Adventure & Automotive Lifestyle : Mr Tom Kahler
Shooting supercars and luxury vehicles in rugged imposing landscapes, sounds too good to be true. We caught up with adventure and automotive lifestyle photographer Mr Tom Kahler, to find out more about life on the road and behind the lens.
If you spend time on Instagram and have a taste for wild landscapes and luxury cars, chances are you will have encountered the photography of Mr Tom Kahler. We caught up with the top adventure and automotive lifestyle photographer to reveal more about his work for Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Bentley. Discuss his favourite travel locations and find out which camera equipment he packs for a shoot.
Could you introduce yourself and where you’re from?
My Name is Tom Kahler. I’m an automotive and lifestyle photographer from Sheffield in the UK. I’m best known for my minimal images on Instagram and my unique way of storytelling.
What inspired you to start taking photographs?
When I first started shooting photos, I wasn’t particularly inspired by anyone. I was more inspired by the idea of documenting my everyday life. As time evolved and I got older with the ability to drive and travel by myself, and my day-to-day began to get a little more exciting, naturally leading to more interesting images. After a few years of documenting my day-to-day with iPhone images and filters, I soon realised photography was a passion/career I could pursue.
I began assisting a photographer in Sheffield named David Short when I was just 17 and still in School. The opportunity came about by chance. My mum’s best friend mentioned her brother was a photographer. He was looking for an assistant, so I jumped at the opportunity and gave him a call before I knew it, I assisted him on several jobs.
This soon led to helping his assistant Nick Eagle, who was a very successful portrait photographer. Once I had an insight into the commercial side of photography through assisting David and Nick, I was sure that’s the life path I wanted to take.
What does photography mean to you and how would you describe your style?
Photography and storytelling mean everything to me, to be honest, I can’t imagine a life without shooting photos. The majority of my day, month, year revolves around either shooting photos for clients or personal projects and it’s just about the only thing that satisfies me as a person.
I would say my style has evolved over the years and the last year or so has been more minimal and clean.
I feel this is the way my work will progress in the future. Simple, centrally framed minimal shots with bold colours whilst still maintaining a storytelling element.
Your Instagram page is full of luxurious vehicles and imposing landscapes. Was it always your intention to shoot automotive lifestyle and adventure?
My passion for cars, bikes and the outdoors formed long before I even considered taking photos, I presume my interest in automobiles, and the outdoors naturally fell into my photography over the years. I started shooting mountain bikes when I was around 15 as that was my biggest hobby before photography. Riding mountain bikes slowly transitioned from my main hobby to my second hobby as I saw the career potential of being a photographer.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve gone through waves of what I prefer to shoot from landscapes to lifestyle to car’s, and the truth is, I enjoy shooting a wide range of things that I worry in the long run may affect my overall potential as a photographer. Most of the photographers at the very top of their game tend to shoot one medium.
I always try to combine a storytelling and lifestyle element into my photography for brands, which I feel makes for better marketing.
What do you like about shooting cars and any favourite automobile shoots?
I have always struggled with shooting landscapes without a subject, and I much prefer to combine my interest in cars by shooting a car in a landscape or a person in a landscape it has a focus and for me makes a much more complete image.
There have been a few shoots that spring to mind from the last few years.
- Lamborghini – Sardinia
- Aston Martin – Scotland
- Bentley – North Wales
- Ford Europe – Norway
Your good friends with Mr Gee Milner, could you tell us about any fun projects you have worked with him on?
Gee is a very good friend of mine, and we have worked on some really fun projects over the last few years with lots of good memories and moments I will never forget.
The best memories start with big engines, don’t they?
Roaring through the interior mountain roads in Sardinia in a V10 Huracan Evo following Gee in a V12 Aventador SVJ was pretty fun, to say the least. We were given a suggested photo route by Lamborghini around the coast not too far from the hotel, but Gee and I decided that was lame and made our own plan.
A 5 am-start, we may have woke up a few residents in the hotel with a V10 alarm clock, before driving 2.5 hours in the opposite direction to the mountains where we found the most amazing mountain roads, covered in perfect Sardinian tarmac, you could have cooked an egg on it it was that hot. Chasing each other through the mountains taking the odd photo here and there was all good fun until the SVJ broke down in a small village surrounded by 20+ locals taking selfies in 44C temperatures while we attempted to fix the car. After 2 hours, we got it going and continued our journey.
