The Outlaw and the Kid

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Number Thirteen
It would appear that for the month of June, I am pretty much centering my efforts on rust more than anything else.  I probably should be in the mountains getting the Spring blooms, but I'm not really one to follow the crowds when it comes to photography.  First, I hate the crowds and feeling like I need to stand in line to get the shot.  Second, my feeds on social media are already blowing up with spring shots from all of the typical places in the mountains.  If you want to see spring in the mountains, you have a ton of options out there.  Frankly, I am wanting to stand out from the rest right now and do some different photography, a little closer to home.  A couple of weeks ago, I came across a pair of Edsels, and a few old Fords which kept me occupied for a while, and blew up my computer to boot.  I do really love photographing cars from decades gone by, so when it came time to figure out where I was going to go today, the decision came pretty simple.  I was going to Outlawed Restorations to see what new toys Dean had hanging around on the property.

Since Sierra was out of school and not doing much else, I decided to drag her along with me.  Waking her up was harder than any of the pictures that I captured.  Yeah, she is less of a morning person than I am, and 6am was just too early for her to be bothered with, but she got up and grunted that she was ready to go with me.  I'm fortunate that this shop is only about thirty minutes away from the house.  That means it is pretty easy to judge the weather and get there quick.  I had already spoke with Dean and said that I might be by and he welcomed me whenever I needed to get there, so I had no problem getting there before he showed up to the shop.

Ole Stitch
What prompted me to pick Outlawed Restorations for this trip was I had been seeing pictures of Dean's personal truck floating around on social media for a while.  This truck wasn't around the last time that I was out his way, and it got me thinking about how cool it would be to be able to capture it with the camera.  Sure enough, when I got there, Stitch was sitting out in the yard bathed in the morning sun.  What is so unique about this truck is how it was stretched.  You can easily see the patch panels welded in at the fenders, and can see where the roof was chopped.  What he did so differently here was actually welded in stitches just like a surgeon would have done.  Well, they might have used a slightly different material, but the idea is the same.  Along with that, there is a barbed wire grill guard up front, and the whole truck is slammed on the ground with a dually axle in the back.  This truck is seriously cool, and I tried to capture the essence of the truck with my camera.  

I really liked the overall shot which was done with my 24-70mm lens fitted with my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer (the combo that stayed with me the entire day actually).  It did a great job at capturing the exaggerated size of the truck, but I was still missing the essence of the vehicle.  For that capture, I decided to go in tight and look for some details.  What I ended up centering on was the area where the hood, fender, and cowl came together on the passenger side.  There was some great patina there, and it showed off the stitch work on the fender.  The emblem, body lines, and vents all came together for a nice cohesive abstract capture of this truck.  This is the shot that i think captures the soul of Ole Stitch, and is a tribute to the man who built her.  There is just so much that goes into building these rat rods.  It may look like they are taking the easy way out, but the designing of these vehicles and the fabrication needed is astonishing.

Pumped Up
Of course, there were still quite a few of the same vehicles that I had photographed the previous time which I was still drawn to.  The nice thing was the last time I was out here it was raining pretty steady.  This time, I was actually wishing for a few more clouds for some diffusing quality, but I had good quality light from the sun at least.  I was able to get a little more dramatic lighting on these vehicles this time which made it worth my while to shoot some of the same compositions that I had done before.  This old firetruck got my attention once again as it was almost in a spotlight from the sun.  There was just so much of interest with this old truck.  I worked several different compositions, and even tried my 16-35mm lens which didn't work quite as well as I had hoped it would.

I was very happy that the trees were very green to the rear which was not the case the last time I was here.  With the sun on the truck, I was able to really knock down the exposure for the background and let the sun do all of the work for highlighting my subject.  This old truck is slated for a project very soon, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

While I was having fun with some old friends, I decided that I had better spread the love with some different cars.  There was a nice treat under the shelter of the barn which I had seen the last time.  This Caddi Limo had been under a car cover by the main shop the last time I was here, but this time, it was out in the world for me to see.  As an added bonus, when Dean got there, he offered to move it anywhere I wanted it to go.  While that was a great offer, I really didn't see a location that would work as well as where it was sitting.  I really like to photograph things where I find them.  In this case, the sun was finally up high enough to light the car up and give some nice shadows from the structure that it was in.  While you don't get to see the limo body lines, or the Presidential Seal on the door, I am really happy with how this one turned out.

This is a really awesome car.  As you can see it is on an air bag suspension which slams it to the ground.  The engine is a Cummins Diesel...I mean rat rods are supposed to be diesels right??  The running gear has all been reworked, and the car even has air conditioning!  The coolest part, it has a straight pipe out the side of the passenger fender!

Swooping In
Of course with the hood in the sunlight, I was almost obligated to shoot some of the hood decorations.  The flying lady atop a Caddi hood is so much fun to work with, and with the crest and "V" in place, I chose to create this dynamic composition linking the two together in the sea of rust.  The patina of this car is pretty remarkable.  Dean doesn't believe in clear coating the cars, and just prefers to keep them sheltered from the elements so as not to destroy the existing patina.

Hair Raising
One of the things that I found really cool about this hood ornament was that it needed a hair cut.  Yep, you can see a tuft of hair on the head of this flying lady.  There are also some spider webs in the full res version, but I didn't see any spiders on this ornament.  Even the chrome on this car had a tremendous patina that impressed me to no end.  I shot a few more compositions with this Caddi before deciding that I was done with it.

