Photographing a yard of old cars

making pictures with John Enman - Photographing a yard of old cars

Scrappy old tomcat resting on an upturned car seat in front of a 1969 Camaro super sport.

Scrappy old tomcat resting on an upturned car seat in front of a 1969 Camaro super sport.

This week my wife and I decided we were long overdue a visit to friends Mike and Leslie.  Like us, they have a rural home tucked up and near a forest not far from Kamloops.

It’s always fun sitting around the kitchen table in their wood stove warmed home talking and catching up on each other’s lives.

Mike makes his living as a rock scaler and blasting contractor,  helping to keep British Columbia roads clear of impending rock slides and Leslie is one of those artistic people that will amaze you whether singing, drawing or aiming a camera. Leslie also operates a good size organic farm that gives them most of the food they eat.

On this visit I hoped the snow was melted enough that I could wander around in Mike’s car yard. Mike is a collector of old cars of all years and models and has created a wonderful metalscape that becomes a photographer’s paradise if you like cars like I do.

Rust, paint, dents on cars of all years and parts of cars are everywhere.  I could spend the day there just making pictures.  Each time I get the chance to wander in Mike’s car yard I discover something different.

We arrived mid afternoon, and after a good while of yawing and discussing our lives I realized the sun was getting low and beginning to create shadows on the cars. Perfect for prowling the diverse collection of car bodies looking for sculptural details.

I remember the first time Mike showed me his cars. I only had a little Olympus point and shoot with me that day, nevertheless, I almost filled the camera’s small memory card, and since then I have been back many times with better cameras.

On this day I mounted my trusty 18-200mm lens on my camera that was set to manual mode as usual. The slightly wide, to slightly long lens was perfect for those shots of hard-to-get-to cars. I knew I’d be climbing around, so I set an ISO of 200 in the bright clear afternoon light that also gave me lots of depth of field when I wanted and could be easily reduced when I softened focus in front of, and behind some features.

Some cars have lost fenders, hoods, and windows as they are dismantled and sold. Others seem to be loosing a battle with the elements and there are always newer cars added, so the landscape changes each time I roam the yard.

This time I began with shots that showed car after car resting in the melting snow. Then I started tightening my view, eventually working the light reflecting of the changing colours of the metal, and narrowed my visual search to small features.

I could have spent several hours, but reluctantly wove my way out remembering I was ignoring my hosts. Yes, they are used to me being preoccupied when I have a camera, but all the same I shouldn’t be neglecting them.  Still, I had to make one more stop when I saw their scrappy old tomcat resting on an upturned car seat in front of a 1969 Camaro super sport. I was happy enough just to get a photo of that classic car, but that cat was the frosting on the cake for me.

As I sat writing I thought about how I enjoyed the day that began with a drive along a winding country road, then a long visit with good friends, and finally a really good time making pictures. Can it get much better than that?

My wife and I wish everyone Easter greetings.

These are my thoughts this week. Contact me at or Stop by Enman’s Camera at 423 Tranquille Road in Kamloops.  And if you want an experienced photographer please call me at 250-371-3069. I also sell an interesting selection of used photographic equipment.