At the end of last year I was asked to go on a roadtrip for Mercedes-Benz to shoot some social media content for them. This ofcourse sounded like a treat alone, but they had a very special car in mind for me take. Due to being in the process of shooting and editing another campaign at that time, I wouldn’t be available until the first week of december but this wasn’t a problem at all. So this is how I got to spend some winter time with the amazing 2017 Mercedes-AMG GT S in Spain.
Note: If you follow me on social media this won’t all be news to you as I’ve shared a lot on my Instagram Stories during our trip. The new highlights feature, that let’s you save and permanently show certain stories, only rolled out during the last days of the trip sadly. So I’ve decided to bundle the original story cellphone snaps with some behind the scenes photos I didn’t show before, and reshare those memories there. Where this blog post tells the story in text and shows the final results, head over to my Instagram to find the story highlight that takes you along those 6 days in snapshots.
As soon as we set the dates, I started with planning my trip. I was basically free to do what I wanted so made sure to prepare properly to make the best of the 6 days I’d have the car. Being familair with the Costa Brava in Spain, I knew this would provide me with the perfect setting for this car. Besides that, the geographical location of that region would also give me the best chances for some good weather while most of europe seemed to be dealing with cloudcover and rain at that time. To combine my usual style of automotive photography with some lifestyle shots, I invited my friend Marvin Potters to go on the trip with me. Besides that he is a model, he’d also double as my assistant, navigator and behind the scenes photographer. We knew that it was going to be a lot of work and long hours, but also a lot of fun.
The Costa Brava is wellknown for many as a summer holiday destination, in winter though there isn’t much tourism at all. This was another plus as the beautiful coastal towns would be fairly quiet, giving me plenty of possibilities for some unique photos, and the roads wouldn’t be all clogged up with beachbound families either. With it being winter, and the appropriate weather being in the forecasts, I definitely didn’t expect to be handed over this incredible car. The AMG GT S is the top tier sportscar from Mercedes, developped completely by the AMG division. They had the new facelifted model available for me, in the elegant Selenitgrau exterior color complemented with the aerodynamics package. This stunning two seater is packed with 4.0L twin turbo V8 engine under the impressively long hood, delivering a whopping 522hp to the rear wheels. We picked her up on an early friday morning at a snow covered Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart, so calling it a baptism by fire might not be litterally correct but definitely figuratively accurate.
Around 10 that morning we moved our gear from my car to what would be our transportation for the coming days, set the navigation and began our long drive. We booked a villa in the Costa Brava for the coming days, making it our base of operations. Stopping along the way to Spain in a traditional roadtrip style would mean a lot more location scouting before hand and dealing with the garantueed bad weather. This basically meant that we would spend the first day on the road, covering around 1200 kilometers through Germany, France and across the Pyrenees into Spain, where we arrived at our house around 11 the same evening. Obviously we didn’t take any real photos that day but as explained before, you’ll find quite some snaps of the trip in my Instagram highlight of this trip.
While I knew the north of Spain would offer us the best chances for some sunny weather, our luck strucked out on the first couple of days. A tramontana, a heavy wind passing in between mountain ranges and hitting the Costa Brava, made it quite a challenge to even be outside. Strong winds picked up entire beaches and chilled us to our bones. To give you an example of what it means to be dealing with these conditions, we washed the car and headed of to get some first shots, but suddenly on the road we got hit by a white-out made of beach sand. A couple of minutes later we arrived at the medieval village of Pals, where we wanted to get some shots while being a bit protected from the winds, only to find the car completely covered in sand again. I will refer again to my Instagram as we captured it all on photo and video ofcourse. The second day the wind was still blowing, although the skies seemed to get slighly lighter, so we decided to head up into the Pyrenees mountains away from the coast. I picked a dam with an artificial lake behind it to get some first shots and appreciate the beautiful landscape that many visitors of the Costa Brava probably don’t know about. While the road up there was narrow, windy, steap and covered with ice, it was definitely worth it. We hiked along the dam and took some lifestyle pictures of Marvin with the car.
After that we drove back down and up the other side where I took some shots of the car that eventually didn’t make the final cut of images only to find ourselves suddenly crowded in a local carmeet. After chatting a bit with the locals, we overpowered the sound of their hatchbacks and drove further into the mountains to get some lunch. After exploring the region some more we went back down the coast, to find that clouds had made way for clear blue skies. The wind was still persistant though, so we buttoned up and took a walk along the marina and beach before heading back to our house. We stopped at a nearby supermarket to stock up on the essentials and decided to light the barbeque in our wind shaded garden. Hoping the wind would stop blowing all together overnight.
