A Couple of Heavy Duty Fords

May 25, 2014

Toni loves tow trucks, and I love to photograph old vehicles, so when I came across an old tow truck tucked into the side of a barn I knew that I was going to have to photograph it at some point.  I have been by the location several times, but have never found anyone at home.  Since the barn is well within the property line, I didn't feel comfortable going close enough to get the pictures I was wanting without first getting permission.  This afternoon, I ended up alone at the house with Toni at work, and Sierra at my Mom's.  I was getting a little tired from my constant trekking, but hated to waste the opportunity to go without feeling like I was running out on the family.  So, I loaded up my gear and set out on a trek, figuring that I would try to make contact with the owners of the old tow truck.

I drove around for a little while looking for something interesting, but nothing was speaking to me.  The clouds were starting to clear and I was seeing that I was going to have very little luck driving around without a plan.  I decided that I would go by the house with the old truck and see if anyone was home today.  It was kind of a last ditch effort before going home to get some dinner.

When I arrived, I found a different car parked in the driveway and thought that I might just get lucky after all.  I went up to the front door and rang the bell.  As I waited, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye as a gentleman rounded the corner of the house.  I was having flashbacks from a very similar experience a couple of weeks ago.  Fortunately, I saw no firearms, and I was able to strike up a friendly conversation.  After figuring out that our paths had actually crossed some 20 years ago, and catching up with the events from a company I worked for back then, I was given permission to shoot as much as I wanted.  Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong position in the sky (I had estimated it all wrong apparently), and with the clouds leaving, I was going to have a very hard time working it out.

I was happy enough that I had permission finally that I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a go.  In addition to the old tow truck, there was also an old Ford flatbed truck which caught my eye.  Behind the barn with the two trucks there was another one with several VW Bugs and the cab from another old pickup.  I was having a blast and I hadn't even turned the camera on yet.

Heavy Duty Ford
Now that I was able to get up close and personal with these trucks, I started to really see the difficulties I was going to be facing with their locations.  I much prefer my subjects being uncovered and out in a field or in a wood line.  The tow truck was under a supported overhang and the upright supports were going to get included in any composition that showed the truck as a whole.  In addition, most angles included the opening at the rear of the truck which was where the sun was.  Yeah, I was going to have to think this through in order to get pictures that I could use.  The first shot that I set up used the front upright to help frame the front of the truck, with the angled wood, and brick fascia boarding it on the right.  Fortunately, the exposure worked out OK when a few light clouds passed overhead.  I was happy with this composition, but it didn't show the most important part of the truck...the tow bed.  That was what I wanted to get for Toni, but the light was just too harsh right now for that.  I decided to go and see what I could do with the other truck while the sun moved closer to the horizon.

Ford Flatbed
 The lighting was much better here since it was out in the open, but lighting wasn't the whole story here.  The brick fascia that was all but pealed off from the other side was still hanging on this side of the barn.  Red is a powerful color in photography and should be used carefully.  The truck itself was black from what I could tell based on the remaining paint.  This was not a great color for me, but it helped to tone down the red.  The other barn behind the truck actually helped me out a great deal here because it gave some much needed visual weight to the right half of the frame which would have been rather empty with just a flatbed and trees being matched up against the red brick fascia.

Ford Flatbed in B&W
While processing this picture I started to wonder what it would look like in monochrome so I made the conversion and started to play with the tonal values.  I found that I was able to reduce the visual impact of the wall, and use it to make the truck pop out of the photograph.  There is also a very distinct feel of age to this version as well that I have to admit that I like.

While I was working this flatbed, I couldn't help but notice a rather new red barn at the other side of the property.  While I normally don't do much photographing of newer barns, I thought that this one would be a very interesting addition to a composition.  The sunlight was still shining pretty bright from the rear of the trucks, and the shadows were getting longer and longer.  Instead of avoiding them, I decided to try to incorporate them in a few compositions.  While working from this angle, I started to become very aware of the breeze that was blowing stronger and stronger.  Just like with the sunlight, I decided to embrace the movement of the weeds as well.  I selected a narrow aperture which helped to keep everything in focus, but also forced a slower shutter speed, thus blurring the weeds.  I got some highlights on the truck from the sun, but I think overall it makes for a fairly powerful image.

A Much Needed Rest
I probably spent the most time on this composition because I was having to wait for the perfect blend of sun and breeze to make it work the way I was envisioning it.  Its never easy being at the mercy of the existing conditions, but that is part of the game that the landscape photographer has to play.  Fortunately, there are no rules, only recommendations when it comes to the perfect light requirements and sometimes going against those recommendations provides some pretty stunning images.

The light was starting to fade, so that meant that it was about time to try my hand at the tow truck once again.  When I got to the other side of the barn I could see that the light was not as harsh as it had been, and I started to think that I could get a few compositions of the whole truck for once.  This was what I really wanted for Toni, and I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to make it happen today.

On Call
On Call in B&W
The lower sun and the clouds were really helping out now.  I was able to get detail everywhere I wanted it, and the textures really made for a fun picture.  Even though the closeup shot of the cab showed plenty of strength, it wasn't until I was able to include the working part of this truck that the story was complete.  I would have liked it better if the canopy and the supports weren't there, but I learned a long time ago, I have to embrace what I have available.  Since I was able to include the tin roof, the uprights make visual sense, and everything pulls together nicely.

OK, I had gotten pictures of both of the trucks.  I had looked at the Bugs in the rear barn but was unable to find anything that really excited me about them.  I was thinking that I was done, but with the harsh sunlight, I wasn't overly sure just what I had, so I wanted to try some other things before I left to make sure that I had gotten everything I could possibly get.  It was time to shoot abstracts!  The flatbed wasn't going to be a good candidate for abstracts though since its primary color is black.  There just wasn't enough visual pop there to make it interesting.  The tow truck, on the other hand had a lot of potential in the grill area, and that was what I focused on.

Ancient Curves
There were just so many colors, textures, and lines that the front of this truck seemed to carry the entire personality.  It was only fitting that I give it some attention.  There was a lot to work with here, and I really needed hone in on what was the most fascinating.  I liked the small vents under the Ford nameplate, and I also liked the V8 badge with the grill insert below.  I thought that they both made some excellent subjects and that was exactly what I focused on.

Time Honored Style
Symmetry was going to be the recipe for these abstracts, but with a slight twist.  I still wanted to keep visual tension here to keep the eyes moving around.  I was able to incorporate both strong horizontal aspects as well as some very subtle verticals.  The V8 emblems quite literally points to the centerline of the middle grill element, effectively bisecting the image.  The edges mirror that vertical element.  Bringing unison to the piece is some smaller verticals in the upper area of the grill which draw the eye from the main horizontal element.  It all just came together!

Graffiti of Time
In the area of abstract art, just about anything goes.  I took that to extremes with this shot.  It was all about the Ford and V8 emblems on the background of flaked paint, rust, and faded company logos.  As I was processing it, I decided to go over the top and cross process the image which is a technique used back in the film days when you used the wrong chemicals on purpose to develop your print.  The resulting colors were very vivid, and the elements all took on lives of their own.  When I looked at this version, the first thing that came to mind was years of graffiti on a wall.  My next thought was that time had done this to the front of the truck, and time had in essence perpetrated a vandalism.  The title was set at that point, and what might have been my favorite image from the day was now complete.

With about 100 frames taken in about an hour and a half, I was fully expecting to have only about 3-5 workable images due to the lighting conditions.  Oddly enough, when I was all done with the culling and processing, the nine images that are here represent just under a 10% hit rate.  I have to say, I am very happy with that crop!

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