Assignment: Photographing a Small Car Collection

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

When some people see the above photograph they often assume that I was just walking by this little tableaux and happened to have my camera with me and took this picture. The truth is much more complicated than that. Let me tell you the story behind the photograph.

It began with a request from the significant other of a local racer and car collector asking me to photograph five of her boyfriend’s favorite cars to make a wall-sized print for a birthday gift. For a shooting location, I suggested that we use an outdoor living history museum that has a 1920’s gas station on its property. I then asked for and received permission from the museum to photograph the cars shortly after they closed when nobody but the curator would be there and the light would be just right. But that’s not exactly what happened…

Before the shoot I assembled a team that included drivers who would bring the cars to the location and I drove the 1956 Chevy Nomad because it was always my dream to own one. That’s probably the closest I will ever get. The little caravan also included a  pickup truck filled with camera equipment and a tall ladder that I planned to use as a shooting platform.

When the group arrived at where the collection was stored, one of the cars, the ’56 convertible, had a flat tire and we had to put the spare on. On the way driving to the museum the ’57 Bel Air tossed a wheel cover, which we didn’t notice until they arrived for the shoot. The driver of that car had to retrace his steps to find it. Thankfully finding it unscathed in some weeds.

When our merry band arrived at the museum, instead of being empty the parking lot was packed with cars because an emergency meeting of the museum’s board of directors had just been called. (We later found out it was because of a death of a board member.) I asked my client if she would talk with the people and get them to move their cars and while they were glad to oblige, it took time.

Rather than playing the shoot by the seat of my pants, I had previously made a sketch of the final composition and gave it to my assistant and between the two of us we gradually got all of the cars moved into position that you see in the final composition. All of this took a lot more time than making the actual photo—I was perched atop a 25 foot ladder—that was made with a Canon EOS 50D with a 16mm lens and an exposure of 1/60 sec at f/16 and ISO 100.

And yeah, he liked his birthday gift just fine.


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