Fifteen years ago, I found myself fresh out of college wondering what to do with a degree in photojournalism and a minor in English. I had been a bartender while going to school, a profession that reaped more perks (some of which I will not mention) than any man in his early 20s deserved. I spent seven years balancing school and making cocktails, living in a squalid hole with four other guys, making wads of cash (literally) that would be rubber-banded together and stuffed in my sock drawer. I drove a pristine 1976 BMW 2002 back then-basically my only possession.

It was the best time of my life.

I found a woman who could tolerate me stumbling into her condo at 2:30 in the morning, vomit in her toilet and then ask for a beer. She never complained or tried to change my behavior-I did it myself. Good people have that effect on you. I ended up marrying Lisa and started looking for a "real job" because the wild hospitality industry was getting tiresome.

Argus Publishers was looking for a few entry-level people to help in the production of its magazines. I brought my portfolio in, a collection of semi-nude women, artsy B&W shots and some product photography. It was good stuff but had little to do with cars, a subject most important here. I mentioned the BMW 2002 and editor Brown's attention turned my way. He had a BMW 1600 and we commiserated on the joys and headaches of old cars. I got the job, or jobs as it was, working on Popular Hotrodding, Fabulous Mustangs (now defunct) and VW&Porsche, a magazine I actually read.The commute from my home in Fullerton to Argus in LA was 45 miles-each way! It was a sacrifice I was willing to make to get my foot in the door. I re-wrote press releases, checked copy and ran cars to and from the office. It was great until my first check arrived, a sum I could make on a Saturday night behind the bar. But that was OK. I was doing what I wanted, sort of.

My first actual photoshoot was for Greg Brown-a modified VW Fox. I did the best I could with a Canon AE-1 and a few dog-poop lenses. As Greg and I finished looking over the film, he looked at me, smiled, and said, "do it again".

I figured better equipment would help so I bought three grand worth of Mamiya 645 1000S medium format gear and re-shot.

"Do it again" said Brown. Basically, I had done the same bad job, only this time it was bigger. My third shoot elicited a luke-warm reaction, something to the effect of "theses don't suck too bad."

If Brown saw potential in me, even I couldn't see it. His brutal honesty and insight however, have been key to my progression as a photographer and a journalist. I would not be here nor have the skills I now possess without his quiet, hands-off mentoring.

I have collected a smattering of photos found in various nooks and crannies throughout my office. A few of the cars are important, most are not. I have tried to treat each subject, regardless of its significance, with equal respect, be it a VW Golf or a Lamborghini Muria. And I do not believe exotic locations are necessary for exotic images, in fact, an elaborate setting can detract from the subject. I've spent more time scoping out European stone quarries and closed factories than anyone I know.We have stuff like that in the US. And I like it here very, very much.

For the record, most of my progression has been based on failure and a few successes on complete accident. While I believe good equipment can help the photographic process, it ultimately comes down to the shooter and how he translates light from an object. When you read a good story, do you ask the writer what type of word program he uses? Probably not. Same thing with photography. For the record, I use a Nikon F4 and a Canon 10D (digital). All my telephoto lenses are OE/best quality. I use a few Sigma lenses for wide-angle stuff. I also use Cokin P-Series graduated filters.

A few tips I cannot possibly compress fifteen years of experience in a few pages but here are a few pointers for better pictures.

1- Shoot just before and after the sun rises or sets. This is the grooviest light and your subject will thank you for it.
2- A long lens (80mm-200mm or fixed 180mm lens) is your best friend. It helps compress the image and minimize the background. You will need to use a tripod in low light situations.....ALWAYS.
3-An aperture between f/8 and f/16 should get you in the ballpark as far as depth of field goes. Listen to what your camera's meter says regarding exposure time. Most of them are equipped to sample five sections of the screen...this will give you a good average. Vary the exposure time in each direction-a few longer and a few shorter. This is called bracketing and no decent shooter would deny its value.
4- The best pictures come from good film. I almost exclusively shoot with Fuji Velvia. It's slow stuff, rated at 50 ASA but it can actually see more than the human eye. If you are shooting digitally, a lower ISO will reduce noise (grain). Save images in RAW or high JPEG format.
5- Action photography follows the same principles in terms of composition and exposure. Be aware that if you freeze a car in action with a high shutter speed (250/sec-1000/sec) you have essentially eliminated its movement. A slower shutter speed of 60/sec to 20/sec will give the subject a fluid-action look. The failure rate is high but you only need one good image to get the job done.
6- Shoot lots of pictures
7- Shoot even more pictures

Enjoy.

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