There were a few trucks behind the barn that I had shot before with great success.  Sierra and I went back there and started to play with these trucks.  The lighting wasn't all that great since it was totally in the shadows at this point.  There was no real color back there, and things just looked a little flat.  Truth is, I had better luck with these on my last visit.  While I shot a number of images back here, none really panned out for me.  

Super Power
With the sun climbing in the sky, I was able to get in closer to the firetruck to get a few isolations of the front end.  There were a few things that I found really interesting with this truck.  The amount of lights that it had was one of the first things that captured my attention.  Of course, the manufacturer "White", was very appropriate to capture since the fire truck was white.  Hey, did they really do that on fire trucks?  The red lights were repeated down on the lower emblem where it read Super Power, and you could just see a hint of rust between the hood and fenders.  The grill was also looking quite proud after all of these years.  While Sierra didn't really like this shot, I like the implied power that you can see in the composition.  I think that it suits the truck quite well.

Stretched and Stacked
Speaking of fire trucks, Dean has an awesome rat rod fire truck on the other side of the property which flies the colors of the Outlaw Fire Department.  I'm not sure I would trust them to put a fire out, but I'm sure they would get there in a hurry in this thing.  The last time I photographed this truck it won my top honors as my favorite image from the day.  I'm thinking that it will keep those honors with this trip.  I've shot several more of it since I know I love the way it looks.  I really like each and ever one of them for different reasons, but I feel it safe to say that Engine 00 is still my favorite in the collection.

Crooked Grin
You know, sometimes it pays to return to subjects that you have shot before as we are finding out here today.  One of the cars that I didn't have a lot of hope for the last time turned into three different images that I really liked.  That was the Olds 88 which was set between a couple of barns along with a couple of other cars.  The lighting was completely different today with the sun shining on the car, and there being no left over rain dripping down the sides.  It looked like a completely different car under this light, so I had to give it another shot...or several.  The bent hood was still one of the best character features of this old car, and it really makes it stand out from the crowd.  I actually worked several different compositions with this car before moving on to different things.

Rat in the Yard
Moving on to different things was what I needed to do though.  The sun was climbing higher and higher in the sky.  I needed more clouds, and was really wishing that the 40-70% cloud cover that was forecasted would arrive, but I had pretty much given up on that possibility.  The lighting on the property was pretty even at this point, and it allowed me to move out into the yard a bit.  There was a shell of a rat rod further out which I had seen but not photographed the last time.  There was no engine, and it was pretty much a bit of yard decoration, but in this light it worked with the scene that I had in my head.

The design of this picture left Sierra scratching her head.  Here I was cranking the camera almost as far up as it would go.  It was well outside of my ability to see through the viewfinder.  I had to do everything through the live view with my hand cupping over it to shield it from the light so I could see it.  She made a comment about how I was doing this like I had to shoot a fallen tree several months ago.  Well, you do what you have to do for the shot.  My plan was to create separation between the car in the foreground and the firetruck in the background.  I needed them positioned like this so that the eyes were forced to follow the rat rod, into the firetruck, and then around to the cars next to the woodline before ending up at the barn.  Without that line in place, the shot would look jumbled, and wouldn't work in my opinion.  So, there I was on my tip toes shooting this scene from about seven feet up.

Patina Bling
After I finished with that side of the yard, we made our way back to the shop again.  There were a few trucks that I wanted to try my hand at, and the light was now hitting that side of the building.  One of them was a Chevy truck that had the front end like an old bus I had shot a few months back.  I knew that I liked how the lines all worked together with the headlight, so I went right to that composition and found that the patina had a slightly different look to it than the bus, and gave a little more visual interest.  The patina here reminds me of a calico cat with the splotches of color.  it is interesting, and the chrome adds to it I think.

Since we were at the shop, Dean came out to speak with us and offer us some hydration.  He really is a great guy!!  We learned a lot about many of the vehicles on the property, and I got a chance to see one that I had photographed the last time I was here.  It looked a good deal different with the moss removed off the side, and new wheels and tires installed.  The bumper had been pulled off as well.  As we were talking about it, I was looking at all of the shop decorations hanging behind the truck, and a story really started to develop.  I ultimately ended up getting down on the ground and shooting the shop with this old GMC.  The wheel actually makes the shot as a great visual anchor, and it just looks so good on the truck.

No Alarm
After a brief cooling off period in the shop, Sierra and I went back out to see if there was anything else that we could shoot in the exiting light.  I noticed that there were some clouds moving in which was a very welcomed sight.  There were not many, but I noticed that over on the opposite side of the property that they were in organized lines.  Those lines worked well with the direction of the white firetruck.  You guessed it....Sierra said, "are you really going to shoot that truck again?"  Yep, this time I was going to get the sky and a different side of the truck than I had been able to get previously.  After editing it, even she agreed that I had made the right choice in shooting it again.  Hey, when the sky is on your side, you take advantage of it!

OK, the sun was getting a little high in the sky, and the light was getting a bit harsh.  The one thing that I had left to do that I had planned for this trip was to shoot a couple of videos about how to use the filter that I was using at the time.  You see, Singh-Ray has recently approached me about helping out with their web presence.  Part of this will be doing short instructional videos about how to use their filters.  I figured that this was as good a time as any to give that a try.  The light was failing, and I had assistance with me.  We moved back to the shaded side of the barn you see above and I started to set up some pictures of the trucks back there and we shot a quick video.  I thought it went well, but I wasn't really liking the pictures.

