A Truck and a Tractor

May 28, 2014

Honeysuckle and Dew
There are times that I look back on things and all I can do is shake my head and wonder.  I had one of those experiences related to this trek.  It all started yesterday when I reached out to a friend of mine who has ridden in the annual Tour to Tanglewood with me in the past.  Since I was not going to be riding this year, I wanted to make sure that she was still planning on riding so I could make a donation.  While talking to her she complimented my photography and added "I think of you every time I drive out on our land we're building the house on, we have an old 59 Chevy truck and an old 58 Chevy truck."

Wait a minute.........

What's that???????

You have old trucks on your property??????

Uhhhhhhh, can I get a location and permission?

Of course, she was happy to let me know where the trucks were.  She said that one was under a tarp deep in the property and the other one was about 75 feet from a utility right of way.  I looked at things on Google Maps and figured out that I would have a pretty good chance at photographing the truck that wasn't under cover in the early morning light.  As it turned out, the conditions would be decent the very next day.

I was familiar with the area as I used to ride my bike on the road I was heading to several times a month.  I couldn't place the exact location I was going to, but knew that I had passed it many times on the bike, and quite a few more times driving (most of which looking for subjects to photograph).  I didn't know how far I was going to have to go off of the main road to get to the truck, but I had a good idea where to look, and the morning lighting was nearly perfect!  It was going to be a good day!

I got close to the area and as I passed through looking for a place to park my truck I saw the blue Chevy sitting in the tree line, visible from the road!  How in the world had I missed this?  In fact I was just out here a few days ago looking for barns.  There was a nice gravel construction entrance leading right to the truck so parking was not an issue at all.  I got out and built up my camera.  Since I have become rather fond of the wide angle shots with these old vehicles, I decided to leave my walkaround 24-70mm lens attached and added a polarizer to control any glare on the truck.

When I first started shooting, the light was a little splotchy because of the trees at my back, but it was nice and warm and the truck couldn't have been positioned more perfectly to catch the morning light.  I made use of the shadows at first and composed the shot above to give a visual balance between the light grille and the dark trees.  These white grills are always difficult to photograph when the sun is shining on them, but with the shadows falling on the grill, it all worked out perfectly.

Baby Blue
While the sun was doing some odd things through the trees, I decided to work on some up close and intimate shots.  I'm always a big fan of the light blue that so many cars in the 50's were painted.  It looks so nice when paired with the inevitable surface rust that appears 60 years later.  I wanted to capture just that color combination along with the intact badging on this Apache.  The bent front bumper was a visual bonus that helps to define the shot.

Sweating it Out
I moved around to the front of the truck since the chrome hood emblem was in such good shape.  I framed up a shot that captured that as well as the interesting patterns of rust and morning dew.  I used the inner headlights to frame the shot, and included the entire cab as well.  Originally I wasn't really happy that the truck was missing the windshield, but I don't think that this particular shot would have worked out nearly as well with the curved glass in place.  It was a nice treat to see the interior in such clarity.  The title here came from the appearance of the dew on the hood mainly.  When I paired that with the knowledge that this was a parts truck, I could see the truck actually being worried about what was going to happen to it next.  Coupled with the sweat that was pouring off of my forehead in the high humidity of the morning, it all just came together and made perfect sense.

Fading Heartbeat
While I was working on the detail shot of the hood, I started to see some potential  for a full on, squared up, front view shot.  I backed up and tried it that way, but there wasn't the feeling that I was hoping for at all.  I decided to flip the camera over into portrait mode and recompose the shot.  This was what I was looking for!  This shot has a completely different feeling to it compared to the close in shot.  Here, you can appreciate the straight body panels, and clean lines.  It is relatively complete in this shot, and there is more of a sense of potential here.  Obviously, this is far from an operable vehicle, but that Heartbeat of America still Pulses.

Eclipsed by Progress
I'm not sure what happened here.  I usually would never consider a shot like this.  I hate power lines, I hate contrails, and the lighting is a little harsh from this angle.  Despite all of that, I did set the camera up and worked out a composition that not only included the power lines, but embraced them.  There were multiple contrails in the sky that were brought out even more with the use of the polarizer.  When I look at my typical formulas for my shots, I would have never released the shutter, and certainly would have never let it pass by 3 different culling runs through the pictures.  However, there was just something about this view that resonated with me, and I wanted to work the negative into a finished print.

As I was working the photo, I realized what had hit me about this picture and why I was putting so much importance into it.  The two things that I don't particularly care for in a picture were representing modern technology, and progress.  The truck obviously represented a simpler time in life which was where the juxtaposition comes in.  With the lighting, it all came together.  Everything new was in full light, and easy to see, while the majority of the truck had fallen into the shadows.  The only thing that was left fully visible was the well worn face of this American Icon.

