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A photowalk at the salvage yard: Looking at hidden treasures a bit differently


All photographers can benefit from occasionally doing something outside of the ordinary routine. A visit to a salvage yard can be a great opportunity to reignite the creativity that might otherwise be lacking.

Going to a salvage yard with a group of photographers and sharing ideas will further enhance the experience. As a member of Professional Photographers of Colorado, I look forward to our annual group event at Queen City Salvage in Denver, CO. We use this event to raise donations for a special educational fund for the organization.

A great morning with a great group of photographers

It is always fun to have a diverse group of talented photographers come together and try something new. We always obtain permission from the salvage yard’s owner ahead of time, recognizing that we are sharing the grounds with customers. We offer a small gift or cash donation to maintain a good relationship with the owner.

Gear considerations

A salvage yard can be photographed with basic photography gear. I have used standard DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It is a good idea to bring a macro lens, as there are many small objects that become interesting when isolated from their surroundings. I brought a Lensbaby Velvet 85 specialty lens to this year’s event. I ended up taking 80% of my shots that day with this lens.

It is common to spend several minutes on one small subject while changing the camera angle, focal length and aperture. Seeking interesting compositions is where the creativity really comes into play.

A tripod can also be helpful, as is often the case when shooting macro photography. Another item that can be very useful is a small portable diffuser to soften the light on reflective metal surfaces.

Variety of subjects

It is hard to imagine any place on earth with the variety of subjects within a 400 square foot space as is available at a salvage yard. In the years I have been to this salvage yard, the inventory of “photography subjects” has always changed. I photographed everything from a box of nails and screws, to a toilet with flowers growing out, to old automobiles and refrigerators. These were all within 20 feet of each other.

One of the benefits of going as a group of photographers is the sharing of ideas. During our morning at the salvage yard, one of our experienced photographers suggested taking in-camera multiple exposures. This is something I would have never thought of on my own. I quickly changed a couple of settings in my camera and let the creativity take over.

An in-camera double exposure image



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Rafael Jones

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