Character Lines
We went looking for another option, and I decided that the Olds 88 showed some promise.  It also showed a better application for the polarizer.  It is a subtle difference most of the time with automotive photography, and with these in the sun, it was actually giving a little better visual change for me.  I got things set up and shot a test shot while the light was good.  Then I moved over to the video portion and shot a five minute video about how to use a polarizer for automotive photography.  I felt like a fish out of water, but this one seemed to go a bit better.  The photograph that I shot also turned out better.  In this case, I also shot one without a polarizer attached as a comparison shot.  The differences were subtle at best, but I did like the polarized shot better.

Deezel Powered
Before wrapping it all up, I decided to go back to my favorite rat rod and see if I could do anything with the details on the back.  I had seen the fuel can last time I shot it, but didn't really consider getting a picture of it.  It was just too cool to pass up a second time.  You read it correctly, this thing is Deezel powered.  I guess it is a special mixture, not available at all filling stations.  This thing just captures my imagination from every angle.  I don't think that it has a bad side!

I worked with the back corner for a bit, and then decided that it was getting too close to noon, and the sun was just too high up in the sky to continue any longer.  Plus we were both baking in the sun at this point and we needed to get cooled off and some food in us.

The day was really successful with 117 frames captured, and two videos shot for Singh-Ray.  On the way home I asked Sierra how many pictures she thought I would have from the day.  She started off saying 10, which I though was pretty reasonable.  She quickly changed her answer and said 16.  No way, not going to happen!  I said that I would likely get under 10 images that I felt were keepers, and we made a bet.  Sixteen images later, not only did I lose the bet, she nailed the exact number.  I'm now wondering what she knows that I don't know about my own photography?

Now it is time to switch gears because my next trek will take me to a location that I have not been in several years, and will hopefully add a bunch of new photographs unlike anything that I have shot in those years.  Stay tuned, it might be a little while.

Edit: 06-17-2018

After some thinking about the images that I shot of Ole Stitch, I realized that I was left feeling quite empty about what I had gotten.  I was going through the other images in my mind and thought about a close runner up which I had done away with because it really didn't showcase the body work on the truck, and didn't have the feel that I was wanting with the truck.  I was mowing the yard and thought about doing a grungy monochrome image of the truck with that low and wide shot that I had trashed.

Dean's Monster
When I started to process it, I wasn't really feeling like it was going to turn out all that great because of the color tones and how they related to each other.  I worked with the white balance and even the tint before I got the relationship right between the truck and the background.  Then I spiced it up a little bit with some local adjustments before this final rendering appeared on the screen.  Now this one I am totally believing captures the true essence of this truck that was Frankensteined together by Dean.  I love the second run through the pictures from the day because all too often I will get something that I had completely overlooked before.  I now have a new favorite from the day!

Well, That Was Frustrating

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Thrill Starts
I'm going to go ahead and start with a disclaimer which I rarely do.  I apologize in advance for how this is going to read.  I had a slight SNAFU while processing these images that caused me to be dead in the water for nearly a full week.  Without knowing what photos I had, I wasn't able to really write this blog entry, so I sat on the memory....and I sat....and I sat.  As of two hours ago, I had the computer hooked back up and was up and running again.  Here is the story, to the best of my memory.

Picture it....a week ago.  The weather was supposed to be cloudy with a few showers in the morning, and then moving into partly cloudy conditions later in the afternoon.  We had been getting several days of rain, and the last of it was on Friday night.  My plan was to head out to Hanging Rock in the morning to shoot Tory's Falls which looks really good after a lot of rain.  I figured that the lighting would be pretty decent in the morning for some waterfall photography.

For those of you that are observant, you will notice that the opening picture doesn't look much like a waterfall.  In fact there is no water to be seen here.  Yes, you are correct, this is not a waterfall.  You see, what had happened was...As I was driving down the road I was looking up at the sky noticing that the clouds were breaking rather quickly.  This was frustrating since I had been sitting at home for a couple of hours watching the clouds to see what they were going to do.  It kept looking like they were going to break open, but never did.  I had decided to count on them sticking around for a while.  It took about 10 minutes of driving to clear the sky.  Yes, my driving has magical powers when it comes to the weather.

Step Into History
The sky was just too clear for me to do any kind of waterfall photography, so I decided to go with plan B, which was to head over to the shop of a Rat Rod Builder in East Bend.  There were a lot of great subjects to work with on his property and I was about to text him to see if I could swing by and spend a portion of the day out there.  As I was examining the sky, I came across a little restoration shop that I have photographed at a time or two in the past.  The lighting was not the best, but something caught my eye.  Was that an Edsel that I saw on the side of the lot?

I did...I did....I did see a puddy tat...I mean an Edsel sitting there on the side lot.  I got turned around and came back to the shop.  Not only had I seen one Edsel, but I had also seen another one, as well as a bevvy of other possibilities to shoot.  East Bend was going to have to wait.  I already had a shot in mind of the Edsel Grill, and I was pretty sure I could make it work.  I pulled into the lot, over to the side so that I wasn't in the way of any potential shots.

