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The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Lexus Experience Amazing Drive Event

Last Saturday I attended the Lexus Experience Amazing Drive Event, which is a hands-on driving demonstration that showcased much of the Lexus lineup and its technology, similar to performance driving events I’ve attended for Jaguar numerous times, and Kia featuring the Stinger head-to-head with direct performance competitors from Porsche, BMW, and Audi.

I’ll be first to admit that, until this weekend, the only hands-on experience I’ve had with any of Lexus’ marque has been briefly sitting in each Lexus on display at the Washington Auto Show each year (including the new (as of 2017) LC 500). So, although this was my first time driving or even riding in a Lexus, it was not my first time sitting in and playing with Lexus’ top-of-the-line car. Nobody I know owns a Lexus; I simply have more experience with their direct competitors such as Jaguar, BMW, Audi, and Infiniti, as these are the brands I and my closest friends own and drive. The day started off with a presentation about Lexus’ history and the emphasis on craftsmanship, and some factoids about the LC 500 flagship sports coupe.

Copy of Liquid Lunch: Summer of 2019

Immediately following the introductory presentation, the group was led outside the tent to a series of ES 300h and LS 500h sedans for a ~2mi suburban circuit test-drive of each model. Driving the cars themselves was fantastic; each vehicle handled sharply but comfortably and predictably, and the interior craftsmanship (with the exception of the UX, which I’ll get to later on) was top notch. Truly refined, with comfortable leather in pleasing colors that coordinated with the dark wood tones found elsewhere in the cabin. The ride was quiet, even with A/C blowing, and the hybrids’ had the only Start-Stop system I’ve found completely unobtrusive - in fact, it was so quiet and gentle I didn’t know it was equipped with one for the first half of the drive until I started paying attention for it specifically (Start-Stop is a major pet-peeve of mine, but I can happily report that Lexus’ is the only Start-Stop I don’t hate). The only negative about a vehicle I can even mention from this demo isn’t really a negative; it’s a nit-pick. The ES 300h is slow. Even in Sport, it’s slow; in fact, I could not tell a difference between Normal and Sport. Even in “manual” (quotes because Lexus does not offer a single manual gearbox) in Sport, my passenger didn’t believe me when I told them I had the accelerator floored; its 8.1s 0-60 felt like my car at half throttle. But let’s be real here; nobody is buying the ES 300h for performance, with its 215hp drivetrain - it is a fuel-sensible luxury appointed mid-size family car, and a great one at that, eating the miles up at 44MPG. The LS 500h, with its 354hp, was impressively fast for its size and hybrid drivetrain, reportedly clocking a 5.1s 0-60 time.

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Next was the main event; a hot lap in the LC 500. Lexus’ flagship grand touring luxury sports coupe is equipped with a 5.0 liter V8 producing 471hp mated to a 10 speed automatic transmission produced by Aisin - note, it is not a DCT. The LC 500 goes 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, with a top speed of 168MPH. A 354hp hybrid model is also available, but I won’t be discussing it as it wasn’t present at this event, nor would it interest me unless it were being placed head-to-head against a BMW i8 much like the Kia Stinger was pitted against a Porsche Panamera 4. Sitting in the handsomely appointed interior, the first thing you notice is how incredibly quiet the car makes the world around you; the interior is a truly serene place - quiet, and engulfs occupants in the finest upholstery offered in Lexus’ sophisticated modern design language. The immediate attenuation of the outside world was the first thing I noticed when I sat in the LC 500 at an auto show two years ago, and that incredible soundproofing is still present in the production version. All that quiet allows the driver to enjoy the symphony, be that from the Mark Levinson audio system (which I did not test in any of Lexus’ cars), or more importantly, the LC’s throaty, exotic exhaust note. And it’s quite important to point out that in an age of electronic sound symposers from the likes of BMW, the LC 500 has clear influences from Lexus’ LFA halo car, in that the exhaust note you hear is 100% generated by the car itself, and not faked through the speakers. Surely the LC has undergone some form of sound optimization just like the LFA’s exhaust was tuned by Yamaha to create its unmistakably distinct note. The LC 500’s sound is more Aston Martin than the LFA’s F1 exhaust note, but with a base price of $93,000, you can buy four LC 500s for the MSRP of one LFA (or more, considering the LFA has only gone up in value, and as of this writing, only five of the 178 LFAs in the US are currently for resale), making the LC a bargain exotic.

