A Photographer’s Tips for Visiting Old Car City USA

A Photographer’s Tips for Visiting Old Car City USA

I’ve been to Old Car City USA twice. Here are my tips for a better experience.

Old Car City USA is perfect for photography

Old Car City USA refers to itself as a “photographer’s paradise,” and it kinda is! They’ve been wise enough to recognize that their defunct old junkyard is a goldmine for photographers. Whether you’re a professional photographer looking for a unique place to shoot models, a fine art photographer like myself, or an enthusiastic amateur, Old Car City USA welcomes you and your gear — photography is actively encouraged!

In fact, here is a direct quote from their website:
“Over 34 acres and over 4000 American-made cars from the early 20th Century, these cars, trucks, vans, and even a couple school buses are placed in such a way as to be ideally suited for photos, videos and custom camera shoots. Over the 8 decades since first started, thousands of photographers, videographers, ad agencies and media companies have visited Old Car City USA.”

They even have a separate abandoned factory space available for photo or video shoots. Scroll to bottom for more on that.

My tips for visiting Old Car City USA

Tip #1: Set aside plenty of time — it’s huge

On my first visit, I was so busy photographing things in just the initial stretch that I barely walked a hundred yards beyond the entrance. The owner told me that some photographers take a week’s vacation and spend every day shooting a different section of the junkyard. As the quote from their website says above, the space is vast — 34 acres — and it’s filled with row-after-row old cars. I read somewhere that there are 6 miles of paths winding through the acreage. If you’re a casual visitor, or just walking through and snapping cell phone pics, you can probably walk the grounds by lunchtime. If you’re setting up a tripod and framing carefully, you’ll never see it all in one day.

Tip #2: Wear comfortable shoes

This goes along with tip number one. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and could potentially be on your feet all day. The paths are alternately grassy or covered with a thick layer of pine straw, and they’re level and even — no rugged hiking here — but there are a lot of them winding through the site!

Choose your season wisely

While it’s relatively close for me (only a couple of hours away), some photographers travel a great distance to visit Old Car City USA. If you go in summer, be prepared for heat, bugs, and possibly snakes (I saw a lazy, non-venomous snake inside one of the cars on my first visit). The site is in Georgia, and it gets very hot and humid in summertime. Speaking of summertime, that leads to my next tip.

Try to plan for soft light

Much of the site is tucked into a pine forest. In my experience, direct sunlight makes photography extremely challenging inside a forest, with distracting shadows and harsh contrasts. On my first visit, I specifically waited for a favorable forecast of cloudy weather and the light was soft and subdued all day — perfect for my tastes. Of course, travelers from far away may not have the luxury of arriving on the day of a perfect weather forecast, but soft light and overcast skies may be more likely in winter. Food for thought.

Bring cash to pay the admission

I forget this every time I go!

Old Car City USA accepts cash only! The admission price is $30, and they don’t have an ATM on site. If you forget to bring cash, you’ll have to do what I did — drive down the road to withdraw cash from an ATM at a nearby convenience store. There aren’t many options in the vicinity, so it’s a risk. If that ATM is down, you’ll have a delay in your schedule while you go searching for cash.

Black and white photographs of rusty old cars and trucks

Below are some of the photographs I’ve made on location at Old Car City USA.

A diptych of abstract photographs shot on the side of a rusty old car
A diptych of abstract photographs shot on the side of a rusty old car

Video of my visit to Old Car City USA

Thanks for reading!

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~ Keith

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