I came away from five hours at the car show with three particular photos. Each was a detail shot, taken from an unusual perspective.
Yes, I also took a good number of conventional photos of the three hundred vehicles at the Veteran Motor Car Club of America show this weekend at the Abbey in Canon City, Colorado.
But I wanted more than just conventional shots. I wanted images that captured the essence of three special cars. A single shot that could show what made each unique. Much the way a novelist, with a well-drawn word picture, captures a character.
I chose my cast carefully. None of the usual suspects that fade into the background as just one more 1957 Chevrolet or 1930 Ford.
In the swap-meet lot sat a faded red 1937 Hudson Terraplane coupe. I caught a break. Its position on a trailer forced me to take photos from a low angle—the best perspective to accentuate its art-deco grille.
That perspective also served me in capturing the “goddess of speed” hood ornament on a 1939 Packard. Kneeling, I could isolate the chrome sculpture against the sky—and with some adjustments, contrasting cumulus clouds. There's more to learn about Packard Motor Cars. But I think this image conveys the sense of stylish luxury.
That photo didn't happen on the first try. But I knew I was close, so I kept shooting, changing one detail at a time. Finally the tenth image communicated what I wanted to say. I'm grateful for digital technology. There's no extra cost of materials to make one more attempt, only a small investment of time.
I wanted an image that said late 1950s American luxury barge. The white 1959 Cadillac didn't quite work. The owners had the trunk open, keeping me from isolating the fin and rocket-exhaust stoplight. But a few rows over sat a wine-red 1957 Chrysler 300C, with equally glorious tailfins. Even if I'd had room, I didn't want a shot of the entire car, just that one trademark image that sums up not only this car, but the entire era.
Communicating the essence of a car, or a person, doesn't take a thousand words. The secret lies in isolating that essential detail.