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One of many ways the LC 500 demo event could have been improved is by pitting the LC 500 head-to-head against their RC F, which was on static display, but not even a standard RC 300 was available for test driving and comparison the entire event. The two cars are indeed in slightly different classes, with the RC standing as a direct competitor to the M4, Q60, and C63, and the LC 500 is pitted against the 840i, SL 550, and F-Type, and even the i8, NSX, and R8, but in a large way the comparison isn’t far off at all. A head-to-head comparison would have easily solved several event shortcomings with one fell swoop - course familiarization, which was totally absent, would be taken care of, especially with a mandatory “slow” lap, which could be marketed as a lap to try out normal driving dynamics before switching into Sport+ for subsequent performance laps, the RC would actually be represented in Lexus’ lineup, and participants would get more wheel time than a single lap and 5 VERY slow MPH through a chicane.

PS: Lexus, if you’re reading this, pretty, pretty please give the RC F a 6 or 7 speed manual transmission option - you’re losing every manual-loving potential customer to BMW and Porsche!

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The LC 500 itself is fantastic. In addition to the interior you’ll never want to get out of, and the exhaust note you’ll never tire of hearing, it handles beautifully, with safe and predictable understeer rather than erratic or temperamental oversteer, and the brakes stably guide the car into corners quickly and evenly. Even the trunk is surprisingly large, and could easily stow luggage for a weekend getaway, or a couple’s golf trip. The back seats are predictably low on headroom, but this is the only comfort gripe, and on a car like this it’s not an actual problem; the prospective buyers who actually care about rear headroom (all zero of you) can wait for the upcoming convertible model of the LC 500. In fact, the only negative about the LC I can even write about is its throttle response, and this seems to be more a symptom of the 10 speed transmission than the engine itself. Even in Sport+ there is noticeable throttle lag when pinning the accelerator, especially coming out of corners; it seems that the transmission, despite its 0.12 second shifts, can’t choose a gear and rev-match quickly enough to match demand. The engine itself revs quite freely, so lag seems to come from the drivetrain. It’s possible Lexus chose to forgo a DCT in order to avoid gear hunting lag they can also sometimes suffer from; shifting “manually” via paddles alleviates some of this throttle lag. At the end of the day, it’s a nit-pick issue, as it’s just a quirk of this car that owners will get used to as they become familiar with driving it, plus this is a GT car - it is a car meant to eat up miles on the highway, turn heads in the city, and drop with the valet. It’s not a track queen; it’s a luxury cruiser with performance capabilities refined beyond most of its competitors. And for the drivers who somehow need even more excitement than the already exquisite LC 500 offers, “an unnamed performance model” is in the pipeline - expect an LC F Sport model to be formally announced in the next year or so with a twin-turbocharged V8 supplying over 600hp.

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Next up was an agility demo of the new UX 200h. This course was tight, meant to simulate parking lot maneuverability. Participants were allowed to drive any of the available standard and hybrid UX models through the course as many times as they desired, which meant this demo provided the most wheel-time of any of the models demoed.

To be fully transparent, I didn’t even know the UX existed until arriving to the Lexus Experience Amazing Drive Event; I’d simply never heard of it or ever seen one. Naturally, I knew nothing about it, and while test driving it one of my friends was reading the sticker, and asked me to guess the list price - I was a full $9k over its $34,000 starting price for the hybrid model. At $32,000 for the standard model, I think the UX 200 is extremely competitively priced for what it offers, which is style and comfort in an affordable upscale CUV package, and there’s even AWD available on the higher trim UX 250 with either standard or hybrid drivetrains - that’s a huge deal! The UX is Lexus’ newest and more affordably priced crossover offering, seemingly geared toward the millennial yuppie; it offers a hybrid model, and seems to be the replacement for the CT 200h wagon, which I always admired. Undoubtedly to cut costs, the UX features abundant plastic in lieu of the wood and leather appointed interiors of the rest of Lexus’ lineup, but the supple, supportive seating NuLuxe surfaces feel identical to the leather in Lexus’ higher models, as is the optional premium infotainment and driver’s technology. And let’s just take a second to appreciate how beautiful the Nori Green Pearl paint job is paired with Glazed Caramel seating surfaces; my group couldn’t stop talking about it, because it’s nice to see a luxury marquee with paint offerings beyond monochrome variations. Unfortunately for you readers, since this was the least restrictive portion of the drive event, I spent my time demoing the UX rather than photographing it; you’ll have to check out Nori Green Pearl on Lexus’ website.

