Half-week homework: Cars

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Day or night, if we’re going in America, it’s probably in a car. They keep us safe and let us fly. They can take us home or to the outer limits just as easily. Better than anything, in an overwhelmingly-connected world they give us access to hours of time hypnotized by flat-lands to contemplate where it is, exactly, that we’re really going.

My first car was as much of a surprise to me as anyone else. Suddenly, I had the opportunity to purchase a neighbor’s car for an incredible price. (As good a price as you’d find on something at one of our Warehouse Clearance Tent Sales!) It was old; not “classic” but old enough that the “cheap and dated” vibe was on the wane and “vintage hooptie” was on the wax, though I wasn’t enough of a car guy to truly appreciate it right off the bat. Still, I needed wheels and I figured that if it had lasted this long, it must be built okay.

It was all I could have hoped for in a first car. For years, I avoided any major mechanical failures, and learning in a boat-sized car did wonders for my future driving abilities. I don’t know when it happened—it didn’t take long—but one day I realized how much my experience with a car made me love my car.

Hot dang!

Eventually, the time came to part ways, and I can assure you that it took quite a bit of meditation on my own emotions to let myself do it. Fortunately, I moved on to a green Ranger (something that was ultimately more suited to my lifestyle, eternal gratitude for the boat notwithstanding) and loved it so much I replaced that one with a black one when the time next came.

All that is to say that, in general, we have a huge soft spot in our hearts for our cars. For many people, it would not be an exaggeration to say that their car is as important to them as their own family members… or at least as important! 😉 Yet how many of of these beloved steeds remain unphotographed, waiting to be lost to time’s ravages? Even if you have made time for a shoot of your own, there’s always room to revisit the same subject. Every time I go on a trip somewhere I end up with at least one more photo of the Carpartment in its ideal setting.

This week’s challenge is to photograph cars, but it only counts if you share! Let’s see the Cars of Mike’s Camera—post your shots to our Facebook page or on Instagram tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework.

There are two ways to approach the subject: emotionally and aesthetically! A loving portrait of your own is a huge investment in your future memory bank (and you never know when it might be its last ride); to do the same for a loved one is an awesome gift. From an artistic or technical perspective, it’s hard to find something in daily life that’s more engineered. There’s a vast wealth of photogenic detail ripe for capture. All it takes is the right perspective and lighting, which can be surprisingly easy… or might take a little work. Reflections can be particularly tricky on a field of glass and chrome—you might want to consider a circular polarizer for a brightly-lit shoot. On the other hand, one of my favorite car shots ever is the one of the toolbox below, and it was taken out of the window while we were driving!

Photo by Macey Sigaty

Eye-catching details are especially prevalent on older cars, when we were all a little more willing to sacrifice function for form in cars. Find a friend’s prized cruiser to photograph, or come out with us to the Rambler Ranch on October 19th! We’ll be taking over one of the best car collections in Colorado. Click here to register, or click here to read about the last time we visited the Ranch.

Create a completely different dynamic by adding people to your photos. A touch of man in the machine changes the story you’re telling completely, and is perfect for digging into the way people bond with their steel steeds.

Try using only part of the car itself in the shot to create a larger-than-life presence rather than a discrete physical object. Over-filling the frame rather than framing the Ford transforms it from a subject into a setting. From there, you can experiment with the subjects within (or upon) the cars… you can even get a little weird with it!

Whatever you do, take a little time to think about autos and all their accoutrements—about the roads and whither upon them thou goest—before you get out to shoot. The mechanisms of our constant motion support a vast array of experience, and someday, looking back at the way you got where you were going can be as powerful as looking back on the experiences themselves. Plus, whose kids and grandkids wouldn’t appreciate a shot like this?

From the Sigaty archives. Happy memory-making!

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