Our panel of photo judges...
Our panel of photo judges consisted of editor Johnny Hunkins (left), art director David Wardrop (center) and tech editor Steven Rupp. We had a huge pile of entries that we divided up into three stacks: "great," "good," and "not-so-good." A few worked really hard on their photos, and it showed.
Back in our June issue, we put out the word that we were searching for the best aspiring photographers in our readership. To help you along, we published an informative (we hope) tech story on how to take great car photos. We wanted your best photographs of your car, and you responded. Maybe that's because we put up for grabs a big box of swag for the photographer with the winning picture, or maybe it's because we promised PHR T-shirts to the 20 finalists. Whatever the case, it worked.
We had such a good time running this contest that we plan to do it again next year, so if you didn't enter (or didn't win), you can still dust off that camera gear, wash the car, and head for the back roads to the prettiest location you can find. We're always looking for cars to run in our Hometown Hot Rodding section, so those who didn't make it here may show up in our reader's rides really soon.
Our box of swag goes to winner Keith Kanak of Scottsdale, Arizona, who sent in some awesome snaps of his '64 Chevelle Malibu SS. Keith gets a box full of cool junk that we've been collecting at PHR command central. Keith really pulled out all the stops on his photo shoot and came across like a pro. Congrats Keith, and to the rest of our finalists. Your T-shirts are on the way!
Photographer:Keith A. Kanak, Scottsdale, Arizona
Car:1964 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu SS
Camera: Pentax Optio 550
Our winning photo was taken by Keith Kanak of Scottsdale, Arizona. Keith tells us he snapped this shot of his '64 Malibu at the site of the Barrett Jackson auction using a Pentax Optio 550 point-and-shoot digital, a tripod and a ladder--with a light post to help balance him. That's a lot of work to go through for one shot, but it's also the kind of effort that produces photos like this.
Keith's rear shot is also...
Keith's rear shot is also quite good, but the shot is grainy with "noise" present in the digital file. This is most likely an artifact of the lower-quality image sensor and setting the "film speed" to ISO 400 or higher. (If you used a sharpening program, shame on you Keith!) In the future, we suggest keeping the ISO set to 100 and just using a longer shutter speed.
Keith took most of our suggestions to heart and it shows. The fact that he did it with a camera a fraction of the cost of some "pro" units is a real delight. The twilight ambience brings out the subtleties of color and form while the background and foreground are uncluttered. A strong horizon line down the side of the car flatters the Malibu's sexy lines and excellent paintwork. Our sole suggestion would be to close the windows next time. The point-and-shoot camera has limited the size and quality of the image on the page, but with a better SLR digital (more pixels, better optics and a higher quality image sensor) we think Keith has the potential to go pro on short notice!
Kudos: This is a shot fraught with difficulty because it's easy for some of the darker detail to get blocked up, which didn't happen here. A strong horizon line, posed front wheels, good lighting in the grillework (from a reflector) and the headlights on show this car's great personality and Kanak's attention to detail. All four wheels are showing and the foreground is nice and clean.
Gripes: Reposition the car to eliminate the light pole and close the windows.
1st Runner Up
Photographer: Larry D. Tudor, Dayton, OH
Car: 1980 Chevy Camaro
Camera: Fuji Finepix S5000
This photo was the sleeper of the bunch. The prints Larry sent with his entry didn't look all that good, but the digital images on the CD were a lot better. We were impressed with how creative Larry got with location, as a rainy day in Dayton, Ohio, is no day at the beach. The threat of bad weather stopped some of our other contestants, but not Larry. This tenacity rewarded him with perhaps the most emotional, moody photo of the lot, which was taken on the top deck of a parking garage.
Kudos: When taking car photos, bad weather is your friend, not your enemy. Work with it and it will reward you, as it did Larry. Shooting in overcast is like shooting in a big light box, which normally costs a fortune. We love the water reflecting the tires too. (Water trucks are expensive too, so use standing water to your advantage.) All four tires are showing and the wheels are nicely posed. A wide-angle lens on this ground-level shot has convinced this author to try something new his next time out. Sometimes the student ends up being the teacher.
Gripes: You are ready to step up to a nice digital SLR, Larry. If the image quality was better, it could be blown across two pages, which is what we would've liked to do, but can't. A polarizer could dampen the light on the windshield, which is distracting.
2nd Runner Up
Photographer: Ken Godsey, Arvada, CO
Car: 1967 Ford Mustang
Ken Godsey sent us this photo of his '67 Shelby clone with a build sheet as long as a summer day in Oslo, Norway. Unfortunately, we got no information on the camera, location or shooting information, so we can only critique it based on what we see. We don't even know if Ken even took the photo, but it's a pretty safe bet he did.