The final demonstration, on a 3rd course, was of the NX and RX’s agility and driver assistance and safety technologies. The course was, again, meant to simulate neighborhood and parking lot maneuvering, which is where these models thrive, as stereotypical soccer-mommy-mobile family-grocery-getters. These mid-size SUVs are ubiquitous in the parking lots of Whole Foods, World Market, Pottery Barn, and the like, and for good reason, as Lexus has made an exceptional family SUV product - after driving and riding in them, I now see why they are so popular. The RX is SO. COMFY. Although I was expecting the RXL to have a reclining rear seat, I was pleasantly surprised it also adjusted fore and aft, which meant that my already plentiful legroom expanded to an even larger expanse of flat floor surface area - and this RXL didn’t even have the optional rear captains chairs. The NX offered a sportier road feel through the steering wheel, and the RX was more plush, but both were equally pleasant to either drive or be driven in.

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The key demo for this portion of the Experience was the Pre-Collision System, which will automatically fully deploy the brakes in the event that front or rear sensors detect an object or pedestrian in the vehicle’s path, even if your foot is completely off the brake. To demonstrate this, participants back into a parking spot containing an obstruction, and are instructed to leave the vehicle to brake on its own (touching the brake will override the system, indicating that the driver is in control, and will allow objects to be struck). My group tried this several times, from a stop, at a single car-length from the obstruction, which meant vehicle speed was low enough that the Pre-Collision System emergency-stopped the SUV before striking the barrier - this can be seen in the video at the end of this blog. Next, someone tried testing the system at a slight angle to the flat barrier - the Pre-Collision System did stop as intended, but struck the barrier, knocking it over, before stopping in time. Finally, I chose to test the system at idle speed (the RX won’t reach idle on its own in a single vehicle distance), simulating the inevitable idiot driver who will buy one of these and think this system means they don’t need to use the brake while parking anymore; the Pre-Collision System again, predictably, stopped on its own, but not before striking and knocking over the barrier. Some of the event staff didn’t believe us when we said we were completely off the brakes when it hit the barriers, but to be clear, the Pre-Collision System worked completely as intended (and advertised on Lexus’ website), and this behavior isn’t entirely unexpected; the laws of physics always apply - greater kinetic energy requires greater stopping distance. While one staffer seemed annoyed and disbelieving, another who was much more helpful and informative was genuinely curious how we got the system to actually hit the barrier, and it sounded like they were going to try stress-testing it out more themselves after participants had left - we were all happy to describe the different things we had tried and the results for them to try it for themselves.

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That was it in terms of driving opportunities, but static displays of the UX, RC F, LC, ES, and LS were open to explore, but not powered on for tech demonstration like at a convention center auto show - a simple generator running power to all the cars could have solved this. The static displays provided the opportunity to try out the rear seats of the ES and LS, and the back seat is where you want to live in the LS. I have to say, I’m not a sedan person, and personally, in terms of the Lexus lineup, am most realistically interested in the RC F, but the LS 500h made the biggest impression on me. I have always and will always love grand touring coupes, so while the LC 500 was my favorite car of the day, it was exactly as great as I expected; the LS, however, is the one that really surprised me shaped my impression of Lexus. As someone unfamiliar with Lexus, but more familiar with most of its competitors, I’ve always thought of Lexuses as “fancy Toyotas.” I’ve been wrong this whole time. Very wrong. Pitted against the Jaguar XJ, the Lexus LS holds its own, and really just leaves buyers with a choice - do you prefer shiny British style, or modern Japanese aesthetic? The LS 500’s executive rear seats have adjustable recline, headrests, bolsters, lumbar, and the standard climate controls expected in an executive luxury sedan, all controlled through a touchscreen monitor in the armrest.

