Hanging Out in Sparta

· Reading Time: 21 minutes

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Mismatched Windows“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2

I’m going to go ahead and start out by saying that this may or may not makes sense.  It is now 11:27pm and I am just now starting this blog entry.  I also have to go to work tomorrow, so that kind of puts a damper on the evening as well.  I’m going to do the best that I can and try to get this done in a reasonable time so I can go to bed.

It seems that for the last couple of weeks I have been plagued by sunny days and very little clouds.  While this makes for a fantastic time for most normal people, especially around this time of year, it does a photographer no real favors.  I managed to get out for a bit a few mornings ago and got more than I had anticipated on.  But, that was just enough to get me in the mood for doing some rural photography which I have not done much of lately.  My day got cut short because the sun came out and the lighting got too harsh to do what I wanted to do.  I spent Saturday watching the sky and finding that the best clouds came right in the middle of the day while I was tending to some family things and couldn’t take advantage of them.  They never returned.  As I was getting ready for bed on Saturday night, I was watching the weather and the clouds seemed to be coming and going from hour to hour.  I wasn’t sure what the day would bring, but by the time I went to bed I decided that I didn’t really much care to get up early and fiddle with the weather.  It was going to be a morning of sleeping in for a change!

When I got up, I instinctively looked outside to see what the weather was looking like.  Just as I had feared…clear skies for miles and miles.  I went about my morning and was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the day.  It was looking like another day sitting at home, and possibly doing a review on one of the products that I use.  Thinking back to Saturday, I quickly realized that by sitting at home, my mind started to play tricks on me.  by the end of the day I was talking to a guy about buying a Datsun 240Z.  If I stayed home another day, I was probably going to continue down that road which I didn’t want to do.  I needed to get out and exercise my brain a little and focus on some photography.  However, the sky wasn’t going to work out for me at all I was afraid.

Not in Kansas Anymore“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk 2, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

I did spend some time looking at the weather for around the State to see where there might be some clouds developing.  It appeared that there were some clouds moving in from the Northwest which might prove to be useful.  The best chance for clouds was going to be in Sparta starting around mid day.  This was not the best time to go out with a camera, but sometimes you just have to go with what you have.  I started to form a game plan for the day.  I was going to head out that way through East Bend and Jonesville to check on another subject that I was wanting to photograph in the evening.  I was then going to go and get lost in Sparta for a while to see what I could find.  It was a workable plan and I told myself that since it was a lousy time to go out for photography, if I got one picture from the day it would all be worth it.

Before I left, I checked with Sierra to see if she wanted to join me.  She thought about it for a split second and decided that she would rather stay at home.  With that part figured out, I grabbed my gear and made my way to the mountains!  It wasn’t long and I was on Hwy 67 going through East Bend and looking for the old firetruck that I had decided might work for an evening shoot with a bit of light painting.  Sadly, it had been moved.  Glad I checked on it before driving out here one evening for the express purpose of photographing it.  I also stopped at a used car dealership that always has some nice old cars on the lot.  I got out and looked for some compositions.  This makes the second time I have tried to get something to work at this location and it was the second time that I couldn’t find anything worth while to shoot.  I was there about 20 minutes just walking around looking at the cars which wasn’t a bad way to spend the time.  The sky was clear and I wasn’t really missing any good light so all was right with the world.

I moved on down the way still setting my sights on Sparta.  The clouds were not forming quite like I had hoped and the sky was very hazy.  I wasn’t really sure what I was going to be able to get, but I stayed positive.  I only needed one good picture to make the day worth my while.  Shortly after passing through the center of town I found myself out in the country on Hwy 21 near a fire department.  On the other side of the road was a barn.  It wasn’t a special barn by any stretch.  In fact, it was a rather bland barn with two windows on the side.  What I did like about this barn was that it was under the only clouds in the sky.  That made this barn a gold mine!  I pulled off the road and grabbed my gear.

It was right at noon, so there was no need for any filters since a polarizer would be useless for this time of day.  I did mount my Canon 5D Mk3 with a 24-70mm lens on my Manfrotto Tripod with the hope of getting something special with the clouds.  I added the Lee Filter Holder just in case I needed an ND Grad to control the sky.  I started to look for compositions on the barn which wasn’t the easiest thing to do.  There was a house to the left which I didn’t want included and a power pole to the right.  The exposures were working out well with plenty of information in the shadows and highlights.  There was a really pretty bush next the stream that went under the road that I thought would make a good foreground for the barn, so I walked out to the main road.

