Sunday, January 27, 2018
I’m not quite sure how to start this one. I guess, I have to go back several years when I was riding a bike up and down Hwy 66 in Walkertown, NC. There is a small automotive shop set up behind a little restaurant which I had seen some Datsuns parked at several times. Well, at the time, I was more interested in what kind of Z’s he might have back there because…well, I’m obsessed with the Datsun Z. I had one when I was in college which lasted for about a year. I was forced to get rid of it because my then fiance’ didn’t like it. Looking back, I got rid of the wrong one, but I digress. Since then I have been looking for that perfect Z to come along and all the while totally in love with the design of the car. While I was riding by this shop I never really saw anything of interest, but the fact that he worked on Datsuns was something that I filed in my memory for later on as something close to home where I might find some food for my Datsun hunger.
Fast forward a few years and now I’m using that route to get to work after dropping Sierra off at school. A couple of weeks ago, I saw that there were quite a few more cars back there than I remembered seeing. There was an old 280ZX which caught my eye, and what might have been a 260 or 280Z. That caught my eye, and got me thinking about doing some pictures. I rolled the thoughts around in my head for a while and then when I was going to work last Friday I saw the Datsuns once again. The shop sign had a phone number on it and I decided to call the shop when I got to work. I was going to feel much more comfortable going behind the shop with permission rather than just getting caught behind a business on a weekend. At this point, I was also in full photographer mode and was looking for other things of interest that I might be able to shoot in the near future. I happened to go through the middle of Kernersville and saw some of the really old buildings which I had seen before, but never really considered shooting them before. One of them kind of stood out, but I was thinking that it would be much better to photograph it in the afternoon rather than the morning because the sun should be in the perfect position to illuminate the front of the store.
When I got to work, I started to think about what the weather would hold for the weekend. Saturday was going to be pretty much solid sun so that was not going to work for me at all. Sunday, was looking like increasing clouds after lunch time which was promising for a lot of different types of photography. Since I would be working with the latter half of the day before going to work the following day, I didn’t want to go far at all, so that I would have plenty of time to work on the pictures before needing to go to bed. With all of these variables in place, I decided to call the shop owner and see if he minded if I dropped by at some point to shoot the cars. The phone call went very smooth and we came upon an agreement where I could go back there and do a little photography.
When Sunday rolled around the sky was very clear early in the morning and I didn’t see any clouds developing until around 11am or so. I was out taking care of some other business nearby so I kept a close eye on the clouds. Shortly after lunch time, the clouds had thickened up a good bit and the light was nice and warm from the diffused sun overhead. The time was right to go and try shooting the cars that I hadn’t even really seen yet. When I arrived the lighting looked good and I was a little excited about what I might find behind the building. As I was working my way around, I saw an ’80’s 300ZX, a 280ZX with some nice rust, but bright red paint which was too much for me. There were a couple of ’90’s 300ZX’s which I would love to drive, but wasn’t so excited about photographing. There were a couple of 240SX’s back there as well which didn’t catch my attention at all. It was about to be a lost cause except for one car…a mid ’70’s 280Z. It was a black car with a fair amount of patina to it. It had a spoiler and was mostly intact which was a big selling point for me. This was going to be my subject here today.
I set down the camera bag and got out the camera loaded with a 24-70mm lens. In order to get as much out of the rust as I could, I added the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer that I use pretty much for all of my automotive photography. I started to look for compositions but since the Z was parked between two other vehicles in rather tight proximity, my options were very limited. Feeling like there was no way to get an overall shot I started working on isolations on the car. There are a couple of things about this car which make the design quite unique. The headlight buckets are one of those iconic features and I love how the “C” Pillar is shaped over the curved rear quarter panel. Of course the long nose is another feature about this car which is widely recognized, but I wasn’t going to be able to get that due to the cars on either side of this one.
I started to work with the headlights, and using the 24-70mm lens in close I was able to get some really good isolations on the car. I would have liked to have used the longer lens for these, but I didn’t have the room to work that I would have needed with that lens. In hindsight, this one worked out very well and the focal range of the lens gave me a lot of flexibility with my compositions. It took me a little while to really get into the groove with this car. It is the first time I have ever photographed a Z seriously and I was a little nervous about it. With as passionate as I am about these cars, I wanted to do right by it, and convey the parts of the car that really captured my imagination.
A problem that I was coming across was the condition of the paint. It was actually in pretty good shape over most of the car. These cars are rust buckets in a most severe way, so there wasn’t much in the way of the normal patina that I find on American Cars. These cars rust from the inside out, so by the time you see the rust, it is fully involved cancer and not just a little surface rust. You can see a lot of that on the hood, but the rest of the car was in pretty decent shape except for holes that developed in the lower sections. The emblems were all still there which was a nice thing and something that I would have loved to capture. However, I know that chrome emblems on a black background without a good bit of rust staining is just boring and something that I would just rather pass up on. There needs to be patina and rust to really set an emblem off when you are looking at a black car.