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I have a deep love of Jaguar’s emphasis on performance, but for an executive saloon, it’s hard to say no to that 354hp hybrid V6 that gets 28MPG. If you like the XJ’s Supercharged V8 470 ponies, Lexus offers the LS 500 F Sport with 416hp and still manages 21MPG for the AWD model; the XJ only offers AWD on the 340hp Supercharged V6 that only manages 21MPG, not the RWD-only 5.0L V8 that averages 18MPG. This comes down to a fundamental difference in direction the two manufacturers have taken - both are competing against German luxury frontrunners BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but have taken on the fuel economy problem in different ways. Jaguar has focused their efforts on all-electric vehicles, with the introduction of the I-Pace, and instead offer more economical Diesel engines on select models. Lexus fights the gas pump through its hybrids, and Toyota has always been the kink of hybrid technology. Hybrids are the immediate future of cars, and the fact that Lexus has so finely mated luxury, build quality, and performance out of a hybrid drivetrain - it’s impossible to ignore that.

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I’m looking forward to Lexus returning to DC next year for another installment of the Lexus Experience Amazing Drive Event, hopefully with an RC F, and eventually the LC F, which is rumored to be on sale for the 2022 model year. And next time I’m behind a Lexus in traffic, I’m sure to pay a lot more attention.

Taste Leesburg

This weekend, after attending the Lexus Experience Amazing Drive Event (photos coming very soon), I stumbled onto the Taste Leesburg street food festival with some friends. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve really explored old town Leesburg, and between barhopping Leesburg for a friend’s birthday a few months ago, and walking around this weekend sampling the restaurants, food trucks, stores, and local wineries and breweries, I’ve happily learned that Leesburg has quite clearly undergone a revitalization since I last explored it in depth.

I’m not sure if Taste Leesburg is a new food festival, or if I’ve just been missing out for a long time, because I usually go to similar festivals in DC, Reston, Herndon, Fairfax, and even further West into Aldie, Middleburg, and Waterford. All participants got a tasting glass, and I was very surprised at how generous all the vendors were being with the servings of their samplings. Of the local wineries that had tables this weekend, I’ve visited about half of them in person at some point or another. Full sets were played by King Street Kats, Hard Swimmin’ Fish, and Hungry on Mondays.

Silly me, I had my camera and took pictures of everything except the food! I didn’t take a single picture of any food or drink, even on my phone, which is crazy considering the event. But enjoy some photos of the festival as a whole and a few things that caught my eye along the way!

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Alitalia at IAD

Washington Dulles International Airport - Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport

This past Thursday, May 2nd, 2019, Washington Dulles International Airport welcomed Alitalia’s A330-200, formally beginning non-stop service to Rome. Fabio Lazzerini, Alitalia CBO, and Armando Varricchio, Italy’s ambassador to the United States, spoke to guests and passengers at the gate preceding a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially mark the beginning of service from IAD to FCO.

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Embassy of Italy

Later in the evening, guests within the aviation and Italian / United States economic and cultural fields gathered at the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC to celebrate the new link formed by Alitalia’s newly launched flight service. Guests enjoyed a fashion show featuring every Alitalia cabin crew uniform since the airline’s inception in 1946 while sampling Italian dishes and cocktails.

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And here I am!

Huge thank you to Ryan Ewing of  AirlineGeeks.com  for capturing me in my element.

Huge thank you to Ryan Ewing of AirlineGeeks.com for capturing me in my element.

Chicago: March, 2019

Wow, April was such a busy month; I’ve been sitting on these pictures since my most recent trip to Chicago in March, and am just now getting around to sharing them with you. As you may recall, I was in Chicago in February for a photoshoot, but due to circumstances outside my control, that photoshoot was unable to take place, requiring me to reschedule for the next month. I’m happy to say this this time everything went off without a hitch!

In February, once I’d exhausted all options to try and get the photoshoot to work out, I spent the remainder of my time available exploring nearby Milwaukee - I didn’t get to see everything I’d wanted to, so this trip I’d debated spending my spare time checking out the spots I’d missed. Instead, however, I chose to not have any real plan in mind in case there was trouble with the scheduled photoshoot again. Luckily once the photoshoot was knocked out no problem, all my stress was received and I could relax a little.

IAD - ORD

By chance, I was able to spot all four of Chicago’s nearest airports while on approach to ORD. Interestingly, although I was flying on a 737-900, my flight was the day after all 737 MAX aircraft got grounded by the FAA, and it actually impacted my flight. ORD already had heavy ground traffic upon landing, causing a 20 minute taxi to the gate, but upon arriving at the gate my aircraft was blocked by a 737 MAX being tugged from the adjacent gate to a hardstand, but the tug moving the aircraft broke down, blocking out entrance to the gate - my aircraft was stranded on the taxiway for an hour waiting for another tug to arrive to move the MAX out of the way, while we were sitting there watching from our windows just a mere 200 feet from our jetbridge. I ordered a ribeye and tall porter upon finally arriving at my hotel.