I remember distinctly driving back in the dark with the roof down music on full blast watching the stars go by making as much noise as we possibly could every time we got to a tunnel. Life couldn’t get much better at this point.
Sardinia was one of those pinch-yourself moments for sure.
What are your top 5 locations to shoot around the world?
The world is full of beautiful places, and there’s so much of it I’ve not had the opportunity yet to see, but If I was to make a tick list of destinations, I recommend you should see:
Iceland (obviously). Winter is a great time to visit where you’re at the mercy of the weather. January, February is best for snow, not much daylight but this gives you 5 hours of golden light if the sun does show and lots of time to relax and look out for the northern lights.
Madeira. I first visited Madeira when I was 13 with my parents. I remember being blown away by it, I have revisited it twice in 2019 which didn’t disappoint, there’s hardly a flat part of the island even the airport runway is built on stilts over the sea. With microclimates on every corner of the island, you can be at the ocean in the sun or rain then be above the clouds at the top of the mountains within a 30 min drive, its genuinely a magical tropical island.
#3 NORTHERN NORWAY
Northern Norway. Senja, Lofoten, again a place I was lucky enough to visit twice in 2019 for work projects. The snowcovered mountains coming out of the ocean are insane, the scale and vast landscapes in Northen Norway make you feel so small.
Norway’s landscapes can’t be put into words.
Nusfjord is a little fishing village we stayed in for several days, one of the oldest fishing villages in Norway, it serves great food and is surrounded by mountains of course.
Yosemite. Another 2019 trip shooting for Adidas TERREX, our 2-week road trip took us to Yosemite, a place I had seen so many images, videos and films. However, the valley’s scale was not comprehendible, never before have I stood on the end of a cliff looking down 2,000m.
Scotland can’t be overlooked, a meer 7-10 hour drive for me depending on which location I’m aiming for, so I visit Scotland as often as possible. I enjoy the county more in winter as there are far fewer people and the weather can be really interesting. The history, the castles and the landscape everything in Scotland feels old – even the Scottish pines look like withered old men!
What camera equipment do you usually pack for a trip?
I’m a sucker for gear and always struggle to leave equipment behind in case I may need it.
Packing for shoots is something I’ve got good at over the years, and it all depends on how much space I have to play with. If I’m flying, this always limits things and winter trips require more warm clothing than summer and less room for gear, but generally, I try and take all my lenses.
Pack list for the outdoor shoot:
- Sony A7 RIV camera, Sony A7 RIII camera, 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens, 24mm F2.8 GM lens, 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens, 35mm F1.2 Sigma lens, 85mm F1.4 GM lens, 100-400mm F4.5-F5.6 GM lens, 100mm F2.8 Macro lens (often leave in the office unless I know I need it), Lowpro Whistler Bag.
- x6 batteries and space cards, Headtorch, Walkeitalkes, Tripod (Peak Design Lightweight) (Gitzo if weight is no issue), Battery pack to charge a phone, Peak Design clip, Gloves.
Lightweight hike kit list:
Pack list for car shoot:
- Pelicase Air 1535 case, Sony A7 RIV camera, Sony A7 RIII camera, 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens, 24mm F2.8 GM lens, 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens, 35mm F1.2 Sigma lens, 85mm F1.4 GM lens, 100-400mm F4.5-F5.6 GM lens, 100mm F2.8 Macro lens, x6 batteries and space cards, Polar Pro Polariser kit : 82mm with stepdown rings CLP, ND8CP, ND64CP, Teather Cable, 15” Macbook Pro, ECO Flow Delta 1300 Powerpack to charge laptop and cameras, Portable Hard drives.
- Peli 2 (Lights), Godox Ad400Pro x2, Godox Sync, Spare batteries, Chargers, Light stand x2, Sandbags x4, 120cm Octogon softbox, Other modifiers.
- Peli 3 (Car rig set up), Manfrotto 241 Suction pump cup x3, Various clamps, tubes, magic arms, tripod heads tools etc, Harness for boot tracking shots.
