. . . . . . . . . . . . . .exploring cars through story and personality.
I’ve been involved in photography since my days in college. Back then it involved black and white printing with chemicals in a darkroom, and required a very different skill-set. Through my career in Art Direction and Design Management I supervised numerous photo-shoots in New York and Boston, and I learned a lot about lighting by working with studio professionals. My first digital camera was a 3-mega pixel Nikon that I paid $990 for. I’m now on my fourth camera, a Canon 5D mark 2. With a 21-mega-pixel camera, I can format my images to be sharp in a 16×24 inch format at 350 DPI. I tend to like them best in print at that size, but the social networking world allows for images less than one fourth that size, and I sometimes feel the images loose something by being so small. My current project is to produce 100 car images with 100 short stories. I’m half way to the goal, and hope to complete it by years end. I really appreciate the feedback and support of my friends at RB, and I’m very inspired by work I see on the site every day.
This is the first car I created and posted on RB. Prior to this I had been doing only landscapes and collages, and like so many other artists
in the last few years, I discovered social networking sites dedicated to sharing artwork. A photographer in Los Angeles named Kevin Saint
Gray had attracted my attention through the work he was doing using radial and zoom blurs in landscapes to created a sense of movement.
The sun moves across the sky, and clouds and water are in constant motion. The camera tends to freeze all of that, but through Photoshop
it can be recreated or suggested. I thought that might work really well with a car, and I had some images that I shot at night in Las Vegas
that I put to use in creating the background. Back in June my wife and I wanted to get out for the weekend and we went to a car show in
Rhinebeck New York. I was the first time I photographed cars and I managed to get a few really nice ones. Car shows would dominate my
weekends for the rest of the summer.
Lucent Prowler – 36 Ford Custom Cruser by flyrod
This was my fifth car and the one that made me feel I was on to something good when it came to style. There are a million nice photos of
cars out there, and I wanted to do something that had a different focus. Car books tend to focus on the facts, specs, and performance, but
I decided to focus on their personality. I think American cars made between 1935 and 1965 offer the most in that regard.
I had a lot of experience with B&W through my landscape work, and I was able to capitalize on it here. When color is removed from an image
the emphasis on shape and form is enhanced, and this Cadillac is all about that. The car was red, and that’s one of the best colors for con-
version to B&W because it is in the middle of the gray scale, and you can push the tone to light or dark. I had been using surface blur in my landscapes to give them a softness and to minimize the composition. The surface of a car usually reflects a variety of things that clutter the
image. Surface blur can manage a good bit of that.
Oozing Down the Street – Silver Cadillac by flyrod
This is the first image I created with a story in mind. I photographed it at a car show in Massachusetts, but the wide-open background reminded
me of the plains of Kansas. So I Googled police badges for Kansas, and found the star emblem that I put on the door and license plate.
Kansas Law Dog by flyrod
Car enthusiasts often lower the roofline and reduce the ground clearance of their vehicles. This was my first attempt at doing that in Photo-
shop and I think it’s the key to making this image work. I love the styling of Film Noir, and I wanted to give this image that feel. The blurred background creates a feeling of mystery and keeps to focus on the car. It would take an extraordinary effort to stage something like this.
This is where Photoshop is equally or more important than the camera.
Buick Noir by flyrod
Like many photographers, I’m drawn to the warm tones of the sun at dusk and dawn. Unfortunately some of the best opportunities don’t
coincide with the sun’s schedules, and you have to make do with what you can get. I shot this background at sunrise in Miami Beach a
few years ago, and this seamed like the perfect application for it. The car, on the other hand, was shot at noon in full sun. Much of what
I know about Photoshop comes from experimenting and seeing what happens when I try various tools. When you shoot a car in full sun
you almost always get blue reflection on the top of the car and on the chrome bumpers. When you change the hue to it’s opposite, that
blue becomes orange. In this case the car was a warm beige color that shifted to a soft blue as I shifted the hue. Now the car looks like
it was shot at a time of day that matches the background.
The Honorable Senator from Florida by flyrod
Cars of this era have a look that reminds me of gangsters, bootleggers, and bank robbers. So the possibilities for the storyline were vast.
This is the first instance where I used a recognizable place as a background. I found an old photo of New York from the 1930’s that was
a good match to the car, but I wanted to make it look like nighttime. So I darkened the skyline and painted in all the lights in the skyscrapers.
I added a surface blur that made it look more like a rainy night, and made the car’s lights look like they are on.
Having watched every episode of the Soprano’s, I had plenty of influence for the storyline.
Ridding with the Jersey Boys by flyrod
By this time I was fully committed to this project. I decide that I wanted to do 100 cars, and that I wanted to create them in a variety of ways.
This is an example where I relied heavily on the Photo Filter in the Adjustments menu of Photoshop to achieve the overall red color scheme.
This is also the first time I created artwork to enhance the image. I made a silhouette drawing of crosses and gravestones and softened their
focus with a Gaussian Blur and a bit of transparency after placing them in the composition.
