5.15.2024

OT: Wouldn't it be cool if you went out to lunch and then came home a bit later with a new car? Stuff happens...

I'm always looking for signs that I've changed my relationship with commercial photography. One of the things that's been a constant for years and years in my working life has been the "need" to have an SUV style automobile for the business. We spent many years/decades stuffing big lights, big stands and lots of support gear into the gaping maws of Suburbans, Honda CRVs, Honda Elements, and two Subaru Foresters in a row. The litmus test for a new car purchase was always to take the empty box that once held a long, nine foot roll of seamless background paper along with me for my test drives and general car shopping adventures. Would it fit into the car in such a way as to be able to go all the way to the passenger footwell and still be able to cleanly close the rear hatchback? If "yes" then proceed. If "no" then pass on that vehicle. Function dictated form. 

It was even worse in the "analog" era when lights were bigger and heavier and more assistants were required on location jobs to make everything work. Those were the days when most Texas-based photographers had Chevy Suburbans or Ford Explorers of various ages... And gas was much cheaper. We'd pull up to a job site and unload and unload and unload...

Since Covid, and since my kid launched and no longer needs to occupy the backseat of one of my SUVs,  I've mostly been driving around with a lot of unused space inside my vehicles. Most weeks I feel like the chauffeur just for my swim gear. I bought a new Subaru Forester back in 2021. I got it at a bargain price; all things considered. It was a great vehicle which never failed me and never needed repairs. But it followed all the other smaller SUVs in that the model I selected was built as a pragmatic, economy choice of transportation, and portage. Safe? Sure. Economical? Absolutely!!! A blast to drive? Not likely by nearly anyone's standards. But at least they all had air conditioning...

I've been looking around the last week or so like a car adulterer scoping out new talent. The neighbor across the street has a kiddo going off to college. They originally bought him a used Subaru BRZ sports car which the kid and his knowledgeable dad completed overhauled and machined into a "like new" performance car. But the drive back and forth to college is about eight hours on crowds highways. They decided their precious child would be better protected in a bigger vehicle. I looked over their BRZ and lusted after it but, in direct contrast to another blogger's oft proclaimed lust for cars with manual transmissions, that was the deal killer for me. I know myself very well. Sometimes I drive with coffee. The coffee is in a cup. The cup is generally in my left hand ready for immediate applications. If I had to shift gears constantly (the BRZs are nearly all six speed manuals) I'd have to have my hands off the steering wheel for....well....too much time to safely operate the vehicle. I passed on what was otherwise a good deal on a fun car. 

But the short term experience sunk the hook of car lust and I started thinking less like a photographer constrained to hauling half the inventory of a camera store around town and started thinking more like someone who would really like to enjoy driving a bit more than I have for the past twenty odd years. 

Over the last two years the jobs I've accepted are more in line with the Minimal Lighting/Minimal Gear philosophy I wrote about in my first book = Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography. To wit; lighten the load and enjoy the work more. I started to carefully examine the kinds of work I've ended up doing in the interim. Nearly all of it requires one camera bag with several cameras and lenses in it and one rolling case with lights of one kind or another. Topped off by a stand bag with stands, umbrellas and a compact (but extensible) tripod. I have big stands but I just replaced a slew of them with Manfrotto Nano light stands. I've gotten rid of all my AC powered flashes and replaced them with various battery powered flashes. I choose the right flashes based on the specific job needs and the duration of the jobs. Less always being better. Now I can go to a location, with or without an assistant, and carry in everything I need for most projects with two hands. 

Do I really need to hold on to the idea that I need a vehicle with tons of space versus getting something that's more fun to drive? Maybe this is new math for we people on a gradual glide path toward retirement. Or just a changing perspective about the balance of fun-to-practicality. 

I headed to lunch at Maudie's Mexican Food on Lake Austin Blvd. yesterday to meet up with my favorite creative director. We just wanted to check in with each other, compare notes, trade "war" stories and hear about each other's families. It's a relationship that goes back well over 30 years. And our history is amply sprinkled with hundreds of similar lunches, occasionally punctuated by actual "working" lunches to really discuss contemporary projects. 

I mentioned cars to my friend since the idea of cars was bouncing around near the top of my mind and he laughed. He said, "You've always driven cheap, practical cars, why not step out of that habit and buy something just because it's fun?" 

We had a long chat about A.I. and how it's affecting the advertising industry. Some good, some bad. Depends where one is on the hierarchy. It took my mind off the anticipation of acquisition; at least for a little while...

