Thursday, March 14, 2019
I’m going to be a bit vague in this entry, and I apologize for that in advance. You see, in order for me to shoot my first location I had to swear to privacy about where it was. With that promise in mind, I am going to try to take you guys on a little journey with me, so if you would put a scarf around your eyes and make sure you can’t see where we are going. I set out this morning…are you reading? Hello!! Are you there? Oh, my fault….I meant that scarf thing figuratively. You can take that off now. As I was saying, I set out this morning to take advantage of some clouds that were working through the area. There was some good definition in the sky which meant that I could use them in the compositions as well as for the diffused light. This is usually one of those times that I like to go out in the rural parts of foothills as I can shoot in a number of directions easy enough with the muted sunlight. I also don’t have to worry about too much contrast in the scenes which is really nice. My initial plan was to head out to Yadkin County to look for some barns and maybe a few old cars if I was lucky. However, as I was dropping Sierra off at school, I thought about doing something a little bit different instead. With the clouds looking like this, I was thinking that I could actually shoot a couple of cars that I have passed by for years going to some of my regular stomping grounds.
The reason that I had not shot them yet was the time of year was very specific. they were both in a grove of trees and weeds which during the summer completely cover them. In the early part of the winter, they are still covered by the bare stalks. It is only at the end of winter, and the very early part of spring that the cars are uncovered enough to make it worth my while to try to photograph them. Add to that, even though I could see them from the street, I was going to need to get permission to get in close enough to capture the images that I wanted. With the clouds looking like this, I was feeling a bit lucky and decided to take the long drive out to……hah! Thought you would catch me saying where I went?
I had no problem finding the location as I had it committed to memory since I have been keeping an eye on the location. When I got there, I could see the cars quite visible from the road which was a good sign. I made a couple of passes to make sure that everything looked good enough to try some images. I made the decision that I was going to give it a go. I pulled into the driveway of the house that I thought was the property owner’s and knocked on the door. I was greeted by a very nice woman and I thought to myself, this will be easy. I told her why I was there and asked for permission to go on the property. With a smile on her face she kindly informed me that she was not in control of that particular property and that the owners were in a house a little ways down the road. She gave no indication that I would have any issues with getting permission so I happily followed her direction and went to the owner’s house.
When I got there, I made my way to the door and knocked. A man came to the door and I told him why I was there and how I got his address. He was a little hesitant to give me permission, but after I assured him that I wasn’t trying to buy the cars or mess with them he gave me permission to shoot them. OK, this was going well. I thanked him and as I was concluding (I’m assuming), his wife came up to join the conversation. She was less than thrilled about the prospect of me photographing the cars. I had been down this road before all too often and I could see just a bit of hope in her mannerisms. I took the risk and pleaded my case much more than I would normally do. I really do respect folks and their property. I never want to make it a high pressure request for access to the subjects I am wanting to photograph. I did go through all of the reasons that did want to work these cars with the camera. She remained firm, but the gentleman was continuing to say that I could do what I wanted. I found out that her biggest concern was that others would start to flock to the cars and cause problems. I totally understood that, and that was where this promise came in where I won’t divulge the location of these cars. I figured that was a very fair compromise to the situation.
With a unanimous affirmative decision in place, I didn’t waist any time in going back to the car’s location. I got the truck parked and grabbed my gear. I went ahead and fitted the camera with my 24-70mm lens and the ever-present Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer. This was the first time in at least three years that I have been in a position to photograph these cars which I have been waiting on for so long. I was quite excited, but found that the trees behind the cars were not quite what I was expecting as elements in the scene. In my mind, I had developed an expectation that the reality didn’t quite meet. That was ok though since I was able to get in close to them and work them which I did. My original composition ideas might not be working out, but I was starting to find quite a few other compositions that were working out just fine.
Of course I started out with the overall shot that incorporated both cars and the oasis of trees. That just didn’t quite work out like I wanted, so I started to work on the individual cars. This was much more successful for me. I started to get into the groove of what the cars were wanting when it came to how to photograph them. I started to pick up on their personalities and found the perspectives that suited each of them. The dreary morning was really helping with the exposure, but I wasn’t able to use the clouds like I had been hoping for. Well, at least not when shooting in the one direction. I did get in behind the cars and found a nice composition with a dramatic perspective which included the sky. Sadly, when editing the images, it lacked that punch that I was trying to capture. As with any great sky shot that I take, I did try a monochrome conversion in Lightroom, which seemed to do the trick!
This image captured what I loved so much about both of these cars. The trees had grown up around them, but this one especially has been trying to break out of that wooden tomb since I’ve first seen it. By getting down low and capturing the sky, as well as just a hint of the road, I think I was able to convey the feeling that I get looking at this car. It wants to be back on the road again, and be full speed ahead. The headlights look longingly ahead as the earth holds it back. The monochrome gives the image a sense of hopelessness which further illustrates the plight of this car. This image teeters with being my favorite of the set just for the mood that is set with it.
