The shoot starts with the Yaphank Garage, a restored 1930’s-era gas and service station that these days is a museum. It’s about 15 minutes from my home in Long Island, New York, and I pass it countless times, each time thinking, I’ve got to do a shoot here.
I get my chance this past summer when my father buys a bright yellow, restored 1936 hot rod Chevy and asks me if I’ll do a pin-up shoot featuring the car. I instantly say yes and suggest doing it at the Yaphank Garage.
“Funny thing,” my father says, “I know the guy who runs the place.” A few phone calls later I’m granted access. All that’s asked is that the shoot be tasteful and I provide some photos.
What I need now is a model and the wardrobe, hair and makeup people who’ll make her look perfect for the part. Since I don’t normally work with a full creative team, I start with a call to a friend who heads up her own hair styling business, Fire Monkey Hair Design.
She’s not only down for the collaboration, she also knows a make-up artist. Next step is wardrobe, and it just so happens that a few months prior I’d come across a vintage clothing store not far from my home. I pay a visit, and it turns out the owner is okay with me borrowing some clothes for the shoot in exchange for photos and my promise to pay for the post-shoot dry cleaning.
To get the model I make another withdrawal from the memory bank: last spring I was helping a friend teach a photo class in the Bahamas, and she had some models fly in from Miami. One of them was Krystal Dawn, and I know she’ll be perfect for this shoot. Lucky for me, she’s originally from New York and visits her family here from time to time. She agrees to do the job if I’ll do a beauty shoot for her. Deal.
Now that I have my team, it’s time to work out a key element of any shoot: the lighting plan.
I scout the location with two apps, Sun Seeker and Sun Scout, to find ideal times for shooting in the shadow of the garage. At first I plan on using speedlights, but when I find the garage has outside power outlets, I decide to go with Westcott Strobelite Plus units, and because I know I want soft light on my model and the car, I go with a Westcott 7-foot umbrella with diffusion. It’s one of my favorite light modifiers because of its fast setup, affordable price and the fact that I can use it with any monolights, speedlights or constant lights.
On set, my test shots tell me to add some additional light and a touch of color to the scene, so I bring in a second Strobelite Plus, this one with a red gel, to light up the garage’s sign. For some shots I add a third Strobelite Plus unit with a blue gel inside the car, applying a little color theory to the shoot (opposing colors on the color wheel—in this case blue and yellow—complement each other). For one wardrobe change I place a red-gelled Strobelite Plus inside the open trunk of the car (after I try a blue gel and find I don’t like how blue looks with the Chevy’s blue logo).
I use a digital camera, of course, but to keep with the vintage theme and feel of the shoot, I take some film frames with my Holga 120S and then add instant film pictures with my Fuji Instax Wide camera.