During the last week or so, after thinking about the BRZ, I started researching different Subaru models. I know there are good and bad cars in every maker's lineup but I'm currently pretty positive about Subaru's products based on recent experience. The last three cars B. and I have purchased have been from that company and all have been problem free. So, I wanted something more sedan-like and less "off-roady." 

I've had a four wheel drive something or other with "amazing ground clearance" since 2019 and I have yet to leave a paved road in an SUV in search of adventure. I'm hardly a rugged outdoorsman and most of my car use is in going someplace urban or coming back from someplace urban. I thought I might be able to do better with a more traditional roadster. Also hoped to find a car that's quieter on the highway...

I read about Subaru's Legacy line of cars. I went online to my favorite dealer's website to see what's out there and I found one that caught my interest. A dealer demo Legacy model with 2500 miles on the odometer. A 2024 on the lot just as Subaru is announcing the introduction of 2025s. White. My favorite car color for Texas. 

After a traditional lunch of cheese enchiladas covered with chopped onions, refried beans, rice and jalapeƱos --- and a big ice tea, I thought I'd head north and poke around at the dealer. I had the plan of seeking out the Legacy I'd seen on their website and, if it was already sold, heading back home with no alternative plan in mind. I did have the foresight to put the car title in the glove box of the Forester before I left for lunch...

Well, the car was still there and I took it for a short test drive. OMG. It's was so different from the ride of a utilitarian SUV. The car in question is a Legacy Sport model. That basically means it has the 260 hp, endless torque, a turbo-charged engine, the sport suspension, the really groovy (and huge; to me) alloy wheels, and every safety feature you could put in a car. Along with a bunch of stuff I don't really think I'll ever use. Like seat heaters and a heated steering wheel. It will be my first car ever with keyless entry as a "feature." Not sure how I feel yet about the 500+ watt Harmon Kardon sound system complete with subwoofer...

I had a price in mind that I wanted to pay for the new car and an amount I wanted to get for my 2021 Forester. The dealer, after a short and sweet amount of cross negotiation, took the deal. But I thought there would be a catch. I didn't bring a checkbook along with me. I asked if they'd take a credit card for the balance. No dice. ( Sad, would have loved the points). But, on the other hand the dealer didn't seem to care much about it. They took my old car, detailed my new car, we did the paper work (simpler by far if one is paying cash...eventually) and they  handed me the keys. I let them know I needed to transfer some cash and I wouldn't be able to drop a check by until Friday and they didn't blink. 

I motored away into rush hour traffic. I drove the new car to swim practice this morning. It was lovely. I came home and test-loaded a bunch of gear into the trunk. Everything fits except a 9 foot roll of seamless. About which I no longer care. Job needs long seamless? Can't have it delivered? Don't accept the job!

The last sedan I owned was back in the mid-1990s. It was an Olympic Edition BMW 540. Also a nice car but back then it quickly became apparent that I really did need to worry about hauling cargo and long rolls of seamless paper. Now? Not so much. 

The final test will be how the CFO reacts. She was out of town and I hadn't really planned to buy a car this week. Didn't actually mention it as a possibility. But you know how CFOs are, right? I'm sure she'll just smile and be satisfied that I'm happy. At least that's what I'm hoping for. Always optimistic...

Is this the absolutely best work car? Probably not. Is it fun to drive? Absolutely yes! Does the purchase really affect me one way or another? Not much, other than adding to my fun quotient. But not much more of a buzz than buying a really nice Leica camera...

There may be a road trip coming up to San Angelo or some other medium distance destination in the coming weeks. Gotta see what it's like to drive longer distances in comfort... And, bonus, winding, uncrowded roads....



21 comments:

adam said...

I got a folding ebike recently, I've been getting bored of taking photo's of the same subjects so thought it might help broaden my horizons a little, I've mostly been riding round with a compact in my pocket, I should probably attach a gopro to my head

JoeB said...

Yes it would be cool to go out after lunch and come home with a new car. I would do that- heck I used to live in an apartment, the landlord said it was time for me to move and so bought a house after one trip around town with a realtor. Took awhile to close on the deal but only looked at houses for one day. I lived in that house for 23 years- it worked out well.

My wife has owned a Subaru Impreza for 8 years. Just routine service, nothing has broken or needed repair. They make good cars.

Maybe you should have bought a WRX - would that have been fun or what!?

Enjoy your new car- life is too short to live with something you don't find makes the grade.

karmagroovy said...