I pulled out the camera and put my 24-70mm lens on, as well as my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer.  I went over to the first Edsel and started to work out a composition.  It took a little bit of doing as I was going for a symmetrical shot focusing on the center grill.  There is just something fascinating about the design of the Edsel's front ends, and this was my best chance to capture what drew my eyes in.

Impact Collar
As I was tightening up the shot, there were some clouds that were working their way across the sky over the car.  Since I was at the wide end of the focal length range, I was able to get a very dramatic shot of the vertical grill as well as a good bit of the sky above.  The Edsel logo was dominating the center of the frame, and the gold hues gave some much needed warmth to the composition.  When I looked at the LCD I got a little excited, but I wasn't convinced that it would turn out.  With the lighting that was going on , the clouds were pretty much washed out, and there were some pretty deep shadows in the grill.  The saving grace was that the histogram was showing detail in both areas, so I had a lot of hope about how this would turn out.

From my low position, I utilized some of the transforming functions of the Manfrotto tripod to get the camera inches from the ground.  I laid across the parking lot to get the composition just right (opening image) before releasing the shutter.  The down low angle, coupled with the Raleigh tag on the bumper really set this image off.  The histogram was showing the same tonal range as the first composition that I talked about.  While it didn't look that great in the LCD, I was feeling decent that I could bring out the detail when I got home.

While I was down there, I might as well look at other possibilities for compositions.  Plus, I'm getting old, and once I'm on the ground, it takes a while to get back up again.  The headlight bucket has always fascinated me with these cars, and the way that the grill wraps around and includes a marker light is a great styling touch.  That Raleigh tag provided a great triangular balance to the front corner of the car, and I found that when I got those elements lined up just like I wanted, I also had the added benefit of getting the "Ranger" emblem to show on the fender.  The sky was still quite interesting, so I counted this image as a success as well.  I was on a roll...until I tried to shoot the entire car.  While it was an excellent subject, I just couldn't find a composition that I liked that fit the car.  After shooting these isolations the entire car seemed to fall flat.  I was thinking that I was about done here, but then I decided to look at some of the other cars since I have been having some pretty good luck shooting in the harsh sun lately.

Woody Crest
There was a very nice example of an Edsel Bermuda Wagon on a lift to the side of the building.  It had some great wooden panels on the side, and lots of texture to get lost in.  The paint was in pretty good shape, so it was not one that I would normally get all excited about.  This one was special though, I just couldn't explain it.  I got into a position, wedged between the Edsel and a Mustang II (really, what were they thinking with that car?).  I found a great little emblem tucked into the wood siding on the front fender and started to work out a composition using that crest.  I found that these were turning out better than I had thought that they would, and I started to look for other abstract isolations on the side of this Edsel.  I was back in the groove once again.

Woody Flare
Something that I have said all along about cars from the 40's and 50's is that they are rolling examples of art.  There was a lot of thought given to the materials used, and the designs on the car.  This Bermuda was an example of that artistic influence, and I wanted to capture as much of it as I could.  This section of the passenger door had a marine feel to it with the pale wood and chrome rivets.  The chrome scallop breaking up the mint and creme colors was just fantastic.  I even captured a bit of the Mustang II for a splash of warm color to compliment the darker wood paneling on the bottom edge of the frame.  The door handle gets lost in this composition and the eyes just sit and enjoy the lines and curves of the decorative siding on this land yacht.

I would be totally amiss if I were not to include an emblem shot with this car.  Just ahead of the scallop that I was so interested in was the subtle script that described the car.  The brown, tan, and mint colors all worked together so well, and the diagonal composition (dictated by the close quarters) gave a lot of visual tension to the image.  I was having the time of my life with this car...or at least the side of it.  The front was missing a lot of important pieces (refer to Step Into History) a bit earlier in the article.  Why spend all of my time on a single area of the car when I was pretty sure that the rear held some of its own surprises for me?

Dynamic Signal
The rear of the car didn't disappoint, not in the least.  The tail lights were really cool with the arrow shapes and complimenting circles and arches.  This was the stuff that photographers really can have some fun with.  Hey, wait a minute....I'm a photographer, and I have a camera!!!  I started to set up some isolations on the lights.  There were so may angles to play with, and I got to include the color pallet that had drawn me into the isolations on the side of the car earlier.  The lines that I saw coming together were really great, and got me rather amped up once again about this car.

Arches and Angles
Wanting to try lots of different things with these lights, I got in even closer and just took a portion of the light assembly.  This is where the 24-70mm lens really shines.  I can shoot wide angle shots of an entire car, and I can get in to almost macro territory when shooting the details.  With this one, I was able to isolate the basic colors and textures of the light.  The square, rings, diagonals, and arches all worked together for a modern art rendering of this 70 year old car.

OK, I was really having too much fun now.  I was really looking forward to seeing what I had captured when I got home.  I was really hopeful for about 3-4 images at this point.  I'll save you the trouble of counting back through this entry.  I have nine images thus far, to be fare, eight of them had been shot at this point.  Yes, I hear you proving your superior math skills by telling me that is twice the number that I was hoping for at this point.  What can I say, I was on  a roll with these two cars.  I was in the zone, so why should I quit while I'm ahead?  I shouldn't, you are completely correct.  I gathered up my equipment and started to look at the other cars....well, except the Mustang II.

