Friday, January 3, 2020
I really wasn’t planning on going out this morning, but when I came into the room late yesterday evening and they were talking about the potential for fog my interests were piqued. I had several ideas that I wanted to try in the fog. Once of which was about 8 months old and included shooting a few trains in Tobaccoville in the early morning fog. My other idea was much more recent and involved a Dodge that wasn’t too far from the house. I had tried to shoot it on the first but couldn’t get a context for the car that I liked. I had though about doing some light painting with it and I was pretty sure that it would benefit from some early morning fog as well. My last option was to go to Bethabara for some moody morning captures. At any rate, I had a lot of options available to me that I could choose from when I saw how much fog was available in the morning.
I woke up at 5am and checked the weather. There was no mention on any fog on any of my weather apps and that was a little upsetting. I did get out of bed and started to look out of the windows to see if I could see anything. The rain had stopped, but there was really no fog at all. There was a light mist though, and that made me think that I might get lucky. I considered it for a bit and decided to get up and give it a try. There wasn’t going to be enough atmosphere for Bethabara or the trains, so I opted to start out with the Dodge. I grabbed my gear and went into Walnut Cove. I pulled off the road and got out to survey the scene. The background had gotten much simpler with the lack of sun, but there were lights off to the right that were casting shadows on the side that I would be photographing. I could overcome that with doing a bit of light painting, but I still wasn’t happy with the composition. There was no context to the car, and no story to be had. I looked at all different angles and even considered cloning out some clutter to include more of the scene. Nothing worked and I didn’t even get my camera out.
There was still no fog, and I was at a loss of what to photograph. My first thought was to just go on home and call it a day, but there were going to be good clouds this morning with the rain holding off till about 10am. I decided to go and see about an old Buick that was sitting at a small dealership. I figured that I could do some light painting on it and simplify the background. When I got there the car was looking really good, but the setting was not suitable at all for anything that I wanted to shoot in the dark. My only option was to do some isolations on it, but that would need to be after the sun came up and the light got a bit brighter. I was back to my driving aimlessly trying to figure out something to shoot.
As I was driving down Old Hollow Rd, there were some lights that caught my eye. The diner that I have passed by many times had some really nice colored lighting going on and with the wet parking lot it was looking like something that I could have fun shooting. It wasn’t my standard subject by any stretch, but it had my attention. Maybe it was because I had recently watched a few of Nick Carver’s videos where he captured images of local diners and such. At any rate, I turned the truck around and pulled into the parking lot. I got out and went over to look at how everything lined up for a composition. I was very happy with what I was seeing and it was great that the parking lot was mostly empty which allowed me to be able to captured what I wanted without any cars entering into the composition.
I went back to the truck and grabbed my bag and tripod before coming back to the spot where I had seen the reflection that I wanted to capture. I started to fine tune the composition by moving the tripod around until I had everything just as I wanted. I exposed an image in portrait orientation that turned out decent, but it was off balance. I needed to make this a horizontal image to have it really work well. As I was flipping the camera, a truck pulled into the parking lot and parked right by the front door. Well nuts!!!! There went my completely clean composition. They went inside and got a table, so they were going to be there for a while. Looking at the scene, I had two options. I could make due with what I had, or I could decide to come back another time. Since there were two full sized work trucks on either side of the entry, I decided that they helped to tell the story here. They would help keep the eyes in the frame and provide a bit of visual balance to the scene as well. I readjusted the camera’s position and dialed in the exposure. Now it was a matter of timing an exposure of 3.2 seconds for when there were no headlights streaking past and when there was limited movement in the diner. I managed to get one image out of about 10 where the two gentlemen eating their breakfast were reasonably still, there were no headlights, and the wait staff was out of the view. Just a single image worked for what I had in mind for this scene.
I had considered how this would look in a brief amount of time with blue hour approaching, but decided that there would be too much clutter on top of the diner with the trees back there. Keeping everything dark was the way to go here and allowed the lights to really be the star of the image. This is one of those slice of life photographs where there are a lot of clues available with the different adds throughout the scene. The newspaper rack gives a sense of place and the trucks give a sense of time. That puddle is the key to the image though. It provides a great foreground interest as well as filling the negative space of the parking lot. Without the puddle, I would have never given this a second thought. I had captured my first images of the day and I was ready to see if there was something else that jumped out at me for this odd time of day for me to be out on the hunt for images.
I drove a bit further down the road and came upon an old building that used to be a restaurant which I have passed by hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years. In the blue hour with the street lights on it, the colors caught my eye. The lights were nice and warm and the sky was a deep blue with the dense clouds overhead. I pulled into the parking lot and started to see what I had to work with in terms of a composition. What I found was a very simple one that worked well. I went ahead and grabbed the camera and set it up about where I had tested the composition with my phone. I fine tuned things, but it was taking too long as the light was changing very quickly. The warm tones were fading and the sky was getting brighter by the second.