Congrats on the new car Kirk, you deserve it after all those years of being practical. Just tell B, it's not like I bought a red Ferrari! ;-)

Looking forward to hearing how Janis sounds on the 500W sound system.

D Lobato said...

I bought new, a 2006 Subaru Legacy wagon Turbo XT. I’ve had no regrets, none. When I want, it will scream. Manually shifting the 5 speed automatic increases the fun. It’s been solidly reliable. Hope you have as much satisfaction as I have in mine.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

The CFO has approved. Looked at the deal, was satisfied with the rationale and the paperwork. All good.

Bill Bresler said...

Re: Manual Transmissions
If you can't balance a cup of coffee, a cigar, a cellphone with Google maps, and shift a manual transmission, you ain't from Detroit.
I'm just sayin'.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

A cigar in a car? Say it's not so!!!

Update, joyriding with spouse yesterday. High approval rating for the car. Average approval rating for my driving. Something to work on... sigh.

jw52tx said...

Road Trip to San Angelo?? Well wherever floats your boat!I heartily recommend Taqueria Jalisco if you are there!
https://www.taqueriajaliscotx.com/
I grew up in Eden so San Angelo was the BIG CITY!

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

I've been to San Angelo a couple of times in the last two years and find that it has a really nice and growing public art scene. There's also an old fire station that's been converted into an Air BnB on the top floors and a brew pub and pizza place on the bottom. Stayed there two different times and it was great. An absolute bargain compared to anything in Austin...

Robert Roaldi said...

Enjoy. I owned 1990 and 1993 Legacies and co-drove in car rallies for someone in a 1994 Legacy Turbo. Tough as nails. Because of my involvement in car rallying, I happen to know many people with various models of Subarus. They were not all faultless but they mostly very good. I recently bought a Jetta sedan after many years of hatchbacks and wagons. My wife calls it "an old man's car", but hey, if the shoe fits.

I've always found sedans easier to parallel park, isn't that odd? What's difficult these days is pulling into grocery store parking lots and trying to find spots in between all the humongous pick-up trucks. I've hit my head on their side mirrors getting out of my car.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant choice. I test drove one. Very, very fast. Great on corners. Nice ride.

R.A.

Will said...

You should probably buy a backup that uses the same battery.

Biro said...

I have a 2016 Subaru Forester and have been considering a new vehicle lately. I kind of like the Legacy but don’t think I could afford the turbocharged Sport variant. Good thing you grabbed this one, Kirk. 2025 will be the last model year for the Legacy. I look forward to your impressions going forward.

Greg Heins said...

No question but that Will gets the prize for the best comment. Wish I’d thought of it.

Doug said...

Nice car choice. I was shopping just over a year ago and looked hard at the Subaru WRX, which probably has the same engine. They really get up and go with the turbo. I waffled around and finally landed on the turbocharged Mazda CX-30. It is technically a CUV but drives far more like a sporty car, and that turbo lets me pretend I'm 16 again whenever the mood strikes. I love driving it and have already racked up 18,000 miles with 4-5 fun photo trips. I hope you enjoy yours as much.

Eric Rose said...

Please please PLEASE don't play "Born to be Wild" when you take it out on the highway!! But have lots of fun getting out and about.

eric

Will said...

Greg Heins: oddly, it came quite quickly to me. :)

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Will and Greg, Heading back to the dealer to see if they have one more... You never know when you'll need a back-up...

Heidfirst said...

Interesting. In the UK a car dealer won't take a personal cheque (bank draft will be OK), will be limited in how much physical cash (notes) that they will accept due to money-laundering legislation, will accept debit card/bank transfer & may accept credit card but possibly at a higher price for the vehicle due to the higher transaction charges.
Of course, they would rather sell a car to you on finance of some kind ... ;)

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Heidfirst, The last three cars I bought from a car dealer I negotiated the price and wrote a personal check for the full amount. No hesitation on the part of the dealer. Seemed easy and low friction. In the USA the powers that be like for people to spend money however they can. It keeps the economy rolling along...

I tried to put the cost on a credit card by the Subaru dealer I used doesn't take credit cards for more than a certain amount. I would have loved the points...

Heidfirst said...

Personal cheques are pretty much extinct in the UK. Debit cards & electronic bank transfers replaced them - no waiting several days for them to clear.

I am just starting to think about replacing my own current car, probably be another Toyota for similar reasons that you went with another Subaru.