Old Cars, Photography

Getting close to classic cars

Color. Reflection. Shadow. Tone. Line. Angle. After four annual visits to the Mecum Spring Classic muscle-car auction, I am beginning to get a good feel for these photographic elements when I move in close to the cars. I’ve had some good luck in past years, but this year I feel like I relied less on luck and more on application of things I’ve learned. Some of that learning came from having shot hundreds of cars now, and some of it came from absorbing other photographers’ work that I admired.

I loved how the light oozed across the hood of this 1972 Dodge Charger. This car was outside in a thin white tent, which acted as a giant diffuser.

1972 Dodge Charger c

Every year, I take this shot of a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. I never get tired of it. Growing experience meant that I moved in and got this shot the first time, rather than needing to take it six or seven times until it felt right, as in past years.

1970 Plymouth Barracuda

Ditto this shot of a 1969 Dodge Charger. There’s always at least one Charger in this room with the skylights that splash so interestingly across that wide C pillar.

1969 Dodge Daytona

I like this composition, although my irrational love of the 1967 Chevrolet may be impairing my judgment.

1967 Chevrolet Impala SS

These headlights from a 1963 Buick Riviera are my favorite shot of the day.

1963 Buick Riviera

I shot this1956 Cadillac Series 62 and 1956 GMC 100 for their candy colors and almost parallel lines. I think I shot this a dozen times trying to get the lines to be perfectly parallel, thank you OCD.

1956 Cadillac Series 62 and 1956 GMC 100

For all the intentional shooting I did this day, this shot turned out well by accident. It wasn’t until I looked at it later that I noticed how well the building’s exposed trusswork framed this 1935 Ford. Bonus: Find the napping car owner.

1935 Ford

I also love to find classic cars on the street. Check out the ones I photographed last year

Last updated on 3 March 2020 by Jim Grey

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11 thoughts on “Getting close to classic cars

  1. Absolutely gorgeous pix. Visually, my favorites are the 1969 Dodge Charger and the 1967 Chevy. The 1935 Ford photo itself is also great, though the car itself is an odd-looking bird.

    What’s going on with the word “SHAKER” in the Barracuda photo? It looks like the letters are reflected above and below, but there’s no obvious cause. Just curious.

    Thanks for another great post.

    • Thanks Scott! The word “Shaker” on that sticker is printed to look blurry, as if the words themselves are shaking. You can see the effect better when the photo is at its full size. If you click the photo, it’ll take you to Flickr. There, choose Actions, View All Sizes. Then click the Original link.

  2. Very fine results. I do tend to have the opinion that the most can be learned from working many times with subjects that are loved. I think it boosts the technical skills and it motivates creativity because of the desire to see the subject in new ways.

  3. Was he napping in the car?? I love photographing the small details in the cars as well. Anyone can shoot a car, but to get that exact feeling is finding it in the small details.

    • Yes! That’s his head in the window. He’s napping in the driver’s seat.

      I’ve tried to get up close and personal on modern cars — there just aren’t as many good details anymore.

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