There was only a very small shoulder that I could stand on to get the picture I wanted.  Fortunately, traffic was light, but I was pretty much standing in the road to get the shot.  This one was going to be a color image for sure with the bright pinks right there in the foreground.  For it to be noon, the lighting was almost soft due to the haze in the sky.  Fortunately, the clouds were showing up well, and I was confident that I was getting all the detail that I was going to need to get this image to work.

I then moved back over to the side that I started on, and got positioned right next to my truck for the best angle.  I started to frame up an image that I planned on being monochrome because it was more about textures and I wanted to have the sky be just a little more dramatic with some deep tones where the blues were.  This was a bit more complex because I wanted to make sure that all of the tones registered on the wood since that was going to be my focal point for the entire image.  I was pretty sure that I had it, but the light was a good deal harsher on this side of the barn.  Figuring that out of the 20 or so images that I had captured, I had at least one that was workable, I packed everything back up in my Lowepro Whistler backpack and got back on the road.

Ford Fender“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I was now pretty happy that I had my one image for the day, but I wasn’t done just yet.  I wanted to continue on and see what else I could get into.  It actually wasn’t too far down the road that I came upon a couple of trucks that I had seen several times before and had thought about stopping for, but never did.  Since I was kind of working off my normal pattern, I decided to go ahead and stop to see what I could do with the trucks.  The one that I really had an interest in was the old Ford.  With the newer truck right next to it, power lines overhead, a highway on the other side of it, I was pretty sure that all I was going to be able to do was work isolations on it.  For that, I decided to use my 24-70mm lens again, but this time I added my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to help saturate the colors and reduce the glare.  I started to work the different isolations and decided that I really liked the patina on this old truck.  There was also a lot of nice curves to work with.  The green grass beneath it really helped to balance the overall image as well.

Bifocal Grin“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As I was working the isolations, I was also thinking about other compositions that I could do with this truck that might showcase the entire rig.  It just wasn’t going to be possible, and I was fine with that since the flatbed of the truck was loaded with junk.  All I really wanted was the cab, and that was not going to be too difficult.  I started from the road side with a slightly rearward angle on the truck.  This worked, but wasn’t all that special.  I was really missing the presence of the front of the truck, and felt that without it, the image was suffering.  The only way to get the front of the truck in the frame was to shoot from the other side since the larger, newer truck was going to be a problem if I shot from the side I was on.

Empty Sockets“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

The problem that I ran into on the passenger side of the truck was the business on the other side of the road.  It was red, which really made it difficult to ignore.  The haze in the sky was also something that I was having to contend with, but I really wanted to give this a try.  I got down low so that the truck covered most of the building and a gas station sign on the other side of the road.  My plan was to crop this image down to where there was a minimal amount of the building visible and the cab of the truck filled most of the frame.  My plan worked out with an 8×10 crop to the image and a little creative dodging and burning to minimize the impact of the business on the other side of the road.  The patina on the old truck really looked good in the viewfinder and I was hoping that it would transfer to the final image.

Of course, while I was shooting this truck, I was also looking for other compositions in the area.  I wasn’t interested at all in the truck beside the Ford I had been shooting, but on the other side of that truck were a couple of old International Tractors which looked pretty unique and had a nice coating of rust on them.  I decided that I would give them a try next.  The problems here were that both tractors were very close together, and they were close to the newer Ford truck that I wanted to avoid.  There was also a dumpster sitting behind the tractors which really didn’t work well in the pictures I had in mind.  There were also power lines above the tractors so getting low and shooting up wasn’t a plan either.  I needed to find something creative to do in order to capture these tractors.

Trusty Sidekick“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

The creative part actually came rather easy this time.  I am always looking for human qualities in inanimate objects.  The grill on this tractor looked like a face with little squinting eyes  There was a mouth, and the tires looked like legs.  As I started to frame the image I wanted to include the rear wheels and found that they were looking like appendages.  When I got this image home, I decided to process it as a monochrome image since there were only two colors at work here with the green grass and rusted tractor.  When I started making the conversion, I instantly saw an android from a ’70’s sci-fi movie.  I even said aloud that this looked quite cute.  I had found a keeper with this simple composition that definitely fit the creative theme that I was after for these tractors.

