Jacked Up Ford Pickup, Southern Nebraska, 2010

As you’ll find out, I shoot a lot of old trucks, gas pumps and trains; hallmarks of the modern era now often left to rust out in some abandoned field or lot. If their placements also include big landscapes and dramatic skies, I cannot resist but capture them.

One of my most favorite photo trips was in 2010, where I drove from my home in the Northeast to a client in Indiana. After that, I continued west, right through the middle of the country. My goal was to shoot old trucks and gas pumps mostly. And I happened upon many jackpots.

Nebraska turned out to be a great place to shoot. With it’s wide open skies above sweeping rolling hills, numerous small towns, peppered all over, it offered a lot of opportunities.

Jacked Up Ford, Southern Nebraska, 2010

Jacked Up Ford Pickup, Southern Nebraska, 2010
Phase One P45 Digital Back, 39mp, on a Hasselblad H2
HC 50-110 Lens @ 50mm : ISO 50 : 1/30 at f16
HDR Composite of 6 exposures using Photomatix Pro
This shot and others can be found on my westernspaces.com site

This shot was one of them. I never met anyone at this location. I stayed on public roads to reduce any issues. But I have to thank whomever for such a great layout! You’ll  be seeing more from this shoot over time.

Today, I’m not going to cover all the technical aspects of this shot, nor my methods of photography, other than a quick note on the above photo’s final treatment. Many people ask me if I “change” the colors. And to that, I have to say, it all depends on what “change” means. I don’t recall ever changing the color of something- so that red, is now green, as an example. But I certainly have boosted colors in many cases. That’s actually why I picked this shot as the first for this blog…

Yes, the shot is pretty “hot”. The rust and cyan colors are quite intense. But that’s how I wanted the shot. That’s how I saw the shot when I was shooting. And I actually think that the intensity of the foreground colors helps separate the truck from the clutter of the background. Sure, the background could have been let to fall out of focus- but then what about those awesome clouds?

What I find is that many people will simply adore the photography of Ansel Adams, but then when they find out a shot is taken digitally and “changed” they look down on such a thing. Well, I hate to break it to you, but Adams was all about manipulation. And he is famous for using whatever technologies of the time would help him create images that he “previsualized”. As an example, skim through his book The Print. Check out the chapter on dodging and burning. What’s that all about? He’s making a sky darker, or a shadow lighter, by simply exposing portions of the print more or less according to what looked good to him. And although he was not as well known for his later color work, he applied similar and newer techniques to that medium as well.

And so much of what Adams discusses in his publication, The Negative, revolves around how to obtain as much details in the shadows and in the hi-lights as possible. His Zone System involved a number of approaches during both exposure and development (of the film) to obtain as much dynamic range as possible. Sounds like HDR (High Dynamic Range) today does it not? And yes, I’ve done it the Adams way (for half my photographic life) and the new way as well.

There is no “straight” shot. Film and digital sensors all have biases. Fuji Velvia was richer and had more contrast than Kodachrome, as an example. And does it matter where the filter was applied? In front of the lens of the camera? In front of the lens at the time of enlargement? At the time of post-production in Adobe Lightroom? And what if the reds need to be more vibrant? Should we crank up the magenta and yellow, during enlargement, do a selective burn on a target region, then soak the print in a chemical bath for an additional 15 seconds that’s 2 degrees cooler than it should be? Or do we select the red channel in Lightroom and bump up the “vibrance” settings by 10? They’re all just different technologies to obtain similar results.

The intent of this blog is not to argue just about how contemporary techniques have possibly cheapened the art of photography. But we’ll see the topic come up on a regular basis. Much of my catalog that I’m most proud of certainly falls into the digital realm. But I’ll make sure to conjure up older exposures as well.


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