June 29, 2021
As the saying goes…..is another man’s treasure.
I really wasn’t planning on going out for a trek on this day and was actually tied up in Winston Salem taking care of some family business. When I left that morning it was raining and there were chances for storms through the afternoon. Not knowing how long I would be, I decided to take my camera on the off chance that I might get a chance to get a picture or two on the way back home if there was time. I knew that there were a lot of areas between Winston and Purlear that would offer some great potential.
As it turned out, I was finished up with my business shortly after lunch and was on my way back home. The weather was clearing over Winston, but I could see that the clouds were still looking great gong West. I was hoping to find something good around Yadkin County which appeared to be where the clouds were divided at. I had looked at an old Pontiac that I had photographed a few times before on the way to Winston and knew that it wasn’t going to work out because the weeds had grown up too tall around it, but there was a barn on the property that I had considered photographing before which was looking good against the sky. I was thinking that this might be a good subject to get started on for the afternoon so I exited 421 and made my way to that location. When I got there I started to look at the barn critically and decided against the picture because the utility tower which was placed right beside the barn was going to be in pretty much any composition that I was going to do. It was huge and would have been a beast to remove in post processing, and it would have left much of the scene looking odd so I didn’t even bother with the attempt.
I was off the highway at this point so I decided to start going down side roads with the intention of loosely heading West, but staying South of the highway as I typically don’t explore down this way too much. I made turn after turn and kept my eyes peeled for some interesting subjects and saw a few things that interested me, but wasn’t able to see a photograph around those subjects. Ultimately, I ended up on a road that I used to ride on my bicycle years ago and knew that there was a lot of potential out this way. I passed more than one barn or old home that caught my eye, but nothing was looking like a photograph despite the wonderful lighting that I was seeing over the area. I was well into the clouds at this point and it looked like I would be able to get in a good deal of shooting with some nice texture in the sky and diffused light which is my preferred way of working. I just needed to find a subject to photograph.
I found an old 50 something Buick sitting at the corner of a yard which grabbed my eye. It was alone and near some trees which made for a great setting. I got turned around and started to look at the scene once again. In the direction that I would have liked to have shot which I could have done from the road, there was a bunch of power lines in the background. I wasn’t really excited about the possibility of cloning them out and they were going to be a huge distraction from the composition. I thought about going from different angles, but there were other distractions in each direction. I was also going to have to get permission to get that far into the property. Looking at everything in totality, the picture potential wasn’t good enough to through all of that hassle so I got turned back around and moved on down the road.
Before too much longer I came up to a house that I remembered seeing before with a red VW Bug parked on the edge of the driveway and a red F-Body Firebird in the field behind the house. Neither was all that photogenic, but they did catch my eye due to the color. The difference this time was that I could see that there were more cars in the field on the other side of some trees. I had never seen them before and the uprooted tree trunks told the story of why. There had been trees there the last times I had been through and I wasn’t able to see the collection of Hudson and Dodge cars before. I wasn’t sure if there were any compositions to be had as the cars were kind of tightly packed in together, but I was definitely interested in trying to get something out there. I was going to have to get permission to get that deep into the property and I was hoping that somebody was home.
I got turned around and went into the main driveway only to find somebody sitting on a mower in the back yard. At this point I was committed and just stopped my truck right where it was and got out. I walked up to the guy on the mower trying to read his expression to know how I was going to have to present this. He had a great poker face and I couldn’t tell if he was going to be receptive or not to me being there. I decided to lighten the mood a little bit by greeting him and letting him know I wasn’t there to mow. That got a little bit of a smile and I continued on with my request to photograph the cars in the back. He seemed very willing and happy to help me out but said that the property was actually his Father-in-Law’s and he would have to ask him. I was fine with that option and he let me know that he was 91 years old which is pretty darn amazing.
After a few minutes they both came out of the house and I found myself talking to Bob, who looked no more than 80 years old, but confirmed that he was 91. We chatted for a while and I found out that he was a member of the Hudson Club and had two Hudsons in good shape, one of which was being restored. He invited me to look into his garages to see is prized collections and gave me a peek at a Chrysler New Yorker which was under a car cover. I got to hear the history of the vehicles and learn a little about the designs of them. The most amazing part was the fact that Bob was still actively involved with these cars and was doing a restoration on one. He reminded me so much of my Grandfather who lived to be 99 and never looked or acted his age. I really enjoyed the time talking with him and it didn’t even matter terribly much that the clouds which I had really been enjoying were clearing off now. The sun was getting brighter and the light was getting harsher…but I had permission to shoot the property and I didn’t want to let that go to waste. It did surprise him that I wanted to take pictures of his “junk cars.” I’m quite used to that response when I get permission to photograph this type of subject and I just couldn’t help but smile because I knew that this junk was solid gold for my camera.
