This trek actually started 11 days ago when I left from work and drove through Surry County trying to find something to put under some clouds. While I was driving, I came across a driveway with a 280ZX in it, and those always catch my attention since I owned a '72 240Z back in my youth. Well, while I was looking at the Z, I saw what looked to be a '50's sedan sitting in front of a garage in the next driveway. Wait...that looks promising! I turned around and took a second look. Yep, it was a '50 something Ford sitting in front of a double garage with some bright yellow windows. This looked pretty cool, but the sun was directly behind the garage, and the lighting was terrible. I decided to pass on this today, but to save it in my mind for later on.
Well, today became later on, as I found myself free all afternoon. The clouds were building in the sky and looking very nice. I was almost wishing I was headed to the mountains to get some of the scenics that I was looking for yesterday. But, I was in the Lumina and didn't want to go that far. As I was starting to contemplate what I was going to shoot, I decided I would head back out to Surry County and see what I could find.
In the past week or so, I had been looking at the map of where the Ford sedan was located and decided that there would never be a great time for the sun to shine on the car because of its position beside the house and trees. I was going to need some shade from clouds, but I was wanting some blue sky or at least some good cloud texture. The sky was looking like it might provide a little bit of that recipe...at least enough to justify driving by to check it out.
I pulled back to the driveway and went to the front door. I knocked and waited. After what felt like a minute, I decided that nobody was home and started to turn around. It was then that I head the door open and I was greeted by what turned out to be the car owner. He actually owned the 280ZX as well, which made for a really good conversation. Z folks love to talk about their Z's, which means we love to talk about how quickly they rust. He was a really nice guy, and a self admitted "car guy," so when it came time to ask to photograph the Ford, he was very gracious and let me have my way with the old car. With the introductions out of the way, I went to the trunk and got my gear out...Oh, did I mention the owner wants to learn photography too? Yeah, this was a great meeting!
I found the compositions difficult because of where the houses were located, and I had to be careful about what parts of the sky entered into the picture. I started shooting from the driver's side as that yielded the easiest compositions. For this, I chose to use my 24-70mm lens which is an amazing lens for automotive work. I added an intensifying polarizer to reduce the glare, and saturate the colors. However, I was less than impressed with how the pictures were looking. They seemed to be just a regular snapshot, and were lacking in artistic presentation. I moved over the passenger side, and found a much better composition, but the sky claimed a large portion of the frame. I could tell by looking at the histogram that I was going to have a really hard time capturing all of the detail here in one shot. Either the car was going to be too dark, or the sky was going to be totally white. For this composition, my only choice was an HDR shot. Even an ND Grad would not work because of the angle in the roof, and the fact that I had trees coming in from the top of the frame.
I got everything set up and tried to wait for a lull in the breeze since I wold be stacking the images with tree branches moving around. I got my lull, and started to crank off images, one after another. I ended up shooting six frames at 2/3 stop increments to capture all of the detail. When they were blended in Lightroom, I had a lot of data to work with from the lights to the darks. I spent about 30 minutes working on the picture, which is a very long time for me. However, the resulting image was exactly what I was hoping for. It captured the yellow in the garage, the patina on the Ford, and grabbed a really nice cloud in the Carolina Blue sky. I must admit, I was stoked about this image when I put the final touches on it. This image along would have made it worth my time and effort going out to Surry County to shoot 29 frames on this car...but wait...there's more.
Knowing that I had the shot that I wanted of the full car (or at least had something I could fall back on), I could have stopped here. However, one thing that I have learned over the years, but have a hard time remembering is that sometimes the gold is in the details of these old cars. I decided to not worry about the entire car any more, and concentrate on some of the elements that make the cars from this era so amazing. The bumper had caught my attention early on with the single bullet cone, and the vertical bumperettes. There was even a hand painted vintage tag from 1953 attached to the bumper. All of these things were very appealing to me, and I figured that I could capture that essence with the camera.
I got in close to the front of the car, and got the camera down low. I frame things very carefully, so I wouldn't have to crop later on. I dialed in the exposure that I knew would work and shot the frame. The histogram told me I nailed it, and the composition was perfect. There was nothing else that needed to be done on this shot, so with that one shutter release I was finished with the bumper.
Having shot the bumper, I started to look at the hood emblem. It was small, and very similar to the one on the Ford Fairlane I shot a couple weeks ago. The more I looked at it, the more I really wanted to shoot it. There was just nothing around it to make for an interesting composition. The wonderful patina of the car was pretty uniform around the emblem, but I wasn't sure how that would work in a full picture. The cracks in the emblem and the general wear really intrigued me, so I decided to do what I could with it. I got in close....like macro close and set my exposure. That was no problem because the lighting was overly simple with this shot. I tried both landscape and portrait, but neither really grabbed my attention, so I settled on a standard landscape shot.
My intention on this one was to do some pretty heavy post processing to really bring out the story behind the emblem. This is not so much a honest picture as it is an interpretation of the subject. It is still true to the subject, but has a great deal of pop now. Since I couldn't decide on portrait or landscape, I went with a roughly square ratio and put the emblem dead center. It seems to suit it well. This was another one shot and move on picture, and I'm quite glad I decided to focus in on the emblem even though it seemed a little boring photographically.
Speaking of that rust to the rear of the headlight bucket, and the chrome trim...there must be another composition there to add a little drama to the whole thing. Surely there must be!
|Lighting the Way|
I then found myself hunting other compositions, but not pressing the shutter button. I was pretty sure I had done what I could with this car. At the time, I was pretty sure that I had at least a couple of usable pictures, but I wasn't sure exactly how good any of them would be.
I was still in the mood to shoot, and the sky was still looking pretty good, so I started to drive around some more. I came across that orange Z at the junk yard once again, and thought seriously about trying my hand at it real quick. I pulled into a parking lot to get turned around and the Lumina started to make a strange noise. At first I thought it was something caught on the tire, but quickly realized that it would still pop when I wasn't rolling. I figured that it was a belt, since it would change speed at strange times. Everything was running fine, so I decided to get home as quick as I could. That meant cutting the afternoon short, but I'd rather do that than get stranded.
It turned out that the belt was starting to fray and I was hearing the pieces coming off of the belt at it turned. I got to the parts store and picked up a new belt, and had it replaced in a matter of minutes once I got home. I might like photographing abandoned and derelict cars, but I'm not too keen on driving one in that condition, so I'm happy that I was able to get the Lumina back on the road with a minimal amount of fuss.