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The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

A Sebring Farewell

If you regularly read my blog, follow my photography, or know anything about me at all, you already know I'm somewhat of a "car guy."  Many of you already know that I recently replaced my first car - as all car people know, this is an emotional experience.  I've been into photography *almost* as long as I was rolling around in my first car; a 2001 Chrysler Sebring Coupe LXi (3.0L V6), affectionately known among car communities as the "Eclipse Clone" thanks to its complete underpinnings of a 3rd generation Mitsubishi Eclipse... which explains its notoriously abysmal reliability.  But more on that later.

Today's blog post is a kind of tribute to the life of my first car, as well as showing a glimpse into how my photography has grown and changed over the years.  It is more of a personal post than a professional one, so bear with me.  I have been busy with shoots lately as well, which are coming to the blog soon; for now, just enjoy this trip down memory lane with me - to a car guy, replacing your first car is a major life event, which I'd like to share with you.

Here I am in May of 2005, after driving the Sebring (my first car) home from the dealership.

As a Junior in high school, I'd ride the bus home, drop my bag off, get something to eat, and drive back to the school an hour later for Track practice.  My first trip in the car was with a friend to Sheetz for an orange Slurpee.  It was glorious.

At the time I was working my first job; a Student Ambassador (also known as a "Yellow Shirt") at Washington Dulles International Airport.  This job introduced me to individuals I still work closely with to this day.  Here I am getting in, as shot by one of my old co-workers.

 Hopping in.

A few pictures of me driving, from 2006 and 2011.

 Of course, as the driver, most of my time was spent behind the wheel.  In 2009 I was taking film photography courses in college, and one of my favorite film photos was taken while driving through a tunnel in DC.  This photo has been included in my website ever since I finally got one in 2011.  Contrary to appearance and logic, the bright light on the dash is NOT the Check Engine Light; it is instead the foglight indicator (when it worked - this light eventually burnt out, and was never able to be fixed - so fitting for this car's reliability record).

Places

Likewise, one of my most asked about car photos was made around the same time - this was before GoPro was a thing, but I used a small camera with suction mount similar to the now endless GoPro videos online.  Until GoPro cameras came into existence, I frequently was questioned how the photo was taken - most assumed (very incorrectly) that I leaned out the window while driving.  Wow - uh, don't do that.

It didn't matter where I am; as long as it is interesting, I snap photos of car.  Although it was NOT a Subaru, I did get it filthy...

 Weekend West Virginia trip (Canaan Valley, West Virginia)

...to the point where the paint color was indeterminate...

 Weekend West Virginia trip (Canaan Valley, West Virginia)

...including the chrome rims...

 Weekend West Virginia trip (Canaan Valley, West Virginia)

...on multiple occasions.

It was mostly kept clean though.

 Parked.
 Finally!  Some decent photos of my car!

Strobist:
Bare Speedlite 600EX-RT with CTO camera left triggered via PocketWizard Flex.
Bare Speedlite 600EX-RT with CTO camera right aimed at front bumper triggered via PocketWizard Flex.
 It's green!  And it's the only decent photo of my car!

Strobist:
Bare Speedlite 600EX-RT with CTO camera left triggered via PocketWizard Flex.
Bare Speedlite 600EX-RT with CTO camera right aimed at front bumper triggered via PocketWizard Flex.

Amazingly, that was the only true photoshoot the Sebring ever got.  It wasn't until a few years ago I really began shooting local car culture... and somehow I never photographed my own car.  Not in the way I go about photographing cars now; trying to capture details about their personalities.

So in my Sebring's final hours, I gave it the shoot it never had.  I captured every little detail about the car.  Little details I may forget later in life.  The infinite cracks in its horribly designed rigid-plastic dash.  How the trunk release lever worked.  The driver's seat view.  Everything I loved and hated about the ride.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015
All A Dream: Spring of 2015
All A Dream: Spring of 2015

At the end, it barely ran.  The engine was shot.  The suspension failing.  The car had been a money-pit for years (Mitsubishi).  Something new has been LONG overdue.