Perforated Body Line
Well, as luck would have it, there was an early Ford Fairlane sitting behind the Edsel.  Man was it in bad shape.  Rust had eaten through the fender, the headlight was missing...hey wait a minute.  That is my normal recipe for automotive photography.  Yeah, this was going to be fun too.  It was in close proximity to the other cars on the lot, so that meant I was going to have to be creative with the compositions.  I started with isolations, and really liked the study of the front fender where the chrome molding used to be at the paint division line.  The mounting holes had all rusted through, creating a great texture.  The patina on this old car was fantastic too.  This was more my speed than the Edsels, which were in pretty good shape...But boy did those Edsels photograph well!

Found on Roadside Dead
I'm going to take a quick break from my story about the capturing process and fast forward just a bit.  When I got home, I had a total of 77 images to review which I started on pretty much the minute I arrived home.  Things were going fact, I was getting more and more excited about what I had captured as I was culling the less than ideal images from the collection.  I started to work on processing them, and made it through to this point and as I was working on this particular image, Lightroom froze up.  This happens occasionally, but not like this.  Usually, within in a few seconds, my cursor will reappear and I'll be back in business.  Not this time.  The cursor was gone, and even trying to bring the task manager up wasn't working at all.  I had to do a hard shutdown on the computer which I hate doing.  I waited about 30 seconds and started it back up again.  Well, it locked up while booting this time.  Hmmmm, that isn't good.

Long story short, Over the next two hours I was able to boot up about three times, but every time it would lock up fatally, and I was able to get less into the computer with each boot session.  Eventually, I was unable to get the screen to turn on, and the computer would freeze giving me an error code on the power button.  I started to google what was going on with my phone.  My fixes involved changing out the button batter, reseating the RAM, and even swapping the memory to the alternate ports.  I completely drained the power source several times, but to no avail.  It was totally bricked.  I had not saved the images as I was not totally finished with the editing process, so I had nothing to show for the 2.5-3 hours I had been working on images.  I was in a panic, and knew that my editing was done for the day.

Fortunately, I was able to get the CPU to the shop and they were able to work some magic and get it to boot, and they were able to fix the problems.  fortunately, there were no hardware issues, and I was able to keep all of my progress on the new pictures.  When I picked the CPU up and got it home, I was able to pick up where I left off.  I was so thankful!

So let's get back to the morning with the images that I have just now finished processing.

Some Assembly Required
I know what you are thinking.  That idiot doesn't realize that the problem with the computer sucked the color right out of his pictures.  No, I made this one monochrome on purpose.  When I shot it, I liked the scene, but wasn't wild about the car.  It was white with black stripes.  The bit of rust on the quarter was the only splash of color on the car.  The grass and trees were lit by a relatively bright sun and had an odd color cast to them which I wasn't really liking.  I tried to play with the color image and got it pretty close to what I was seeing at the time, but still wasn't happy with it.  As a last ditch effort, I made a conversion to monochrome and instantly became more happy with the image.  As I worked with the tonal relationships I liked it more and more.  Ultimately, I trashed the color image and kept the monochrome as it gave a timeless feel to this old Mustang.

As I was working my way back to the main parking area, I came across a few old pickup truck beds that were stored.  There was one that caught my eye with the patina that it showed.  The rust was fantastic, but I was having a hard time finding something to anchor the rust.  What I ended up with was one of the flared sides that had some interesting white paint that was done as stripes and a design.  I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at, but my mind immediately went to the logo of "The Punisher."  With that, I had found my anchor, and I started to compose an image that captured that imagery.

Hunter's Specialty
The last car I wanted to capture was a Fairlane race car that was sitting out front by the gas pumps.  The car was actually in pretty good condition and didn't have the usual patina that I liked.  It was also a dark color which wasn't going to photograph well on its own.  The decision was made to include the area that it was in and make the car a supporting element to a greater scene.  The Gulf Pumps have always fascinated me, and I found that I was able to include them with the large Gulf logo on the building, with a bonus logo reflected in the window of the shop.  I actually shot a couple of different compositions with this though in mind.  The other one that I liked appears earlier in this piece.  Both say something different and I think that they both stand on their own very well.  The car has a lot of character being included in the whole scene and I think it makes for a much better picture than trying to isolate the car, or bits of it.

Shadetree Mechanic
With the sun getting a little too harsh, I decided to pack it in and head off to home, or possibly another location if I happened to see something that might work.  I had given up on the Rat Rod shop since the lighting was not all wrong for that setting.  I was just about to give up, and was actually about five miles from the house when I passed by a car that Toni, Sierra, and I had seen recently tucked in the trees by a house.  With the dense trees, I thought that the lighting might actually work out.  What was it going to hurt to stop and ask if I could shoot a couple of pictures?

I pulled into the driveway and immediately heard music.  It sounded like I might actually luck out and find somebody outside which is when I have the best luck in asking for time to shoot some pictures.   Sure enough, the owner was outside working on a car.  He was very nice, and was happy to let me photograph his car.  He even told me the story behind it.  The story is titled "It is not for sale, I don't care how much money you have!"  It is actually a feel good story though.  The car was his Dad's, and it turned into the current owner's first car in high school.  It was a 1940 Oldsmobile which is apparently quite rare.  His father recently passed away and the current owner has full intention on completing a ground up restoration on the car starting sometime this summer.  After hearing how much money he passed up on this car recently, I can say with relative conviction that he means what he says.  I do wish him luck with the project as the car is in really good shape despite the rough look .