I know that I have been showing off a bunch of images of the one car, but not the other one. I did give a teaser shot of the quarter emblem earlier in the blog. This Lincoln was not quite as visible as I was hoping. However, it did make up for the blanket of weeds and vines by still being a rather bright color. It was my favorite mint green as a matter of fact and that is always a lot of fun to photograph when there is rust involved. I had to work out my composition for that one with a lot of thought. There was not much opportunity for multiple shots, so I just found the angle and worked on the height of the camera for the effect that I wanted.
While not overly visible, the vines and weeds really tell a story about this car. You can really tell how long it has been sitting there, and the fact that nobody has really messed with it in all those years. In fact, there is a tree that has started to grow over the passenger side windshield. I also liked the fact that the one headlight has been left dangling out of the bucket. It just fits the personality of the car so well I think. This car walks the fine line of being visible while being reclaimed by nature. I really enjoy finding them like this, and they do pose their own unique issues when it comes to compositions.
Speaking of compositions, you all know how much I enjoy a good emblem or hood ornament. I even enjoy them when they are faded away and have left nothing but a shadow of what once was. When it is surrounded by such great rust, I have to get that shot. I did a couple of isolation shots on the front to get the character of the emblem as well as the rust and textures present. It was such a nice bonus to have the body lines compliment the bumper shape so well. I actually like both front end isolation shots equally as well. They show completely different sides of the car in different contexts. Since I wasn’t going to be able to choose one over the other, I just went ahead and processed both of them.
With the overall shots done and the isolations on both cars completed, it was time to head on down the road. I had 50 some images in the camera so far, and I was excited for what the rest of the day was going to hold. I loaded my gear back in the truck and set off to the west. My initial idea was to head to Yadkin County and possibly shoot something for a magazine feature that I have been toying with if the weather stayed good. The further west I got, the less the clouds were looking like they were going to cooperate. I decided that it might be better for me to find some more rural settings to photograph. The problem was, I was having absolutely no luck finding anything worth shooting. That was quite disheartening considering I was in the back woods of the county and there was a lot of great potential, but nothing that would look good in a photograph. I was actually starting to think about heading home and getting started on the image processing, but didn’t feel like I was done just yet.
Remembering a bunch of cars that I found last weekend near Stone Mountain, I decided to head out that way and take advantage of the really good lighting. I had stopped by and asked permission to shoot the cars but the owner was not home and his wife didn’t feel comfortable giving me permission to go in the woods. I had left a card, but had not heard anything back. I was hoping that I could find somebody today that would give me permission to work a few cars in the driveway as well as a couple in the woods. As it turned out, I wasn’t that far from the location, only about 15 miles or so. It didn’t take long to get there, but when I arrived, I found that the driveway contained one less car than before, and no indication that the owner was home. I pulled in and knocked on the door just in case. As I feared, there was no answer. Feeling rather disappointed, I turned back to the truck and left the area. I did recall seeing a couple of Chevy trucks on a hill which I had thought about shooting before, so I went back up there to check them out.
They were right where I remembered them, and I pulled down the little private road to get a bit closer. The first building that I came to was a shop of some sort with an open bay door. I pulled into the driveway and approached the guys inside. I explained that I was a photographer and was interested in the trucks. The first response was that neither of the trucks was for sale. That worked fine for me since I just wanted to photograph them. They gladly gave me permission and said that I was the first person to come by and ask for the chance to shoot pictures of the trucks. Hey, I like being special! I went ahead and grabbed my gear which included the 24-70mm lens and the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer. I would later switch to the longer 70-200mm lens for a bit more compression in the scene. I started to work various compositions on both of the trucks.
These were not quite as easy as I had thought that they would be. They were both at an angle on the side of a hill with trees to one side, and the road to the other side. The sky was still interesting which was good. The problem was the trucks were very close together and difficult to get good compositions on individually. I ended up shooting them both together, taking advantage of the similar body styles. They both had a good deal of character, but lacked a certain quality that I still can’t quite put my finger on. I spent about 30 minutes on the two of them before deciding to call it a day and head home.
Something else that I had a hard time with and decided to just embrace was the piece of gutter that was laying up against the truck to the rear. I could have moved it as they had said move what I need to. The dilemma here was, if I moved it, there would be a place of fresh dirt that would be obvious. It also goes against my shoot it as I find it theory. By leaving it in place, I was able to come up with a rather funny title for the piece that pokes a little fun at the added element in the scene.
At the end of the day, I had shot a total of 75 frames, of which eight made the cut as keepers. They were not spectacular images, but it is always good to get out and shoot rust when I can. I am getting ready for some greener trees and some vibrant landscapes though. I’ve had a great winter of rural and rust, but I’m ready to get back into the landscape end of the spectrum once again. Not too many more weeks and that will be a possibility.