So here's the video: The Sebring's last moments with me.  The engine was so forgone no dealership would take it for trade-in despite how pretty it looked for a 14 year old car, so it was donated to a good charity who will decide how best to proceed.  You'll understand why as soon as you hit Play.

And that ending... those last seconds as it departs the driveway... there is no better fitting finale to a car that had so many mechanical and electrical nightmares.

A Sebring Farewell

See the tribute and heritage: http://jdavidbuerk.com/blog/2015330-a-sebring-farewellThe Sebring's final moments. The engine was shot (among other things, as you can hear), and this is video of the last time I ever saw it. For car guys, letting your first car go is an emotional experience.

Posted by David Buerk on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

So here I am seconds before the car left - the last time I touched it...

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

...and the scrape heard 'round the World.  You can't hear it in the video, but the tow driver also nailed the Sebring on a speed hump down the street.  It was 10x more cringeworthy, if you can imagine.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

A photo of myself with both cars.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

I actually DID manage to grab a few glamour shots of both cars together.  Jake graciously limped the Sebring to another location so I could get different angles.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015
All A Dream: Spring of 2015
All A Dream: Spring of 2015

Ironically, the battery died in the 10 minutes we took these pictures... between not being driven for several weeks since the G37 was purchased, and how it had been plagued with electrical problems for several years, the serendipity was less than surprising (for the last 6 months, the alarm would randomly go off if left out in the rain - it would need to be left to dry with the battery disconnected for several days before drivable again).

... and I didn't have jumper cables in the G37 yet.  So we had to ditch it and come back with cables.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

Driving Forward

By now you clearly see that I've replaced the 2001 Chrysler Sebring with a 2010 Infiniti G37 S 6MT.

It hasn't been given it's own proper photoshoot yet; I've been waiting for nicer weather, prettier backdrops, and the opportunity to go on a mini-roadtrip.  It will get it's own photo post later on.

To end, I'll leave you with the few photos I have taken of the new ride.

Taking delivery at the dealer.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

Baby's first fill-up, car wash, and making friends at DCA.  And I had similar car requirements to Kelly: Stick shift, and butt warmers.

I've actually already gotten it covered in mud, at a photoshoot no-less.  Melting snow + dirt roads + horse farm = muddy Infiniti.  Shockingly, I only took photos of the couple; not the messy car.

To finish, I'll leave you with a photo from present day - getting wings with a few great friends dating back to high school track: something of a reborn tradition (we used to get wings here after track practices).  Today, although we all find ourselves with different schedules, we always have time for lunchtime wings every couple weeks or so.

Joe is another car guy, with his tuned RDX Turbo, and Omar has a bug for sports coupes like myself - just a few days ago he picked up this Genesis 3.8 (the other model car I was considering against the G37), replacing his Tiburon (a car I was eyeballing before getting the Sebring).

The friendship lives on.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

Skyline Drive and Calvert Cliffs State Park

Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive

Last week was the annual trip to Skyline Drive to enjoy the Fall colors and a scenic drive.  The trip is always all about the cars.  This year I was packing two brand new 600EX-RT Speedlites from Canon to try out at dusk for some dramatic car photography.  To date, I've never had the equipment to shoot photos of cars like this, so I've never had a decent picture of my car.  Overall, the shoot went well, with no problems with the 600EX-RTs, with the exception of the Camero not being properly waxed - in the end, I used it as an exercise in Photoshop to clean up the black car.

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Of course we shot the cars while there.

