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Why are golfers in this car photo?

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1970 Oldsmobile Toronado GT. Photography by author.

Normally when I photograph a feature car, I attempt to completely clear the foreground and background of anything that could be a considered a distraction. The subject of the photo is the vehicle, and that’s what I want you to concentrate on. In my opinion, the background is there only to enhance the car’s appearance by providing an uncluttered canvas and/or to evoke some sort of emotion or memory in those who view the photo.

When photographing this exquisite special-order Nugget Gold, 400-hp, 1970 Toronado GT, which is owned by Mike and Marjie Markowski and was featured in the June 2017 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine, our best option for a background happened to be a golf course. I know there’s nothing extraordinary in that choice, as tons of feature cars have been photographed for tons of magazines on or near golf courses over the years.

In this instance, however, there were a few advantages. Not only did this golf course provide a curvy access road and hilly landscape that would add drama to the foreground and background, this particular model of Oldsmobile was practically conceived for the country club set. It would be more at home with a golf course behind it than the preponderance of the other cars you have seen photographed in the same location.

1970 Oldsmobile Toronado GT

The lead photo was shot at a 17mm (wide angle) focal length to make the Toronado GT look dramatic, like it’s lunging at the viewer, and to make the golfers and golf cart appear small and far enough away to not be intrusive. Conversely, the rear photo was shot at a 70mm (normal range) focal length so the body is more naturally proportioned, and since the golf course green has no golfers on it and only a flag, it can appear closer to the Oldsmobile without competing with it.

With all this in mind, as the shoot progressed and golfers periodically played through (no, the Olds was not in danger of being hit with a golf ball), it sunk in that this Toronado GT, which may have spent plenty of time at a country club golf course when new was now being photographed in front of one 47 years later. Consequently, I decided to include rather than purposely excluded a few golfers in some of the photos.

I didn’t want them to be too obvious, though, so by using a wide-angle lens, the Toro GT looms large in the foreground and the golfers are small in the background.

Does their presence enhance the photos in any way by providing a social tie-in between the car’s status and its background?

Are the golfers too far away to make any positive impact at all?

Are they just distracting from the fine lines of this 1970 Toronado GT?

What’s your opinion?