The other tractor had the name plate still attached to the nose, but didn’t have quite the same character as the older one.  I shot both noses, but only this one made the cut for me.  I guess it was the personality.  I did start looking for other ways to photograph the other tractor though.  I looked at the engine for isolations, and looked at other angles on the front end.  Nothing really worked at all.  I figured that I was done with the tractors at this point.  There was a Dodge Pickup that I wanted to try so I moved over there for a bit.

I tried several different compositions on the Dodge, but found that each and every one of them looked like a snapshot which I have been really trying to avoid here lately.  I wasn’t at all happy with how the Dodge was turning out.  I looked where the other vehicles were stashed in the weeds and couldn’t find any more compositions that I liked.  I was left with the tractors that I still wasn’t satisfied with.  I knew there was a way to get both tractors in the same frame and I wanted to make it happen so I went back to them once again.

Talkin’ ‘Bout Old Times“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

As I was walking back to them I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the view from the rear.  It was slightly obscured by the grass, but with the color contrast, I felt like I could make it work.  I got the camera down low to the ground by spreading the legs on my Manfrotto Tripod.  This put me down in the weeds for the effect that I wanted.  I worked out a composition that used a tree as a frame on the right, and I cut the image where the Ford truck was parked on the left side of the frame.  The lighting was actually quite even with no shadows to speak of since it was still close to mid day.  It might not have been the best time to be behind the camera, but I was making it work today!  Now that I had this shot in the bag, I felt satisfied from this location and I was ready to decide on either going home or continuing.

The sky was getting a little more interesting, but I knew that I would be pushing it to get done with everything if I stayed out much longer.  It was about 1pm or so at this point.  I really should have called it a day after the tractors, but like a little kid, I begged of myself for just a little bit longer.  I got back on Hwy 21 and continued on my way North.  I started to make some turns here and there looking for a barn or something that I could shoot with the existing conditions.  I wasn’t finding much at all, which really got me thinking that it was better to just go ahead and turn around.  But I didn’t.

Sniffles“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, 4 image HDR merged in Lightroom

As I was driving down the road something caught my eye over my right shoulder.  It looked like a Tri-5 Chevy sitting on the side of a driveway.  As my brain was processing the image possibilities I saw the roof of another one in the back yard.  I got turned around really quick and pulled into the driveway I had just passed.  Sure enough, there was a ’57 Bel Air sitting there next to the driveway.  The lighting was difficult at best, but this was just too good to pass up.  I pulled around to the other driveway and got out to knock on the door.  I waited for a minute or two and heard nothing inside.  I didn’t want to knock again as I had knocked pretty loud the first time.  I decided to go to the sunroom door to knock again as it looked like the primary entrance.

As I approached that door, I started to raise my hand to knock and the resident came to the door.  I’m not sure who was startled more, but I quickly identified myself and kept my distance so I didn’t alarm her any more than I already had.  I explained my reason for bothering her and asked for permission to shoot the cars on her property.  She gladly agreed and welcomed me onto the property.  I pulled back around to the other driveway and got parked.  It was time to get to work.

Pine Scented“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I looked at the car partially buried in the pine needles and tried to figure out a composition.  It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, and that is putting it lightly.  I started out with my 70-200mm lens and decided that I didn’t like how the composition was coming together with that lens.  I could have gone straight to my 24-70mm as it is my go-to lens for automotive photography, but I wanted to do a little something different with this car. I fitted my 16-35mm lens with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer which did the trick.  I started working compositions and found that the exposure latitude was just too great for the camera to capture.  There was no way to add an ND Grad filter to control the brighter parts of the composition either.  My only choice was to shoot an HDR image which was exactly what I did.  I did a series of four images from light to dark in order to capture all the tonal values through the image from shadows to highlight.  These were merged in Lightroom when I got home.

I followed this up with a technically easier image from the rear of the car.  The fins have always been a favorite quality of these cars and I was going to capture them in a rather unique setting.  I placed my rig on the pile of rocks at the rear so that I could get the enter “V” on the trunk of the car, and elevated the camera enough so that the left side of the emblem pointed to the apex of the fin, and mirrored the angle of the other fin.  The bit of green in the trees and the weeds growing up on the passenger side gave the best touch of color balance as well in the sea of pine needles.

