For a while now, I've been looking at this old Chevy sitting up on blocks at a garage in Walnut Cove. Every time I pass by, I check it out to try and find a workable composition for it. Every time, I talk myself out of the picture because of the surrounding clutter. There are other cars parked very close to the side of it, there is a house behind it, and a street to the other side. There is a nice tree behind it, but it was well past peek when I first saw the car, so the burnt color on the leaves really didn't work out for the image. Everything that I could think of for this car left me feeling like it would just be "another picture," which is something that I really do try to avoid.
In the last week or so, I decided that I could capture this car at night and do some light painting on it which has worked out well for me in the past with subjects in a cluttered environment. My concept was to get down low and shoot from below bumper level, up to the sky, concentrating on the front clip of the car. For this, I was looking at having some clouds moving in the sky so that I could have some nice motion rendered over the course of the long exposure with the light painting. It was an interesting concept, but one that would need specific elements in place. For the last three days, I've been watching the conditions and trying to figure out when the best time would be to make this picture happen. The short answer was...just not going to happen the way I want it to.
Knowing that the cars at this garage tend to move around from time to time, and get gone, I didn't want to wait too long for conditions to be right. I came up with another plan of action that would incorporate the tree behind the car as a bit of background interest, while still shooting low. The sky would not be that important, and I could get away with a clear sky for this concept. With that idea, I decided to set out on my last day off before going back to work. I arrived just after sunset which was the perfect time to get set up.
I still had a good deal of usable light so that I could see to get the camera set up, and the focus locked before that became cumbersome due to low light. I started out with my 24-70mm lens and quickly realized that this didn't give me enough of a wide angle for the composition I was having to put together. So, I swapped out to my 16-35mm which gave me a lot more flexibility where I needed it. I also moved away from the car, and raised the camera just a little bit. I got my flashlight ready, and just waited for the sun to drop.
As things were starting to happen with the lighting, I started doing some test shots to see how the car would look under the warm tones of the flashlight. I worked out how I needed to "paint" the car in just a few exposures, and found that I could do it in about six seconds which was more than quick enough.
While I was dialing things in, I noticed a Stokes County Deputy pulling in and watching from a distance. I was figuring he was running the tag on the car, and watching to see what I was doing. I gave a friendly wave and went back to what I was doing. I just knew that at any minute I was going to get approached and asked what I was doing, but that moment was starting to look less and less likely. I kept on adjusting the exposure, and getting shots as the light went down so I had plenty of options when it was time to pick the image I wanted.
At one point, he came over the PA and asked if I would like him to light the car with his take down lights. That told me he was comfortable with what I was doing, and was just watching at this point, so declined the offer, knowing that for my purposes, the Maglite was more than enough light, and was the right color temperature. I kept on for a few more minutes, and then I could hear that he was approaching on foot.
We made introductions, and I found out that he was also an aspiring photographer which, of course, gave us something to talk about for a bit. Once I let him know that I was a police officer as well, his stress level went way down, and we chatted for several minutes. As the light dropped, he bit me a good evening, and I got back to business with the car.
As it turned out, we parted company right as the sky was where I wanted it. I was still getting the silhouette of the tree to the rear, but the focal point of the entire image was what I was painting with my flashlight. This was looking pretty good if I did say so myself. I was looking forward to getting home and seeing how things looked on the computer since the LCD on the camera is a terrible gauge of the exposure, and the histogram wasn't really registering a wonderful curve.
As the sky finally went dark, I packed up, and made my way home. On the way, I did notice another potential car off to the side of the road on the other side of a fence. I was pretty sure that I could shoot the scene from the outside of the fence, but it will probably be one that I will attempt to make contact with the property owner at some point to get inside of the fence. Either way, I have a lead on another old car which is always nice this time of year.