How I Photographed a Small Car Collection

Corvette, Nomad, 57 Chevy

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 a picture. The truth is much more complicated than that. Let me tell you the story.

It began with a request by the significant other of a local racer and car collector asking me to photograph five of her boyfriend’s favorite cars and give him a print as a birthday gift. I suggested that we use a location at an outdoor living history museum that has a relocated 1920’s gas station located on its property. I asked for and received permission to photograph the cars shortly after closing when nobody but the curator would be there and the light would be just right.

Corvette, Nomad, 57 ChevyThen I assembled a team including drivers that would bring the cars to the location and I drove the 1956 Chevy Nomad because it was always my dream to own one. The little caravan included a chase truck filled with camera equipment and a tall ladder that I planned to use as a shooting platform.

When we 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. Then on the way over to the museum the ’57 Bel Air tossed a wheel cover and we had to retrace our steps to find it. Thankfully finding it unscathed in some weeds. When our merry band arrived at the museum, the parking lot was packed with cars because an emergency meeting of the museum’s board of directors had been called. I asked my client she would ask the people to move their cars and while they were glad to oblige, it took time.

Rather than playing it 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 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.