Kudos: Ken's Shelby has a very strong graphic element with stripes running front to back. Getting on a ladder or dumpster or SUV roof was a great call, and probably took some effort. A strong diagonal composition draws the eye in and the stripes keep the interest there. An uncluttered background/foreground is an extra plus.
Gripes: This photo came to us severely underexposed and needed substantial computer work to whip it into useable shape. There's too much noise in the red channel, probably due to a cheap image sensor and an ISO setting of 400 or higher. We suggest more exposure and a slower ISO next time. Roll those windows up, too.
The Best of The Rest...
Photographer: Josh Nye, Virginia Beach, VA
Car: 1981 Chevy Malibu
Camera: Hewlett Packard Photosmart 635
Twenty-year-old Josh Nye gets a lot of credit from us for trying an action shot (and succeeding). There is no tougher shot in this biz and Josh nailed it. Car-to-car shots are hard because you've got to frame the shot, hold the camera steady and somehow stay inside whatever rickshaw you're riding in. You also have to worry about your photo driver nailing oncoming traffic.
Kudos: In spite of a difficulty level of 10, Josh framed the shot with the car driving into the frame. The composition works because the subject car is in the upper left-hand corner. This satisfies a design tenet called the "rule of thirds," whereby a subject is placed at one of four imaginary intersecting points described by a tic-tac-toe grid.
Gripes: A longer shutter speed would show more blur (try 1/30 of a second for starters), but probably isn't adjustable on an $80 camera. Better image quality would be nice with a better camera, but when you're 20 and trying to buy car parts, we'll let it slide.
Photographer: Brian Grimal, Katy, TX
Model: Tiffany Guidry
Car: 1998 Chevy Camaro
Camera: EOS 10D
We knew something was special when tech editor Steven Rupp opened up this enveloped and squealed with glee: "I know her, I know her!" That's great Steven, but what's Mrs. Rupp going to say when she reads this? When we saw this shot, we all agreed simultaneously that it was one of the best entries we got, and not just because of Tiffany's little black dress either. As you can see, boyfriend Brian Grimal did an excellent job (in the face of horrendous distraction) in capturing this scene.
Captured in "purr-fect" Texas sunset light, the Camaro absolutely shimmers in the twilight glow, as does Tiffany in her little black dress. Shooting from above brings the paint alive and shows off the flame graphics to maximum advantage. It's tough to shoot from above and the extra effort in this case was well worth it. The back lighting also casts a nice glow to Tiffany's hair--a stock and trade fashion photographer trick.
Gripes: None, really. A polarizer could've brought out more color and contrast to the paint and graphics.
Photographer: Jessie Coulter, Bowling Green, KY
Car: 1999 Chevy Camaro SS
Camera: Canon Rebel XT
Bowling Green, Kentucky, is one of our favorite shooting locations, with lush green grass, rolling hills, and an atmospheric quality that imparts emotion. Throw in a red late-model Camaro and you've got a recipe for success, as photographer Jessie Coulter shows here. Jessie shot this Camaro in several configurations, but we chose this "headlights-off" version because it preserved the most color and detail.
Kudos: Jessie went straight for the jugular, taking our advice to heart with the strong horizon line down the body side. We've got all four steamroller tires bearing down on us and the wheels are posed to show some rim. If this thing cranked up, we'd be sure to jump out' the way!
Gripes: The only thing spoiling this otherwise great image is the tight cropping on the side. Many amateurs suffer from "over-crop-itis," which really cramps the subject uncomfortably. Just a little extra room on both sides would've made a huge difference.
Photographer: Mark Hulan, Marinette, WI
Car: 1968 Chevy Camaro
Camera: Kodak DCX3500
Lake Michigan was the setting for Mark Hulan's '68 Camaro, which had just completed a full restoration just prior to our contest deadline. Living in a heavily-wooden section of Wisconsin, Mark didn't think he could grab the right shot, so he headed out with his wife to the upper peninsula of Michigan near the Mackinaw bridge.
Kudos: Mark realized the limitations of the locations near his home and took initiative to find better settings near the water. We like it when readers such as Mark read the story and follow directions, especially when it's after such an exhaustive restoration. We like the car at the bottom with room for the sky above. Mark could've put the car right in the middle, but this is better. Nice horizon line down the side of the car.
The horizon bisects the roof and creates the wrong kind of tension in the composition. This effect could've been lessened with selective depth of field (a numerically lower f-stop). Some of the cloud reflections could be very easily killed with a polarizer. That would've also cranked up the red and given the white stripe more impact.