Shooting a concours d’elegance with m43

I had the recent opportunity to shoot the Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance which is modeled on the premier Pebble Beach event outside of Monterey, California.   Rare and expensive cars are judged on authenticity, function, history and style, while displayed on the greens of Cobble Beach golf course overlooking the waters of Georgian Bay.  Fund raising activities and general admission proceeds are donated to local healthcare foundations.

Similar to shooting portraiture, the cars have to stand out from a distracting background through use of shallow depth of field.  By now we all know that it is more difficult with m43 to achieve significant shallow depth of field images than it is with large sensor formats.  One way is to shoot with telephoto lenses but that is impossible at a busy car show, one must get very close to the vehicles to get a clear shot without people getting in the way.  The same stipulations apply when shooting car interiors in order to avoid having window and door frames appearing in the image.  So we are left with using a wide field lens with a large aperture, all of these were shot with the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art lens and 0.71x Metabones Speedbooster Ultra so effectively a 14 mm f/1.0 lens.

1930 Packard 745 Roadster
1930 Packard 745 Roadster:    Even though the Packard customer was the high to upper class, the onset of the Great Depression resulted in a precipitous decline in sales. This Seventh series chassis was 145 inches long with an inline 8 cylinder engine good for 106 bhp, 4 speed transmission with hypoid gear drive and mechanical drum brakes. Custom coachwork by LeBaron. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

The flip screen of the E-M1X allows one to shoot cars at a level of their mid height without having to actually drop onto one knee to compose through the EVF.   I feel you need to treat the cars like living models and shoot them at eye level or in this case headlight level.  Like you would do with toddlers and animals, you have to get down low on the ground to their level.   Superb isolation of the Packard, it even seems to leap out of the plane of the image.

1930 Packard 745 Roadster
The “Goddess of Speed” hood ornament. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

Hood ornaments began life as a means to gauge the temperature of the radiator coolant  but later evolved into model branding.  Again superb isolation from the irrelevant background but with enough background context to immediately define the identity of the subject.

1930 Packard 745 Roadster
Clean, uncluttered design, yet luxurious interior. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

The 14mm is just about perfect for shooting car interiors, although the wider field from a Laowa 7.5 mm f/2 would make it even easier, but lacks two additional full stops of aperture and AF.

1934 Packard 1107/741 Dual-Cowl Phaeton
The 454 cubic inch V12 engine produced 160 bhp driving the 6,100 lb car to a maximum speed of 93 mph! Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

In addition to any interesting stylistic features (and they abound in this era) don’t forget to photograph the engine.

1938 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet
Shown here is the 1938 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet winning the prestigious “Best in Show” award, amongst many other class wins too. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1938 Mercedes Benz 540K Cabriolet
Purchased in 1937 by a Swedish aristocrat and Olympic gold medal swimmer. Custom coachwork was made by Norrmalm of Stockholm including twin batteries and a 60 gallon tank for extended driving. The special small numerical A54 license plate granted the original owner ersatz diplomatic immunity reserved for the Swedish Royal Family. The current owner displays the car with a Swedish flag to emphasize its non Nazi roots of provenance. The 540K was used by the Nazis as specially armored transport for ranking ministers and foreign leaders. Herman Goering himself had one painted blue. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1954 Siata 200CS
1954 Siata 200CS:  Siata was a FIAT tuning company founded in 1926 and postwar began making its own car until bankruptcy in the mid 1970s.

Sometimes the best shot you can get …. is the best shot you can get.  I would have preferred to move the plastic rain cover out of the shot, and Walter and his cane.

1954 Siata 200CS
FIAT built only about 200 units of this exquisite 2L 70° V8 engine with 8.5:1 compression, a pair of Weber 36 DCF3 carburetors and polished intakes ports to create 125 bhp. Speaking to the owner, he explained that the unconventional rising exhaust headers make sense since heat rises vertically so a high header placement would vent the heat quicker out the engine bay. The intake has its own cold air duct so the elevated engine bay temperature won’t affect intake temperatures. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1954 Siata 200CS
Hand beaten aluminum panels over a tubular frame structure with fully independent suspension. Such a sensually Italian shape! Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

These brief captions provide important background information.  But if I had been tasked with writing a full article, I would discuss how automobile design reflects the economic and political miasma from which they originate.  Packard survived the Great Depression and World War 2, but not the unrivaled postwar wealth of America.  Germany of 1938 was on a literal march to dominate Europe and could only produce a car like the Mercedes Benz 540K.  A shattered postwar Germany could only produce the Messerschmitt microcar.

1957 Messerschmitt KR200
In the early 1950s, famed aviation company Messerschmitt was prohibited from making aircraft and turned its talent on making affordable microcars for a war ravaged German people. Powered by a 191 cc single two stroke engine with 10 bhp, the car benefitted from its low weight and low aerodynamic drag. In 1956 Germany was admiitted into NATO and Messerschmitt was back in the aircraft business again, so they sold the microcar business and by 1964 they no longer existed as the German economy boomed and people could afford real transportation. Earlier models had a bubble canopy which became extremely hot for the occupants on a sunny day hence the adoption of a cloth covered roof.  The KR200 Kabrio model featured a cloth convertible top and fixed side window frames. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1957 Messerschmitt KR200
Here shown on parade after receiving Second in Class 16 Microcars. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

Similarly postwar America was on top of the world, and only General Motors could produce a car as stunning as the 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz.

1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
Unsure what the judge is looking for in his undercarriage inspection, certainly cars entering a show of this calibre will not be attempting to hide rust or oil leaks. Here, judges will be ensuring correct fitment of parts for this particular year and model. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
The interior is a very nice place to be. The 1956 Eldorado Biarritz was the most expensive convertible in America and only 2150 units were made in this year. Inside was also an electric dash clock, pushbutton radio, powered six way seats, steering and brakes. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
Owner showing the judges that the soft top does indeed work! Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

Only GM would have the audacity to enter the compact car market … with a rear mounted air cooled opposed 6 cylinder engine years before the Porsche 911.

1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza SS Prototype
1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza SS Prototype:  Same air cooled boxer 6 engine as in the GT but with six carburetors. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN
1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza SS Prototype
This version sits on a shortened Corvair chassis but with the engine rear mounted behind the transaxle. An open roadster with a cut down windscreen. Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

But nothing endures but change.  When was the last time GM made anything truly innovative or world class?   Germany is once again home to more high end automotive brands than any other country.  Throughout most of the 20th century, the British motorcycle dominated with BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) boasting that one in four motorcycles was a BSA.  Then came 1969.

1970 Honda CB750 KO
1970 Honda CB750 K0:  Honda stunned the motorcycle world with the introduction of this sophisticated mass produced SOHC 750cc inline 4 engine coupled with unbelievable build quality and reliability. Almost overnight the British motorcycle industry disappeared into irrelevance. The first 1969 production year with VIN starting with K0 denote the use of sand casting to manufacture the engine casings instead of die casting. Sand casting is more labor intensive but at the time Honda had no idea how popular the CB750 would turn out to be so these early examples now fetch collector car prices! Photo by Jim Chung/PRN

The future?   Something tells me it’s Made in China.

If you want to see the full gallery of cars go to:

If you press [Home] in the upper right corner, you can see the rest of the topics in this blog.





1 Comment

  1. Brilliant work, Jim! Just stunning! Love your use of shallow depth of field and your skill at rendering these collectibles as “objets d’art” as opposed to just more photos of cars at a car show. Thank you for sharing these.


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