Dooley’s Last Ride – 1937 Buick Special by flyrod
This was the first image that used a background specifically shot for the car project. While in New York, I shot about four hundred images
that could be potential backgrounds. The steam rising from vents in the street were exactly what I was hoping to get and I like how it com-
pliments this old Cadillac.
Slumdog Millionaire by flyrod
This car had a satin finish that minimized the challenge of unwanted reflected objects. With an Orange Photo Filter applied, it married well
to this sunset. I find myself spending more time removing things from my images, than I do putting things in.
Basic Bob’s Deuce Coupe by flyrod
I enjoy collecting old advertising, especially packaging and metal signs. I used the graphics from an old tobacco tin to enhance the storyline
of this image. I find trucks to be more interesting when they have a business name or some kind of advertising on them. It’s critical however,
that the graphics match the era of the truck.
Up in Smoke by flyrod
Initially I didn’t find this car all that appealing, but it has become one of my favorites and it has been featured nine times on RB including
the Home Page. I generally avoid Hot Rods and highly customized cars and tend to be drawn more to their original styling. This car was
original in every detail, but that included a very clunky rear bumper and it sat very high off the ground. Otherwise, the styling is exactly
what I find most exciting about cars from this era. Bumpers were put on cars for function, but I wanted to bring out the styling, so I removed
them and designed the rear of the car to reflect the streamlined look of the sides. I lowered its profile and made the wheel rims larger like
new cars look today. I think those moves were critical to achieving the popularity and uniqueness of this image.
Floor That Chevy by flyrod
This is the first image I create specifically for a RB challenge. It was the Double Grunge Challenge hosted by the Grunge It Up Group.
The challenge required entries to include two textures that were provided by the group. I knew how to marry surface texture to an object
from previous experience, and I was really happy with the outcome. A simple modification to the turn signal lights made them look like
fangs, and created a big opportunity for the story. To my dismay, it was rejected from the challenge because the storyline included
violence. It was after all about a vampire, and they don’t always play nice. It’s been featured several times and has done well in other
Blacktop Vampire by flyrod
I parked this image on my desktop for about six weeks before finishing it and posting it. I did considerable modification to the image to
make the wings of the car the focal point. It dawned on me one day that wings are synonymous with angels, and that a story about cars
in heaven could be very entertaining.
57 Heaven by flyrod
The graphics on a cigarette pack from the 1930’s were the perfect accent for this image, and the inspiration for the storyline. In my photo
archive I have a vast variety of architectural elements from houses and building I have photographed, and I used a detail from a Victorian
house in San Francisco for the background here. The truck has a lot of detail, so it was critical to keep the background simple. The truck
was red and black and I didn’t feel that was right for a bakery, so I shifted the palette to yellows and browns.
Fais-dodo by flyrod
I have been to monument Valley twice and I have some great photographs to prove it. But so do about ten million other people.
There are always cars on the dirt road that winds through the park, and this one seamed like it belonged there. I completed a really
nice image of the car in a landscape, but couldn’t come up with a story. That changed quickly when I put the car in this setting.
As with other images, keeping the background simple was really important.
John Ford’s Ford by flyrod
Previous to this posting, all the cars I had published were shot at car shows with whatever lighting was available. This car belongs to
a friend of mine so I was able to shoot in an open area in a park at sunset. I increased the saturation of color and added a few blurs
to simulate motion. I introduced complimentary colors and texture to the background to make it look more like a painting.
Whiskey River Runs Deep by flyrod
NEW ADDITIONS 11-24-11
Black cars are challenging to photograph because they reflect surroundings like a mirror. White cars are tough because they don’t reflect much of anything and tend to look flat. So that combination in a Police car is extra challenging. I did a wide range of bracketing when I shot the car, and I combine a white car door and top from one photo, with a black front and rear to get maximum detail throughout. I new this car would have real potential and I must have shot sixty frames to make sure I captured it.
Austerity Police by flyrod
This is a composite featuring a background image from rural Oregon. I was trying motion effects here using radial and zoom blurs. I was especially pleased with the appearance on rotation in the wheels through radial blur. Like most Photoshop effects, this can easily become a gimmick. It’s crucial to keep the tonal range on the car and background in balance. A key to making zoom blurs believable is to have very little movement in distant object, and a lot of movement in near objects.
Imperial Cruiser – 1956 Customized Crysler by flyrod
This is the kind of car I get excited about for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a one-of-a-kind hybrid body with Packard rear fenders on a Mercury body. I loved the pointed taillights and tried to shoot the car from an angle that would emphasize this. Also, the strong overhead lighting really brought out the shape and form of the car. This is one of the first cars where I used more saturated colors. I used a zoom blur on a cloud in the upper right sky to add a bit of drama and emphasize the pointed fenders.