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Once night fell, it was time to pull out my new flashes to test.  The 600EX-RTs were triggered via PocketWizard Flex TT5s.  You may be asking why I am using PocketWizards on flashes with built-in radio triggers - firstly, because I currently only have two 600s, and was using both off-camera and need a way to trigger them.  Next, I like the AC9 ZoneController's ease of adjusting my flash groups better than Canon's Group setting, which also isn't compatible with my 5D Mark II (only compatible with the 5D Mark III or 1D X as of this posting).  The 600s don't support remote 2nd curtain sync or high speed sync stock, nor are they compatible with studio strobes such as Alien Bees; the PocketWizards allow me to use these features and remotely adjust power levels on studio strobes.  And finally, my other flashes are "legacy" now, and do not have built-in radio triggers - I will eventually be selling my old flashes and upgrading to an all 600EX-RT system (and possibly ditching the PocketWizards too... we'll see).  The Speedlite 600EX-RTs work perfectly with the PocketWizard Flex system, with none of the range or power issues that plagued the 580EX and 580EX II.  I have nothing negative to say about the 600EX-RT as of right now, except that the included CTO gel and gel holder are useless and will break easily - leave these at home and use commercial grade gels you can rely on; I prefer the HONL Photo Speed Strap and Color Correction Gels.

All night photos were shot with two bare 600EX-RTs with Full CTO gels.

I'm also sad to announce that this beautiful ride was cosmetically damaged in yesterday's Hurricane Sandy.  The owner suffered worse losses though - the same tree that hit this Cougar totalled 3 of his other vehicles when it fell; the Explorer was smashed in half, and his Jetta and Caravan have caved roofs, severely dented body panels, and shattered windshields and rear windows.  Of the four, only the Cougar is still drivable, and has less than $100 of damage.

You can see his damage photos here.

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While I was shooting my car, a guy asked if he could get pictures with my car.  While I was setting my lights up, he leaned against my driver's door while his friend took photos of him.

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Finally, Chris' car required the most work.  Wax on, wax OFF!  The car was freshly waxed, but not properly wiped down.  Chris tried to wipe it clean with his sleeve, but to no avail.  I ended up shooting the car anyway, and using it as a practice photo in Photoshop to clean up the car.  This was the first time I've edited a car this way, and I'm sure there were better ways to do it with better results, but not bad for a first time.

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Interestingly enough, both the Camero SS and Cougar V6 are 35th Anniversary Editions.  And then there's that green car which is actually an Eclipse just pretending to be a Chrysler.

Here is the unedited "Before" with a peek at all the folders of layers required to clean this beast up.

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Calvert Cliffs State Park

Last Friday, less than a week later, and just a few days before Hurricane Sandy hit the US East Coast, I decided to escape for a day to Maryland's Eastern Shore.  I chose to go to Calvert Cliffs State Park because while I'd been to the park previously, I wasn't able to see the cliffs; I've wanted to go back ever since then because I've always felt my previous visit was incomplete.

For this trip I also brought along my EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and Extender 2X III, both of which had arrived back from Canon Professional Services the day before.  The 70-200 developed a strange "soft-focus" halo effect around in-focus areas; photos shot with the 2X III only amplified the problem.  I originally got the 2X III in preparation for the Space Shuttle events... even with the issue, I'd say I did OK that week :-)  This time I was eager to test out the newly fixed and calibrated lens combo (a misaligned lens element was calibrated, an improperly installed and programmed autofocus lens group was replaced, and both the lens and extender were calibrated with one another).  Because I wanted to run it through its paces, I shot primarily telephoto in the 140mm to 400mm range the entire day.

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I got about 1.75 miles into the hike to the cliffs and came upon a Park Ranger who was looking for somebody from Hood College who'd illegally parked their RV across 6 spots.  I told him that I wasn't from Hood, though I have a friend who went there.  We talked for a bit, and he offered me a ride to the Cliffs in his ATV, just a short distance up the trail; he was heading there next to look for his Hood College driver.  When we got to the cliffs, the beach was deserted, and he told me about the geology of the cliffs and how the sand used to attract people for making Sand Art, the fossils and debris that wash up onto shore, and the history of the surroundings, to include the offshore Natural Gas Plant and Cove Point Lighthouse, all while I shot pictures.