The next morning we got up early. Marvin made a quick coffee and breakfast while gathered the gear and packed the car for what would had to become a busy day of shooting. The weather had completely changed luckily, the absence of clouds and a howling wind was just what we needed. So by 9am we arrived at the northernmost coastal town of the Costa Brava, right on time. The light wrapped around the location I chose just I envisioned, so we quickly offloaded the gear and postioned the car.
With everything in place, I climbed the steep ridge right besides the car, determined the first composition and made sure the camera stood steady on my tripod. As in every village in this part of Spain, the roads are narrow and if a car needed to pass I would have to move the car so speed was key to getting the shots. The car, positioned right along the bay of the village, contrasted beautifully with the background that was brightly lit by the rising sun. While I had all the gear with me to overcome most conditions, this morning allowed me to shoot with just the natural light luckily.
After getting all the material to bring this shot to life, the sun starting peaking around the rocky cliff. This meant the situation was becoming just right to get the rest of the photos I had envisioned for this location. I climbed back down and after repositioning the car several times to let other cars pass, I was ready to get back to it. While sun was already hitting the wall directly next to the wall, I quickly got the second shot done. After that we could wait a couple of minutes untill the sun came around the corner and the car was lit up by the morning rays.
After we finished up these shots, it was time to drive a bit south along the winding coastal roads. We were planning on hitting a lot of the locations I scouted in the northern part of the region, which meant we were on quite a tight schedule, but we definitely made sure to enjoy the ride on these phenomenal roads. The next spot I located was a big parking lot in front of a lighthouse on a remote headland. This proved a bit difficult to find as we drove past the entrance twice. A very narrow road, no wider as a Dutch cycling lane, connected the main coastal road to the spot. We drove down and as I expected, we found the parking completely deserted. While I managed to get several shots done there, these didn’t make the final cut either. Who knows, I might get to editing some of those shots in the future.
A few kilometers south we arrived at the next village. Like the coastal road, we found the town to be almost free of traffic. The harbour was bristling with life though as fishermen were stacking up their traps and preparing their nets to head out to sea. Obviously, I parked the car right among them to get some typical mediterranean atmosphere in the viewfinder. Definitely something I couldn’t have planned on, but it brought the whole scene together perfectly. By the time we finished up in this village, it was becoming time to get a bite to eat. The plan was to get this at a beachside restaurant, with a parking that flowed seamlessly into the terrace. This would be the idea location to get some lifestyle shots if it wasn’t to busy with other winter tourists. Sadly though, it wasn’t busy enough apparently and it was all boarded up.
Not a single chair or table remained so we had to make due with what we had, which wasn’t all that bad to be honest. While the car was covered in tiny ice crystals most mornings, the temperature had risen enough during this day to walk around in a t-shirt. After enjoying the view and the sound of the calm sea rolling melodiously on the pebbles of this deserted beach, we decided to get some more lifestyle’ish shots while enjoying the sun. As the first two days chilled us to the bone, even while indoors, we had no troubles postponing our lunch a bit for this opportunity.
As the hunger started to defeat the joy of the sunshine on our skin, we decided to head back to our home away from home. We had gotten quite hungry and I knew a place that was open and could serve us some well deserved local cuisine. After another hour of driving to get back, we parked the GT S along the boulevard and crossed the road to the restaurant. We chose a table along the windows to soke up the last warm rays of sunshine while ordering some beers and their seafood paella. The perfect way to recharge when in Spain, especially since would get up even earlier the next morning.
To begin the last full day we would have to leave early. There was one setting I planned on getting no matter what. I found this village with a stunning narrow road right along the waterfront. This town is located on a rugged huge headland, making it quite a challenge to reach. Especially in the dark, and that was just what we had to do to get the shots I wanted. The village lines up perfectly to a sunrise over the sea, and I meant to be there well before that time. After a spirited drive over a road that consisted of nothing more than hairpin turns stitched together for kilometers, we arrived at the village and saw that the conditions were perfect. While sun wouldn’t rise for a while, the sky over the sea was a bright gradient of colors going from bright orange at the horizon to dark blue.
