About: Back in 2009, in a parking garage in San Francisco, the first official Wekfest event was held. Fast forward to 2011, Wekfest begins a nationwide tour in major cities throughout the US (including Hawaii). In addition to the stops here in the good ol’ US of ‘Merica, Wekfest reaches Japan with an annual event. Vehicles are carefully selected to ensure a high standard of quality before being accepted to show.
The Venue: The show is hosted in the beautiful Palm Beach County Convention Center, which was packed to the brim with show vehicles. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, it was literally packed. Between the show cars, vendor booths and spectators, there wasn’t much of any wasted space. Not sure of the total vehicle count, but according to the Wekfest site upwards of 400 vehicles all gathered under one roof. Japanese vehicles had the slight attendance advantage over the Euros and Domestic crowd, but much like Simply Clean the assembly of vehicles was extremely diverse. Since there are no classes, the uniqueness of each build is left to shine and be appreciated for what it is instead of being compared to one another.
Organization: Packing all these incredible cars into a single location is a logistical nightmare but the Wekfest does a pretty ok job mitigating this. The line to load the vehicles snaked through the massive parking lot outside but was for the most part a very organized traffic jam. It wasn’t exactly a quick moving line either, which allowed participants to detail and touch up cars before entering- or for one car overheat and set forth a massive cloud that would make dope vape cloud enthusiasts lose their shit, bro. The venue’s fire marshall only allows a quarter of a tank of gas before entering, so we used this downtime to disconnect the fuel feed line to the high pressure pump on our vehicles and drain as much fuel as possible-one key cycle at a time. Once inside the show, organizers corralled vehicles into their positions, which again was a little confusing, but otherwise relatively painless. Leaving was a bit chaotic due to some miscommunication among staff, but was resolved fairly quickly.
The show itself: As a spectator and enthusiast, there’s obviously a fest of automotive eye candy to take in. A handful of vendor booths are peppered in throughout the floor with a mix of automotive goods to lifestyle products to break things up a little. People are polite and courteous on the floor, and surprisingly eager to start up conversation.
As a photographer, this is an incredibly difficult event to get captivating coverage from. Despite the hundreds of lights inside the building, it’s pretty dimly lit. Unless your camera has high ISO capability with minimal noise and a lens with a super wide aperture, hand holding an SLR is a challenge and a tripod is your best bet. Since there were literally hundreds of vehicles, cars were parked mere inches from one another, plus easily a thousand or more spectators walking the floors to add to the challenge. Despite the abundance of lights suspended above the convention center floor, lighting was spotty- many vehicles half in shadow and half brightly lit. Two different types of light sources meant weird color shifts and tons of lens flare to combat in post. As I attempted to work my six and a half foot tall Yosemite Sam half hipster looking self between the minimal space between cars with my tripod and multiple lenses to capture decent shots, I became increasingly frustrated by the shots I felt I was forced to take. Since all the cars were parked at the same side-by-side 45 degree angle, it’s extremely difficult to manage shots that are not the repetitive three quarter front shot, or of front/rear looking down the aisle. I feel that anyone with an Iphone had the advantage over those who brought their SLR and full grip of lenses.
Before it sounds like I’m completely shitting on the event and chalking up my lackluster photos to the layout, Wekfest is definitely worth attending if you’ve never been to one before. It’s an impressive event just due to size and the diversity of the group of vehicles present and the sense of community whether you’re a local or not.