A Red and Black Classic

· Reading Time: 9 minutes

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Old Sport

The last morning that I had free from work, I tried to go out and photograph this old car, but I wasn’t able to get in touch with the property owner at the time, and then the rain came.  Several hours after I got to work, I got a call back from the property owner who said that he would not have a problem with me photographing his car, and with that, I had a definite destination for the next time the weather was decent.

This morning, I also got to go in to work late, so I had a little time to kill and the weather was looking pretty good for doing some automotive photography.  Having the permission to work the ’56 Buick, I waited until the sun was fully up behind some pretty good clouds.  I needed that hint of warmth in the lighting that early morning wouldn’t give me.  I drove over to the house, and pulled into the driveway.  The clouds were starting to break apart, but there was still plenty of clouds in the sky for some diffusing action.

Blistering

I had let the owner know I would knock on the door when I got there, and he wanted to show me the seats that were going to go in the car.  By the time I was done with that, I went back outside and was greeted by clear blue skies.  Seriously?  Two days ago, I was rained out while looking for clouds.  Now the clouds have run away from me when there was supposed to be 70% cloud cover.  That is part of being an outdoor photographer though, you just can’t count on the weather to work with you.

Well, I was here, and so was the sun.  I was going to have a really hard time photographing a black car in direct light.  I tried a few compositions, but there was just so much glare from the sun that the images were not really good enough to fine tune.  In an attempt to salvage the morning, I started to work with some isolations featuring rust.  There was one blistered place on the trunk that caught my eye.  I had my 24-70mm lens on, which was really good for getting up close with the subject.  I twisted the Singh Ray Color Combo filter and started to compose some images that captured the texture of the rust as it bled through the paint.  It wasn’t quite as satisfying as I had hoped, but it was something at least.

One Hundred

While working the Buick, I couldn’t help but realize that most of the trim and emblems were missing.  This is the part of isolations that I really like, but they just weren’t there.  I had some interest in the two tone portions of the paint, but nothing that would work in a composition.  The Ford next to it, was a different story though.  It had plenty of emblems still on it, but the patina wasn’t all that fantastic since it was a solid black vehicle, and still in decent shape.  There was moss on the diver’s side which added some nice textures to play with.  I decided since this was in the sun, and it was more or less indirect, I could work with some of the emblems.

I started with the trim work on the hood and fender.  The diagonals were interesting to me, there was a splash of color with the marker light, and the moss gave the black paint a little bit of texture and life.  I had gone saying that I wasn’t going to do anything with this truck, but all of a sudden, I was happiest with how these pictures were turning out.

Custom Moss

I moved down the side to the rear of the bed where I found another emblem on top of a body molding.  The same formula applied here with the diagonal lines.  The moss was a little thicker here which was a very good thing.  The sparkle of the chrome against the paint and moss really popped and I liked where this was going.  Isolation were going to be where I was going to get my images today since the sun was not cooperating.

Buick Style

I realized a few months ago, that you just can’t photograph a classic Buick and not pay attention to the port holes on the fenders.  Had this car had the chrome trim, they would have been visually prominent enough to carry the entire image.  This car was void of almost all of its trim though, which made isolations a bit more difficult.  I played around with isolating a single one of the holes, but on a black car, it had no pop at all.  If I added the splash of red to the bottom, there was no visual balance, and I needed a complimenting color for the red.  Since the sky was blue, and I could get some visual interest with the A Pillar and roof, I thought about isolating the portholes in the bottom third with a bit of the red, balanced with the blue in the sky.  I started to frame the image up and found that the wheel well to the right matched up with the diagonal of the rocker panel to the left.  The door seem, took your eyes right up to the portholes,  The haze in the windshield and the A Pillar brought your eyes up to the roof, and the the trees and the cloud carried your eyes to the blue sky.

The only problem was the exposure was going to be way too difficult since I was shooting in the shade, and capturing the sky.  I decided to do a four shot HDR image that covered four complete stops of light.  With that, I was able to capture the detail in the black, as well as the detail in the clouds.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, and honestly, looking at the individual images I didn’t have much hope.  However, after they were blended, and I processed it, I was actually quite happy with what I had captured.  It wasn’t quite an isolation, but it wasn’t a full capture of the car either.  It highlighted the portholes, and then had a very light and airy feeling despite the primary elements and colors being quite dim.

Fire and Ice

I was feeling a little bit better about my isolations, so I went back to hunting elements on the car.  There was this one area of damage that had rusted over the years.  It struck me as quite interesting with the visual balance.  The area was about 6 inches tall, so I had to get in pretty close to capture what I was seeing.  I cropped in tight with that 24-70mm lens, and started to twist the polarizer until the black went completely glare free at the top.  I noticed that there was a slight problem on the bottom half.  I was reflecting in the image, as was the ground.  I could remove me, but the ground reflection remained.  I could have put my tripod bag on the ground to make that reflection black, but I started to see a different possibility.  The earth toned reflection at the bottom provided a nice visual balance for the upper elements of the damage.  I decided to keep that reflection, and even dialed back the polarizer a bit to capitalize on it.

When I was done processing the image, it seemed to take on a different feel from anything I had shot on a car before.  It was no longer rust, it wasn’t even really abstract.  It was hard and gritty, and full of emotion.  It was a rock-n-roll album cover if I had ever seen one.  Oddly enough, this one 6 inch section on the quarter panel of the car turned into my favorite shot of the day.  There was just so much personality in this image that it can’t be ignored.

With that picture taken, I decided that I had worked everything that I could on the car with the existing light.  It was time to pack up the camera and head to work.  I got everything put away and suddenly realized that the sun was not nearly as intense.  I looked up.  There were clouds moving in, nice thick ones at that.  I still had a bit of time, so I pulled the camera back out, and left the 70-200mm lens attached this time.  I added that Singh Ray filter once more and started to find new compositions.  I went with the front quarter shot from where I was standing since I had the long lens.

I was just able to miss the corner of the house and the Ford next to the Buick.  With the clouds killing some of the glare, the lighting was much better, but having a black car with shiny bits on it, was still creating problems.  I decided to be safe and shot a 3-Shot HDR image which appears as the opening image.  It is kind of a flat composition due to the focal length, but it draws the attention directly to the car.  The patch of tan grass behind gives a nice color balance to the image, so it does work fairly well.  This was the view that had caught my eye from the road several weeks ago, and I now had that shot in my collection.

Season of Rebirth

Now that the clouds were coming in nicely, I decided to try another composition I had attempted earlier in the morning.  Not wanting to take the chance of losing the light, I kept the long lens on and went into the back yard.  I had to get a good distance back , but that actually worked out even better than when I was up close.  I had the sky included earlier which would not work now with the clouds.  I did have a nice tree that was resplendent in white blooms.  That achieved the all important sense of time for the image.  There was a lot of red in this shot, so I was very happy to have the greens to balance things out.  With the overall image rather dark, the white tree balanced that out as well, and helped to compliment the windows of the old Buick.  Since the paint was in as good a shape as it was, I was happy that I was shooting on the North side so that I could get that moss which gave an indication of how long it had been sitting there.  For me, this was another great success shot of the day.  It was also the third HDR image that I shot that morning which appears here in this entry.

For a single location, being shot on the way to work, I have to say that this was pretty successful.  I shot 55 frames in about an hour and a half.  Of those, there were three different multiple image series for HDR conversions.  I ended up with seven out of the batch that I deemed good enough to hang onto.  With that, I really can’t complaint one bit.

It was nice to be able to get out with the camera once again too.  It had been far too long.