On Gauging The Situation

By |2012-06-22T08:43:12+00:00Jun 22nd, 2012|

While driving around the Donner Lake region of the Sierra Nevada, +Karen Hutton and I stopped to shoot a really cool snow tunnel that someone had constructed to facilitate getting to their home easier when that white stuff would dump down. Adjacent to this tunnel was a mechanic garage that was filled with all sorts of textured deliciousness – but Karen and I didn’t know this until we were back in her car, driving off to our next waterfall destination.

As we drove by the main garage door and saw what was inside, it took all of 10 seconds for us to bust a mean U-turn and head back. We parked and I began walking towards the mechanic. This is where things could have gone one of two ways. My goal here was straightforward – I wanted to secure access to photograph this place for both Karen and myself. I also didn’t want to intimidate the mechanic in the process.

That is why I decided to leave all the gear in the car and just meander into the shop with a wide smile and immediately offered up a friendly handshake. My goal was to establish a kind demeanor and not bum-rush the mechanic with my intentions. I started with some kind banter and told him that I absolutely loved his shop because it reminds me of my father’s own garage (he is also a mechanic). Around this time, Karen entered the garage, too, and I explained that we were both photographers who happened to drive by this garage and would love the opportunity to photograph it. I made it clear that we weren’t planning on selling any of the images and I offered to give the mechanic, John, copies of the final images to enjoy as thanks for granting access.

Ultimately, John couldn’t have been a nicer and more cordial fella. He opened his entire shop to us and gave us all the access we could have asked for. Karen and I went to town for almost 90 minutes and had a blast. One of the important goals for me was to ensure that John was engaged with what we were doing, so I’d frequently call him over and show him both what Karen and I were shooting and why we were shooting it. He seemed to really dig it and that made the experience even more enjoyable.

I honestly believe that things would have turned out differently had I barged slinging my camera and tripod. By gauging the situation and slowly establishing your agenda with kindness and humility, the outcome will tend to be more favorable – I honestly do believe that.

In terms of processing
This is a seven exposure bracketed #HDR  image tone-mapped in Adobe Lightroom 4.1 of all places. I’ve been enjoying the natural results that it provides and am looking forward to putting it through its paces over time.

Stylization was achieved in Perfect Effects 3 by +onOne Software. I added the Vechio effect to the background, bringing out some warmth there. I also added some Blue Dawn with a Soft Light blending mode onto the vehicle to help contrast it. Global additions of Tonal Contrast and Hollywood Glow (with a Hard Light blend) rounded things off here.

Final touches were applied in Lightroom 4.1.

In album Pic Picks Over The Years (1 photo)

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  1. steve defeo June 22, 2012 at 8:44 am - Reply

    +Brian Matiash I really like the image. The shot (and the subsequent processing) really give that feeling of an old garage, with gritty textures. And the use of the warm background, with a cooler palette on the vehicle. Really nice. 
    I also really liked the story. I often see objects/subjects in less than accessible locations, and need to push myself so that I can approach the owner to get those shots. Thanks for the post.

  2. Shelly Gunderson June 22, 2012 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Very nice shot.  Glad you had a good experience.  I always ask before I take my camera in.  I agree, it works much better that way.
    Oh, and hope you share pics of the snow tunnel too, sounds interesting.

  3. Jason Keomany June 22, 2012 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Really digging the shot and the background story as well… very interesting.  I'm still playing around with processing my tonemapped image in LR 4.1.  Still up in the air as far as how I feel about it… mixed feelings for sure.

  4. Jess Newcomb June 22, 2012 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Nice! And I am sure he is proud to have people take pictures of his baby (the truck).

  5. Brad Schilling June 22, 2012 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Really nice but I would like to see the originals with just minor adjustments for color and contrasts.  But thats just me….

  6. Brian Bonham June 22, 2012 at 8:47 am - Reply

    "Why do they call it TOURIST SEASON when you can't even shoot them"  best sign ever. ;)

    Great shot!

  7. Chris Olsen June 22, 2012 at 8:50 am - Reply

    What a great story, and love the contrast and colors

  8. Karen Hutton June 22, 2012 at 9:10 am - Reply

    That day will forever go down as one of the BEST ever!! And our mechanic buddy, his immaculate shop, the country music blasting – scenes from a movie, they were. THIS shot turned out incredibly! I love what you did with it… the warmth, details, texture, yeaaaahhhh… you should do this for a living! hahahaha. I love the memory – and the result +Brian Matiash!!

  9. Jim Weise June 22, 2012 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Wow – LOVE the HDR from Lr4! I haven’t even looked into that feature; I will be seriously playing with that before investing in Photomatix.

    Great shot Brian – I agree that the more even and natural looking tone-map helps, but the handling of the color here really shines through. The subtle daylight from the open shop door was blended perfectly with the artificial fluorescence from above, giving both warmth and cool (in more ways than one).

    I like that you included the coverall hanging on the left – it really grounds the shot and lets you know this is someones space, rather than just an empty room with a rusty car (which can be found almost anywhere).

    Your approach to getting into these opportunities is inspiring – neighbors are always happy to accommodate – walking in guns ‘a blazin’ does nothing but put people on the defensive. Thanks for your candor in sharing your secrets, and keep up the good work!



  10. Wojciech Kulczycki June 22, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply


  11. Peter de Rooij June 22, 2012 at 9:27 am - Reply

    I've found the same in totally different circumstances – a friendly demeanour and asking nicely, plus showing your shots will often lead to good things.

  12. Greg Poulos June 22, 2012 at 10:25 am - Reply

    More than half the tips I get from you are NOT about shooting and processing. it's about being a good photographer. That's not all about gear, or technique. It's about attitude, approach and doing your homework.


  13. Brian Matiash June 22, 2012 at 10:34 am - Reply

    +Greg Poulos Cheers! That means a lot – thank you!

  14. Dave Sanderling June 22, 2012 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Awesome photo! And great story, thanks for the insight.

  15. Paul Balchin June 22, 2012 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Great post and photo. Loved the story.

  16. Sean Finell June 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    I really love the photos you share here, but this one (maybe because of my area of interest) is grabbing me.  I can smell the gas and oil and grease, the sweet smell of an old and well used garage. Wow!  Thank you!

  17. Amy Heiden June 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    I think that's the right attitude. People do get overwhelmed by someone with a camera in their face, especially since everyone is a photographer these days. Nice guys don't always finish last :-)

  18. Brian Matiash June 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Awww thanks, +Amy Heiden! :)

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