There was one emblem that I thought I could do something with though. The round “Z” emblem on the sail panel is a touch that all of these original body style cars had with the exception of a slightly different design on the Series I cars. The emblem was in fair condition and the paint around it was very much in tact. What this section had going for it though was some body lines accentuated by the light and some chrome design elements to fill in the negative space. There was even a yellow pinstripe at the quarter arch which really helped pull the eyes around the curves. I figured it was worth a try to capture with the light hitting it just right so I got the camera in close and up high. I dialed in the polarizer just right so that there was still the right amount of glare on the body to show off the lines. I thought very seriously about converting this one to monochrome since there really wasn’t that much in the way of color present. However, the blue tones got lost in the conversion as did the warm tones from the stripe. These very small color hues added a lot to this image I thought, and that makes it more successful as a color image in my opinion.
Going back to my high school days when I was first infatuated with the Z car, it was a silver ’76 280Z with a chin spoiler and the fat bumper that is just not a desirable piece on these cars. Be that as it may, I actually like the thicker bumpers on these 280’s because it brings to mind that car that I fell in love with at 15 years old. This image is one that captures what I saw about that 280 thirty years ago (except for the chrome fender arch…YUCK!) and puts a little age on it. This will always be the character of the car in my mind, and it was worth a photograph. The rust and age of the paint is really showing through here which gives this car a lot of stories to tell. I decided to go with a square crop on it to really bring a sense of immediacy to the subject which I thought it deserved. I didn’t need any more of the car, and didn’t need extra sky or ground. What I needed was the headlight, bumper, and spoiler along with a taste of the rust on the hood. This crop nailed it!
I did some more shooting on this car, but could feel that my inspiration was lacking for any more images. I had 25 shots in the bag of a single car and that was plenty to get a couple of keepers out of. I looked at the other cars in the lot and decided that none of the others had enough character to shoot. I was done, and something that I’ve learned over the years as strange as it might be, when I’m done there is no sense in trying to force more pictures. I loaded everything back up and started back down the road. My next stop was going to be in the middle of Kernersville to check out that store I had been noticing more and more recently.
When I arrived, I drove by the store really slow and looked at how it appeared. The lighting was fine on it, and the sky had a little detail to it. I just really didn’t like the stuff on either side of it and was worried about how I would shoot it. It was very close to the road, slightly sunken in behind a short ridge to the roadway. I got turned around and looked one more time. I was going to have a hard time shooting this building from as close as I would need to be in order to eliminate the fence and the road…or would I have to eliminate either of those at all? I took my chances and pulled over into a neighboring business before getting out to check things out.
Before grabbing the camera I walked out to see what my options were. I could tell immediately that there was no way I was going to be able to shoot this as close as I needed to in order to eliminate the fence. I had the right lens, but the perspective distortion would have been too much. I ran across the road real quick to see what things looked like from over there. I immediately saw potential from this distance. I would get the fence and the road, but the composition looked good, and the colors were looking good too. I played Frogger once again and got back to the truck to grab the camera. I had a feeling what I was going to need, but since I was setting up across the road, I just took everything in case I needed to change something up.
I got the camera set up with what I figured would be the best lens for the job which was the ever popular 24-70mm lens to which I added…you guess it…a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer. I did this in order to get a little more contrast in the signs on the building. I started to frame up the shot and found that the composition was going to be rather difficult at best. There was another building to the left which was pretty close, and to the right was the back yard of a house with some storage buildings. I wanted to get the tree, and I wanted to avoid shooting dead on straight because of the way the curb line fell off to the left. What I finally chose as the best out of nine additional images was this one. it was shot as a vertical format to take advantage of the towering tree while cutting out extra information on the sides of the building. The close crop accentuated the storefront very well, and by reducing it to a 4:5 crop I made that impact even bigger while keeping the importance to the tree. This was the image that I had been envisioning for quite some time on this building, but never knew how to make it work.
The muted sky and the bare tree made this image when matched to the warm tones of the front of the building as the sun was hitting it ever so softly. There is no way that this would have worked under a thicker cloud cover, or if the tree was full of leaves. I would dare say, it wouldn’t have worked as well in the fall with the tree full of color. For my vision, this one is just perfect and I’m really happy that I stopped and worked out the composition like I did. My first instinct was to keep on driving as I couldn’t resolve the way to shoot it from the truck. It would have been a missed opportunity to get an image that I am so very happy with.
Oddly enough, considering my two subjects today, the car that I am so passionate about wasn’t my favorite of the day. Sure, I loved the pictures of the Z, and the lighting worked out very well for it. In fact, I was quite happy with them while processing them. As far as photographs of things that I have a connection to, these will be right up there for a long time. However, when it comes to straight photographic merit, the store takes the cake by leaps and bounds. Everything about it works, and it is just a really great shot of Kernersville history. The fact that I shot 35 images and came away with five keepers speaks very highly for the day. I count this as another successful day out with the camera, and one that exceeded my expectations.