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Photoshoot Day at ORD

The night before my photoshoot I only got 3 hours of sleep thanks to stressing out whether the shoot would actually happen or not, despite having confirmation of the necessary paperwork. Luckily, on that drizzly morning, everything went just fine, and after returning to the hotel to deliver some requested preliminary images, I fell asleep at my computer after uploading the images. I slept long and deep that night, knowing I finally had the images I hadn’t been able to capture a month prior.

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Downtown Chicago

I didn’t even set an alarm; I needed the rest, and wanted my Friday to be a stress-free celebration of the previous day’s success. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry had been recommend to me by pretty much everyone I have ever spoken with who’s been to or lived in Chicago, so I decided to finally check it off my list. I didn’t want to waste time dealing with the CTA, plus there’s no stop nearby the museum anyway, so I ordered an Uber all the way from my hotel in Rosemont; my driver actually shot some sports photography I found out.

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Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

Transportation Gallery

Unfortunately the Science and Industry Museum has extremely limited hours, and closes at four, so by time I’d gotten there through some freak midday traffic, gotten my tickets, and gotten inside, I only had about 3 hours to explore the museum - I missed the vast majority of the museum because I decided to focus on several exhibits that interested me rather than try and get a rushed view of everything. I scheduled a tour for 20 minutes after I arrived, and I killed that time in the small Transportation Gallery and Great Train Story next door.

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The Great Train Story

I’ve seen professional train sets before, but this one takes the cake. Not only was it build around a scale model of downtown Chicago, but it featured mountains, tunnels, and even elements from other major US cities. There is even a scavenger hunt of Easter Eggs hidden all over the map, but I didn’t know about this until reading more about the exhibit at a later date.

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There was also this mad scientist kind of display on the way over to my next stop, but I’m not sure which exhibit it was supposed to be a part of, or what all it was representing - look closely, because the harder you look the weirder it gets.

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German Submarine U-505

One of my favorite movies is U-571, which tells the tale of an American submarine capturing a stranded German U-boat to obtain its onboard Enigma code machine. This Matthew McConaughey film is extremely fictionalized, and in fact the real U-571 was never captured; it was sunk via depth charging by the RAAF off the coast of Ireland. During the course of WWII, approximately 15 Enigma machine or Enigma codebook captures were made by the Allied Forces, only one of which was by US forces. In June, 1944, the US Navy captured the U-505, which provided much of the premise for U-571. However, unlike the film heavily implied, it was actually British forces that captured the first Enigma, three years prior when HMS Bulldog captured U-110 on May 9th, 1941. U-571 presents an amalgamated plot of the captures of U-110 and U-505. Although U-505 was not used in filming U-571, film crews reportedly visited and extensively studied the submarine to partially recreate parts of it for the film.

In reality, the U-505 sunk 8 ships over the course of its 12 patrols and two year service history. The US Navy launched a six ship Task Group to hunt U-505 when British Ultra intelligence intercepted generalized locations of German U-boats off the coast of Spain. The Task Group, consisting of one aircraft carrier and five destroyers, made sonar contact with the U-505 on June 4th, 1944, shortly after Captain Daniel V. Gallery had called off the search as the Task Group had exhausted their fuel. With air support from aircraft carrier Guadalcanal, destroyer Chatelain dropped depth charges that crippled the U-505, forcing it to surface. Oberleutnant zur See (Lieutenant) Harald Lange ordered his crew to abandon ship and scuttle the boat, but the 59 man crew could not disembark before the nine member US boarding party was able to board the U-505, close the valves filling the submarine with seawater, and disarm scuttling charges set by the German submariners.

