the salt flats, but I didn’t want to compromise; it was all or nothing for me.
We noticed the sun just breaking over the mountains to our east and the blue and magenta sky morphing into a golden yellow horizon as we felt the warmth of the rising sun creep over the mountain tops. After an hour of sitting, waiting, and contemplating our next move, we decided to unhitch the trailer from our truck and scope out higher ground on the flats where standing water may have run off. After fifteen minutes of searching, we found our spot: a two-hundred foot-long and eighty foot-wide patch of dry salt. This was it–our perseverance had paid off. We jumped in the truck and raced back to the road to get the trailer; we would not drive the F40 onto the salt by itself. We hitched up and followed our tracks back to our dry spot. After an hour of carefully unloading the F40 by hand onto bath towels and then onto the salty surface, I was set to fulfill a life-long dream.
The truck and trailer were cleared away from the F40 and we set up our equipment consisting of cameras with various lenses, some ladders, a few tripods, and our camera bags. We both took a moment to take it all in; it was better than anything I could ever have imagined. I took my time with each photo; carefully planning out the composition for each shot as I knew this would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I wanted to make each photo count. After about three hours of shooting, we loaded the F40 back into the trailer and packed up all of our equipment–the dream shoot was a complete success.
A blanket of relief enveloped me as we headed home that day. I was constantly looking through the photos on my camera and we were both very, very happy that it all worked out. We shared laughs and raved about how stunning the location was and how well the car paired with it. It was an experience that will live in both of our minds for a long, long time.
We arrived back in Reno late that night. And despite not having slept in the preceding thirty-six hours, I was too excited to lay down. I spent the next four hours sorting through my images and going through the post-processing. I didn’t want any heavy editing with these shots as I wanted the true, natural beauty of the car, scenery, and atmosphere to shine through in each image. After all the post-production was completed, I smiled and nodded. “Truly a dream come true,” I thought to myself. I uploaded one photo before heading off to bed; visions of salt and red Italian ecstasy danced joyously in my head. I had just completed the “Dream Shoot.”
To this day, I get comments, and often overwhelmingly positive, feedback on images from this series. And even I go back at least once a day, to look at these images and reminisce on that day. I couldn’t have asked for anything better, what a trip.
Want to see your road trip on Petrolicious? Click here for more information.