Toni’s Barn Find

· Reading Time: 14 minutes

Sunday, Oct 13, 2019

A few days ago Sierra was driving Toni and me to dinner.  I was in the passenger seat gripping the door and pushing a hole in the floorboard while Toni was gazing out of the side window trying not to notice the immediate peril she was in.  As Toni was looking, she asked in an excited voice “did you see that car?”   Thinking that there was a car in the road that I should have addressed, I nervously replied “no.”  She then clarified that she had seen an old car in a shed that looked interesting.  I was relieved that I hadn’t missed something on the road from the passenger’s seat, but absolutely hadn’t seen it.  In times of pure terror, tunnel vision develops and I was able to see just down the road, not on the shoulders.  She wasn’t able to describe the car to me, only that it looked old and was in a shed of some sort.  Not wanting to change our trajectory, we continued on our way to dinner.

The next time that we were out that way, Toni had Sierra slow down as she was looking out the window.  This time, she was looking for a Pumpkin Patch that she had seen that previous day, and was also looking for the car that she had spotted.  Just about the time that I started to say that we must have passed it, She saw the Pumpkins and then spotted the shed.  I was looking and all I could see was a very dusty red car with small tail lights.  My first thought from the quick glance that I had gotten was that it was a Corvair, but that was only a guess.  The paint had looked in good condition, but I saw a deep layer of dust on the top surface that screamed barn find!!  I jotted the note in my mind and put it on my list to come back to later on when I had the camera and the conditions were good.

Fast forward to Sunday.  We had been out most of the morning doing a few things and when we got back I was needing to get out for a bit with the camera for some mental relief.  There were great clouds and the sky actually looked really good to the West.  There was rain in the forecast, and I didn’t have long to be out since we had other things scheduled a bit later in the day.  I just needed to get out and create for a little while to bring balance back to my mind.  Looking at the light, I decided that I would go and see if I could get anything to work with the red car in the shed.  It wasn’t far from home, so that was going to be an easy attempt.

Shortly after I turned onto the road that Toni had spotted it on, I spotted another truck down beside of a house in front of a wooden fence.  It appeared to be an early ’60’s Ford and it looked just about right for a picture.  The road that the house was on was actually a block over, so I made the needed turns and found the house.  I also found a large “No Trespassing” sign under the mailbox, another one on a tree by the driveway, and what appeared to be another on the front door.  Speaking of the front door, there was no walkway to it, and no indication that they were willing to receive guests.  The only entrance to the house appeared to be through the garage door.  From my years as a police officer, I read that to mean that they didn’t want anyone on their property, and I was pretty positive that they would not entertain a photographer wanting to poke around.  I did file the location in my mind in the event that I ever saw anyone out in the yard that I could speak to.

I continued on to the shed and found it square between two houses.  I couldn’t tell which house the shed belonged to, so I went with the second house since I had already passed the first one.  I pulled down the driveway and found a front door with a walkway and a “Welcome” sign on it.  That was a much better indicator that I might be able to get somewhere.  I got out of the truck and knocked on the door.  It took but a few seconds and the door was answered.  I introduced myself and explained my reason for being there.  I was met with a puzzled expression about the Red Corvair sitting in the shed.  I was able to figure that the shed definitely wasn’t her’s, but she was puzzled at the contents.  We did get things cleared out and she let me know that the shed belonged to the gentleman next door.  Off I went to the other house and pulled down the driveway.

Once again, I was met with a front door with no apparent walkway.  I could tell that the entrance to the house was made from the back, but that was not an entrance for visitors, so I took my chances and walked through the yard to the front door and rang the bell.  It took a moment, but the door opened.  I went through my routine again of who I was and what I was asking for.  He was extremely welcoming and said that he had no problems at all with me getting some pictures.  I was excited about that, and he even wanted to come out with me.  I never mind that, and figured that a good portion of folks that come out to watch me work is a cover to protect their property.  I respect that, and welcome it.  I feel more comfortable with the owner watching me just so there is no question at all over what I touch…more accurately, what I don’t touch or mess with.

I stopped by the truck and grabbed the Lowepro Whistler bag from the back along with my Manfrotto Tripod.  I was off to the shed to see just what treasure could be found in there.  As I got closer, I could tell why there was confusion about it being a Corvair.  It most certainly wasn’t one.  It wasn’t even a Chevrolet.  It was a Plymouth…a 1962 Fury 3 to be exact.  I had never seen this body style before and immediately fell in love with the front end of the car.  I started to look at the setting to determine what I would be able to do with it as a composition.  The shed was opened up on the front which was perfect and allowed me all kinds of visibility of the car.  That opening in the back that made it so easy for Toni to see the car was causing me a problem though.  The lighting was great with the thick clouds and soft light, but that opening was going to be a distraction at the edge of the frame if I included the entire car.  It was too nice a subject to pass up on, so I decided to try a couple of things.

The first thing that I tried was to fit my 24-70mm lens on since I had a lot of flexibility with that focal range.  Of course, I added my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer since I was photographing a reflective surface.   I tried a composition that included the wall of the shed beside the door which blocked the view of the rear of the car and the other opening.  It was a fair image, but I didn’t really like how it was looking.  I moved in closer and went wider on the lens to try and get the whole car through the front opening.  I wasn’t able to get a composition that I liked because of the opening at the back which forced an angle that was boring on the car.  I decided to go in nearly as wide as the lens would go to emphasize the front of the car.  I framed the shot very tight on the back corner of the car, just cropping out the opening.  I knew that I had also cropped off the very edge of the rear bumper and eliminated any breathing room for the rear of the car.  I had some ideas that I could do later to address that.  What I did like about the shot was that I had the front end very prominent in the frame to reduce the importance of the rear of the car.  I also had lots of detail on the wall and the ceiling.  This was the best composition that I could come up with I thought.

