Jerry Heasley
March 24, 2015

I’ve been writing Rare Finds since 1991 as a monthly column. I depend on readers sending in good quality images to support their finds. In the old days, I relied on snail mail. Today, everything is mostly email and digital images—although prints or emailed scans of prints are fine. I always need a reader’s phone number and best time to call as well so I can ask the right questions to write a story with a vicarious thrill of finding buried car treasure. The popular pictures show the cars untouched—front, rear, engine, interior, and details.

Some owners tell me they do not want to show their Mustangs in a sad state. John Grafelman thought so about Larry Shinoda’s long-lost Boss 302 graphic prototype (see Oct. ’11 Mustang Monthly). Luckily, however, his daughter, Jennifer, snapped photos of the historic Mustang in the barn in which the car resided for decades. I talked to John and he took my advice and actually showed the car, as found, for a season, while he lined up a restoration shop. He held court at shows to crowds of enthusiasts, eager to see the car “as found.”

My friend Rick Parker at Signature Auto Classics in Columbus, Ohio, always takes great “as found” images of his Rare Finds. Last year, Dan Bailey gave me the opportunity to come out to take pictures of a ’69 Mach 1 he was going to pull out of a barn along the bluffs of the Missouri River. I fit the trip into my schedule. One year at the Carlisle Ford Nationals, a man bought a bevy of ’67 Shelby parts and discovered the seller had the rest of the car, stripped, in his barn in Maryland. Once again, however, when he bought the Shelby in the barn, he took no photos—history lost. I could go on with many more stories of lost photo opportunities. Instead, I’ll go over how to take Rare Finds pictures.

Take a lot of shots as the car is uncovered. I liked this one best for the rear angle. Many people take a photo of half a car when they had room to back up and see the whole car.
I always shoot a photo of the person who found and bought the Rare Find—Dan Bailey here—who was kind enough to invite me along. I always shoot photos of the people who helped as well.
Back up and take a photo of the whole scene. A ’69 Mach 1 had been stored in this shed in Missouri for decades.
Take a front shot of the car. Notice I did not remove the dishwasher from the roof of the Mach 1. Yes, it’s dark inside the barn, but the photo will look great with a long exposure on a tripod, as I did here.
Be sure and snap interior photos. Also, photograph details, such as the VIN and the trim tag. Wheel shots are important, too, as are other details unique to the particular model.
No engine, that’s OK? Photograph the engine bay. If the engine is on the ground, take that photo, too.

Photo Tips

Low-Light Shooting

One problem amateurs have is shooting in low light. Usually, they have a point-and-shoot camera and every operation is automatic. A huge problem is a built-in flash that pops up in low light automatically, which automatically sets the shutter speed to 1/60th of a second. For a car in the dark, a flash is not powerful enough to light the whole scene. The photo is dark with a tiny bright spot of light (from the flash). I’ve seen so many of these awful pictures I could scream. The solution is to turn off the flash. Then, either set the camera on a tripod or a solid surface and take the shot. On automatic, the shutter will stay open long enough to make a good exposure. (Shoot F22 for maximum depth of field, very important with long cars.) If you can figure out how to “flash fill,” then the lens will stay open long enough for a good exposure and the flash will simply add light to the whole scene.

Image Size

Another huge issue is image size in digital format. Almost everybody shoots digital. And almost all modern digital cameras, even the cheapies, shoot high enough resolution for print. Meanwhile, almost everybody sends images to me of a very small size, such as 50K, about the size of a postage stamp in print. I need at least a 1MB file, meaning 1,000K. Usually, the original file size was 1,000K or higher, but the email defaults to a low resolution to facilitate high transit speeds over the Internet. Send the images full size, or at least 1,000K.

For Help

If you have a Rare Find, email me at and provide your phone number and I’ll call you up and go over the details of the shoot with you. I have even traveled to Rare Find scenes and taken the images, as I did with Dan Bailey.