Chevrolet Icon“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 2-Stop Soft Edge ND Grad, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

Having shot the front and the back of this rather difficult subject, I decided to see what the other car held for me in the back yard.  As I made it around the back of the house I was greeted by a 2 door Bel Air, and another 4 door!  There were two cars back here when I had only seen one from the road!  My only problem was the lighting was not all that great and one of the cars was black.  Something that I have always said about harsh light is it works great for monochrome shots.  The clouds in the sky also made me consider black and white.  I started to look for compositions and decided to leave the camera set up the way it had been from the first car.  I did need to add a ND Grad though since I was going to need a good bit of bite to the sky to make this image work.  I selected a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 2-Stop Soft Edge ND Grad for a nice smooth transition over the trees .  This did the trick, and when I got home and did the conversion I knew I had something special with this shot.  In fact it was the one that I went with originally.

57 Bel Air“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 3-Stop Soft Edge ND Grad, Converted to B&W in Lightroom

On a second run through the images, I found that the next composition that I shot worked very well also.  For this one, I had to deepen the sky a bit because of where the sun was positioned.  I upped my filter game by swapping in a Singh-Ray Galen Rowell 3-Stop Soft Edge ND Grad which brought the sky into compliance with the image much better.  The chrome really popped with this view.  I don’t think it would have worked as well without the grill and bumper being included.  That just becomes the focal point of the image for me.  This one absolutely had to be done in monochrome with the haze in the sky.  It just lacked any punch at all in full color. By removing the color the image took on a whole new life and one that really fit my view of the image to start with.

Borrowed Door“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 3-Stop Soft Edge ND Grad

Having worked the 2 door for a while, I decided that it was time to move over to the much more colorful 4 door car.  This one had a much better patina on it, and I felt that it was important to do this one as a color image.  Fortunately, the setup that I already had on the camera was going to work very well for this car.  I got things set up and fine tuned a composition.  This was a little difficult to organize with all the background interest going on.  I decided to use the plowed field in the background as a complimenting color and I wanted it visible above the hood.  I also wanted the distant ridge to rise above the roof which helped to separate the roof from the clouds in the sky.  The trees to the right balanced out the horizon I thought.  The design of the image seemed to work well in the camera, and I was happy with it when I got home as well.  I just wish the lighting had been a little better.  The sun was still harsh, but I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to shoot these amazing cars.

Straight and True“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Before I called it a day on these Chevy’s I decided to try some different compositions that would only be possible with my long 70-200mm lens which I mounted on my camera along with the same filters that I had been using.  I shot some of the compositions using the trees as a background for the 4 door car.  They looked good in the camera, but failed to catch my eye at home.  I still wasn’t done though.  I wanted to get some isolations on the cars, and sunny days are great to get hood ornaments and design elements like that.  For that, I didn’t need my ND Grad, so that got removed and placed into my Lee Filter Wallet.  I moved in close to capture the bullets on the hood and found a very nice composition that filled the frame with goodness.  The textures of the rust and moss were wonderful and I was getting excited.  I shot both bullets on the hood, but this driver’s side one looked the best when I was finished with them.

Travel the Galaxy“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Of course, I couldn’t neglect the 2 door car, so I went over there and did the same thing.  This one was a little different because of the black paint.  I needed to compose images that took advantage of the colors present so that it wasn’t just a stark black and white image.  I found that the rust on the ridge behind the chrome looked like a jet flame.  The black paint was pockmarked with little white specks that looked like stars.  This caused me to go right back to that sci-fi movie that I was thinking about earlier in the day.  I love the abstract qualities of these old emblems and adornments.

This symbolized the end of the day for me.  I was satisfied that I had gotten everything that I wanted to get here.  Plus it was coming up on 4pm and I was needing to get home to get some dinner ready.  Not only that, but I was wanting to get the images processed which actually started around 6pm.  It was then that I realized that I had shot a total of 133 frames for the day.  Not bad considering that I wanted to come back with just one image from the day.  I actually pulled 19 of them aside to look at closer in the image editing process.  Of those, 14 survived to be considered keepers which is much more than I had expected.

I would generally go on a bit more, but I’m tired and it is now 1:25am.  So, I am going to wrap this up and say thanks for reading about my adventure today.  The good news is I didn’t buy a Z today, so my photography worked as I needed it to.


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