Lightweight run and gun set up:
- Normally in a cupholder or rolling around in the footwell or in small Douchbag CIA bag, Sony A7RIV camera, 24-70mm F2.8 lens, 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 lens, 85mm F1.4 GM lens, Polar pro CLP + Stepdown rings, x6 batteries and space cards.
How much time do you spend on post-production?
WAY TOO LONG is the answer to that question. I try and spend as little time editing as possible as I really don’t enjoy editing unless it’s just 1 image, I really enjoy seeing the final product come together however I don’t enjoy the tedious process of editing a batch of images and trying to make them consistent. I’m a perfectionist, which is both a blessing and a curse; it makes my overall images cleaner and more polished. However, it takes a long time.
I would say for the average landscape/portrait post on Instagram, for example, I perhaps spend 30 minutes, but for my automotive shots, on average 1 post (carousel of 3-5 images), I probably spend 4-6 hours. So when I post a car series to Instagram, it’s most likely taken a full day of my time to shoot. For a commercial shoot delivering 20-25 images, I probably spend 3-4 days in the office editing and retouching.
The software I use:
- Adobe Lightroom. A classic for 80% of my image, colour correcting and drawing attention to the subject with various radial and gradient filters.
- Adobe Photoshop. 15% retouching reflections, distractions removing unwanted objects sometimes combining multiple exposures.
- Lens Distortions mobile app. 5% adding light flares, cloud, fog, rain, snow etc.
Can you tell us about what you enjoy driving most at the moment?
I’m very much enjoying driving my van again, with the 981 in the garage until the weather picks up a little I’ve been using the swift sport and the van daily. With all the recent snow and Ice in Sheffield/ Peak District, we converted our slammed 20” T6 campervan into a slightly more practical machine, just in time before winter hit, this was with the intention of a Scotland trip followed by a month in Norway, but unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be possible and its only been used close to home for some small photo projects.
Are there any other vehicles you’re are dreaming about for your garage?
Always dreaming and browsing on eBay, I think the next purchase would have to be a more sensible one, a more comfortable faster daily with room for equipment, RS4 takes my fancy at the moment, but my other half insists its too long and describes it as a boat so maybe we have to compromise on something S3 or Golf R size. Long term I would love to buy something a bit older for more occasional use, I’ve always liked 964’s, its such an iconic shape.
Are there any places you would love to visit or photograph in the future?
I’m drawn to the remote, desolate landscapes up North.
There’s something that I can’t quite describe how it makes you feel. I would also love to photograph and document some of the melting ice and depreciating wildlife such as polar bears.
Apart from a passion for photography, automobiles and travel, what else do you enjoy to do in your free time?
I don’t have much free time left, to be honest, my obsession for photography and cars takes up the majority of my time and the more my career progresses, the more time I have to spend in the office dealing with the boring stuff along with the stress which often takes the fun out of why I became a photographer in the first place. One of my favourite things to do whilst at home or travelling is to drink coffee and eat food, not much beats driving to your favourite coffee shop in an exciting car for a perfect flat white and a bit of food. I would say this is my partner and I’s favourite pass time we are such foodies.
Any future goals and business interests you could tell us about?
Lots of ideas but not much progress yet, I have been toying with the idea of starting a clothing range with my partner on the side which I would shoot images and help design the products whilst she took care of the marketing and production, but we always seem to struggle with time to get the ball rolling, but this is something that may come to light in 2021/2022.
We are also looking at buying our first house which I’m sure as everything else I get my hands on becomes an obsession for details and design and no doubt will take a lot of our time and all of our money, interior design is is something we have both been interested in for years and to have our own blank canvas is really exciting.
Favourite Movie: Into the Wild
Photography hack: Shoot Panoramas all the time to add depth
Favourite Place to wake up: Harlosh Black H on Skye
Bucket list: Visit Greenland
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You can see more of Mr Tom Kahler’s stunning photography at tomkahlerphoto.com and also purchase his prints, presets, or signup for his online photography workshops. For any visual marketing needs check out Georgina’s Visual 3 Marketing. And be sure to follow Tom’s amazing work / adventures on Instagram at @tomkahler.