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Hot-rod Girls: Never say never

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There used to be regular Photo Industry shows in Sydney but, alas, they stopped a few years ago. I do not know why, but I suspect expense was at the root of the problem. The last show I attended was probably ten years ago.

At that event, as well as all the usual gear displays, there were photo exhibitions. These were fascinating for me and included a display of pictures from Chinese camera clubs.

At the time, I was struck by the fact that almost every photo was heavily post processed. Indeed, many of the prints looked more like illustrations than photos. Maybe was the fashion in Chinese photography at the time, but I most definitely did not like the end results. As I left the show I made a mental note for myself never to produce photos that looked like those. Never say never.

The Entrance

Fast forward to October 2015 when I went to the annual Chromefest Hot Rod show at The Entrance, a town a few kilometres north of where I live in Terrigal, NSW. Now, this sounds an odd name for a town, but it is actually a rather logical moniker because the place is located at the entrance of Tuggerah Lake, one of a number of large lakes on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

The earliest pioneers in the region were short of ideas to name the location — they could have been the same people who came up with New South Wales — so they plumped for the descriptive term “The Entrance” and so that is the name today. There is a small settlement on the north side of the water and calling it The North Entrance did not work for them, so it is called The Entrance North. Maybe a Frenchman or Frenchwoman pioneer was involved in that decision.

Now I usually come away from the hot rod shows slightly disappointed with the photos I have managed to take. The 2015 event was no exception. But as I was leaving the main show area I spotted three ladies in “rock ’n roll” costumes crossing the car park. Having abandoned my shy and retiring demeanour many years previously, I had no hesitation in asking them if I could grab a shot and then I spent a little time marshalling them into where I wanted to show them to best advantage.

More impact

When I downloaded the photo later that day, although it was technically good, I felt that it could do with more impact. I tried lifting it with various adjustments in Lightroom but was not satisfied with the result. I slept on the problem and I suddenly thought about those Chinese exhibition prints. In an eureka moment I decided to go over the top and maximise the bling. I massaged the photo in Lightroom then ran it through Nik Color Efex Pro4 and Nik HDR. The end result is above. At the time I just thought that it was a bit of fun, but it certainly wasn’t the sort of photography I would normally do. My Color Efex and HDR have had very little use over the years.

Six months later, the local council where The Entrance is located ran a photo competition and one of the classes was “Local Events”. Well, Chromefest is a local event so I entered the Hot Rod Girls really as a joke. Surprise, surprise it was selected as a finalist from a large entry. This meant I had to organise a large mounted print for display in the local council gallery. It did not win a prize but it did stand out among the other entries.

Last week I had an idea to test Hot Rod Girls again — this time in the LFI Gallery. Another surprise: it was selected as a Master Shot — the highest recognition category. Maybe those Chinese photographers knew what they were doing, although I cannot see myself indulging in more of this sort of photography in the future. But never say never.

You can find more from John Shingleton at The Rolling Road. And on Instagram

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Having judged a few photo competitions (..but never entered any!..) I can say that judges look for (a) something which really stands out from the rest of the entries, (b) something which really stands out on its own merits as a great photo, (c) ..but if nothing does, then (a).

    So – depending on what the other entries were! ..and that’s often the crucial thing – your photo may have stood out (a) because no-one else was STILL processing photos with over-the-top High Dynamic Range like your Chinese used to do, or (b) it really stood out on its OWN merits [according to whoever the judges were at that moment], or (c) see (a)!

    So ..in all honesty, there’s just no knowing without the judges’ own comments! Maybe yours was obviously terrific (b), or maybe all the rest were simply horrendously awful (a), or, of course, (c)!

    Like the man said about Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything!”

  2. I think this is just one of those photos where one enjoys the colour and line of the subject, and I wouldn’t have thought about the processing without having my attention drawn to it. I find going to extremes very creative sometimes, and you just have to enjoy the times when it comes off !
    John N.

  3. Enjoyed this so much, and loved the image – I now have signed up to LFI gallery. lol. I will give it a spin over the coming weeks and see what occurs, well once I have stopped processing the images from Rochesters Sweeps festival today.

  4. Thaks John for sharing. I had seen your image in the LFI gallery. I just like the way you did postprocess this one. From time to time it’s fun to push lightroom that way. I had a mastershot last year doing the same with a view from Whitby

  5. Congrats on the Master Shot, John!

    I can see why, too. Because the composition and subject both work with each other – the girls, the umbrella’s, the cars and the overgrown grass are all slightly at odds with each other to create a bit of tension, and then the HDR look adds that final piece of eye-catching, surreal bling. Well done, and thanks for showing us that a single photo can be worked in differing ways.

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