Idle Muscle“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, 3 shot HDR in Lightroom

With the shot set up, I couldn’t help but notice that the exposure latitude was going to be rather wide in order to get detail on the wall.  I could have done it in a single exposure, but depending on how much detail I wanted on the wood, I was going to be introducing a lot of noise to the image.  There was nothing in the frame that would be blowing or moving, so I had plenty of opportunity to blend several images to make a single image with loads of dynamic range.  I shot a series of three images, a full stop apart, which made up this composition.  I didn’t really need all of that data as I left a lot of the shed in the shadows, but it was a joy to work with since I didn’t have to worry about any noise creeping into the image.

I still needed to figure out what to do about the right side of the frame.  The opening wasn’t there which was good, however, the very back edge of the car was cropped out which bothered me.  Had there been another foot on the wall behind the car, I wouldn’t have had an issue at all, but that was not in the cards with this one.  My first thought was to crop the image into a 5:7 or 4:5 composition and just cut the car around the rear wheel.  It was  solid idea, but when I started to make the crop, I didn’t like how it looked at all.  I would rather have the close crop of the bumper and still visible.  That option didn’t work, but I still had one other trick that I could do in order to make this work.  I have gotten pretty decent with manipulating the light in a scene, which was what I decided to do with this one.  I didn’t have an opening to deal with thanks to how I framed the shot, so I could just create shadows on the right side to give the impression that the opening wasn’t there to begin with.

I started to slowly build the shadows on the right and continued to darken them until I had a convincing heavy vignette of shadows where there shouldn’t be light.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was very close and it worked with the image quite well I thought.  I still had the emphasis on the front end of the car which was what I had intended.  The lines of the fender were still visible and you could see the heavy layer of dust on the car.  The wood paneling on the left side made for a great background to tell the story of this car.  The edit on this piece didn’t actually take that long and was pretty straightforward compared to my landscape shots from a couple of days ago.  I might have started out as a landscape photographer, but I have a feeling that I am going to be shifting my emphasis into the world of decay before long.  It just fits my style a little bit better, I think

While I was getting a few shots in the bag I was talking to the owner and we had a very good conversation.  I learned about the history of the car and how he has owned it for the vast majority of its life.  There have been many drivers of it over the years, and it was driven to the spot where it was parked.  His Grandson will eventually get it and will do a restoration on it.  Lucky guy!  As we talked the clouds got a little darker and the rain started to fall.  Fortunately, we were under a rather large Oak tree which shielded the equipment from the rain for the most part.  I wasn’t done with my images though, and kept looking for isolations that I liked.  That grill was my favorite part of the car, and I wanted to do something special with it.

I started out trying for a quarter shot of the grill and headlights thinking it would make a great 16:9 image.  It turned out fine, but was very similar to the image that I just shared.  Not wanting to compete with the two images, I chose the stronger of the two and left it at that.  I still needed to get something with the grill, so I started working on a composition that included the Mopar tag and the hood ornament.  I really liked the textures and lines in the image, but I needed to get the composition and perspective right.  I was again having to deal with the opening in the back of the shed.  This was only able to be addressed by lowering the camera, which I did.  The only problem was the Manfrotto has a center column that pretty much dictates how far you can drop the tripod.  That wasn’t going to be enough as I could still see the opening at the top of the image.

I decided to utilize a trick that I love with the Manfrotto, and I pulled the center column all the way out and rotated it over to the side.  that allowed me to mount the camera to the side of the tripod instead of on top of it.  That dropped the camera the height of the Acratech Ballhead which was just perfect to cover the opening with the car.  I now had the composition and the right framing.  The exposure was very straightforward since I was intending on letting the ground and the background go into deep shadows.

Leaf Me in Peace“, Canon 5D MK3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I’ll admit here that I had a debate and struggle with myself on this image.  There were some leaves sitting against the grill which didn’t necessarily flow with the image.  It would have been nothing at all to ask to remove them since the owner was right there with me.  I could have, and I could have had a very clean image to work with.  However, I do have a personal mantra of “shoot it as you find it,” and if the elements belong there, they are part of the story of the subject.  The way that the image was framed, the leaves were right at the edges and in a way provided a framework for the composition which was helpful.  More to the point though, they told a very important part of the story.  With this kind of isolation there is very little clue to the age of the car, or its current status.  There are also no hints as to time of year or anything like that.  There are times that I like that ambiguity as with abstracts.  This particular image needed some more hints to it.  It was basically a vanity plate and a series of lines and textures.  The leaves actually told the story of this car, and gave the image meaning.  It might not be that perfect showroom image, but that isn’t what I’m about anyway.  This was a very honest and real image of a car that has been sitting in a barn for many years now and has some debris that has settled on it.  It was a creative choice to leave the leaves, and I’m actually glad I did it that way.  The rest of the image came out just like I had intended and I’m very happy with the total composition.

After I shot this, the rain was starting to fall a little too heavy and my polarizer was starting to get wet which is never a good thing.  I stripped the filter off and stowed it in my bag and put my lens cap on the front element as we walked over to the parts car to see if there was anything that caught my eye.  The car had been picked pretty clean, and I saw no more compositions there.  I only had 14 images on the SD card, which was not many at all.  However, for one subject, I could live with that and hoped that I would have one good image, possibly two from the day.

I bid the owner farewell and reassured him that I wouldn’t disclose the location of the car, and that if he liked the images that I shot, I would be happy to bring him a print later in the week.  It is the least that I can do for an owner that lets me shoot on their property.  It had been a good afternoon, even though it was a little quick between rain showers.  I had gotten out and let my creativity loose which was just what I needed after the morning.  It was nice to do more with my decay photography since I have been concentrating on landscapes for much of the summer.

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