Sadly though, our luck ran out. We hadn’t seen much local lawenforcement at all the past three days, even though we’re sure our impressive charriot couldn’t have gone unnoticed with it’s beautiful lines and thundering sounds. But while I did manage to get two shots here in this stunning scenery, someone obviously couldn’t appreciate our presence and for the first time the cops showed up. Let’s say we got lucky that I suddenly couldn’t speak a word of Spanish anymore, making his question where our permit was rather useless, and that they didn’t take a close look at the gear scathered around the place while I claimed we were just taking some holiday pictures. They did make it clear though that if they saw us again in the village, we found receive a hefty fine and probably an unacceptable loss of precious shooting time. We had no choice but to leave the location, stopping a little further up in the village to properly stash our gear which we had pack up in a rush. Ofcourse the same officers drove past slowly within minutes, while they couldn’t do much as I picked a rare parkingspot to repack they did made sure they had their eyes on us. If you watched the Story Highlight of this roadtrip on my Instagram already, you’ve seen the snap I took on this parking spot of the sun peaking over the horizon. It was beautiful, and sadly completely useless to us.
After this sudden ending of what seems like the perfect shooting location and conditions, we headed out to a nearby spot from my location book. We took some shots there, which didn’t make the cut either, and climbed some rock formation that rises from the sea there. I got over the dissapointment of missing the sunrise and only getting a few shots at the village that was now off limits to us, and decided we would get back on the road towards the very point of the headland. There should be another lighthouse there with some nice views, but I expected that the scenery along the entire route there would be epic. I was not wrong, the landscape was stunning and the one road that connected the lighthouse with closest village curved beautifully among the rockformations and sea. We got the first shots in quickly while trying not to block the road for too long, to then drive up to the lighthouse in the hope we could get some food and a cup of coffee there. We were not dissappointed here, as we sat down at a table with one of the best unobstructed views we had seen so far. Hate to do it, but I’ll refer you to my instagram again if you want to see what this place looks like. A delicious typical spanish lunch and some cups of coffee further enhanced our mood. With our stomachs full, we got back on the road to get some more shots in this stunning landscape.
When I got I what I wanted to shoot here, we enjoyed the drive back to civilization. We had a couple more spots along the Spanish coast worth checking out and we collectively decided to set course to the village that is known to many as the Venice of the Costa Brava. This town is riddled with channels, with the marina basically in the city centre while there are mooring points dotted around everywhere. While location scouting I had found the perfect spot and steered our AMG up some small streets until we hit a dead-end, right along the water.
While it was a bit tighter than expected, we decided to get out and try to shoot some more stuff. While setting up the camera, a huge yacht came cruising by which made us notice that the people across the water had set down in their sunny backyard to enjoy the view on our car. While I had always known about this place, I had never been here before and it definitely had a unique vibe to it. The white houses, palmtrees, calm water and luxurious boats really made you feel like you were in a whole other world. I am sure I will edit the shots from this location later on, but they didn’t make the final cut either.
With still a few useful hours left, we got on the road again to get in the vicinity of our rented house again. We decided we would try to get some more shots in a quiet old village, that even in the summer season probably wouldn’t see much visitors. Before we could do that though, the AMG GT S could use yet another wash. Something we had to do in between almost all locations to get rid of the dust and dirt that we picked up while driving. After we got her clean again, we drove up the narrow streets of the small village we found and got some quick shots. Most residents couldn’t be less bothered though, as they didn’t even look up from watching some animated tv-series on their phone in what I am sure are storm drains.
At this time, the sun was setting and we needed to call it a day. We still had some shopping, packing, eating and sleeping to do before could start the long journey back home again. As the car had to be back at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart by 6 in the afternoon, we would need to get on the road quite early the next day. After making some diner it was time to get packing and clean the house to leave it as we found it. By the time that was done, we had no choice but to hit the sack as our alarms would go in just a few hours. Around quarter past 4 the next morning, the car was packed and prepared for the long journey. Just over 12 hours later we arrived at Stuttgart where we gave the car a last wash before turning her over to guys from Mercedes and collecting my own car from their parking. Where we stayed in a hotel the night before we picked up the car here, this time we decided to just keep at it and head straight back on the road for the last 6 hours of driving back home.
I originally intended to keep it brief here, it appears that this has grown in a rather extensive report on our roadtrip. It has been a fun week, with an astonishing car. I can assure you that it took quite some time to adjust back to my ordinary car after driving around 3000 kilometers through Europe in this amazing machine. The Mercedes-AMG GT S surpassed all my expectations and definitely earned a place high on my wishlist. For those of you that stuck with me along my endless rambling, the reward will follow below with the photos that did make the final cut. Some of them have already been shared on several social media channels of Mercedes-Benz & Mercedes-AMG, but this is the first time I show them and the first place to see them all together. I hope you enjoy the results and that more of these opportunities will come along this year.