Two Decades of Pontiacs

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Window to the Soul
This is getting to be an exciting time for a photographer.  We are a matter of weeks away from the explosion of color that is Autumn.  Much of the South and East of the country is dealing with horrible hurricane conditions, that do bring some extraordinary photographs along with the weather patterns.  It is hardly worth the loss of life and property though.  No matter how you look at it, the landscape is in the process of changing, and that is always a fun time to be a photographer.  Then there is the reality of NC weather.  With everything going on in the future, and around us, there has been nothing much in the way of great conditions to work landscape photographs this past weekend.  Boring blue skies are great for outdoor activities, but don't make good additions to photographs usually.  It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that I started to see a change in the sky, and that was just a solid blanket of light overcast.

The sky wasn't cooperating with me, but I was wanting to get out for a bit with the camera and do a little bit of photography.  Landscapes wasn't going to be it though.  The overcast skies was giving me some nice diffused light, and with the day coming to a close, it was giving a good enough quality of light to do something...but what was I going to shoot.  Well, there were a bunch of cars about 10 miles North of the house that I have tinkered with a time or two before, but never with the intention of getting isolations on them.  The lighting was good for that type of photography since it did not require a sky to be included, and really needed diffused light to keep shadows under control.  I figured "why not? might as well give it a quick go."

I loaded up the camera and set off on the massive road trip that Walnut Cove represents.  I wasn't sure what I was going to be able to get since most of the cars there were pretty much stripped, but I knew of a black and gold Trans Am that might be promising, as well as some Mustangs.  When I got there, I was less than excited.  The remaining bones of these cars didn't really offer much to photograph.  Those that did, were black and did not have the color and contrast to make good pictures.  The exceptions were a '50's Pontiac that I had shot as a light painting exercise back in the Spring.  The other was the black and gold Trans Am, but I wasn't sure what really caught my attention on this car.

I pulled out the camera and started to look at the cars.  Nothing was really capturing my attention like I would have wanted.  I kept looking and looking.  I finally asked myself what about Trans Am had brought me out here with a camera?  The iconic grill was my answer, and that became my photograph.  I picked out a composition that captured everything about the grill that I thought was important.

Even though this car was pretty much junk, the plastic bumper showed very little signs of the condition of the car.  The chipped paint, and dullness were the only clues.  I figured that was excusable because the contrast between the black and the gold was amazing, and there was even chips above the Pontiac emblem that looked like fire coming from the top.  That gave an appropriate amount of drama to the image, and it worked very well in the camera's LCD.

I was looking at how everything fit together and really liked the way I had the Pontiac nameplate in the grill to the right.  There was a nice balance of elements thanks to that.  However, I saw a different balance from this composition, one that was based on symmetry.  I pulled the camera back and started to work the other composition as I had previsualized it.

I'm not sure which one I prefer, but they are both easily associated with this iconic car from the Smokey and the Bandit movies, and that was what I was going for.  I was very fortunate that the front of this car retained these parts as without them, there would have been no other compositions that I could have done on this car.  With that realization, I decided to move on and see what I could do with the other cars.

I walked down the line of Mustangs and found that none of them had the necessary ingredients that I was looking for in a photograph.  Over on the other side of the parking lot were another bunch of cars, some of which were similar model Trans Ams, but they were white and rather bland.  They carried very little interest for me visibly.  It was down to the '50's Pontiac at the edge that I had done light painting with which still caught my eye.

The reason that I had photographed it at night and used a flashlight was to reduce the impact of the background which was rather cluttered.  This time, I went into it deciding to to shoot isolations on different elements of the car.  For that, I can ignore the background almost completely.  I started to set up the camera in areas where I saw visual interest.

Triple Star
Of course, I had to get the hood emblem on this shoebox car.  It was surrounded with lots of great rust and patina.  The car was originally painted in my favorite powder blue that looks so good with the rust.  I decided to use the emblem as the lower frame for the image and have the character line in the hood carry the viewer through the frame.  The shallow depth of field helps to keep the eyes in the frame and exploring around.

One of the aspects of this shot that I really like is that the actual disk is in such good condition showing all of the details of "Pontiac" and the three stars below.  The chrome wing in the middle is pitted and shows the age that matches with the metal of the car.  That simple detail in contrast helps to make sure that the disk is the focal point of the entire photograph.  Then it is all about looking at the textures and patterns.

Fading Command
I would not have done this car justice had I not captured the "Super Chief" emblems on the front fenders.  The one on the passenger side was the best of the two with the surrounding patina.  The rust from the top of the fender even provided a natural vignette that seemed to put the spotlight on the script.  The wheel well below provided much the same element to the picture.  The blue paint seemed to underscore the name and add a visual weight to it.  It is a funky composition, but one that I actually like!

Badge of Decay
The rear of the car also presented some of the same great patina as the front of the car, along with intact emblems.  Once again, I composed an image that showcased how the emblems all worked together, and how the natural weathering has happened around them.  The textures are just so good here, and I really like how the colors play so nicely together.  My only wish was that the letters stood out a little bit more, but they have enough impact to make you look into the picture to discover what they are, which also gives the overall story of what you are looking at.

Tail Fins
One of those design aspects that defines the '50's was the tail fins on the cars.  Some were subtle, some where huge.  The GM models in the mid '50's were the ones that really got it right.  I would be remiss if I omitted this element from the collection I was capturing.  Even without the lenses in place, the lines are clearly recognizable, and counter the emblems in the middle of the trunk quite nicely.

Hey, that rear quarter panel gave me an idea.  I could do a similar composition on the front of the car with the headlight.  My opening picture was the one that really captured this car.  It was up on blocks, and was in pretty sad shape, but there was still something special about the car.  It still looked like it was driving down the road with the windows down and the music playing.  I could almost put myself in the driver's seat.  They also say that the eyes are windows to the soul.  In this case, the headlights are the eyes, and in the composition, they mimic the shape of the steering wheel.  This links the car and driver, and hopefully puts the viewer in the driver's seat of this classic.

Bygone Times
Before I finished up with this car, I wanted to do one more composition with the front emblem.  The well preserved nature of the disk was still haunting my thoughts, and I knew that there was another composition there.  I got in closer, and flipped the camera.  I cut off the sides of the wings and focused on that amazing disk.  The body line above balanced out the composition and allowed me to get three distinct sections of patina in perfect balance with the emblem!  This one is one of my favorites from the day, and happened to be about the last exposure.

Speaking of exposures, with eight images here in the blog, you would think that I had shot 80 frames.  Typically speaking, I keep about 10% of what I shoot.  I was actually really surprised that I had only tripped the shutter a total of 18 times.  That is nearly 50% hit rate which is pretty darn good.  For only being out there for about 30 minutes, I had a pretty good collection to show from it.

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