I'm by far no expert at shooting this sort of venue, but none-the-less, I get out there and give it a try. It's the "oh-so-tempting" car show. Face it, they're so irresistible. Lots of pretty, shiny toys... all lined up dressed in their finest... it's worse than the SI Swimsuit issue. Well.... almost.
Florida seems to have its fair share of exotics and I've been looking for an opportunity to get out and shoot some. In fact, I'd like to work my way into the community and hopefully line up a few static shoots. So, this past weekend's "Cars On Fifth" in downtown Naples presented a great chance to get out and shoot.
The first mistake I made was not getting there early. The show times were 10AM to 3PM. I got there at 10AM, but honestly, I should have been there around 8AM. Unfortunately, other family obligations factored in. So.. you do what you have to do.
Why so early? Well... this was a street show. The cars were parked on 5th Avenue nearly a full half mile up one side and down the other. The cars were backed up to the curb Le Mans style. With a show like this, or any outdoor show, you can find a lot of clear shots as the cars arrive. This is not a trailer show... most car owners drive the cars to the event. So by being there early, you can move around and stalk the perimeter for a variety of opportunities.
The first challenges I had was before leaving the house. What cameras to take? Do I drag out the big Canons with a variety of lens? Maybe mount up two bodies.... one with a 16mm-35mm and one with 70mm-200mm? Tempting... but no. I'm sure that choice might have increased my shot selection a bit, but it would have also added the extra burden of weight, bulk and frankly, the distraction of keeping track of where I put them. Obviously, you don't want a second camera body swinging around and banging into a car. Then, of course, you need to keep track of setting down and picking it up. For me, the trade off of lens variety was easily addressed by simply choosing the Lecia Digilux 2. I like the camera for this sort of thing. The lnes has a range of 28mm-90mm... good enough focal lengths for the most part, and the camera is comfortable and compact. More importantly, the image quality is superb.
The M-Classics bags I use for the Leicas work great too. Granted, I needed to be cognoscente of putting down and picking it up, but the benefit of having a place to carry things was worth it. I packed two Leica Digilux 2s, an Olympus flash, off camera hot shoe cord, memory card wallet, hand held meter, 3 batteries and an 8X ND filter. The filter turned out to be crucial.
It was a fabulous day weather-wise.. sunny, blue skies and in the mid to upper 70's. However, as nice as it was, the light wreaked havoc on my exposure settings. Like a lot of coastal towns, the main pedestrian through-fares typically run to and from the water or beach. Naples is not much different... and 5th Avenue runs east and west from the beach on the Gulf. So for the most part, one side of the street was in bright sun and the other side pretty much in the shadow of the buildings. This actually made the Leica decision a plus.
After I took a few exposures, I was able to get a feel of what was going on with the light. The Leica will only stop down to f/11. This is not the camera's sweet spot. This lens is fabulous wide open and up toward f/8. It's not that it's bad at f/11... not at all. It's just better opened up... at least in my opinion. With the ND filter I was able to keep things around f/4 @ 1/125 or there abouts. The Leica is easily managed by hand at 1/30 sec or even 1/15 if you're steady, so I was able to move about from one side of the street to the other with fairly good amount of control. For the most part, I could put the shutter at 1/125, and with the aperture ring on the lens barrel, just spin it up or down as needed. This is one of my favorite things about using the Leica. You simply can't beat adjusting the analog controls while keeping the camera up to your eye. It offers a creative freedom that i just don't get with my Canon DSLRs.
The next challenge of shooting the car show was the crowd of people that was growing as the day wore on. This is where the fun begins. You've now got tough lighting conditions, tough backgrounds and people crowding your subject. Then of course, you have people who seem to derive pleasure from standing in front of you. Of course, in fairness, they're there to enjoy and experience the show too... so, patience will pay off. Just be cool... wait it out... a shot will open up.
Knowing that full frame shots of the cars are not going to present themselves too often, you need to start thinking and looking for creative opportunities. Certainly there will be a car that you will want to document being there... but for the most part, it's not going to be anything "suitable for framing." It's just not in the cards. But, with an open mind, you can have a lot of fun and you can push the creative envelope.
Reflections, hood ornaments, interior details, wheels, grilles, headlights, hood scoops, engine compartments all make interesting photos. It's how you compose your shot and how YOU SEE IT, that makes the picture. Change the angle... change your point of view... remember, your knees bend. Get in close and get down around the car. If you look hard enough and put some though into it, you'll definitely begin to open up your shooting opportunities.
And, don't forget the event itself. It's not just about the cars. Step back... broaden your view to include the "scene." There is a lot going on behind you... capture it. There are typically some real characters that participate in these shows with lots of personality. Shoot candid people shots. Shoot down a line of cars. Look for color patterns ... try to watch the crowd and the event unfold. If you can change your elevation at all, you can portray a terrific sense of the size and scope of the gathering.
In the end, what you want from this type of gathering is a gallery that provides the whole story. The show, the location, the people, the details and the cars. Don't just grab your camera and show up. Give it some thought. Plan the gear you'll need. Make sure you cover the contingencies so you can be flexible in your shooting and shot selection. Trust me, the show, the people and the light are not going to arrange themselves just for you. But if you bring a kit that you're comfortable with and you're well prepared, you can have a fun day of shooting. Remember that word.... FUN.
Thanks for listening...