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Bridges of Size: Multiple looks using the same photo background elements

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Photography by author.

The National Impala Association Convention held in Dayton, Ohio, this past summer offered an impressive display of high-quality feature opportunities for Hemmings Muscle Machines and Hemmings Classic Car magazines.

Finding locations to photograph these cars proved to be more of a challenge, however, since I was attempting to get away from green tree backdrops if possible. Consequently, I did some experimenting with bridges since this area of Dayton had a few.

1967 Chevrolet SS 427

I used the arches of the white bridge to frame the SS 427, and the mostly shadowed support for the blue bridge provides a somewhat less cluttered area for the greenhouse of the car. Side reflections are not quite as clean as I would like, but those of wires or poles can be removed in post processing if desired. (1/125 sec., f/8, 106 mm)

We’ve all seen cars photographed in bucolic settings in front of wooden covered bridges or steel bridges with pleasing results. Accordingly, I’ve always wondered how well using ones in urban areas for backgrounds would work… or not.

I wanted to try it, so I used Keith Adelsberg’s incredible Marina Blue 1967 Chevrolet SS 427 as the subject. He completely restored the 385-hp 427, four-speed, 3.55-geared collector car from 2007 to 2017.

1967 Chevrolet SS 427

All three bridges are prominent, and there is somewhat of a stacking effect of horizontal lines between the SS 427 and the structures. There’s the bumper, grille, and hood/fenders, and the three bridges appear to be one on top of the other in this photo. Side reflections are pretty-well held in check here, but there are a few clouds. (1/100 sec., f/8, 78 mm)

An in-depth article on it will be published in an upcoming issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines, so we’ll save the remaining details for then. For the purposes of this article, suffice to say that its brilliant blue paint, excellent brightwork, and sporty fastback body stands out in front of just about anything, which provided an advantage in this situation.

1967 Chevrolet SS 427

Photographed from a lower camera position and more to the side of the Chevrolet, reflections on its flank are clean in this photo. Portions of all three bridges are visible as well, but the light blue one, which also ties in with the car’s color, is most noticeable. (1/80 sec., f/8, 81 mm)

My location had a group of bridges that were close to each other and were of completely different designs. I tried several approaches that varied their prominence in the photos relative to the SS 427. In some you can see sections of all three bridges, in others just two, and in a few just one. In various compositions, they loom large and appear to be close behind the car because I’m using a longer focal length (telephoto) lens. In others, they are pushed off further into the background by using a shorter focal length (wide angle) lens. The Chevy was moved up and down the road as needed to compose the desired shots.

1967 Chevrolet SS 427

Shot from nearly at ground level, the area directly behind the car is “cleaned up” considerably. The other two bridges are eliminated completely, the dark supports serve as a lower background and the roof of the car breaks into the light blue section of the bridge for a touch of drama. Wispy cloud reflections are present in the windshield. The electrical tower and lines above the bridge (generally not my favorite background elements) can be left in, Photoshopped out, or possibly cropped out as desired. (1/100 sec., f/8, 106 mm)

The light changed frequently during the shoot due to large white clouds moving across the sky. In a few instances, you can see them reflected in the paint and windshield. Reflections in the sides of the car of items that are part of any urban environment varied with camera and subject positioning, but are absent in many of the shots. Their presence just reinforces the fact that there are always compromises with outdoor ambient light photoshoots. Many can be corrected in Photoshop, but for this article, all the images are jpegs straight from the camera, so you can see the types of concessions you will likely have to consider as well.

1967 Chevrolet SS 427

This ground-level shot puts the blue bridge section through the greenhouse of the car and makes the grass more obvious than it is in most of the other photos. Except for clouds, the side of the SS 427 is free of major reflections. The highway sign structure on the bridge to the far right can be simply cropped out. (1/100 sec., f/8, 70 mm)

Just for reference, the photos were taken with my Canon EOS 60D and my Canon 17-40mm F/4.0 L lens or the 70-200mm F/4.0 L lens. The ISO was set to 100, and a polarizing filter was used.

1967 Chevrolet SS 427

Yes, we got shade as well during the shoot. Taken from a small step ladder, this is a somewhat “safer” shot when compared to the others and it’s more like the lead photo for this article, where the bridges are still background elements, but they are positioned above the car instead of behind it. There is a pole reflection in the front fender that can be removed via Photoshop or left there if deemed to not be too distracting. (1/80 sec., f/7.1, 40 mm)

Peruse the different shots and explanations, and let us know which one’s you like—or don’t—and why.