It is officially Fall here in NC according to the calendar. The leave should be changing, there should be a certain brisk quality to the air. I should be in the mountains photographing the leaves somewhere around 4000 feet. The reality here is that we are still having ninety degree days, the trees are still green, and there is no telling when Summer will actually end. This is really messing with my head as I was getting into the Fall mood in the closing days of September. When it came to deciding where to travel for pictures, it should have been an automatic answer of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was not going to be quite that easy to decide.
I really didn't want to dedicate a full day to traveling to the mountains for more green. The rainfall has been minimal, so waterfalls weren't really an option either. Fortunately, I have been getting back into my mode of shooting old cars and trucks. That gave me a viable option. I also had some new locations that I wanted to try out as well. These are two places that I have seen before and filed away in my mind for when the conditions were right. In both cases, I wanted overcast skies and a low sun.
Come Friday, I had not really had any time to think about what or where I was going to be shooting. I had no idea what the weather was going to be, and just didn't have the gumption to really go out at all. I guess this is what happens when the week has some unexpected ups and downs along with considering a complete rework of my website. Not to mention, I am starting to really put a lot of thought into where I could do a workshop for a small group of photographers. My mind was pretty much fried.
A quarter of five in the morning happens all too quickly on a Saturday morning, but such is the life of a photographer. She woke me up and I checked the weather. It was looking pretty much the same as it was showing the previous night. I rolled over and went back to sleep. I figured today just wasn't going to pan out at all. About an hour or so later I woke up again and started to think about options to shoot. I looked at the weather again and saw that the clouds were pretty thick outside, and that the partly cloudy conditions were going to be around 70% coverage. I then had the idea to look at a new app that I installed a few days ago. This is "Clear Sky" and shows the detail of where the clouds are, and what kind of coverage is expected. This gave me a different perspective showing good cloud cover until early afternoon.
That told me that I was actually able to go to the two locations in Stokes County if I wanted to give it a try. The main location I wanted to try was off of Hwy 8 and was an old garage with a busted Chevy sitting out front. I have passed this location many times and wanted to get a composition, but the lighting had never been right with it. I also knew that I wanted the overgrowth of late Summer rather than just an empty frame rail. I was running out of time to shoot this car unless I wanted to wait until next Summer. With the weather looking good, I decided to go on and give it a go.
I grabbed my gear and set off on the drive into Stokes. The entire way there I was behind a dump truck that was going between 25-35mph despite the road being a 55mph limit in most places. There were no passing zones where I could get around him so I just sat in place and took in the scenery. A bit over an hour later, I arrived at the car. I have no idea who owns the property, but I decided to take my chances with this one and pulled off on the side of the road. I picked out my 24-70mm lens and added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to it and mounted the camera on my tripod. I worked compositions on both sides of the car and tried to include the sign on the shop wall that stated that this was an Official Inspection Station. I found that rather funny when paired with the Chevy below.
The problem that I was having with this composition was that to open things up and let them breathe a bit, I needed to include the sky. The sky was brighter than the shadows I was shooting in which caused exposure problems. Instead of hoping that I could recover the shadows, I just went ahead and added a Galen Rowell 3-Stop ND Grad to control the exposure at the very top of the image. This worked very well and allowed me to get the exposure that I wanted on the main subject while keeping the sky from blowing out.
After a while shooting with this lens, I decided to swap out to my 70-200mm and step away from the car to get a bit more compressed look to the image. I found myself shooting basically the same compositions with this lens. Without the perspective distortion, the car seemed to disappear into the background of the shop. In the end, I didn't like any of the ones that I shot with the long lens. In fact, out of thirty some pictures, I ended up only liking one enough to keep it. This was part of the reason it took so long to shoot this car. I knew that getting a good composition was going to be difficult with the lay of the land. I am quite happy with this image though, and it captured everything that I wanted it to.
