Last weekend I photographed the 12th annual Syracuse Nationals car show. This year the show had over 7,000 entries from antique automobiles to totally custom creations. Photographing a show of this size is very challenging and overwhelming. Being a mostly outdoor show, the weather can play a big factor. This year there was bright sunshine and temperatures hovering around 90 degrees F (32 Celsius).
Like any subject, I find I like the photographs of cars and other vehicles better if I get down to their level. When approaching a car I would like to photograph, I walk all the way around it (if possible) looking for distinguishing characteristics. I ask myself what makes this car unique from the thousands of other cars at the show. It could be the shape of the car (the Plymouth Superbird in the upper right corner with it’s large rear spoiler), special paint color or graphics (the patriotic painting on a hood in the lower left), special place in pop culture (the red Ford Gran Torino replica from the Starsky & Hutch TV show in the lower right) or a part of a car like a hood ornament, wheel or engine (the four smaller photos). The upper left car is one of my favorite kinds of hot rods, a 1940’s Coupe and another good reason to photograph a car at a show.
The bright sunshine I mentioned created dark shadows and I used a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight flash for fill light. Show cars are very shiny and reflective. Care must be taken by the photographer to not be reflected in the photos. Of course, sometimes it’s fun to do so. Vendors selling iced bottled water and drinks got a lot of business from me as I made sure I kept plenty of fluids inside of me. There were reports of heat related illnesses and I did not want to be one of them.
For more tips on photographing at car shows, read Joe Farace’s Top 10 Tips for Better Car Show Photography.