What’s it like to explore and photograph 4,000 vintage cars in a forest at night? We explored rare rusty vehicles with trees growing through the hood, vines, fog and more.
Tim Little and I photographed there on a December night, just hours after a downpour. Here’s how the madness and adventure went down in the misty trees.
Where is this wooded junkyard?
Old Car City USA is located in White, Georgia, not far from Atlanta. It is the world’s largest known classic car graveyard. Imagine a beautiful forest of vines and other vegetation of the Deep South intertwined with the thousands of cars, trucks, vans, buses, and even an ice cream truck. There are 34 acres of this in rural Georgia about an hour north of Atlanta. The same family has owned Old Car City since 1931, when it started as a general store.
34 acres of trees and rusty vehicles to collect is a lot to explore. But it seems five times its size when shrouded in the inky veil of night!
“I walk in circles!”
In the furthest reaches of the forest are clusters of beautiful, dilapidated vehicles from the 1930s. I wanted to photograph that first. So many beautiful cars. I started by setting up my tripod on the damp December forest floor. I used a rough Ants on a Melon RGB Critter for the light painting of the rusted cars.
Moving on, I tried to find some 1940s DeSotos and Clippers, the latter made by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. I had passed them on my way in. No problem. I would just walk back the same way.
Wherever that was.
After a while I realized that I had already passed some cars before. It was hard to tell in the dark. More rusty cars, more trees.
That’s no problem. I knew there was a road on one side. I would follow the sound and know where I was.
Except there were no cars in the distance. I walked on. The lowing of cows from afar echoed through the trees. I walked around some trails, pretty sure I was going in the right direction, but ran into the same group of cars again.
I called Tim on the walkie-talkie. “I walk in circles!”
He wasn’t far away, but in this place you could be only a few hundred yards away and never realize it.
“Yeoooowwww, that’s COLD!”
I had my camera and tripod set up to take a shot of one of the vintage grilles on these awesome cars. I was still in a state of enchantment. Trees intertwined with 1940s cars, growing through hoods and rust, the amazing ornaments on the hood, twisting vines and a strange, mysterious, misty environment – it was magical.
I wanted to run back and backlight one of the cars. I carefully stepped around some roots, creepers and branches. However, I shook some of the vines. KRISSHHHHHHH! The leaves and branches above trembled. This immediately brought down a waterfall of shivering cold water. This poured over my head and neck and ran down my back.
“Yeoooowwww, that’s COLD!”
“That looks fantastic!”
The fog thickened and wrapped around the trees and cars. Normally, night photographers may not want this. It would block the stars. But we were in a forest. And we had dew heaters to keep condensation off the lens.
But more than that, we embraced the fog.
I mainly shoot in the southwestern desert. There is rarely fog there. But I soon discovered that we could light the car from behind and illuminate the sky around us. This created a greater sense of mystery.
When Tim and I caught up again, we stared at each other’s LCD screens.
“That looks fantastic!”
Being able to illuminate the sky was an added bonus I never expected. I still saw the night sky. It was still there. But the fog that enveloped the trees and the lake was so special.
“Can I come and live here for a year?”
Time whizzed by. We had been zipping through the wooded junkyard for hours. To me it had been a blur of rusty cars, trucks, ice cream vans, buses, motel signs, and old buildings. But it was time to go.
We met the owner at the gate.
“How did it go?”
“I barely scratched the surface,” I replied. “Can I come and live here for a year?” He laughed. He did live there.
What a dream it would be to shoot here night after night after night. Lakeside, forest, open meadows, open sky, vine forests and so many vintage and unusual vehicles.
Three evenings in a night photography workshop
Tim and I give a three-day night photography workshop here. We can all shoot there for at least three nights, if not a year.
The Old Car City USA night photography workshop will span one day and three nights (with a fourth night add-on at a location where abandoned school buses are photographed). It is from October 25-28, 2023. We are staying in a nice hotel just 10 minutes away.
And we’ve figured out a way to make sure no one gets lost. Actually several ways.
For various reasons, this is the only time we offer this night photography workshop. And to our knowledge, no other workshop has ever provided so much access and teaching. If this sounds appealing to you, I encourage you to learn more about the Old Car City night photography workshop here.
Where’s Waldo? Well, he certainly didn’t get lost in the woods during our night photography workshop!