While the story and the car were quite fascinating for me, I really liked the textures of the moss on the paint.  It was almost a decent substitute for the patina that I like on these old cars.  Like I said though, the condition of the paint was actually pretty good..under all of the moss.  I was able to get a few isolations which brought out the character of the car.  This one of the hood, might be less character of the car, and more character from the movie Alien.  Looking at the color, shape, and texture here, I am reminded so vividly of the alien that was encountered by Sigourney Weaver back in 1979.  Now that I have jogged your memory, I doubt that I am alone in that connection...right?

Eye on You
The curves around the light bucket were very interesting to me, and I worked several compositions that included the light and the fender curves with the grill as a boundary.  I was wishing that the paint was in worse condition, but the moss once again helped me by giving some texture to the surface that you can see is still rather shiny underneath.  Who knows, a new bumper and a coat of wax might be all this car needs.

I spent another half hour or so at this house as he had a 1970 GTO in the side yard that I really wanted to shoot, but just couldn't find a successful composition that kept it clear of the clutter in the background.  It was a great car, and one that I wish I had a satisfactory picture of.  It was just in the wrong spot to really work for me.  I wrapped up and headed home from here.  I was so excited to see what I had from the day, and then all of a sudden, somebody pressed pause on my entire adventure.  I'm finally at peace now, knowing that I have a total of 17 images that made the cut out of 77 frames shot.  That is better than 20% which is rather cool, and I am happy.

As I let out a huge sigh of relief knowing that the computer is working again, and that I didn't lose any of my previous work.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhh

Behind the Camera: My Bag of Tricks

Welcome back to Behind the Camera, which is becoming a regular feature here in the blog.  Each month I will address a question with the hopes of letting you know a little more about both myself and my photography.  The topic this month is from Nicholas Harvey who posed the question on my original Facebook post when I was starting this feature.  Now, I want to get a couple of things out of the way before I get started.  First of all, Nicholas is with Singh-Ray Filters, which is already a very cool part of this story.  It is always special when a company that produces some of your equipment starts to take notice of your work.  Thanks to Nicholas, I have crossed paths with Singh-Ray a number of times, and have really been impressed with the company as a whole.  That being said, I have received nothing from them for doing this article.  Nicholas just asked a very good question that I have been asked several times over the years and I figured that I would go ahead and write about it in detail this month.

Nicholas asked a several part question, and these are the bits that I will be discussing today:  

1. What's in your bag?
2. Post processing tips and tricks
3. Singh-Ray filters.  "But I'm biased"  (No seriously, that is what he said!)

Answering the first part is pretty simple to do.  I have recently added a page here in the gallery that details my gear.  This will tell you everything that I carry right up to the ponchos in case I get rained on.  It doesn't really tell you the why behind what I carry though.  I'll attempt to get into that just a bit here.  Let's start with the camera.  Unlike many other photographers, I only carry one body.  In this case, it is a Canon 5D Mark III.  This is to save weight and room in my bag.  It is also because I don't have the money to afford a backup body just yet.  In all seriousness though, it has not hampered my abilities, so I'm not worried about it in the least.  I have a range of four lenses that now cover from 14mm up to 400mm with the 2x teleconverter.  This gives me the range to cover just about everything that a landscape photographer might come across.

Carolina Blue
Shot with the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens which gave a very dramatic perspective
Holding the Line
Shot with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens to emphasize the post while including a great deal of background
Into the Gorge
Shot with the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens which is considered a "normal" lens for the perspective it offers
What a Rush
Shot with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L lens which allows tight crops and compressed scenes
Dragon's Breath
Shot with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L with 2x teleconverter at 400mm.  Very compressed image
As you can see from these selected pictures, I can cover just about any eventuality out in the field with just four lenses and a converter.  I'm glad that I don't need anything else since all of this glass is quite heavy on my back.  In this day and age, image stabilization is all the rage, but only one of my lenses comes equipped with that feature.  Honestly, I don't use that feature much at all since I rarely hand hold my camera.  In order to bring the sharpest images possible to my viewers and clients, I choose to shoot primarily on a tripod.

While the camera and lenses do most of the work that you enjoy here in the gallery, they would be totally worthless without a sturdy base.  I am regularly shooting at exposures in excess of a second, and even my "fast" exposures are much slower than the lens will allow to be hand held.  In addition to stability for sharp exposures, it forces me to slow my process down and fine tune the composition while looking at the boundaries of the image, and getting the hyperfocal point set just right.  In short, it makes this digital age photographer shoot like Ansel Adams with a large format camera.  I honestly think that using a tripod will make your compositions much better, and there is no denying the sharpness factor when the camera is still.

My tripod of choice is a Manfrotto 055CXPro with three sections.  This is a carbon fiber (weight savings) tripod that is quite sturdy.  I went with three sections rather than the four section option because it has been proven that the fewer sections are more stable.  The downside is, it collapses a bit longer than the four section model.  I think that the trade off is worth it though.  I like this tripod since it has lever locks and not twist locks.  They are more durable, and will last through use in dirty conditions better than a twist lock.  It is a personal preference, but I've had great luck with these tripods, and this one has served faithfully for five years.  I've got LensCoat cushions on the legs as well so that I can comfortably carry it on my shoulders with the camera attached.  They also cut down on the potential glare from the sun hitting the legs, and keep the legs a touchable temperature in the winter and summer.

The tripod head is another essential part to the equation.  I've used several different styles of heads over the years, but I love my Acratech GP Ballhead for its simplicity of design.  It is infinitely adjustable and can be used vertically or horizontally if I were to set the tripod up to shoot at ground level with the neck clamped horizontally on the legs.  With the majority of the moving parts being exposed, it is easy to keep clean from grit.  There is a tension adjusting knob that will dictate how much friction is applied while moving the camera around, and there is even a collar knob that allows me to pan while keeping the main ball locked in.  This is great for panoramas.  Speaking of panoramas, there are degree marks on the collar of the head that allows me to uniformly shoot the series of a panorama if I'm needing exact intervals.  The lifetime warranty, and the proven claim that the company can repair any of their ballheads without the need to replace is pretty comforting.  In five years, I have not had to have any repairs done though.

While on the topic of shooting on a tripod, I always get asked what the little green object is on the top of the camera.  It is a double axis spirit level which I learned to use well over 10 years ago.  Since I have a pretty bad astigmatism in both eyes, my concept of level is sometimes skewed.  If I don't have the right clues in the image, I need a little help.  Now, the tripod as well as the ball head have a total of three different levels.  I find that those are best for leveling the tripod in preparation for a panorama.  When it comes to leveling the camera, unless it is totally square on both axis, it is a guessing game with the one on the camera foot.  By adding the level to the hotshoe, I can check level on the two axis independently which is essential for landscape photography.  I have this attached 95% of the time, and only occasionally will vary from its assessment of level.  I could level an image through post processing, but that just throws away pixels if you do any rotating since you have to crop in closer, but more on that shortly.

Royal Veil
Shot with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to reduce the glare and slow the shutter speed.
So, let's talk filters for a moment.  In the day of Photoshop, and I dare say social media...filters have taken on new meanings.  When I talk about filters, I am not talking about digital overlays where I put bunny ears on a selfie.  I'm not talking about digital trickery either.  When I talk about filters, I am referring to the physical filters that go on the end of your lens to enhance the scene being captured.  While many of the filters can be reproduced in post processing, there are two that absolutely can't be duplicated.  These are the polarizer and a neutral density filter.

I carry two polarizers in my bag, the first one is a B+W polarizer which is a thin mount and reduces the chance of vignetting (darkening of the corners) on my wide angle lens.  It is a great piece of kit and was my first choice when filling my bag.  Since that time, I have expanded to include a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer which does the same thing, but adds a bit of boost to the green and blue colors in the image.  I've grown to really like this filter and find that I include it on most every shot where I need the polarizing effect.  I just have to be careful when using it with my 16-35mm until about the 20mm mark when the corners are clear.  

Simply put, what a polarizer does is removes the glare from reflective surfaces such as wet rocks or the surface of the water (as above).  It will also remove the glare from the water molecules in the sky which will help render the sky a deeper blue.  It also has a certain amount of light reduction capability depending on the type of filter used.  This is also very helpful with waterfall photography.

On Your Way
Shot using a Singh-Ray 10-Stop Mor Slo ND filter with an exposure of 30 seconds
The neutral density filter that I mentioned does one thing, and one thing only.  It reduces the amount of light that enters the lens.  They come in different strengths, and I have two different ones in my bag. The first is a screw on B+W Vario ND filter that will reduce light between one and five stops.  The second is a square Singh-Ray Mor Slo 10-Stop ND filter that fits in my Lee Filter System Holder.  You can see a dramatic effect of the 10-Stop filter above with the clouds moving over the sky for a total exposure time of 30 seconds.  ND filters are also very handy for waterfall photography when the lighting is too bright to achieve the shutter speed that you want.

Speaking of ND filters, I also carry a collection of six different Singh-Ray graduated ND filters.  No, those are not the ones that have a degree.  They are actually 4x6 flat filters that are dark on the top half and clear on the bottom half.  They fit in my Lee Filter Systems Holder.  They are wonderful for controlling the exposure when you have a dimly lit ground and the sky is bright.  You can see here that my camera was set up for a sunrise photograph and according to my phone's camera (using the HDR option), there was no way to get an even exposure.  However, by adding a 3-Stop ND Grad filter, I was able to bring the exposure of the sky and ground to a much closer relationship.

Spring at Rough Ridge
Shot with a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 3-Stop soft edge ND Grad
As you can see the renderings of the scene are completely different.  The cell phone shot was just not what I was seeing since my eyes were able to handle a lot more exposure latitude than my camera can.  However, by reducing the sky's light entering the lens, I was able to capture an image that much more closely matched what I was seeing at the predawn hour.  The nice thing about the Lee Holder that I use is I can actually fit two of the flat filters on at the same time, and can expand the mount to hold a third as well as a polarizer if needed.

How do I get all of this in the woods?  I have used a few different bags over the years from shoulder bags to rucksacks.  I have always been very impressed with the Tamrac Expedition series which I have used three different sizes of over the years.  It is now a discontinued item which is a shame.  But progress has made for some other very nice options.  My current bag is one of those options, and it is made by Lowepro.  The model is the Whistler BP 350 AW.  It was developed for the landscape photographer that spent time in the elements to get to their destination.  It is also designed for outdoor adventure photographers.  Toni got this bag for me for Christmas last year and I've completely switched over to it.  It has a bit more interior room than my last Tamrac had, and the storage is more usable for me.