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During this, the Ranger told me about a closed area of the park, several miles away, on the Northwestern edge of the park that is home to a good number of Bald Eagles.  He knew I'd want pictures there, so we got into the ATV, and he began driving me to the spot.  We talked about Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge while riding along, and how I've wanted to go there for several years now to see their Eagle population.  We soon came across a group of students from Hood College's Costal Studies Program; the group was finishing their day of site visits in Calvert County by hiking to the cliffs and learning about the Chesapeake Bay's and the park's ecology.  Interestingly enough, the one professor with the group knew my friend from Hood, and taught several Biology classes she took.  The other professor was wearing a Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge shirt, which both the Ranger and I commented on, since we had just been talking about it.  A few of the students were curious about my camera and why the Ranger was giving me a special photo tour - I spoke with a few of them and they told me about the Coastal Studies Program at Hood.

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Clearly this day was not going anything like how I'd expected.  I'd done practically no hiking, and instead of photographing the beach and the cliffs, I was about to spend several hours spotting Eagles in a remote area of the park.  Certainly not complaining; I love raptors, and always want photos of Eagles.  The day was just going completely differently than I had intended.

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After passing through several miles of abandoned trails (which I learned were originally built as logging roads) and bumpy terrain through the active hunting grounds, the Ranger and I finally came to Grove Creek where the Eagles thrive.

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Immediately, we spotted at least 6 adult and juvenile Bald Eagles; unfortunately, however, without the benefit of a blind, they spotted us just as easily.  The adults kept greater distance, flying down the creek, trying to lead the juveniles to safer ground.  The juveniles were more curious, and spent their time flying overhead to get a better look at us.  Several of the adult Eagles also flew closer to get a better look, but were very stealthy, flying just above the treeline and sometimes doubling back to investigate us from behind.  The adults that flew overhead were very fast and thus very difficult to photograph quick enough, especially since it was unpredictable when or where they would come from.

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Eagles weren't the only birds moving about.  A flock of Redheaded Woodpeckers were in the surrounding trees tapping away looking for snacks, which is somewhat interesting since they are more common in the midwest than the East Coast.  There were also a few Belted Kingfishers on overwatch, searching for fish to dive for in the creek.  Additionally, there were many other wildlife enjoying the area, including several different snakes and toads (lots of young toads hopping about), a heron, and a beaver that made several trips in and out of its dam.

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Finally, the sun was going down, and it was a good 15 minutes even by ATV out of the woods.  The Park Ranger and I headed back to the trailhead, passing some of the historic farmgrounds along the way.  Finally, on my drive back to Virginia, the sun set, and the sky was painted a lovely pink and gold to end a very relaxing and fulfilling day.  And my repaired EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and Extender 2X III seem to be fixed and playing nice together and independently again.  Next month I may venture out to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to learn what it's all about.

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Thanks to the wonderful Park Ranger who made my visit to Calvert Cliffs State Park in Maryland very memorable and enjoyable.  I've never had such a unique and informative experience at any park before; it was definitely a welcome albiet unexpected way to spend the day, hunting Bald Eagles with a telephoto lens.

It's friendly Rangers this this, as well as caring and responsible visitors, who keep our wilderness clean, and Calvert Cliffs State Park is spotless.  This is perhaps in part due to the park's connection the the Chesapeake Bay and the efforts to rehabilitate the waterway, however the park is SO clean that it stands out - the only foreign objects at this park are the fossils, bones, and teeth that wash ashore, along with a large log of a non-indigenous tree which washed ashore with Hurricane Katrina.  I'm curious to go back to Calvert Cliffs to see what washed ashore with yesterday's Hurricane Sandy.

UPDATE:

I finally had my film developed.  None of the film had anything terribly important on them, so I opted to go with cheaper processing at Dwayne's Photo, rather than more expensive processing and scanning at another, higher end, photo lab I have in mind to try.  I only shot photos with my Holga while at Calvert Cliffs; one roll of Portra 400, and a roll of Provia 100F.  I like the color rendering of Portra 400 better.

I'm apparently had the film counter set to 16 instead of 12 when shooting these rolls, and I overlapped.  This is something I've never done before, but given that the one roll was in the camera for a good 9 months, I clearly haven't paid much attention to the Holga's settings.

BlogUpdate01

BlogUpdate01