After deciding that the lighting was getting a bit too harsh to work with on the truck I decided to go deeper back into the property to check out the other truck that was supposed to be under a tarp.  This was the truck that was going to be restored, and had a deep meaning to the owner.  I was quite excited about the possibility of shooting this truck some day and wanted to get a sneak peak.  As I walked down the long construction driveway I found the house that was getting built, but couldn't find any more old trucks.  Well, its not often that I get free reign to just walk around and explore, so I took advantage of it and kept on going beyond the house.  I found, not a truck, but an old silver Ford tractor.  It was the right era, and in the right state for me photographically, but the color did nothing at all for me.  Just beyond the tractor, I could see some things in the wood line, and based on the shape, one of those items was the missing red truck.  It was completely covered so I wasn't able to get that sneak peak I was hoping for which was a little disappointing.  However, the sky was looking rather pretty over the trees, and I did have that old tractor sitting there with weeds growing up through the mechanicals.  I decided it was worth another look.

But Not Forgotten
It was positioned in such a way that the rear and right flank were bathed in the early morning sun, but not the front.  I tried to make a composition from the well lit corner, but it was boring, and just lacked the visual drama that I thought the image needed to offset the silver paint.  I continued to walk around and saw that the light wasn't so harsh that the grill was not visible, just shaded.  I figured I would do a grab shot just so I could say I tried.  I started to frame it and decided that this one really needed a portrait orientation so I flipped the camera and dialed in the polarizer to reduce the glare off of the hood.  As I was setting things up, I noticed the plastic bottle over the exhaust stack.  Obviously, this tractor was being used as a drying rack for dishes now....

Nope, that bottle was there to keep the rain out of the exhaust and engine.  My first thought was to remove it for the picture (and return it afterwards, of course).  I even started to walk that way, but the little voice inside of my head that prompts me to photograph things as I find them without any manipulations started to scream at me.  I was torn because this was not trash that I could remove guilt free, this was actually a part of the scene as dictated by the owner of the tractor.  It also showed in intention to fire this old tractor up again someday...maybe soon.  All of a sudden, the scene made sense to me, and this became a very important piece.  The weeds and rust told one story, but that simple plastic bottle told another one entirely.  The tractor was neglected, and left out in the elements, but it wasn't entirely forgotten either.  That bottle was the hinge pin of the story behind this picture that led me to the emotion it evoked.  The bottle was important, and it was going to stay right where it was!

Ironically, the harsh light also provided a bit of visual tension to the image that added some much needed drama to a color that had very little punch.  It was still a grab shot, but when I saw it on the monitor when I got home, my pulse quickened, and I found myself getting very excited over what I was seeing.  To me, this was a very powerful image, and after all the ink was applied to the proof paper, this turned out to be my favorite from the day!  And it wasn't even the reason I drove out here today.

When I was finished with the tractor, I figured that it was time to call it a day.  I walked back out to my truck and started to put my camera up.  I made one last look at the Chevy before I pulled the camera off of the tripod though.  What I saw was, even though the sun was well up in the sky now, the Chevy was very well lit and the quality of the light appeared to just as good as it was earlier.  Having had some difficulty getting a close in wide angle shot due to my own shadow in the frame, I thought I might have better luck now that the sun was higher, so I went back and gave it another try.

Memory Maker
I was able to get to rather wide setting on my lens without getting myself in the frame this time.  The light was still very warm, but I played with the white balance settings a little bit to add what would be the equivalent of a warming filter.  The colors started to pop at that point, and I could tell that I made the right choice about coming back to do some more work on this truck.  I fired off a few frames so I was sure and got the proper exposure since I was working with that white grill in direct sunlight.

Just Off the Beaten Path
After having a bit of good luck with high contrast scenes, I decided to switch things up a little bit.  I moved to the right rear of the truck and kept the wide angle view on my lens.  I was almost shooting into the sun, but I knew that the Canon 5DM3 could resolve quite a bit of exposure latitude when pushed.  I was going to push it with this picture.  I only took one frame and exposed the histogram all the way to the right without clipping the highlights except for the extreme highlights.  This left the shadows exposed a little bit better, and since I was shooting RAW, I was going to be able to pull some more detail out of the shadow areas in post processing.  This turned into a very dramatic image with the bed length being exaggerated visually.  The truck almost leaps off of the page heading to the driveway in the distance.

All in all, I shot 60 frames in about an hour and a half worth of work.  After culling them down, I was surprised to have a total of eight images that I think were significant from the morning, and stood on their own.  Of course, I am still just tickled about finding that old tractor, and that I had the foresight to try and shoot it when my first response was lackluster at best.  Even a trained photographic eye can miss things at first sight.  fortunately, my mind was thinking beyond what my eyes were seeing with several of these shots.

Now, how in the world have I missed this location for so long???  I really want to know!

1 comment:

  1. That's what friends are for!! To show you things you might never see otherwise. The comment about the blue being a popular color in the 50's (my favorite color then and now!) and the rust in the 60's (what I feel is happening to me now!) struck an emotional note with me that these types of photos don't usually do for me! Glad you hd such a productive day!