I went back to the truck and grabbed my gear. I rushed over to the newly exposed field and started to look for compositions. The sun was in and out at this point so the lighting was going to be ever changing which meant that I was going to have to adapt to the light as opposed to planning shots and and working out the details as I went. My first composition was the easiest to achieve in the sunlight which was an old Dodge sitting in the trees. It wasn’t the typical era that I like to capture, but the colors worked well under the blooms of the tree limb above. There was just enough of the car exposed to tell the story of the scene and to give a visual anchor for the image. I got down nice and low because the point of the picture wasn’t so much the shape of the car as it was the connection between the car and the one branch. I made several exposures here as the sun varied in intensity before deciding to move on to something else.
With the sun not playing nice with me, I went into the shade and decided to focus my attention on the rear emblem of a Dodge Royal. It was a blue car and the rust really popped against the cooler color tones. The chrome was perfect and I found a composition that was all balanced out with the chevron and the key hole below. I even embraced a bit of highlight from the sun peeking through the trees to give a bit of dimension to the image. I shot a handful of pictures here until I was relatively happy with what I had.
By this point, I was really wanting to get some stronger compositions, but I was fighting with the sun which was getting worse by the minute. I looked around the lot to try and figure out my next shot which was not going as easy as I had hoped. I was surrounded by great subjects, but I wasn’t seeing any compositions jumping out at me. I started to look at the front of the Doge that I had just worked on the rear emblem on and found that it was fully in the sun. The lighting was harsh, but flattering for it so I decided to get a straight on shot of the front. As I was getting set up, I could see my reflection clear as day in the bumper which was not good at all. I also didn’t like the composition all that much either. I thought about my options and decided to step over to the side and get a shallow quarter view. That was much better and the flow of the image worked quite well. I got everything fine tuned and then made a test exposure. The light was much too harsh and the shadows were just too deep. I looked up and saw that there were clouds moving towards the sun so I just sat there and waited. Gradually the light got softer and I started making exposures with the hopes of getting that right combination of light and shadow.
Luckily, I was able to see a gradual transition all the way to completely diffused light from the clouds. I thought that was going to be my keeper image, but when I got home, I actually liked one of the middle ones where the sun was a bit harsher forcing the background into deeper shadows. It gave the image more depth and I much preferred that over the even lighting that I was hoping for. This is why I like to get a lot of different exposures in changing light so that I can evaluate them later to see what was the absolute best appearance.
I was feeling a little better at this point about my ability to capture images so I started to look for my next composition. I tried a couple of things out without success and finally found myself looking at the only place that the light was really good. I found a pair of Hudsons parked next to a tree that were evenly lit by the sun. The one in the back was the more attractive of the two with the patina and colors present. I looked for some isolations on that car and wasn’t really happy with how any of those were coming together. I then realized that it was the entire scene that was interesting to me. I found an angle where I could mask the clutter in the background and was able to put the tree on the left portion of the frame rather than centering it. I got down low and set up the shot. As I was doing this the sun went behind the clouds and I was really excited since I was losing the shadows at this point.
I made my first exposure and found that the exposure latitude between the bright sky and the cars was a little too much. I could have added a grad filter, but it would have darkened the tree too much, and there was no good way to darken just the corner down. I chose to wait the clouds out and hope that they would allow the sun to come back out again. Within a few minutes, I could see the scene brightening up again. The sky, of course, remained at the same exposure while the cars and the tree got the boost that they needed. I shot a series of exposures as the sunlight gained in intensity. It eventually got much too bright causing the car to blow out and the shadows of the tree to get too deep. It was about midway through the change in lighting that I landed on the best combination of foreground lighting and minimizing shadows. This was the first image that I was really excited about and the first one where the lighting had worked well for me.
Feeling a little better about the conditions and seeing that the clouds were building once again. I went over to the other side where everything had been in the shadows before. There was now a more even light in the tree line and I was able to look at an image of a fin car from the 60’s. It was nosed into the woods so that only the rear was visible which happened to be the part that I really liked anyway. There was some great rust along the lower half of the quarter which paired so well with the faded blue paint. I tried to get a composition that worked, but everything ended up putting the driver’s side fin in the center of the frame which I wanted to avoid. I didn’t like how things were going with the standard lens that I had been using up to this point so I swapped it out for the wide angle lens for this composition. That allowed me a bit more flexibility when it came to the perspective that I was after to emphasize the shape of the fins. It still didn’t get that one dominant fin out of the center of the frame. It wasn’t until I considered a square crop here that the image fell together for me. It was that simple crop that allowed the vegetation to frame the image with the tail light punctuating the lines of the fin. The ruse and the simple quarter emblem became the story throughout the frame and the color palette was determined from that rust.
Things were starting to come together for me at this point and I was ready to get some more compositions. I went back to the blue Dodge that I had worked earlier and started to look at the rear of it. I had loved the tail lights and how they had aged, but hadn’t been able to figure out a composition to make them work. I was thinking more outside of the box at this point and thought that I could get something to work out here. I put the standard lens back on and started to move the camera around until I had a rough idea of how I could make the image work. It was an elevated position which put the tail light down low and offset to the left for a bit of visual tension. The upper right of the frame would include the trunk emblem which I had photographed earlier and the upper left would include the chrome script “Royal” which was a vital part of this story. The exposure was simple here and didn’t take long at all to work out. I just had to wait for the sun to dip behind the clouds which it did several times.
