Rusted and Busted

Rusted and Busted

Yesterday (8/2/2009) I went off to explore rural North Florida in search of interesting subjects to photograph. When you are out in the country, you never quite know what you will find. Within an hour, I watched fanboats patrolling on the Wacissa River, witnessed a baptism in a natural spring, watched a baby alligator snapping turtle hunt minnows, and nearly ran over the prettiest rooster I’d ever seen.

But what really caught my attention was two old and abandoned semi-trailer trucks partially hidden by overgrowth in Lamont, Florida. They had everything needed for a good photographic subject – bright colors with faded/peeling paint and they tell a story of what happens when a transport vehicle gets too old and is no longer needed. Abandoned vehicles are often interesting and spark curiosity, and one had a windshield that had been shot repeatedly with a BB gun.
For this blog, I’m going to show how you can take an interesting – but common – subject and make it truly unique. With some help from the digital darkroom and some photographic techniques at the location of the shoot, I was able to take these photographs to a whole new level.
***Note – For those “photography purists” who detest digital photography and Photoshop, and especially the HDR Haters, you’ll have to get over it. Once upon a time, “real photography” was making your own glass slides, and not using rolls of film. Embrace technology – evolve with it!


All of these photographs were shot in HDR, or High Dynamic Range, using bracketed exposures of -2, 0, and +2. They were then edited for curves, levels, and noise reduction (annoying by-product of HDR) in Photoshop. All colors were punched up for my own artistic choice, with variations when I liked different versions too much to decide on one. I particularly liked the “cartoon” effect for these, although usually I don’t like it. The photo on the right was re-edited using a split-toned effect with silver highlights and gold shadows. A bit of vignetting was added to give it a vintage feel. Same photograph – two very different outcomes.

Here is the other truck with the same settings as the first photo.. Remember – I’m not trying to create a realistic scene here… I’m trying to make an artistic impression, and show what can be done digitally with a little time and practice!

Same view, but desaturated in all hues except for the green tones, which are halfway desaturated to create a “pseudo” hand-tinted black & white look.

Every photographer has his/her own style, this just happens to be mine. When shooting for HDR images, make sure you use a very steady tripod, and shoot fast using aperture priority. The images have to be just about exactly the same, and a little camera shake can cause a blurry image that is not repairable. Wind can ruin a shot. This close-up is to show the detail and clarity preserved when all three photographs match exactly. Check out those BB gun pock-marks!

And another view just because I couldn’t decide on just five photos! 🙂

All images were shot using a Nikon D2X with Bogen tripod and head, and polarizing filter.

Rich Leighton
August 3, 2009

All images are property of Leighton Photography & Imaging and cannot be used or copied
without express permission by either Richard or Galina Leighton.

All rights reserved. Leighton Photography & Imaging ©2006-2009

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About The Author

Pro photographer, writer, master naturalist, Florida native in the PNW, lucky husband, father of two boys, big hockey and soccer fan, and native orchid hunter.

Comments (7)

  • Geoff T

    GREAT STUFF!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Hey Rich! As with all of your work, I enjoy looking as well as learning. Thanks for your sharing attitude. Speaking of old trucks, I'm sure you're aware of that old 'parking lot' of rusty trucks along the highway just south of Tallahassee. I believe it's down around Crawfordville, just before you turn west toward Sopchoppy. I spent several hours last winter, climbing around, taking shots. I'm an artist and a 'slacker' photographer, and just love nature and finding subjects where nature is in the process of 'reclaiming' it's ground. I've got an album on my myspace page titled JUNKYARD TRUCKS. Please take a look when you get a chance.
    Thanks again for the inspiration!
    BoatdockBill

  • carlos

    excellent work!!! thanks for the tips, I also like this

    (***Note – For those "photography purists" who detest digital photography and Photoshop, and especially the HDR Haters, you'll have to get over it. Once upon a time, "real photography" was making your own glass slides, and not using rolls of film. Embrace technology – evolve with it!)

    it is so true and well said, EVOLVE. it's new art.

    thanks again Rich.. excellent work!

    Carlos J.

  • David John

    Nice work Rich ! I love shooting old cars and trucks when I can find them !! Thanks for sharing !

  • Cheryl

    I love the artwork and I so want to learn how to do that. I used to think I would never switch from film to digital completely, but now I can't imagine shooting anything but digital. I love it.

  • Shannon Shines

    Rich.. this was excellent.. Thanks so much for sharing.. for teaching! Your work is just divine! 🙂 oxox

  • Lisetg

    Hi Rich.
    I myself have played a lot with HDRs and I am now a bit tired of them. I'm not saying I don't make them anymore, because I have found they are extremely handy sometimes.
    To be completely sincere, and it's just my taste of course, what I don't like is the sky. HDRs can make skies strikingly beautiful sometimes and some others gray and not so nice (which of course depends on your settings). Lately I do the HDR and compare with the post-processed photo and then decide which one I like more. I do believe my obsession with HDRs has passed.
    One thing that I do like a lot is how it pops out the textures in old buildings and trucks like these.

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