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|The Things We Do for Love... of Magazines!|
|Written by Robyn Larson McCarthy|
|Sunday, 25 October 2009 08:49|
An Automotive Traveler writer tries her hand at car photography--and decides taking pictures of dogs is much easier.
Time and trees wait for no man.... So, when a colleague asked me to write a travel feature for one of the fall 2010 issues of his magazine, I did what any dedicated writer would do. I called the local garage and rented a flatbed truck for the afternoon. You see, one of the requirements of my assignment was that my New England weekend road-trip story had to include photos of the vehicle in which my girlfriends and I were exploring the windy country roads and lesser-known historic sites of the Granite State. We'd already had three inches of snow here on my little mountainside in New Hampshire's Monadnock region last Sunday, and with the autumn colors near their peak, I had little time to waste. At the very least, the opening shot of the car had to be taken now. Add to those constraints the fact that the Classic Car (as The Boy calls it) in which we plan to make our drive hasn't been out of the garage for two years and would not start... and you can see my predicament!
Thanks to Village Mobil owner Rod Nichols and a very helpful mechanic named Matt, though, I think I got my one all-important main photograph for the feature story. In the process, I learned that photographing dogs (as we do regularly for my company's own dog-friendly travel website) is much different from photographing cars. The dogs are easier!
To prepare for my first automotive photo shoot, I read Rich Truesdell's Car Photography for Dummies here on AT.com, from which I took two main lessons: First, late-afternoon (or early-morning) lighting is best; and two, change your perspective by getting up high (using a ladder, for example) or down low (crouching or, yes, getting right down on the ground). The golden light of the late-day sun and the unusual angles make for an artistic dimension to your photos.
Okay, so I needed an afternoon with no rain forecast, on a day that Matt at Village Mobil was available with the flat bed, and it couldn't be a Tuesday or Thursday when I take The Boy to school in Exeter an hour and a half away. After the snow melted on Monday, that left... Wednesday. Waiting until Friday would have meant a little more color to some of the trees in this area--while those already at peak would likely be looking a little bare--but a big storm was supposed to be rolling in for the weekend. So, mid-day Wednesday, I drove around to the locations on my list to see which still looked ideal.
The New Ipswich Cemetery--no go. Perfect last week, the trees lining the road at its entrance were looking a little mangy. Besides, someone was painting the fence. The Mason Town Commons, just up the road from the home of the real-life Uncle Sam--no go either. The entire town center seemed to be under construction! (I guess it's been longer than I thought since we drove through there to the famous Parker's Maple Barn for breakfast.) The woman at Windy Hill Orchard would have let me drive a car onto the track into the middle of their pumpkin field, but, alas, not a flatbed. That would have been a gorgeous shot--the midnight-blue car amidst brilliant orange pumpkins against a backdrop of multi-colored trees. The exception to the rule against photographing your car "in the middle of a field," I think.
Desperate, I raced over to the tiny town of Temple, where The Commons are so picture-perfect you think you're on a movie set. Just what we needed! Orange-red leaves mixed with green against the white walls of the historic town hall. The hall, which dates to 1842, is fronted by a kind of side road separated by a stretch of grass from the main roundabout--meaning we'd have plenty of room to unload the Classic Car out of the main traffic route. Better yet, the side road sloped down gently; we could roll the car down and park it in front of the Congregational Church and try a second set of photos there. Matt, who'd been waiting for my call, met me at the house with the flatbed, and we all headed back to Temple with the 1964 Corvair Monza convertible.
And here's where I encountered my first real difficulty. Long and horizontal, vehicles lend themselves to wide photographs that cover the first two pages of a magazine feature (called the "opening spread"). But when you're trying to shoot a relatively low horizontal car against a "typical New England" backdrop of extremely vertical trees and steepled buildings, it's a tough combination. Only by sitting down and then leaning, leaning, leaning almost completely on my back could I get everything framed in a way I was happy with. (We use the Classic Car's enormous front trunk to store huge, stiff pillows for summer nights at the drive-in. If only I'd remembered that at the time I could have saved myself some backache!)
The other lesson I learned immediately (or had reinforced, perhaps) is: "Never underestimate the power of a beautiful car over men--whatever their ages!" As you can see, The Boy was so excited at seeing the Classic Car out of the garage (and on this endlessly fascinating thing called a flatbed tow truck) that he simply could not contain himself. When we're taking photos of Chaucer and Brontë, he usually stands quietly nearby, taking quite seriously his job as Official Dog-Treat Holder.
But the little guy wasn't the only one that day. We didn't even have the car into position for the first set of photos when men started wandering down from the town's maintenance building up a short road behind the town hall. "Is that your car?" "What year?" "I've got a '59 hardtop--should've driven it over." The automotive equivalent of the canine-oriented, "What kind of dog is that? I've got a such-and-such hound at home..." conversations heard when we're photographing Chaucer or Brontë.
Rod Nichols (the Village Mobil owner) showed up with his own classic, a 1965 Impala, and we took a few photos of both Chevys in front of the town hall for fun. Then he "drove" the Corvair down the slope to the front of the church. By then the clouds were rolling in--and not the good kind either, that help highlight contrasts and can make for a more dramatic image. These were cold and grey and portended a shower. I tried a few photos in front of the church, but neither the lighting nor the background was working out.
We were at one hour on the clock, and I was pretty sure I had a few winners among the town hall photos. While Matt loaded the Corvair back onto the flatbed, Rod drove his Impala over to the Village Cemetery, and The Boy and I followed on foot. The sun snuck through the clouds on and off, and I managed to get a few interesting shots of his car in front of the arched iron gate that reads: "In Honor of the Wives and Mothers of 1776."
Matt took our Classic Car with him back to the garage, where they'll work on it this coming week. Meanwhile, I'll be outlining all the sites and scenes my girlfriends and I will tour once the Corvair is running again. With luck, some of the phenomenal flame-colored maples around here will still be in their glory. I need a few pictures of the "hop out of the car and quick take a picture in front of this leaf-strewn stone wall while no one is coming" variety to add the element of verisimilitude to my feature story. First on the weekend's route will be Parker's, of course--where it is the fresh maple doughnuts and hot cider, not the fall colors, that lure the faithful into waiting up to an hour and a half on chilly autumn days for a seat inside.
Now though, I'm headed out with Chaucer and The Boy to capture some more of autumn's gold on the camera. Today's photos should be much easier than Wednesday's. Impromptu is the name of the game when photographing a feisty little terrier. I just need to remember the biscuits.