Sepia photo of motorbike riders by a cliff
CBWC,  Photographic techniques,  Themed galleries

Gallery: of vintage wheels and shiny steel

While I have little interest in cars or motorbikes for themselves, I do find them interesting photographically speaking. And especially so old cars and shiny bikes!

Ideally the latter will be Harley Davidsons, to which I attach a certain romantic notion created by films such as Easy Rider and Electra Glide in Blue. I’ve never been on any motorbike, but I do love the empty open roads of the US western states and when I see a Harley that’s where my imagination takes me.

As to the cars, anything from the 1960s or earlier just looks more interesting, don’t you agree? So for Cee’s CBWC this week, with the theme of Anything with Wheels, I thought it would be fun to play with sepia edits on some old vehicle shots from my archives, and some selective colour edits of Harleys.

Vintage vehicles

Many of these shots were taken in Cuba, an obvious place to photograph old cars. Others are from various places in the US and a few from elsewhere. All of them are old if not technically vintage. Conversion to sepia was done using Silver Efex Pro, mostly with the Antique Plate filter adjusted for brightness, contrast and structure. I also added a vignette to some images to increase the feeling of age.

Sepia photo of old car on city street

In Havana, Cuba, in 2005

Sepia photo of old car on city street

Also in Havana, on a back street in the oldest part of town

Sepia photo of old car on city street

Taken in Cienfuegos, Cuba, I think (my memory is hazy, it was a long while ago!)

Sepia photo of an old car on a wide street

In Madrid, New Mexico (the original colour version of this shot is here, if you’re interested)

Sepia photo of old fire truck and barn with dark mountains

Old fire truck in Elizabethtown, a ghost town in New Mexico

Steering wheel and dashboard of an old car

Chevrolet Bel Air in the Route 66 museum in Santa Rosa, NM (read more about the museum and see the colour version of this here)

Sepia photo of a wagon labelled US Marshall

An old prison wagon at Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Sepia photo of log cabins and wagons

Old Trail Town near Cody, Wyoming – a re-created frontier town from the 1800s

Sepia photo of an old ambulance

Ambulance in the garages at Bletchley Park, the secret base of the WW2 Enigma codebreakers

Harley Davidsons

While the cars and other vehicles were photographed in a variety of locations the following shots were all taken on our road trip through New Mexico. I often find myself on a trip focusing on one specific subject as a sub-theme to my overall photographic record; and there it was Harleys, as I spotted them in almost every town we stopped in. The exception is my featured shot above of bikers, taken at a viewpoint near Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State.

Again I used Silver Efex Pro to convert the images to black and white, and then used control points to bring back the colour in selected areas. I wanted to retain the contrast between colour and gleaming metal which first attracted me to photograph these machines.

Black and white photo of a motorbike with blue details

Roswell, NM

Black and white photo of a motorbike with blue detail

Also in Roswell

Black and white photo of a motorbike with blue detail

Hillsboro, NM

Black and white photo of a motorbike with red detail

Deming, NM

Black and white photo of a motorbike with blue detail

Silver City, NM

I visited New Mexico in 2011; the other shots were taken between 2006 and 2019


  • Annie Berger

    Your photos of Cuba was like a walk down memory lane for me as I was there way back in the late 70s as it was open to visitors from Canada. Doesn’t look like it’s changed much in the intervening years!

  • Jane Lurie

    I enjoyed these very much, Sarah. The colorful cars in Cuba work well in sepia accentuating their shapes. A unique take on them. Thanks for the steel wheel tour. 🙂

  • wetanddustyroads

    Berto enjoyed riding his off road motorbike for some time, before he sold it and bought a 4×4 … I’m more comfortable in a vehicle with 4 wheels 😉.
    I do like the look of old/vintage cars – they surely did not had a problem with space inside those vehicles! Your pictures are lovely – especially those of the bikes.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you, glad you liked these. I definitely prefer four wheel to two! And you’re right about the space in those cars. You can tell they’re all from the US – British cars tended to be much smaller, probably because our roads are smaller 🙂

    • rosalieann37

      I had a 1976 Lincoln town car which could have house a family of 7 in the trunk. But I had a job that required me to carry quite a bit of equipment and I had to park in some iffy places. So I was very careful and kept everything out of sight in the trunk (boot). I didn’t open the trunk up when I parked to get anything out of it. I figured out at each stop what I would need at the next place and got it out and put it into the back seat before I left.

  • giacomoasinello

    Super photos! Like you, I have no interest in cars and I know nothing about them. I wouldn’t know a Corniche from a Cornish Pasty. But they are beautiful to look at.

  • RosalieAnn Beasley

    In the US, a motor bike is a bicycle with a motor. Harleys are motorcycles. I assume this is another language difference between our two countries, but a Harley owner might be insulted if you call his ride a motor bike. My 2nd daughter and SIL have motorcycles. She came to our grandson’s wedding on a motorcycle. She got her license as a teen when she wanted to go to the barn to ride her horse before school, and her automobile license had a time restriction on it – she couldn’t use it before 6 a.m. and that didn’t give her enough time. The motorcycle license didn’t have that restriction. (They probably didn’t think of it.) I’ve ridden on them and even tried to get my motorcycle license once. I failed the road test.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks for that info Rosalie. Over here motorcycle and motorbike are used interchangeably. A bicycle with an electric motor is called an e-bike – I don’t know of any bicycles with other types of motor? There are also mopeds and motor scooters which are under 50cc. The scooters have foot rests, the mopeds don’t, so the latter may be more like what you call motorbikes in the US?

      • rosalieann37

        if there’s a platform where you can put your feet while you are riding, what you are riding is a scooter. If it’s under 50cc then legally it’s classed as a moped. That’s the way they are classified in Bermuda too.

        I found a page which said that motorcycle and motor bike were interchangeable but it went on to say:

        Motorbike is used most in the UK and Australia, where it will also be used interchangeably with motorcycle. However, in the Americas (both North and South), motorcycle is essentially the sole term used. American bikers might refer to their motorcycle as a hog (if they ride a Harley, anyway), but they draw the line at motorbike for some reason

        Incidentally the old cars that you photographer are from my teen years. My husband had a car like them or a little early when we started dating in 1952. In those days an antique was a car made before about 1915. Our 1932 Plymouth was not regarded as an antique. The American Antique Auto Club has changed their classifications over the years and now anything older than 45 years is an “antique” I wrote about traveling west in our Plymouth

  • photobyjohnbo

    That collection of cars in Cuba makes me sad that we ended up canceling our planned trip to Cuba due to President Trump’s travel ban reinstatement. I do love your black-and-white treatments of those images giving them a true vintage looks. I do, however, love those selective color motorcycles. Beautiful work, Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much John. I hope you get to Cuba some day. We went back then because everyone was saying it would change when Castro died, but I don’t think it has much! Really worth seeing if you do get the chance, and great for photography of course:)

  • restlessjo

    I feel the same about cars and bikes. Mostly indifferent, but they do make some great photos. Cuba! Those are iconic, as are the Harleys, but I really love that moody firetruck shot, Sarah. Have a good weekend! Traveling again soon?

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Jo 😊 I’m fond of that fire truck too, and several other shots I took there. The weather wasn’t great – heavy rain. So we ate our little picnic lunch in the car and only ventured out for a handful of shots, of which this was one. I must do a little post about the place some time 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Forgot to say no travel abroad planned for the next month or so but we’ll be going up to Newcastle in May where I’ll be hosting the ‘should be annual but we missed two years’ Virtual Tourist Euromeet. About 35 people coming and lots to organise so that will keep me out of trouble for a while!

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