Pacific Northwest BMW Buying Adventure: Part 4 – Cascadia Classic Photo Lessons

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Thanks for the great response to the Pacific Northwest BMW Buying Adventure: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The story continues… I can spot a Cascadia Classic listing on BaT from the 1/4″ thumbnail on my smartphone. The photographs have a clean, professional look that sets them apart. One of my goals on this trip was to visit Portland, Oregon to watch Cascadia’s Bob Waldman photograph a car. Bob graciously agreed and told me to meet him at his shop at 11:30 AM since he likes to start shooting at noon. As a photographer, the idea seemed crazy to me. I would never shoot a car at noon in bright sunlight. But I checked my assumptions and decided to watch and learn. It soon became apparent that noon in Portland during the winter is usually bright overcast, which allows Bob to shoot cars without any shadows. Watch and learn, Bob knows his stuff. Bob’s galleries are always impressive. Check these out: When I arrived Bob was ready to go, he looked at the BMW 535is, nodded approvingly, then pulled the 1971 Saab 95 Wagon out of the garage, and we were off. Bob drove to his favorite photo location, parked the car, and was quickly at work. He travels light: a canvas camera bag with a Nikon, a short telephoto and wide-angle zoom lens, a tripod, and an apple box. His background as a commercial studio photographer is apparent–if the sun pokes out from behind clouds, he patiently waits for another cloud. He uses the apple box to get a higher view of this part or that. He plants his tripod in one location and photographs the car from the same side in the same light. Pro tip: for overview shots, the camera remains in the same place, and the car gets moved. Bob also photographs the interior completely from both sides. It is this methodical attention to detail that separates Bob from other photographers. Back in his office, he wants to look at each interior shot to compare the light and shadows and pick the better image. Even more importantly, he includes photos of flaws and the galleries are not overly processed or filtered so they convey an honest representation of all aspects of the car. After shooting for 60 minutes in a breezy 39 degrees, we went back to Cascadia Classic to thaw out with hot coffee. Bob offered a fine cigar, and I accepted. I asked him what type of cars are his specialty: “I love all cars: Citroens, Volvos, Mercedes-Benzes from the 60’s through the 80’s, four-door sedans. A lot of guys won’t look twice at a four-door car. I love them. I also love well-preserved low-mileage survivors. Unrestored, original condition cars are always in demand. Like the license plate frame says, ‘Follow your bliss.’ That’s what I try to do.” A native of Kansas, Bob has been taking photos nearly his entire life. He graduated in 1988 with a Media Arts degree from Kansas University. A year later, he moved to San Francisco to hone his craft as a professional photographer. He worked in a large commercial studio where he learned the art of lighting and the business of taking pictures. After five years in San Francisco, he had grown tired of looking for parking everywhere he went. He and his girlfriend Liz loaded up his Volvo wagon and moved to Portland, Oregon. They married in 1995 and have a 16 year-old son. “Since moving to Portland, I’ve had about 30 daily drivers in the 23 years I’ve lived here. I’m fickle, that’s how I got into this business. I would drive my wife crazy coming home with a new old car to replace the one I bought the month before. And each one was going to be the one I was ‘keeping!’ One day she said, ‘you’re miserable shooting for Nike, why don’t you start selling those crazy old cars you keep buying?’ So, I moonlighted selling classic cars for a year and made the change for good in 2001.” Of all the daily drivers you’ve owned, what was your favorite? “A ’37 Dodge Businessman’s Coupe tops the list. It was so cool to drive a car that was close to 80-years-old and use it like it was just a car. Every morning, rain or shine, summer, and winter it always got me where I was going. One time the fuel pump failed, but it let me know by spitting little bits of fuel; still working enough to get me home and not leave me stranded. I took my kid to school in it every morning. I would tell him ‘you’re probably the only 13-year-old IN THE WORLD that is going to school every day in a ’37 Dodge.’ After the tenth time I said it he would just nod.” “Part of the fun of doing this the way that I do it is the discovery process. I get to live with them, learn them, know them, that is what’s so special. When they sell, it’s like I’m making a connection with the owner. They get excited about the same things I get excited about.” What have you learned over the years? “The people I sell cars to, they don’t need these cars, they want them. They either owned one years ago or wanted one years ago. It’s a memory for them; a positive memory that I get to fulfill. I love that.” “I think that a lot of people make the mistake of disparaging cars because they’re not desirable in the marketplace; too ugly, too slow, or generally unloved. You may own a highly desirable and valuable car, but it can be an unhappy car. You may own a malaise era barge that most collectors laugh at, but it’s a happy car. You know the difference once you’ve lived with it for awhile, they’re like people, and your relationship with them reveals their personality as time goes on. It’s all about that relationship, so it doesn’t matter what the market’s perception is, it’s your perception that’s important. You just have to listen to what the car is saying to you; everything else is just noise.” Take a look here for how the Saab station wagon gallery turned out: 1971 Saab 95 Wagon. After decades of car buying, what advice do you have? “I believe that you can never pay too much for a good car, and you can’t buy a bad one cheap enough. You’re always better off buying the best that you can afford. Buying a project and coming out ahead at the end very rarely happens. And even if you do, there are other costs not accounted for: stress, disappointment, frustration, impatience. Buy the car that’s already done; you’ll be out enjoying it instead of pulling your hair out.” I enjoyed spending some time with Bob and watching his conscientious and thoughtful approach to his work. BaT is fortunate to be the outlet for his unique finds. We look forward to highlighting more of our great sellers. But for now, we were headed north to pick up our team members arriving at Seattle Airport.

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