Yesterday, I went to the Chicago Auto Show. It's been a long tradition in my family to attend, ever since I was a child, so it was a no-brainer that I had to go this year. Until last year, I had missed the previous few years, but I wanted to go because I had just gotten into photography. From then until now, here's what I've learned, as well as some tips and tricks for making your auto show shots better!

Full Size (WRX) - Cropped 16:9 for desktop background useability!

I'd first like to say that we (TheGirlfriend and I) arrived at the show at about 11am. We didn't leave until 6 or so, and I didn't get home to a computer for editing until about midnight, so the editing on these will probably have to be redone; I edited a lot of them too dark.

Last Year

Last year, I had had my DSLR for only about a month and a half. My trusty T2i with my 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II and 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II along for the ride, TheGirlfriend and I headed off to McCormick place, figuring we'd get some awesome shots of the cars there. Unfortunately, most of those photos turned out like crap, mostly because I wasn't familiar enough with composition for car photos. Combine a APS-C sensor that I could only useable push to ISO 1600 with lenses that are extremely slow and I ended up with a LOT of underexposed photos. I wasn't shooting RAW at the time, so I couldn't even salvage a lot of them in post.

This Year

This year, I was certain I wouldn't miss a shot because of lower end gear. When we walked in, I had on me my:

- Canon 6D
- Canon 1D Mark II N
- Canon AE-1
- Fuji ISO 400 Color Film (24 Exp.)
- Ilford Delta ISO 100 B&W Film (36 Exp.)
- Canon FD 28mm f/2.8
- Canon 35mm f/2
- Canon 50mm f/1.8 (First version; Metal mount)
- Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
- 72mm UV Filter (Permenantly on the 85mm f/1.2)
- 72 to 77mm Filter Ring Adapter (For the 85mm f/1.2 to use 77mm filters)
- 77mm 8-point star filter (For the 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200mm f/2.8)
- 77mm Circular Polarizer (For the 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200mm f/2.8)
- 58mm Circular Polarizer (For TheGirlfriend's 50mm f/1.4 USM)
- 52mm Circular Polarizer (For the 35mm f/2)
- 32GB 50MB/s SD Card
- 8GB 50MB/s CF Card
- Hood for the 85mm f/1.2
- Hood that can be used on the 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/2
- Manfrotto Monopod for use with the 70-200mm f/2.8's Tripod Mount


All in all, that weighs about 10.4 pounds, so halfway through, we ran to the car and I dropped off everything but the 6D and 85mm f/1.2L II w/ the UV, Adapter, 8-point, and Circular Polarizers.

Toyota FT-1 Full-Size Here

When we first walked in, I had the 85mm f/1.2 on the 1D Mark II N. After shooting for about an hour, my damned CF card corrupted almost everything I had shot. I cut my losses and reformatted the card, but I had to loan it to TheGirlfriend for her 5D Mark II, since she had filled up her card already. I'm still waiting for those photos, since I loaned her the 1D Mark II N to use for the week since her 5D's battery is drained and she doesn't have a charger with her at the moment.


One thing I had a lot of last year were shots that were of the whole car from an unflattering angle. I found that using the 85mm f/1.2L was the easiest way for me to break that trend from last year, so I actually didn't even use the 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.8. TheGirlfriend used the 35mm on her 5D Mark II for a little bit, but ended up settling down with the 70-200mm f/2.8L (It's her lens anyways), with the Monopod. I ended up swapping the 85mm f/1.2L II between the 6D and the 1D Mark II N. I was going to bring my T2i with me as a backup body, but when I went to leave the house, I lifted up the over 10 pound bag and said oh hell no and took out the extra body.

The 85mm f/1.2L II performed well considering the cramped displays that many manufacturers had. On the 6D, which has a full frame sensor, the 85 was 85mm, obviously. However, if I put the 85 on the 1D Mark II N, which has a 1.3x APS-H sensor, the 35mm equivalent is about 100mm. It's perfect for portraiture at the show, and possibly the closest I'll ever get to street photography.


Full-Size Here

Full-Size Here

What people don't understand when a lens is labeled as a "Portrait" lens, such as the 85mm f/1.2L, is that even though it's really, REALLY good a doing portraits of people, you can also use it to take portraits of things. Specifically, in this case, cars.


That's not to say that you can't take portraits of people at the show! This GMC salesman was really cool. After I took the picture, he came over and asked to see if it turned out. I showed him and he said he liked it then walked away. I figured that was that.

Full-Size Here

I really liked how he was dressed; he stood out from the other salespeople who were oftentimes in suit and tie, and I absolutely could not miss the chance to immortalize that fro!


After we had spoken with him and walked away, I started taking more pictures when we hear "Hey, guys!" The salesperson, I wish I got his name, asked if TheGirlfriend and I were professionals, and we responded that we're trying to get going professionally. He asked for a way to see the photo or to be able to re-post it with my contact information, which was totally out of the blue. I figured he just wanted to get it for prints, but it sounds like he wants to help get our names out there. Cool deal!

UIC Booth

We stopped at the UIC booth inside the show, where they were showcasing some of their transportation-related engineering feats. I didn't get a good edit of the whole picture of the car this engine is in, but I did get the engine!


Full-Size (UIC Engine)


Mercedes had a very bright area set up. This made it fun to shoot with the 8-point star filter, which turns concentrated light sources into 8-point stars. I found a shadowy area to take this shot. Sorry if it's dark, turn up your brightness or wait for a re-edit to see it!


Full-Size (Mercedes AMG) - Cropped 16:9 for backgroundability.

Godzilla, Scion

Like I said, I didn't get to edit very many pictures last night. Most of the pictures up here will probably be taken down and re-edited. Anyways, here's a picture of Godzilla himself and some scion that I screwed up the white balance on :(


Full-Size (GT-R)


Full-Size (FR-S)

Tips and Hints

Here's a few tips and tricks for the auto show. Get down. Seriously, like almost sitting on the ground. It typically gives you a better perspective of the car.


Use a fast lens. Using the 85mm f/1.2L II was a dream. ISO levels didn't even have to come close to where noise becomes a problem, plus, a narrow depth of field can help blur out some of the ugly people you don't want in your shot.

Wait. When you're down on the ground, across the aisle from the car you want to take a picture of because you have an 85mm lens on, you have to be patient. Don't just snap away and hope you got one without people in the way. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday on the ground just waiting for people to clear out.

Jump on your chance. Along the lines of waiting, when you're waiting and the opportunity arises to take the shot, TAKE IT! Nine times out of ten, someone else is waiting for you to hesitate for just a second in order to get into your shot. Nobody cares if you've got a camera in your hand, unless it's a big white zoom with a red ring. People seemed to get out of the way of that.


Check out all of the cars, not just the big name ones. More likely than not, the big name cars are going to be surrounded by people taking photos with their cellphones or their entry level DSLR on auto mode because they can't be bothered to learn how to shoot in manual mode and they just got a DSLR because "That's what the pros use!" Pro's don't have their pop-up flash jump up when they're trying to take a shot but auto mode says it's too dark. Pros also are aware of the people that are around them. I jump out of the way of people taking pictures, do you?

More pictures once I get around to editing and when I get the RAWs from the 1D's card!