In Part 1 of this subject I described some of the thought processes I went through in selecting equipment and what I actually ended up using. Like packing a suitcase to go traveling for a month, I suspect we carry more camera gear than we almost ever actually need. There is probably something to be said for learning to be a minimalist – equipment-wise at least. I’m sure the Nikon’s and Canon’s of the world would prefer that we packed everything including the kitchen sink though… That’s probably a subject for another post or a whole forum thread!
I also started to explain the thought processes that went into going from a crowded street to a final image ready for printing. Once again, these are my thoughts and any resemblance to something intelligent or useful is strictly coincidental!
Crowds and light were the challenges to overcome. Both were harsh and both were always in the wrong place! Since I wasn’t interested in taking ‘record’ shots of the cars on the street, I realized I would have to put a big effort into pre-visualizing what I wanted, before I triggered the shutter. Without the associated cost per frame we always had hanging in the back of our mind in the film days, it’s far too easy to simply fire away collecting pixels carelessly and without any contemplation. So I made up my mind to concentrate… and even if I didn’t come back with any images that I’d be proud to hang, I would at least benefit from the mental exercise. A few of the images I saw and what prompted me to take them follow…
This truck was on the shady side of the street and when I saw it, the crowds weren’t too bad. Probably because it just doesn’t have the sex appeal of the Shelby Cobra – which happened to be parked across the street, bright yellow in the bright sun! What struck me was the contrast of the chrome against the rest of the truck. I knew the background wasn’t great and I knew that even a square-on symmetrical ‘portrait’ of the face of this truck would still have extraneous content in the upper corners above the fenders. I tried two shots, with the intention of doing something graphic with them. I was thinking a paint effect perhaps, or maybe a poster or solarization filter. Here’s the raw image:
After a bit of trial and error in Photoshop, I settled on a posterization effect. It brought out the graphical effect of the chrome and tended to block up the shadows in the background. It was very easy to clone out anything left over, like the sign in the upper left.
What I like about it is the simplicity. And the way it has become essentially a two color lithograph print – green/red – with some gray scale density. Is it what I visualizes as I stood in front of it? No, not exactly, but the elements I was looking for are there so I’d say the end result is true to my intentions.
As I noted above, what originally attracted my attention was the sparkle of the chrome. No doubt the owner has gone through a few bottles of chrome cleaner to keep it looking like this! I wanted somehow show how bright the chrome was, so I got in a little closer for a slightly more intimate crop. When pondering this shot, I fully intended to convert to a pure black and white and really try to make the chrome pop as a bright silver/white against the dark paint. That’s what I did initially, back home in front of the computer… but it didn’t really work for me and I’m not sure why. Perhaps I needed to put more effort into the levels sliders, but eventually I settled on a bit of a sepia wash that serves to give the image some age, while still preserving the bright chrome horizontal lines of the grill.
I’m not yet convince that this is the best that can be done with it, but for now I’m going to leave it as presented.
Before I left the house, I knew I wanted to attempt a few detail shots. Exactly what, I didn’t know. But as I’ve stated quite often in this post and the previous one, crowds were going to limit my perspective. I liked the lines of the blue flame on this old Chevy (I think – happily, I don’t have a ‘record’ shot to know for sure!). I played with contrast and levels to pull out a bit more detail from what was actually a fairly subtle paint job. I could say I should have paid more attention to lines in the composition, but I did what I could and I’m not sure there was a composition that would have been much better without allowing distractions into the frame.
There are a few artifacts from the Photoshop work showing through… the sparkles now look like dust! I could or should make another attempt to reduce those unwanted bi-products of my efforts and maybe delete myself from the reflection, but frankly I don’t like the image enough to work it any more… so it will serve double duty as an example of what NOT to do also!
Pink on Red… Seriously?
When I saw this car, I wondered if I could do something similar to the fuzzy dice image in the last posting. But it clearly was going to have some problems… and rather than describe them, let’s just take a look!
The reflection of the sky and trees on the windshield was pretty much enough all on its own to render this shot worthless. I twisted the polarizer several revolutions, let me tell you, hoping to see the reflections fade away! But to no avail – they were there to stay.
Next issue was the pink dice against the red upholstery. Pretty ugly, even for that era! I had no interest in keeping those colors, so I planned to convert to monochrome in some way, to remove the distraction of the colors, before I even focused the camera.
I think it’s better than the original, but realistically, how could it be worse?!? This is going to head into the bit-bucket eventually… I don’t like the reflections of the branches and I *really* don’t like the tag on the dashboard. However, this image does provide an example of how a careful conversion to monochrome can be more successful than you expected… in this case, the pink dice and the red upholstery were very similar tones in black and white. Using the more advance conversion tool, I was able to target the pink and the red separately and move them in opposite directions on the gray scale. The dice would have faded into the seats otherwise!
The stencils and paint work on this bike attracted my attention!
The original images (I shot two) show the tank to have more silver and brown tones in it. I didn’t like that and I didn’t like the distracting colors in the reflection ahead of the skull. I tried a few different things to bring this into something almost presentable and eventually stumbled on ‘cyanotype’ as a wash. I liked the cold, evil feel the silver blue effect produced and finally settled on it. Some levels adjustments to pull the graphics out of the reflection and it became this.
Oddly enough, this is one shot where the crowds of people helped me! The dark area on the right is a person’s pants. The other shot I took was snapped during a lull in the pedestrian traffic… because I didn’t want the distraction of people behind. But… that image, which I assumed would be the better one, suffers from having the front part of the bike fade into the bright asphalt and concrete. The pants provide contrast that helps this shot, especially with the color removed.
Big as a Whale
I remember a B-52′s song from the ’80s that has a line in it something like “I’ve got me a Chrysler, it’s as big as a whale, and it’s about to set sail”… that keeps floating through my head when I look at this photo. Can’t imagine why…
I took this one towards the end of my walkabout. I liked the fins and the retro pinkish color. I didn’t expect much from it, because it broke the rule I set out to follow – too much everything! However, looking at it on the screen, I wish I’d seen then what I see now. If I had this to do again, I’d put the 12-24 on the camera and get a little lower, but shoot essentially the same content. To me it looks like the car is making a left turn onto the street. The traffic signal is visible. There is the potential for lots of blue sky and bright chrome. It would have been a chance to do a tight wide angle shot of the car, as if it was actually moving. I think it might have had some value… but I didn’t see it!
That’s all the images I felt were acceptable to show and discuss. I learned a few things working on them, and a few more things describing them in this post. Hopefully others will be inspired to shoot something similar, and most importantly, learn from my mistakes!!