Monday, May 27, 2013

Hot Wheels

iPhone shot - 3 of Bill Elliott's NASCAR cars, including the 1987 Coors T-Bird that won the Daytona 500 in 1987 (R)

On Friday, as I was trying to decide what camera gear to load into the car before beginning the drive up to our cabin in the North Georgia mountains for the Memorial Day weekend, I debated whether to bring any of my hot shoe strobes, light stands and soft boxes. From experience, I know that during Holiday weekends, there are a bunch of car shows and street rod rallies within easy driving distance and I thought it would be a great opportunity to continue becoming familiar with the hot shoe gear as I also continue to develop my skills shooting autos. Little did I know that fate was knocking on my door.

In the end, I decided to cram the stuff in the back of the spousal unit's Touareg despite knowing that it would take all the room in the rear cargo area. That would leave no room for anything else, but since we have everything we need at the cabin in the way of clothes, etc., we never take much of anything so the space was not needed for luggage or other items. What the heck, said I. I'll take the stuff just in case.

iPhone shot depicting just a few of the other stock cars inside the GRHOF Museum
Am I glad I did. Friday evening, I began searching the web for car Saturday car shows and discovered that the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, GA was not only having its induction ceremony for the 2013 Hall of Fame Class, it was hosting a fairly large car show. Dawsonville is home to NASCAR great Bill Elliott, and the HOF Museum which is located on the grounds includes several of Elliott's NASCAR rides along with many other stock cars from various eras. After a few calls to a friend of a friend of a friend, I secured permission to not only shoot any of the cars inside the museum, but I was also given permission to move any of the barricades as I wished to allow me better access to the cars. Yowsa. I had hoped to be able to shoot a few street rods. Here was a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with some NASCAR raced stock cars.

The spousal unit dropped me off at the Museum at noon and gave me until 5:00 p.m. to do my thing. She was content to head into nearby Dahlonega to shop, leaving me ample time to play with the cars.

Front of Elliott's 1987 Coors Ford Thunderbird
Because I'm still waiting for the rest of the lighting gear I ordered to arrive, I only had one 13X56 strip softbox to go with a 10X36 box. That meant having to be a little creative with the lighting setups as the two softboxes would not produce the same lighting when used together, e.g., on either side of a car. Oh well, you dance with the one who brung you. I brought 4 light stands and all of my hot shoe strobes, so from that perspective I was OK. In the end, the different sized softboxes were made to work.

Before beginning to shoot, I came to grips with the fact that time would only permit me to shoot just so many cars so I had to decide which ones to photograph. I decided on three - Elliott's 1987 Daytona 500 winning Coors T-Bird, his 1992 Budweiser T-Bird, and his 2000 McDonald's Taurus. Because of how Dale Earnhardt's  1990 Daytona 500 Chevy (the year he led most of the race before spinning out on lap 193 with a 40-second lead) is displayed behind fixed barricades, it would just have to wait until another visit to the Museum. The Museum folks told me that next time, if I call ahead, they may just be able to bring the vehicle out from behind it's barricades for me. Aw, yeah.

Elliott's 1992 Budweiser T-Bird
I spent the day moving barricades, positioning lights, shooting, adjusting the lights, shooting some more, replacing the barricades, dodging museum visitors, and taking a peek at my images as I methodically moved from the front of the three cars I selected as my guinea pigs to the rear. Using what little I know about shooting cars, I tried several different angles of the front, wheels, sides and rear end before moving to the next vehicle.

Front and Rear of Elliott's 2000 McDonald's Ford Taurus
I shot at 1/250th second, ISO 200 and f22. On some shots, I used both strip lights but on some I only used one, depending on whether I wanted dramatic shadows or whether I wanted more even lighting. To see other images of the stock cars, head over to the photo gallery I posted on my Google+ page.

I was actually finished shooting Elliott's cars before 5:00 pm, which gave me time to seek out other possible subjects. An old 1928 black stock car caught my eye and after a few minutes, I was all set up to shoot this bad boy. Then I found a 1957 Chevy, a 1956 Ford, and a Pink Caddy with glorious fins in one of the exhibits. Moving to that room, I finished up my day with the images below, the icing on my photographic cake.

I'm looking forward to a return trip to the museum for more images of some of the cars housed within its walls. But for now, suffice it to say that I'm sooooooo glad I decided to go to the trouble of hauling the lighting equipment up to the cabin. Having a chance to photograph cars like these does not come along every day and I'm tickled to death that I was able to take advantage of the opportunity.

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