Film Photography, Old Cars

Sometimes giving up is the right thing to do

Almost a month has passed since the 2016 Mecum Spring Classic car auction, and I’m still feeling disappointed that it wasn’t nearly as good as it used to be.

For years, this was a rare day of nearly perfect joy for me. I’ve loved automotive design since I was a small boy, and the Mecum was my annual chance to get very close to the classic cars of which I once could only dream. I could spend all day at the auction, taking easily 1,000 photographs, and still not see all the available cars. And it used to cost just $10!

Now it’s $30, there are far fewer cars on display, and there’s more security to herd people in and through. Everything about the day felt disappointing to me. I won’t go back, and I will dearly miss what this auction once was.

I shot my digital camera as always, and might show some of those photos sometime, but I did my best work this year on film. I showed my three favorite photos over the past three days, but here are the photos I liked next best. Every year I hope to find a 1960s Corvette, because I think they photograph beautifully from behind.

Dark Vette

I don’t normally pay much attention to the muscle cars at this auction, so plentiful are they. But I liked the light and shadow I found on this Pontiac GTO “The Judge.”

Here come da judge

Accidentally overexposing this whole roll of Tri-X by one stop meant that every photograph needed a little help in Photoshop. It resulted in deep blacks and mysterious shadows. This deeply browed headlight blongs to a 1961 Plymouth.

'61 Plymouth headlights

Inside, despite the extra stop of exposure, depth of field remained shallow. This was my favorite car at this year’s auction, a 1937 Chrysler Airflow.

Chrysler Airflow

This is from a 1934 Ford. Poor exposure made this shot quite challenging to work with, and I couldn’t fix a mottled quality about the background. But I like the composition so I’m sharing it anyway.

Hood ornament

The past few years at the auction, I have tried to capture people interacting with each other over the cars. It’s such a typical scene at the Mecum: men sharing memories of these automobiles. This was the best of those shots this year.

Contemplating this Chevy

I don’t know what I’m going to do to fulfill my old-car fix from now on. Maybe I’ll have to find some car shows around town. I know they exist, I just have to suss them out! But with this post, my Mecum era comes to a close.

Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X (accidentally exposed at ISO 200).


17 thoughts on “Sometimes giving up is the right thing to do

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Very nice pics for a crowded hall, tough to get good work like that! Good black & white too, tough lighting to get good results on shiny objects!

    Ditto for costs, I’m making the same money I was in 1995, and I can’t afford to do anything any more…I was amazed when I moved to Indy two years ago, that street art fairs charge you to get in! It’s like: wha? It’s on the street, and you want me to buy art, and you’re charging me to walk down a city street? Sorry, never did in in Chicago, Milwaukee, or Washington DC; not doing it here. Just another thing costing me money that didn’t used to, and I can’t afford…

    • I’ve shot indoors at the Mecum for enough years that I’ve learned to work with the limitations of the venue. And a fast film and a fast lens help a lot!

      Yeah, I don’t get charging to walk through these art fairs either. I went to the one they have at the IMA just once and couldn’t get over the entry fee. Seriously?

  2. DougD says:

    That’s too bad, since you enjoyed it for years but if you give up on one thing there’s always other interesting things.

    You could come up and go to the vintage races. I’m missing it this year because I’m staying home to work on the VW, but next year I might drive it there!

    • I’m more for car shows and museums, especially ones where they don’t cordon off the cars so you can’t get close. I love to move in close for photographs! That remains the Mecum’s great strength: you can get touch close to every car. You shouldn’t touch them; they’re expensive and not yours. But you can get that close to them.

  3. It is tough when something you have enjoyed for years loses its appeal. I had that experience with the Covered Bridge Festival last year. I suppose nothing stays the same forever. I do find as I get older that I do appreciate some things that haven’t changed much over the years.

  4. You might consider Auburn over labor day weekend. It has been awhile since I have gone, but the auction and private sale areas provide lots of cars of all kinds. Only the really high dollar stuff was roped off. They charge too, but for what was there, it was worth it.

  5. Pingback: Old car auction’s who’s in? Great pictures!

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