Being Safe Amongst The Cattle - An Car Event Photographer's Guide

on June 14, 2015

Having survived two days at the WA Hot Rod And Street Car Spectacular - that's two days of cars, enthusiasts, and startling food prices - I can offer some advice to others who go in harm's way.

1. Take your own food. Or an Armaguard truck full of money. Venue caterers have a license to be there and so does the mint in Canberra. A coincidence? I wonder...

2. Disregard the appearance of the teenage participants. They are mostly harmless, despite wearing tee shirts that promise death and destruction. If they are not your teenagers you can breathe a sigh of relief.

3. Do not poke the cars. They resent it.

4. If you want to shoot long exposures with a tripod, go very early in the morning or stay very late at night. The crowds during peak hours are pressing enough to make tripod use inconvenient, if not dangerous. A monopod or a Steadepod is a help in those cases.

5. Up your ISO to the best high compromise figure. Find this out by proper testing well before the show. You can drop it to 400 for the outside shots.

6. Patience. The crowds that move into your shot and obscure the outlines of the car you are trying to photograph seem to work in tag teams - one lot drifts up, clings around and then just drifts off when the next team is ready to replace them. It is not a personal insult - it is just the behaviour of cattle on a range.

Sometimes you can get only 5 seconds in between herds to get the shot - be ready with pre-focus and accurate exposure.

Sometimes you can get a good clear space around yourself by singing " On The Good Ship Lollypop" in a high sweet tenor and nodding your head from side to side. Dimples help.

7. The car show promotion girls are all pretty and happy at the start of the show. At the end of the show they are still pretty but their feet hurt. If you annoy them at that time they relieve some of their discomfort by kicking you really hard. Be warned.

8. If you ask a car owner how they made the car, they will tell you. The. Entire. Story.

9. Each car that you photograph will also be photographed by an iPhone, an Android phone, an iPad, a compact, a bridge camera, a mirror-less, a DSLR, and an instant pack film camera. The pictures will all look the same as they will all be taken with the event lighting. If you want yours to be different, use a flash - use it sensibly.

10. Go low, go high, go close (Use a tele lens if you they barrier off the car.), go dramatic. Make the shot for a purpose - and then use it for that purpose.

11. Look at all the stalls and stands and make something of them as well.