The Driehaus Collection: Photographing Classic Cars With a Leica M

Jan 20, 2021  By Allen Bourgeois
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Richard Driehaus has been a client of mine for over a decade now. He has an amazing American automobile collection that really focuses on design, from a time when American automobile designers were driving the vision. Sorry, I just had to do that.

Studio lighting set-up. Four Black Line Speedotron 4801 power packs with four heads each. 30 x 10 foot soft box. Studio space is an old movie studio in Chicago, and has a built-in sweep. Doesn’t get any better than this!

Richard started discussing photographing his collection with me maybe four or so years ago. I had never seriously photographed cars before but I agreed to give it a try. It was a real privilege to have been chosen for this project, not only because Richard could have picked anyone to photograph his collection, but because this collection is so special. I am still working on the project, and as of today we have 68 cars photographed and another one is scheduled to be photographed next week. I believe this will ultimately be in a coffee table book that will be celebrating design.

I shoot with Leica digital M’s and all of these cars were photographed with a couple of M10’s, M (Typ 262), M-E and an M Monochrom. Leica 24mm Elmarit-M f/2.8, Leica 35mm Summilux-M Asph. FLE f/1.4, Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 Nokton, Leica 75mm Summarit-M f/2.5 and a Leica 90mm APO- Summicron-M f/2. The space we photographed in is Richard’s as was the lighting which is four Black Line Speedotron 4801 with four heads each. So 16 heads in a 30ft x 10ft overhead soft box. And the space has a built in sweep and is in an old movie studio.

Having shot some tabletop work in the past working with automobiles is just a scaled-up version of that. The biggest challenges are having enough space to work in and having the right type of light and light modifiers. The old movie set with a built-in sweep and lights and soft box provided were perfect for this type of work.

Some of the largest challenges are the reflections in the cars. Keeping myself out of them and making sure there is nothing in the other areas of the shooting space causing problems. It was kind of like shooting glass or any other highly reflective objects. Just a lot larger than tabletop work. But in many was very similar.

For me, shooting with Leica M’s is very intuitive. They just fit the way I see and work. I was also working without tripod. Shutter speeds when shooting with the strobes were usually at 1/125 of a second and with those Speedotrons turned all the way down I was at f/11 at 100 ISO and f/16 at 200 ISO. I did go to high ISOs for the detail shots and some of the images with shallow depth of field. 1600, 3200, 6400 and a few at 12,500 ISO. The higher ISOs all with the M 10s. I spend time walking around each car to see what impressions I get from things like line, form, shape and design. I then try and capture what those impressions mean to me.

In the case of the 1941 Graham the shape of the body was important so I shot with a slightly wide lens from a higher angle to help show that shape.

The 1933 Pierce Arrow back end was so unique, I wanted to make sure I captured that element and what impression it made on me. The front of that car with the hood up I also thought was an interesting visual.

The back of the 1966 Corvette is just a wonderful design. The back of that car was a visual that I couldn’t ignore.

My special thanks to Richard Driehaus for the opportunity to visually capture his wonderful American automobile collection. I also wanted to thank Stephen, Mark, John, Jesus and the rest of the amazing team that takes care of the collection.











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