Recently I had the pleasure of photographing Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida. I had heard about this place but had never had the time to actually stop in and see what it was all about. One of my clients called and wanted me to go and photograph it for a article that they were working on. I knew this was going to be interesting as Rick bought and old Walmart to house part of his collection. It’s my understanding that he has an off site warehouse where it stores the balance. I’m starting to think that I’m in the wrong profession.
I show up and meet up with the writer for the story. I’m standing outside of the building and I’m thinking to myself, how could one person fill an entire Walmart full of cars. I had visions of a few cars and possibly some renovated artifacts from the days of ole’. I walked in the lobby where they have a restaurant to get a bite to eat and you pay your admittance fee. This was affordable place and would make a great stop for the whole family. Right in front of me there were two huge doors that lead into the museum. The doors opened and I took five steps into the museum and I just stopped in my tracks. I was not prepared for what was in front of me. There had to be HUNDREDS of cars lined up. Rick had every type of vehicle that GM made I believe. Some of the cars he had multiples of because they might of changed an option or color.
Once I regained my composure, the first thing that hit me was that I had to get a pano of this place. I also wanted to get as high as I could. To get a bird’s eye view of this vast collection was going to be astonishing. I was greeted with two of the staff members. They were some of the nicest people I have ever worked with. They looked at me and must have seen the look on my face. One of them asked what I would like to do. I asked if they had a tall ladder available. Sure enough, a few minutes later I was greeted with a huge ladder. The hard part was done. I unpacked my gear and fitted my camera with a 12mm-24mm wide angle lens. I wanted to grab as much of this as possible. The photomerge function in Photoshop does a pretty good job, but I wanted to ensure that Photoshop wouldn’t have a problem stitching the frames together. I had my trusty Manfrotto tripod with me, so I mounted the camera to the tripod and attached an electronic release. I noticed that the ladder had a hole in the very top step; this was going to be my saving grace. The particular tripod that I have, it allows me to put the legs and center column in different orientations. I put the legs so they were flat out with the center column facing down. I went up the ladder and the staff members were looking at me like I had lost it. They said that no one had ever done this before. When I got to the top of the ladder, I slipped the center column through the hole in the step. Since I have a ball head on the tripod, this allowed me to get the camera fairly level. I found my exposure. I wanted to get as much depth of field as possible so I shot at f/16, ISO 100 at 2 seconds. I looked through the viewfinder and started at one end and kept overlapping my frames by 30%. I took some scenes horizontal and vertical. During the shoot, one of the staff was telling me that some people have tried taking a pano, but it never comes out, this meant that I had to make this work. I took a couple of scenes and I was happy with what I had. Now, where you do go next with so many photographic opportunities?
While I was doing my thing, the writer for the story was interviewing Rick. He is a busy man so I didn’t want to hold him up for a photo. I asked him to pick one of his favorites and I would start to work on the lighting for the portrait. In one of the center isles was a 1932 Chevrolet Phaeton, he thought that this would make a great compliment. While I was setting up my strobes, I asked how many of these still run and are road worthy. His reply, “All of them.” I would like to see this guys key rack! To light this portrait, I wanted something dramatic. I knew that I wanted a fast shutter speed to kill most of the ambient. I set the camera to ISO 100, 1/250 at f/8. To get the soft light, I used a 43” shoot through umbrella at camera right. This was set to full power because it was further away and I wanted it to light the broad side of the car. On camera left, I had a second flash bare bulbed and zoomed to 105mm. This was going to give me some edgy light on the other side of the faces and car body. I took a few test shots and it looked OK. There was something missing though. The inside of the car was dark. I took a third flash and placed it on the floor board of the car with a dome diffuser attached. Here was the thing, I was using inferred to fire all of these flashes. Naturally, the one inside the car was giving me fits because it couldn’t see the pulse. Thinking quickly, not to look like an idiot in front of the client, I repositioned the flash on the center console between the front seats and changed it to slave mode. Took another test photo, sure enough the flash was now firing. I made a couple of minor tweaks to the power ratios of the lights and we were off to the races. After I was done photographing Rick and his daughter, it was that moment that I made the decision to buy the new Pocket Wizard Flex units so I wouldn’t have this trouble again in the future.
As I walked around the museum, I looked up and down, trying to get a interesting angle. For car enthusiasts this is a mecca of photo opportunities and I wanted my photos to be different for the article. I came across a line of 1957 Chevys. This was an iconic photo. It looked as if he had one in every color with every option. I sat on the floor and started looking through the lens. I thought it might be neat to capture a row of these as if they just came off the production line. I set up the tripod for a low angle. I also noticed the stop light on one of the columns. I asked where be bought that and he told me that it came from Punta Gorda. HUH? Apparently awhile back, the city of Punta Gorda was replacing all of the street lights, so Rick rescued some of them for his museum. It’s amazing the detail that has gone into this place. There are gas pumps, porcelain signs, neon signs and other car memorabilia that cover the exterior walls. He said that some are replicas but he buys the originals when they exist.
I made my way around and I saw a car on a turntable with a yellow chain around it. I figured that this one had to be extra special. It was, the car is a 1965 Z-16 Chevelle with a 375 horsepower, 396 engine. There were only 201 of these cars built. There are about only 60 of these cars left. This was when cars were built. I know with the whole green movement going on right now it’s all about conserving fuel, but once in awhile you have to fire up one of these classic cars that has some horsepower to remember when miles per gallon was not the focus.
There is so much to see at Rick’s museum. If you are going through the area, I highly recommend that you stop by and see his tremendous collection. He has managed to stop the clock and preserve history. When he was asked what his favorite car was, he replied, “My favorite car is the next car I’m going to buy.”
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean