By Hal Tretbar

The other day I was having lunch at the Velvet Elvis in Patagonia when I had an Eye-catcher moment. There it was: a shaft of light hitting the table next to us. It grabbed my eye and before I could look away I had my cell phone out to record the interesting light and composition.

Random House Dictionary defines an eye-catcher as a thing or person that attracts attention. For me it has to be something unusual to get my attention.







This was a very difficult exposure because it was so high contrast. The brilliant back light was illuminating the silver colored utensils on a dark table. If I exposed for the bright light I would have no detail in the shadows, so I just under exposed one stop and played with the image in Photoshop.

Nokia  Lumina   ISO 100   f2.2   1/701 second








When I returned to my car in the parking lot, I saw the mid day sun bouncing off of this wheel’s shiny rim. The reflection hit the shadow between the cars and illuminated the parking stripes. Interesting lighting and composition, I thought, and out came the cell phone.

Nokia    ISO 100   f2.2   1/370 second

It was late in a winter afternoon in Flagstaff. I came out of the door and my eye caught the setting sun peeking through the trees to spotlight the melting ice pile. My Nikon was handy so I set a small aperture for depth of field and to make the sun’s rays radiate.

Nikon  600  ISO 160   f22   1/150 second

Most eye-catchers for me have to do with unusual lighting but not always. One day I was sitting in the patio with nothing on my mind.  Then I looked at the sky. The interesting clouds caught both my eye and my brain. Wow, I thought, that really is a mare’s tail. The cell phone was ready to get the best shot of the wispy patterns.

A mare’s tail is defined as a long narrow cirrus cloud whose flowing appearance somewhat resembles a horse’s tail.

Nokia    ISO 100   f.2.2   1/935 second

So be ready for that moment when your eye catches something really interesting and dramatic. Grab your camera or cell phone and have some fun.

Hal Tretbar is a trip leader with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.

Maximize your next automobile portrait

Author: Hal Tretbar

Photographing automobiles can be as challenging as taking a pleasing person portrait or shooting a stunning landscape. Location of the shoot is very important but overall it’s still about lighting, composition and technique.

Why are you taking the photo? Is it just to save a memory of the rare Ferrari at a car show? It might be showing your buddy on the race track. Is it because you just waxed your ‘baby’?  Or will you need a series of images to illustrate a story. The result should speak for itself.

We have been in Tucson for a long time and I have been able to find some great locations for car photography. I like an area that doesn’t have distracting elements such as buildings in the background. Usually the light is best early or late in the day so keep that in mind.

The most common angle for an auto image is a three quarters front view with either a slightly high aspect or low enough to show some light under the car. But I usually take side and rear views if possible. I also take both slight telephoto and mild wide angles to see which proportion looks the best.

Several years ago I had an assignment to photograph a rare Porsche for a story in Excellence Magazine, the national magazine about Porsches.


© Hal Tretbar

Jill Davis-Curtis from Tucson owned a unusual German adaptation of a 1982 Porsche 930 Turbo called a Porsche Evex. The magazine did an extended story about the Evex with five of my images. Here are three that were shot over a weekend with perfect overcast light. They show the importance of location. I used a Nikon D80 for all.

A.     I was looking for locations when I spotted this yellow and purple wall on a furniture store. The store gave me permission to photograph and moved several parked cars. The Art Editor had asked for an ‘artsy’ image so I lay on the ground and shot with a wide angle of 27 mm for distortion. I lined up the purple line to meet the bottom of the windshield and kept the yellow bricks perpendicular on the left edge.

I used manual focus at f 16 to ensure depth of field. ISO was 640 with color balance set on ‘cloudy weather’ to warm up the overcast. The editors like it so much that they gave it a two page spread to introduce the seven page article.


© Hal Tretbar

B.   The next morning was still overcast. We used a strip of limited access highway for a driving session. Jill drove with the lights on at about 20 mph. I shot from the back of a Honda van with the rear door up. The camera settings were ISO 200, f. 18 and shutter priority of 1/30th second to blur the background. The lens was set on vibration reduction at 85 mm to keep the car sharp.


© Hal Tretbar

C.  I had arranged for a location shoot at the Franklin Automobile Museum, one of Tucson’s unknown jewels. Here is the contrast of two air cooled cars- a 1931 Franklin model 153 Coupe and a 1982 Porsche Evex. I used a ladder to set the composition. The Franklin was lined up so you can see the spare tire and the trunk line meets the intersection of Jill and the roof. I had a Nikon SB 600 flash on the camera to light the wheels and Jill’s color coordinated outfit.

