Friday, April 19, 2019
If you will remember on one of my last treks, I had finally made contact with the owner of the Pontiac sedan that I have been trying to shoot for a good while now. With the needed permission to get into his property a bit, I just needed a day with a lot of clouds that I could shoot it. Well, with a pretty major storm headed our way for Friday, I was watching the sky pretty close as Thursday was coming to a close. According to the forecast, I was going to have good cloud cover at all levels, and the rain was supposed to hold off until around 10am or so. This would give me just enough time to get the car worked since I would be waiting until well after sunrise before trying to shoot it in order to get the good diffused light wanted.
When morning rolled around, I checked the weather once again and saw that it was pretty much the same with the rain chances possibly getting pushed further back in the day. This was looking good. I got up and got ready to go. I wasn’t sure exactly how things would progress, so I had an alternate plan in mind depending on what the sky looked like. I had also been wanting to go back to Salem Lake to try out some more long exposures with the boats, but was needing fast moving low clouds to really make that work out. Between the two locations, I had a couple of valid options within about 20 minutes from home. As I left the garage, the sky was looking decent with texture and full coverage. This was what I was after for the Pontiac, so I headed North into Walnut Cove. Of course, it started raining on me when I left, nothing much, just a light sprinkle. By the time I started to really consider it, the rain stopped and the sun came out. From here, it was game of hide and seek with the sun until I got into Walnut Cove.
When I arrived, the lighting was perfect on the car and there was texture in the sky to the West which was what I was wanting for the compositions I had in mind. I got parked on the shoulder of the road and grabbed the camera. I started off with my 24-70mm lens and added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to control the glare and help with the rusty tones. I went right to the composition that I had in mind and found that the power line was going to be a problem. I could clone that out in post production, but I like trying to avoid that if I can. I worked with the composition for a while and finally found one that I liked even better that didn’t include the power lines above. It cut out some of the sky, but the impact of the shot more than made up for it. That turned into the opening image for this entry as a matter of fact. From there, I started to work both sides of the car as well as doing some isolations.
I had some issues to work around for the compositions. There were the power lines above that caused me some heartburn with many compositions. I had a road that I was trying to minimize on the passenger side of the vehicle. On the driver’s side, there was a garage, a house, and other personal property that did nothing for the story of this car. I had to compose very carefully in order to keep the compositions simple and effective. That is something that I really like about this 24-70mm lens. I get all sorts of flexibility with compositions from wide angle to a slightly telephoto angle of view. I can pretty much tailor the composition as needed.
One of the elements of this car that had caught my eye a while back was the vanity tag on the front. There was just something so proper about having this tag that said “Just Sledin’.” That added a while different chapter to the story of this car. The different colors on the car were also quite interesting as were the patters of rust. The car itself looked to be in really good shape and had apparently been worked on not that long ago. The front clip had all been primed it appeared and then the weather had started to work through the paint. The black colors along the rest of the body were a bit more period correct and seemed to be the original color of the car. The pieced together appearance of the whole thing really added to the interest that I was experiencing with this car. About all I knew about it was that it was a 1940 Pontiac Sedan that the owner had bought about three years prior.
In addition to the different colors on the car, I was also quite fascinated with the shape of the grill. This is something that I usually pay particular attention to. The way that this one was divided up made for a fantastic isolation/abstract shot. I got in close and composed an image that was framed at the top with the nameplate which was missing the identifying emblems. I then incorporated the two grill halves as bottom corner elements with strong diagonals. The different lines and shapes here started to reflect a helmet designed for battle. When I cropped the image as a 1:1 square, the image came together perfectly. The rust added character and the lines added drama. In order to capitalize on the feeling of this image, I just went ahead and pulled the color out of it. That did the trick, and the image was complete as a monochrome rendition. It is one of my favorite isolations because of how it came together and the fact that the hood is just a little off-center brings in just the right amount of visual tension I think.
As I was working isolations, I decided to try my long 70-200mm lens for a bit with the polarizer attached. I worked the grill some more, but wasn’t able to get anything remarkably different from what I had shot earlier. I did get a nice intimate view of the front of the car with this lens. It showcased the vanity plate that I liked so much as well as the rustier side of the car. This is not a normal composition for me, but it is one that I think captures the personality of the car quite well. I have the entire face as well as the curves of the fenders. The angle of the composition showcases the shapes that make up the front of the car which I find so captivating. The color balance is also quite nice here with the grays balancing with the warmer tones and the grass giving that ultimate balance to the image. The full view of the headlights is a nice feature to this image as well I think.