All but one of the U-505’s 59 man crew survived the Allied assault and capture, and only three other crew members were injured. The crew was ferried to Bermuda aboard the Guadalcanal, before being transferred to a POW camp in Ruston, Louisiana several weeks later. To maintain OPSEC and the illusion to Germany that the U-505 had been sunk with no survivors, the POWs were kept separately from others in the prisoner population, and all letters or attempts to communicate outside the camp were confiscated; a direct violation of the Geneva Convention. The imprisoned crew members even constructed makeshift balloons out of cellophane and hydrogen yielded from mixing cleaning chemicals in order to convey their letters over the camp walls with the hope residents of the nearby town would find them and forward the messages to their family, but these attempts were unsuccessful. Some of the POWs learned and played baseball with members of the US Navy baseball team who were tasked as guards at Camp Ruston. Upon the end of the war in 1945, the interned crew began being returned to Germany, with the last remaining captives repatriated in 1947.

As for the U-505, the United States and Allied forces had to hide the submarine to maintain the illusion to the Axis powers that they had captured the missing boat and the valuable Enigma ciphers and codebooks it carried. The U-boat was ferried to a naval base in Bermuda to be studied by US intelligence and naval engineers. To further hide the captured German U-boat, the U-505 was painted to resemble a US submarine, and renamed the USS Nemo. By 1946, US intelligence had gathered all useful information from the U-boat, and dismantled most of the ship’s interior. Having no more use for the ship, the Navy planned on using the U-505 for target practice until it sank. Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery got wind of the plan, and through his brother connected the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry with the Navy to form a plan to donate the U-505 to the newly formed museum, which was already planning on acquiring a submarine to exhibit. On September 25th, 1954 the U-505 was dedicated was dedicated as a permanent exhibit, and a war memorial to all sailors whose lives were lost in the first and second Battles of the Atlantic. In 2004, due to over 50 years being stored outdoors, the U-505 showed heavy wear from the elements, and was subsequently restored and moved to a newly built permanent dry dock inside the Museum of Science and Industry’s East wing.

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An interesting bit of U-505 history conveniently left out of the PG exhibit and tour: the U-505’s 10th patrol endured a very long and severe depth charging. Crushing under the pressure, Kapitänleutnant (Captain lieutenant) Peter Zschech committed suicide during the depth charging, shooting himself in the head in front of his crew in the U-boat’s control room pictured below. First Watch Officer Paul Meyer took over command and ensured the U-505 survived the depth charge attack. Upon returning to port, Meyer, in typical authoritarian dictatorship fashion, rather than being awarded for his quick action to take command, successfully thwart the attack, and save the boat, was simply “absolved from all blame” for the “embarrassing incident” by the Kriegsmarine.

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Henry Crown Space Center

After touring the U-505, I head over to the small space exhibit. I will never not look at space stuff. I did, however, speed through since we have two Air and Space museums here in DC, and I spent almost an entire day exploring Space Center Houston in 2016.

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Fast Forward & Genetics

This part of the museum was a little confusing, as I thought they were the same exhibit at first. I sped through these because I was mostly just interested in seeing the baby chicks!

Fast Forward: Inventing the Future was mostly conceptual exhibits about future-tech. Genetics interested me, but was overrun with kids and I chose to explore other parts of the museum rather than fight a horde of 6 year olds to read the exhibit placards.

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Science Storms

Unfortunately by time I reached Science Storms the museum was 10 minutes from closing. I got an up-close view of the several story tall tornado, but didn’t stay for the last demonstration of the day to instead check out the museum gift shop; they had lots of things I wanted, but none that would be convenient to carry around the rest of the day, particularly with the plans I’d made for later in the night.

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Pioneer Zephyr

The Pioneer Zephyr is a diesel luxury train from the 1930s that makes you feel like a character from Murder on the Orient Express by just standing nearby. On May 26th, 1934, the train set a speed record by covering the 1,015 trip from Denver, Colorado to Chicago, Illinois "Dawn-to-Dusk," in 13 hours 5 minutes, with an average speed of 78mph and a top speed of 112.5mph.

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Hyde Park

It was 4PM and I still hadn’t eaten anything except half a chicken wrap while waiting for my Uber, so I walked the few blocks over to Hyde Park for lunch. I ended up at some local place that had multiple award winning chili, so I was expecting something to rival Ben’s Chili Bowl; the chili was so bad I didn’t even finish it, but the rest of my food was what I expected. After a bit of exploring, coming across a delightfully creepy ivy-clad house, I settled down at a Pâtisserie to relax and unwind with some coffee and macarons before heading uptown to the only thing I’d really planned for the day.