I seemed to end this one rather abruptly. When I decided that I was done I went back to the truck and broke down the camera rather quickly. I was getting sweaty and hot which was just not cool at 10am in the Fall! I got back on the road and decided that I would check out another location that I had scoped out a few weeks ago further into Stokes County. I had pinned the location on my phone so I just let it direct me to the location. I didn't have a lot of hope for this location since I was expecting it to be gated like when I saw it last. The car was sitting in front of a pretty bland commercial building, but it did have grass growing up underneath of it at least. My plan was to shoot with the 70-200mm lens with possibly the 2X teleconverter attached. That should isolate the car well enough from the road.
|Wing and a Prayer|
I grabbed my camera and mounted the 70-200mm lens as I didn't want to get too close to the car. I had also seen a couple of other old cars that looked promising as well which I could do easily with the long lens. Of course, I added the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer since I was dealing with glass and metal. I got everything set up and turned the camera on as I heard a lawn mower coming down the road. By this stage in my tenure as a photographer I knew a lawn mower driving on the road toward where I was could only mean one thing. The pavement needed to be mowed. (Pausing for laughter). It meant that the property owner was on the way to talk to me. This could mean that either I was going to be leaving shortly, or I was about to have better access to things.
As the mower turned into the driveway I knew I had pegged the situation. I made sure that the tripod was stable and I walked over to meet him. I wasn't sure how this was going to go, but I introduced myself and explained why I was there. He ultimately gave me permission to shoot the cars out in the open area of the lot which included the Chevy that I had seen earlier as well as the shell of a Nash, and a Chevy Nova just on the side of the building. This was great news, and I was very thankful for the opportunity. It did come with one caveat though. It appeared that he was mowing the yard while I shot the cars. I get it, I really do. I would want to watch a stranger doing anything around my property as well. We managed to stay out of each other's way for the duration of the time that I was out there.
|Roll the Dice|
I was pretty sure that I was done with this car for now. I needed my 24-70mm lens to try some other compositions, but before I switched that lens in, I wanted to work on the Nash that was parked on the side of the property. This was just a shell and a hood, but the blue color along with the rust tones were just perfect against the trees in the background. I knew I was going to need the long lens for this since it was parked very close to a more modern minivan and I was going to need to cut in close to avoid that. The trees were also taking up a very small section behind before dropping off to show power lines and a house across the street.
|Nash in the Grass|
As you can see, I did capture some detail in the sky here. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary to accomplish this. I just added a grad filter in Lightroom where I reduced the sky exposure slightly, and then worked the "Dehaze" slider ever so slightly to get a hint of definition in the sky. It worked very well, and I ended up with a sky that was worth being in a photograph. The blues in the clouds as well as in the body of the car balanced very nicely with the greens and reds which made up the rest of the composition. When I was done with this, I thought about trying something with my 24-70mm lens, but opted out of it as there was too much potential clutter in the background if I went any wider than what I was already shooting at.
|Hot Rod Deluxe|
When I got home, I found success here as well. I did the same techniques as I did with the Nash to bring out the little bit of detail in the clouds. It wasn't much, but it was effective in setting the mood, and providing just enough visual interest to make it worth including in the frame. What was really a gamble of a shot turned into my favorite of the day. Funny how that works out isn't it? I really do like this piece for the angles that are in it, the lines, the patina, and the shape of the building fully holding the car in the frame. It was similar to what I had previsualized, but so much better in every way.
|Style and Decay|
|Where to Go?|
At this point, the property owner was finishing up mowing and was going around to the side of the building. I was pretty sure that I had gotten everything that I could from this location. I started to pack up and went around to let him know I was leaving. We chatted briefly and he told me about another location with some older cars and said that he would try to get in touch with the owner of that property. It sounds really promising, and I really hope that it works out at some point in the near future.
By this time, I wasn't sure how many images that I was going to have as keepers, but I knew that I had shot a total of 72 frames, evenly split between the two locations. The first location I had been mulling over for a year or more and felt that I had a lot of good stuff from there. This second location was my alternate subject that I really didn't have much enthusiasm for. It turned out to be my favorite location of the day with lots of variations on compositions, not to mention three different cars to shoot. It really is funny how the success of a shoot doesn't necessarily relate to how much thought or planning had gone into it. I love that about photography, and it goes to show that to be successful in this game, you have to adapt to what is there at the time. Planning will only get you so far, reading the scene will get you the rest of the way.