I didn’t want to abandon the composition just yet though. I had the camera out and I wanted to at least try to see if I could make this work. I cranked off several exposures with slightly different compositions. The exposure was great with no need for any filters or anything special to be done. The colors were fair and there was a nice color balance when I looked through the LCD. That color balance wasn’t the case when I looked at it on the computer though. There was too much yellow and orange in the scene for my tastes and it looked too simplistic with only the warm and cool hues present. There were no neutrals which I thought hurt the image. I decided to look at it as a monochrome image instead which almost immediately made more sense to me.
I set out to working on this image and apparently it took a long time. Toni kept passing by and asking if I was still working on that same picture. It wasn’t an easy one to process because of the light, but I loved the atmosphere that the blue hour gave it in monochrome. The problem was the overabundance of yellow and orange on the building. That was really hard to deal with to introduce any contrast to show the textures of the wood. I did mange to get it to work out through a lot of local adjustments. The sky was easy since there was no detail in it to speak of. I just introduced a heavy vignette to add a little drama to the scene. The tree that was encroaching in the upper left corner I embraced for the visual balance that it brought to the scene. There was a great deal of dodging and burning with this image which was a great benefit from going to monochrome. There is a lot more that can be done in black and white compared to a color image when it comes to detail and contrasts. I didn’t stick around here too long since I really wasn’t sure how legal my presence was. I had what I wanted and the sun had come up by this point. It was time to go and check out the Buick once again.
When I got there, I was pleased to see the lighting on the car was looking good for doing some isolations. I really didn’t think that I would be doing any overall shots since the car was parked very close to a Volkswagon Jetta which really didn’t fit the scene. I was interested in the front of the car though, and that was what I set out to capture to begin with. The car had a nice layer of moisture on it from the rain and mist so that meant that more than every I was going to need a polarizer. I went ahead and pulled out the brand new Lee 100 holder that I just got yesterday and mounted the accessory ring to it which already had the 105mm polarizer screwed in. This was a good time to test out the mount and I was excited to see how it would work. I got the composition figured out and dialed in the exposure. Normally I try to avoid having things going into the corners of the image, but the two pieces of trim at the top corners actually fit and seemed to pull the eyes into the frame rather than out of it. I used the bumper as the lower framing element and the fenders as the side frame for the image. The crest and the hood emblems sat right at the top third of the image where I wanted them.
While I was down there, I decided to flip the camera and go off to the side. I liked the crest and I liked the BUICK letters on the passenger side more than the IGHT (missing the E) on the driver’s side. It was a slightly different take on my nose isolation shots since it was not dead on center. It added a little bit of drama to the scene to have it done like this which I preferred for this car. I did try the more symmetrical shot as well, but this side one worked much better. I tried a shot of the truck emblem, but it lacked balance since the trunk wasn’t rusted and there was very little texture involved around the emblem. Before I left though, I wanted to see if I could get an overall shot of the car. I knew it would not be easy, but I wanted to give it a try.
I was surprised that I was able to crop out the VW on the right side as easy as I did. There was plenty of room to work with on the other side, so all that was left was choosing how high up to make the camera. I chose to have the roof of the car just below the gutter of the building to give a bit of separation, but still have the car high enough to cover the writing on the window. This image was still about the front of the car as that was the best part, but now there is a lot more context to the focal point here and you can kind of see what is going on here. It is still a timeless scene as there are no great references for what year it is, only that the car is aged, and in front of a building. Considering that I really wasn’t looking for an overall shot of the car, I’m really happy with how this one turned out compositionally speaking.
When it came to the editing of the image, I ran into some snags. There were very few colors present here, but yet when I converted it to monochrome, the image lost a lot of the qualities that I liked. When I did a normal processing for a color image the saturation levels were too high and became distracting. I was stuck between an image that had no visual pull, and one that had visual push because of the garish colors. I tried to desaturate the image and I liked that better, but it still wasn’t right. The colors were just not working for the image, but I knew that I needed them. I ended up going to the color profile module of Lightroom and I found one that was very subtle and suited the image quite well. This was the image that I had in mind when I captured it. I just had to figure out how to present it. I did a good many local adjustments here to really fine tune the image, but in the end I am very happy with the outcome and this is a favorite of mine along with the hot dog restaurant from earlier.
This had turned into a very interesting trek since I had started out with thee ideas for locations and ended up with none of them represented. In fact, the scenes that I have included in this blog entry are all of locations very close to home that I have seen many times over the years, but have never photographed. Sometimes it is good to just throw caution to the wind and try images that you aren’t really sold on just to see what can happen. I am really impressed with how the diner turned out with the reflecting puddle of water. I hope that you enjoyed tagging along with me for the adventure as well. I was only gone for a couple of hours and I made it home before the rain came back which was nice, and I got to play with my new filter mount which works well, but it is very stiff right now. I am happy that I can now use my original Lee Holder for my workshop filter kit so I now have a full complement of filters and mounting options.
If there are any images here that speak to you and you are interested in having a print, don’t hesitate to contact me so that I can get your order prepared. I love seeing my images as prints because that is how I intend for them to be viewed from the moment I bring out the camera. You won’t be disappointed when you get a print from me.
Until next time…