What I love about this bag is that I can put all of my filters in the top zipper pocket so that they are available without me having to open the main compartment.  All of my main camera gear fits in the main compartment as you can see from one of the opening pictures.  The best part about this is, the main compartment opens on the back of the bag, so I get to lay the bag down on its face.  I no longer have to worry about mud and muck getting on the part of the bag that will be resting on my back.  I love these rear entry bags!!  I can also secure my tripod (again, not a compact unit) on the side of the bag for easy hiking.  There is a large compartment on the front that I can put things like gloves, towels, and assorted bulky items in.  There is even a side pocket that will easily fit a coupe of ponchos and some business cards.  On the waist belt, there is a nice storage compartment which fits four three battery packs and a couple of lens cloths.  I can't recommend this bag enough, and it does come in a larger size as well, but it fits all of my gear easy enough.

This pretty much concludes the equipment used to capture the scene in the field, but that is not the end of the photographic experience for me.  There are some other tricks that I use after the fact.  Tricks might be a strong word to use though, but lets talk about post processing for a bit.  Well actually, lets backtrack for a moment.  The idea is to capture the best image that you can when you shoot it.  For me that means being very careful with my composition.  I will frame the image as I intend for it to be viewed in the final rendering.  I don't like to crop my images, in fact I will do everything that I can to avoid it.  Why is that you ask?  Well, a digital image is made up of pixels and it is those pixels that will ultimately dictate the quality of a print when blown up.  The more pixels you have, the better the image will look at a larger size (why cell phone pictures start to really deteriorate at large sizes).  If I crop an image significantly, I will be hampering my ability to make a print at the quality that I want.

Additionally, there are things that I do in the camera that set me up for a better post processing experience.  I shoot in RAW so that I collect all of the image information, not just what the camera thinks I want to keep.  This gives me a lot of exposure latitude in high contrast scenes and the ability to really fine tune the colors.  To further aid with the information that is captured, I reduce the contrast in the camera to the minimum as well as the saturation.  This takes the load off of the camera to capture the subtle nuances of a scene.  I will also shoot in "Camera Neutral".  All of this works to make the image that I see on the LCD screen very bland and flat.  With sunrises, I never know what I'm going to get as far as color because of this.  I have to rely on the histogram to tell me that I have captured detail in the dark areas as well as the bright areas.  This is how I judge my exposure in the field.

RAW capture straight from the camera except for resizing
Canon 5D Mk II, 24-70mm f/2.8L II and a B+W Polarizer on the Manfrotto tripod
Now that I have the RAW capture on a memory card, I have the digital negative to work with. I am using this example because I don't like sharing the negatives all that much, but this was the first time I used Lightroom and it does a lot to show what I am talking about.  For years I had used Photoshop, but I never felt that I was all that good with it, and I didn't get that in depth with it because I didn't feel it was user friendly.  Lightroom changed that for me and presented a tool that made sense to me, and seemed to be directly developed for the photographer.  There are a lot of tutorials online about how to use Lightroom, so I am not going to be getting into the nuts and bolts of it here.

I will say that I am still a purist at heart and while I like a saturated image (similar to the old Fuji Velvia film), I try not to go overboard unless the subject dictates a very artistic representation.  What I love about Lightroom is that local adjustments are very easy to make with the radial filter, grad filter, and brush tool.  I use these in the same way that dodging and burning was used in film processing.  Exposure recovery is also very easy with the shadows and highlights tools.  As I said, I do everything that I can to include all of the information in an image into the digital file.  Here, I can eek out the details on both ends of the spectrum and even out the exposure.  The goal is to make a photograph look more like what our eyes are used to seeing.

Down to Earth
Processed with Lightroom in about 15 minutes
Here we see what resulted from my first full use of Lightroom.  I had watched a few videos on the subject and this is what I learned to do.  It took about 15 minutes to go from the RAW image to a print.  I can now do the same thing in 5-10 minutes.  This first time attempt went on to win a First Place ribbon at a regional competition in the fall of 2016.

If you look closely, you can see that I don't do any manipulations like adding or subtracting elements.  I don't crop the image (if I can help it).  What I do try to do is get all the details in the shadows (like under the roof) and highlights (like the grill and bumper.  I try to bring back the color impact that I dial down in the capture, and make the image pop.  The success or failure of the image is dictated in the actual capture though.  I don't "fix it in post" as a crutch.  I've always shot with the final image in mind with the camera and use post processing as an enhancement tool.

Off Sides
Processed through Lightroom to add contrast and a vignette
There are a couple of exceptions where I really let loose with post processing to take an image to the next level.  In these situations, I actually shoot the image with the alterations in mind to achieve a certain look that I'm after.  In the example above, I actually saw this tree and immediately thought of this style of photograph with it.  I captured a very flat image knowing that I was going to blow the background out and intensify the shadows to create a very minimalistic look.  I knew that by adding a vignette to the image, the blank sky would not be a problem at all.  It is not a true photographic representation of the scene, but it is exactly how I saw it at the time, and it is true to my vision.

I hope that this answered the questions Nicholas, and thank you for asking.  If there is something about my photography that any of you would like to know, drop me a comment or email and I'll do my best to answer.  Until next time, keep enjoying the beauty that surrounds us!