Photographing Vintage Cars Along The Road

     A year ago I wrote, “Roadside Photographers Just Get Lucky”. I said those photographers that cruise the highways and byways by vehicle looking for subjects, “must be prepared and ready at a moment’s notice to grab the camera from its bag on the back seat, roll down the window (that’s a must), take a quick exposure reading, and shoot.” I saw them as distinctive among scenic, bird, and wildlife photographers and discussed how I thought luck played an important part in their photography.

These photographers don’t always have the luxury of time to attach a tripod to the camera base, and need to quickly and accurately meter, shoot fast, and be ready for other cars that slowly pass as people try to see why the car is stopped.

Loosing composure by madly waving or yelling, “Go, go, go. Get out of my way!”  doesn’t work very well.  That car will pass and hopefully won’t ruin the shot. The light isn’t always optimal, and the perspective and angle of the shot is going to depend on the road and the placement of the vehicle in relationship to the subject to be photographed. There are those roadside shooters that only use little point and shoot cameras, but the serious roadside photographer is equipped with a DSLR, the skill to use it effectively, and experience to understand how to work with restricting conditions.

Roadside photographers don’t go out to photograph a particular subject. Much of the time, skilled multi-taskers that they are, roadside photographers will be involved in other activities like going to work, visiting friends, or making that run to the store before supper, yet still are on the lookout for any kind of subject to photograph, and are silent about how the picture they are showing was made by chance, and from behind the steering wheel of their car. It sounds so much better for viewers to think the picture was made after detailed planning or some lengthy excursion on foot.

Over the years I have described what kind of photographer I am in many different ways. I won’t bore readers with that, but these days I see myself as an opportunist when it comes to the images I capture on my camera’s sensor. Most of the pictures I am able to make on the roadside are because of my sharp-eyed wife, Linda.  I thought about this roadside, opportunistic photography as I pulled off the Trans Canada highway to stop and photograph a field filled with pre-1920 cars that Linda saw and I almost drove by.

The Antique chapter from the larger organization, Vintage Car Club of Canada had picked a location just outside of Kamloops, British Columbia, to hold their meet and had been touring around the area for the past two days. We sometimes see groups of restored old cars on the highways which I suppose is not that surprising with a 23 chapter, 1200 member-strong, Canadian car club. However, spectators usually surround them and chances of getting clear shots or even talking to the owners are rare.

But in this instance the wonderful antique cars were parked in a circle in a wide-mowed field and, unlike other car shows, spectators were absent and I could take all the time I wanted composing pictures, and even talking to owners about the club and receiving personal stories about their cars.

I was lucky. I already said roadside photographers just get lucky. The cars, the lack of other people, other photographers, and because I had been working earlier in the day at another job meant that I had my 24-70mm lens and a good flash and I got to get out of my car ready for the pictures.  I was lucky.

The sky had clouded over reducing metal glare and the warm evening light was perfect, all I had to do was add some fill light with my flash to bring out the character of the vintage cars. I began by just photographing those that interested me the most, then after the initial excitement I slowed down and walked around again trying to compose my pictures to tell a story instead of just documenting cars in a field.

I like cars, and like many men view them as works of art. As a photographer the chance to wander around photographing vintage cars is just plain fun, however, truth be told, I will stop to photograph pretty much anything.

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