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Check out how this house looks in Summer when the ivy is growing. For bonus points, change the display date and watch as the ivy slowly grows up the side of this home over the last 15 years! It’s beautiful.

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Buddy Guy’s Legends: Nellie Travis with Tommy McCracken

Now for the only thing I’d really planned on, if you can even call it that. The previous evening, while eating dinner after my photoshoot, I noticed that Buddy Guy has a blues club downtown. Although Buddy hails from Louisiana, he is a true legend of Chicago Blues… with his own Southern influences that create his unmistakable, unique tone and style of playing. Today he calls Chicago home, which isn’t too surprising.

I bought tickets to whatever show was playing on my only free evening, without even looking up who Nellie Travis or Tommy McCracken even are - if they’re playing at Buddy Guy’s own club, they’re gonna to be good. I went knowing there was a chance Buddy Guy might even be present, but that was secondary; I intended to relax with creole soul food and cocktails for the night, and enjoy some live music. And that’s exactly what I did - they had an oyster po’boy on the menu! Two of my favorite foods, combined!

Even though I arrived late - Tommy McCracken and his band started playing as I walked in the door - I got the last open seat at a front row table despite the rest of the club being standing room only!

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After the one-hour opening set from Tommy McCracken, it was time for Nellie Travis, who delivered wit with her soulful voice. Some of her songs even included audience participation - she may or may not have put her microphone to my lips during “Sweet Home Chicago…”

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Toward the end of Nellie’s first set, about five minutes before he took the stage, I spotted Buddy Guy walking through the crowd and nodding to Nellie. My suspicion turned out to be correct; Buddy Guy, the blue legend himself, took to the stage to sing a few songs with Nellie’s band. Or, if you’re familiar with Buddy, his music, and his personality, talk about life and give relationship advice.

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Buddy’s relationship advice for the night can be summarized:

  • Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so treat your lady right.

  • And ladies, treat your man right.

  • Respect one another; don’t run around playing. You’re playing with fire, and you’re gonna get burned.

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Buddy only plays full sets at select shows in January, so no guitar this time :-( But that’s okay; watching him talk with the audience with his strong, unmistakable voice was more than I could have asked for.

It was late, so after chatting with a girl at the front desk about some of her most memorable experiences working at such a unique venue, I dipped out as Nellie Travis was beginning her second set.

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ORD - IAD

Sadly it was time to head home the next morning; Chicago has really grown on me - the only thing I don’t enjoy is the cold, which is true anywhere I go. Although this trip was still chilly, the little remaining ice on Lake Michigan from February’s Polar Vortex I saw on the flight here had seemingly melted by time I flew back to DC three days later. Of note, despite all the flights I’ve taken, this was my first time on a 757. Til next time, Chicago!

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2015 Film Scans

You guys, I’m super excited! I found some rolls of old, expired film laying around that I’d never gotten developed, so I sent them to the wonderful folks at The Find Lab last week and I just got the scans back!

I had no idea what was on them, but it turns out I shot 3 rolls on the same weekend in October, 2015. These rolls were all expired Kodak Gold given to me to kill off, and were definitely underexposed even though they were all shot at speed; I’m not quite sure why they were underexposed for this reason. Kodak Gold isn’t the best film in the World, and I prefer the soft teal hues of Fuji 400H as opposed to the oversaturated warm tones Kodak films tend to have.

Katie’s Cars and Coffee: October 24th, 2015

Saturday morning I went to Katie’s Cars and Coffee and shot the show on film. I have a hunch I used the 35mm f/1.4L for the whole show and most of the next day in Shenandoah, but I’m not 100%. It was a foreign invasion, with offerings from France, Germany, England, and Japan.

These photos are available for print and download here.

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Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive

The next day was the annual trip to Shenandoah National Park to take in Skyline Drive - this part I shot on film and digital.

I wish I could remember what trail we hiked while there. When the wind chill is bearable and we have the time we often go hiking during our annual trip. This was my first trip to Skyline Drive with my new car, and we spent most of our time there photographing all our cars. This was the first and only time Jake, Patrick, and I had our cars together on Skyline Drive, so the majority of my digital pictures were of the cars, and I used the film for nature and landscape photography. I used a mix of lenses, but I can say for sure the first photo was shot using the TS-E 90mm f/2.8.

These photos are available for print and download here.

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