I began looking around the property for other potential cars to photograph. The most interesting cars in the collection were the Hornets, but none of them were in a good position to capture with the camera. They were butted up against other cars, or surrounded by distractions. There was only one of them where the front end was relatively open for a photograph. There wasn’t much in the way of chrome on the front of the car and there was brush which had grown up around it that kind of blocked the view of the interesting bits. I did notice that there was a Hornet emblem on the side of the fender which was out in the open. That was going to be my subject somehow, I just needed to figure out that composition.
Looking at the emblem, there really wasn’t much in the way of an isolation that I could do with it. There was great patina all around it, but it was too close to the wheel opening which would leave a dark void in an isolation. I studied the different ways that I could capture that emblem and found that I was wanting to include more and more of the surroundings. I found a position for the camera that masked the distractions in the background quite well and was able to get the entire front of the car in a frame with a great appearance including the clouds in the sky. The problem that I was running into was that the rear door was being propped shut by a piece of aluminum. I didn’t want to move that, but it was a huge distraction from this angle. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that the back half of the car really didn’t help the story and having that much of the car minimized the emblem that I was trying to get. I worked out a crop with the framing which eliminated the aluminum bar and the back half of the car. The weeds actually framed the emblem that I was after quite well with this approach and I had the depth from the front end of the car and the sky overhead. It was a good composition and it worked out all of the compromises that I had to make as a photographer to get the image. The hardest part here was waiting for the wind to stop blowing, hopefully after the one broken weed had landed just right on the emblem. I got lucky there!
From here, I was feeling pretty confident about things and went over to work out some pictures from an old gravity feed gas pump that was next to his shop. It wasn’t in the best of places but I figured that I could probably get my long lens out and do an isolation of it. I worked both sides of the pump and got a couple of fair compositions. In order to simplify the image, I went with a shallow depth of field which looked great in the LCD, but when I got home and looked, everything below the sign on the top was soft. I had missed the depth of field, even at f/5.6. I should have gone with f/8 and I probably would have been fine. Sadly, I had to trash those images due to the focus error.
That did prompt me to use that same pump as a foreground element to the shop itself. I thought that it was a good idea at the time, and spent some time lining up the elements so that there was minimal overlap of parts of the scene. I added a grad filter to control the sky and got a good exposure. The problem with this wasn’t figured out until I got home. The scene just wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. The composition was good, but the story was confusing and there was a Covid sign on the door which didn’t really fit the scene in my mind. It was not a well thought out story that I had captured and I didn’t think that it needed to go any further than the capture.
As I was starting to wind down for the day, I went to the other side of the field and tried to get a shot including several of the cars with the shop in the background. This was a better composition and it had a better story, but there were too many vans in the picture that didn’t fit the aesthetic that I was after. That one failed to capture the story I was after as well. I was looking for just one last scene to capture before packing things up. I looked at the VW Bug which I had seen from the road many times. It was in too good a shape to capture in its current location. Plus, there were too many distracting elements around it to even make a workable composition.
My eyes also fell on the Pontiac Firebird a bit further into the yard. This was a newer body style than I would typically even consider photographing. In fact, there probably wasn’t a panel on that car which had the potential of rusting. The shape was like a melted crayon and really didn’t inspire much along those lines either. There was something that was interesting me about this car though and I decided to play out my interest. I played the game of what do I like and what do I not like about the scene. The clouds overhead were definitely part of the love category. I liked the red car in the sea of green under the blue. I liked that the weeds were taller than the car which helped to cover the bland shape of the Pontiac. What I didn’t like about the scene was the car itself. That was the only thing that I didn’t like about the scene and looking at it from a compositional standpoint, the subject really didn’t matter as much as the blending of the elements together.
I got the image framed up so that the car had just enough presence in the frame while the horizon was at the upper third so I had a good bit of sky included. I used the trees to the right to give some contrast as well as providing a triangle element to the scene. It was the weeds growing around the car which became the subject of the image while the car just provided the red for visual excitement. It is not a favorite image of mine, but it is one which follows a successful recipe and works as an image. I just wish that this car could have been even 20 years older.
That wrapped up my time here. I think I had been on the property for about three hours or so at this point. I hated that I missed the really good light, but that was overshadowed by the ability to work the different cars on the property. Sometimes it is the access that is the hardest to get and the light is the easier element to work with. I’ve found that when I have the ability to shoot these scenes it doesn’t pay to quibble over the light. I was very appreciative to Bob for letting me play in his toybox for the afternoon and I really enjoyed meeting him.
I hope that you enjoyed this little side trip of an adventure on the way home. It really is a good example of why I like going back into areas where I’ve been at different time because there are always new things that will be noticed. Just the simple act of pulling into the driveway opened up quite a number of great subjects for my camera to capture. I saw several more locations on the way home that I plan on going back to work on later when I get the itch to do some rural photography in the future.
Until next time…