Here are the stories from behind the scenes of some of my favorite Porsche portraits.


© Hal Tretbar

My wife, Dorothy and I had recently picked up our first Porsche at the Zuffenhausen factory in 1959. We wanted a nice setting for a formal portrait of our Guards Red 356 A. We found the perfect spot by driving on this little path below a typical Bavarian Castle. I angled the car so we looking down slightly with a front view. It was shot with a Rolleiflex on 120 Agfacolor negative film and converted to black and white.


© Hal Tretbar

I wanted a moonlit image of my 1987 911 Carrera Targa. The best view was from the Babad-Do’ag turnout part way up the Mt. Lemmon Highway with the full moon shining over the Rincon Mountains. Nikon D80 with a 55-200 Nikkor at 55mm (85 mm full frame equivalent) on a tripod. 3 seconds at f. 6.3 with ISO 640 and flash fill. I used Photoshop to even out the light on the foreground. Note the back lighting from the moonlight.


© Hal Tretbar

I wanted to show that my 2008 Cayenne S with Martini Racing Stripes was not just a highway vehicle. Dorothy and I were in Gardner Canyon with great late afternoon stormy clouds. I put the Cayenne on top of a small hill to show the ‘s curve’ trail leading into the tantalizing distance. I made sure the roof was not above the skyline. Nikon D600 with 28-85 lens at 38mm. ISO 400 and 1/640th second at f 13.

I recently worked with pro automobile photographer Mike Maez. Mike takes many of the images you see in the catalogs put out by Gooding and Co. Auctions. He photographs as many as 30 cars before the 3 or 4 national auctions a year. He was in town to photograph a white Porsche 356 Pre A Speedster that has been restored by local expert Chuck Croteau. It will be auctioned at Scottsdale in January 2016. It is expected to bring between $300,000 and $400,000.


© Hal Tretbar

We were looking for a place where we could shoot the Speedster with a background of stormy clouds over the Catalina Mountains. We finally found it after driving around the Alvernon and River Road area for awhile. The location is a closely guarded photographers secret. Nikon D600 with 24-85 lens at 36mm. ISO 250, 1/800th second at f 14 using the spot meter on the bright car.

So the next time you want to shoot an automobile portrait put some thought into it. You will enjoy the result a whole lot more.

Hal Tretbar, volunteer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Take your Camera to Cuba-NOW

Author Hal Tretbar
All photos copyrighted Hal Tretbar

The relations between Cuba and the USA are warming. Many companies are now offering trips the visit the Communist island that up to now has been stuck in a 1950s time warp. I advise anyone interested in photographing a remarkable place to go before the gracious people are overrun by too many American visitors.

A standard itinerary starts in Havana for four days, then Cienfuegos on the coast for two days, colonial Trinidad for A great old-timerthree days and finishes in Havana for several more days. Cuba has been a vacation destination for Canadians, Mexicans and Europeans. The Cubans have developed excellent guides, buses, and accommodations.

Of course you want to shoot some interesting cars that have been running for 50 years. But it’s the people –their lives- their interests that you want to capture with your camera.

They are interested in the fine arts with music, dance, painting, etc. Most seem to be employed by the state and live in government housing. Some small private businesses are now tolerated such as restaurants in their homes.

The best images will be of people and kids doing everyday activities. If you want a portrait they are willing to pose and move for a better background if needed. Artists don’t mind if you show them with their art. Think about how a person or scene might look in black and white.

Artist and Che

Artist and Che

Shoot old Havana at dusk with people relaxing in the streets. You will feel perfectly safe on any side street with interesting lighting.

If you are planning a slide show, shoot the musical groups in cafes and clubs with video. Don’t forget to visit the world renowned Tropicana Night Club with it’s fabulous music and dancing since 1939.

The countryside is just as fascinating as the cities. Our guides would stop at any interesting scene and talk to the people about a photo-op.

You will treasure the memories and images from a country in transition. Make plans to visit as soon as you can. You still can’t visit as a US tourist. You must go as part of an educational group. I went with the Grand Circle Foundation. 12 days for $4000 to $4400 depending on the time of the year. Contact them at 1-855-423-3443 or through http://www.oattravel.com/fct2016.

Hal Tretbar is Trip Leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Travel Photographer and Writer for Sombrero Magazine and previously the Arizona Daily Star of Tucson