Friday, July 18, 2008



This is a shot of a hood ornament from a 1933 Cadillac V16 452C. The car was one of many classic cars on display at the Eyes on Design car show held at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford Mansion in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan. I'm really pleased with how this image came out. The figure itself is sharp and shows the artistry and detail that was put into these things. The lighting is reasonable, and I think the background is nice as well. I converted this image to black & white and then used a curves adjustement layer to give just a bit of 'platinum' tone (see curve, below).

Shooting hood ornaments (or mascots) is not the easiest thing to do, particularly when you are trying to take these shots in the wild, rather than under the controlled conditions of a studio. Lighting is always tricky and controlling reflections is probably one of the biggest challenges. Another difficult element is backgrounds. If I had an assistant I could have had them hold up some board or cloth to create a background, but that wasn't an option. Instead, what I try to do is use a shallow depth of field and then try and find an angle on the object which puts an interesting background into the frame

One difficulty with using a shallow depth of field is that you really would like to get most of the figure in sharp focus, but you want the background to be quite blurry. In this case, I used my 70-300 lens (140-600mm 35mm equivalent focal length) at a wide aperature to ensure the out of focus background. Taking the shot from the side meant that I could get most of the figure in focus. If I had taken it more head on, I would either have had to close down my lens to get more DOF, or I would only have the front part of the figure in focus. Of course, the more DOF in the image, the less blurry the background.

At this car show, like most, the cars were parked next to each other, and fairly close, but not too close. I thought the hood ornament on this car went well against the background of the hood of another vintage vehicle. While I didn't notice it at the time, I like the brighter out of focus circles created from the car in the background and the way they line up with the head and wings of the figure. I also lucked out on the lighting. The sky was bright but overcast, so it created what amounted to a giant softbox. No real hotspots to contend with.

The image itself didn't require much post processing work. The usual curves to increase contrast a bit and the conversion to a toned black & white was about all the work that went into this image.

This image is for sale in my Hood Ornaments gallery at ImageKind. Please check it out.

Comments, questions and constructive criticism are welcome.

Copyright © 2008 James W. Howe - All Rights Reserved

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