My Soul for a Mercury by flyrod
Several Photoshop moves are in play on this image, but the most significant move in my view is the Use of the Selective Color tool. By going into the black color on the car layer and removing black, the blue immerges on the lower side of the car. That blends it perfectly with the blue on the ground. I usually finish the art before writing the story, but in this case I had a storyline in mind and let that influence the decisions on the creation of the image.
Fly Me to the Moon….Rocket 88 by flyrod
This is one of my favorite stories, but I really labored over the image before I came up with a story idea. Cars of this era have a film noir quality and I think they look like a car a gangster would drive. I had a good image of the car finished, but after completing the story I reworked into a collage to support the storyline. I usually go for a sharp clean finish on the car, but in this instance I distressed it to fit the theme.
The Accomplice by flyrod
I was making some nice progress with color shifts and saturation when I did this image. There are several areas on both the car and background where I implemented Surface Blurs to soften and simplify the image. I wanted to do a purple car for some time and this one seemed like a good choice. I was really pleased with the outcome and wanted to post it immediately, but had had no idea what the story should be. It sat on my desktop for three weeks before I figured it out. I find the writing process for me to work similarly to how I create the image. I don’t always know what I want the end result to be, so I tend to try things until they work. I felt like purple had to be part of the storyline here, and I went to a thesaurus to find an alternate words for it. When I saw Violet I thought of it as a girls name and “The Violets” sounded like a band name from the fifties, and since the car was from that era it seemed perfect. Now I had a theme and I just pieced together the story.
The Violets by flyrod
I had a rare opportunity to photograph a replica of a stock car that was famous in the 1950’s. I shot it from several angles with the hope that I could piece two of them together and create the illusion of a race. I usually put between four and eight hours in an image, but I put much more than that in this one. I created the car graphics based on an idea I had for the story and the two characters in it and I found an old postcard of a racetrack that had these wonderful old grandstands. I managed to compose and marry the elements together, but it didn’t feel right so I put it aside for a couple of weeks. I noticed some work on Red Bubble where people were getting nice rustic or antique effects in their work and I pulled together some texture and tried that direction. I knew how to create the effect I saw in other peoples work, I just never did it with a car image. It gave the image a look that placed it visually in the right place in time and that made it work so much better.
The Grudge Match by flyrod
I have a CD in my collection called “Riding with Bob” and it’s a tribute album to the Texas swing bandleader Bob Wills. I loved the title and thought it would be an interesting angle for a story and image. I have many images in my archive from the Southwest USA and National Parks where Ansel Adams photographed and he seemed like an ideal candidate for the concept. I wanted to make sure though that the background wasn’t anything he photographed. I choose this view from Arizona, not far from Monument Valley. I saw a photo of him once with an old station wagon from the forties and this one just felt right for the story.
Riding with Ansel by flyrod
I just love old “woody” station wagons and this one was a nice as they get. I shot this on a clear day with mostly blue sky. The blue reflections on the car surface as well as the chrome trim and bumpers contrasts beautifully with the gold and yellow color of the car and I added saturation to emphasis that. I recreated the car shadow as a black shape and softened it with a Gaussian Blur and then I blended it with a textured base that had a heavy surface blur applied to it. I partially erased the bottom of the tires to give the ground a misty or smoky feel. The palm trees are silhouettes with a Gaussian Blur and some transparency to make the recede into the background.
Life Begins at Forty by flyrod
I have a large collection of tobacco and spice tins. I’ve always loved them for their hand crafted lettering and graphics and they bring an added level of interest to images like this one. I tend to favor authenticity in vehicles over customization. This truck was beautifully restored but had wheels from a newer era and that really worked against it. So I took wheels from another image and cloned them onto the tires to make it period correct. The graphics from the spice tin were the inspiration that sparked the story.
The Spice of Life by flyrod
Sometimes I find myself getting carried away with the backgrounds in my images and I have to pull back and simplify things. All but one of the cars that I posted are found images. In other words I don’t have control over the lighting or the setting, so the creating and simplifying the background is the thing that tends to make the image uniquely mine. I usually take about thirty shots of the car from two or three angles. I tried something different here with the art deco panels from a building in Miami’s historic South Beach area. The key to making this work was by making the contrast in the design of the panels very subtle and low in contrast.
Deja Vu by flyrod
Dusk and dawn are always great times to photograph because of the wonderful warm tones created by a low sun. But the odds of seeing a car like this in that perfect moment are once-in-a-lifetime. I’ve found ways to shift and balance color however, that creates a convincing substitute. This kind of lighting evokes a strong emotional response and I think that’s why so many are drawn to it.
Riding with Patsy by flyrod
I find when the sun is on the opposite side or overhead on the car you tend to get the best images because you get strong highlights on the edges. That helps shape the object and separates it from the background. I did considerable shifts in Shadows and Highlights, as well as Selective Color to achieve this painterly effect. It’s one of my personal favorites.
Mystic Bearcat by flyrod
As always, I really appreciate the feedback and influence from other Red Bubble artists.