After working this car for about an hour, I decided it was probably time to call it day here. I can always identify that time when I start revisiting compositions that I had tried earlier in the session. There were a few that I had tried that never made it into my keeper files. One of them was a five image HDR which was nice in concept, but the execution left me feeling very flat and uninterested. There were other isolations which ultimately failed to keep my attention. Something that I am trying to do more of is being ruthless in my culling process. I had about 50 images from this location and I really didn’t want to have more than five images out of that bunch. Each one that I have here says something completely different and I think stands on their own quite well. I’m happy with these five compositions and don’t miss the ones that I cut.
With the rain holding out and the clouds starting to break up a little bit, I started to look at my alternate location of Salem Lake. This was the right formula for some good long exposure shots. The moving clouds are very important to that type of photography. Actually, I had wanted to do some of that with the Pontiac, but sadly, the compositions I had available didn’t allow for a long exposure shot. The clouds were perfect for it though, and I knew just the place to go to make use of them. Salem Lake was only about 25 minutes or so from where I was and that should give the clouds a chance to break up a little more before I got there.
When I got to Salem Lake I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to capture. I had been thinking about something with the pier for quite some time. This might be the day. I grabbed my gear and started out to the shore. I spotted a few boats that were pulled up on the bank which I knew I could work with from past experience. I then walked by way up to the pier and started walking down it. I wasn’t really seeing much interest in the background, and the foreground interest was limited due to the railings that were used. I decided to head back to the boats and start working on something there. I picked out a boat that was all by itself as my main subject. I then looked at what I could put in the mid and background. I actually found workable compositions from both sides of the boat. I used my 16-35mm lens to really make the boat stand out from the background and to be able to fill the lower part of the frame with that boat while including a lot of background. In order to get the exposure I needed, I added a Singh-Ray 2-Stop ND Grad with a 10-Stop Mor Slo ND Filter which gave me about a minute long exposure with a nice balanced sky.
Both of these compositions worked out really well I thought. The sky was full of textures and details and the water smoothed out like glass despite the gusty winds and choppy conditions. It really is a lot of fun to do these long exposure shots with water. It just really simplifies the scene, and it is something that I am going to be doing more often. I am already looking at different locations where I can use this technique fully. The key is to have something that is rock solid in the foreground to anchor the eyes. It helps to have something interesting in the background as well, but interesting is relative since the motion in the sky and stillness of the water provides the drama. You just need something else that will render still and add a little color and texture. The trees on the distant bank provided just enough of that interest for these pictures and in both cases the line of trees is really not that prevalent which shows just how little background you need to make this work.
As I got finished with these exposures which were about a minute a piece, I decided to work my way back to the pier and try my idea again. I actually got into position near the end and got the camera set up with my 24-70mm lens. I used the same filters that I had been and set up two different compositions, one being vertical and the other being horizontal. I liked them both in the camera, but when I got home and looked at them, they just didn’t have any real visual pop. I didn’t let any of them pass beyond my second elimination pass.
However, as I was writing this blog, I started to think about the image that I had seen on the monitor that made it to the second stage of culling. I had not really given it a fair shake unfortunately. I had been looking at it as a color image and it just lacked the needed punch. I decided to go back into Lightroom and give it a second look as a monochrome image. I don’t like using black and white to rescue an image that isn’t good to start with, so I was a little hesitant to do that with this one. However, I was really liking the composition and I had spent a lot of energy getting it with the movement on the pier and folks walking by. This minute long exposure was sharp and well exposed, but lacked color interest beyond the trees.
After converting it to black and white, I still wasn’t sold, but I saw promise with the composition this way. I started to play with the tonal values a bit as well as the contrast. I spent some time doing local adjustments and dodging and burning until I found an image that was actually true to how I had envisioned the scene…albeit in monochrome. This is not a rescue conversion at all, it was just how the image needed to be rendered and I hadn’t considered it originally. Sometimes you just have to listen to a scene. It will tell you exactly how you should capture the image if you listen close enough. I got the composition part down, I just missed the final step.
This represents the eighth keeper out of 75 frames shot during the morning. I’m quite happy with how things had progressed through the day and the images that I have created. There were a handful of others that I would have normally kept, but I could see that they wouldn’t have staying power which I am hoping that these all will. I am working towards increasing the quality of my work and not the quantity. I’m going out more and more, but that is more or less to keep honing my skills and I because I am getting so many new images, I need to focus on keeping just the very best of them.