The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Christmas in St. Louis, 2017

As many of you know, much of my family lives in St. Louis, Missouri.  As always, I took along my camera, however given my still-recovering knee I brought it with no intentions of photographing anything in particular; my plan was to sit and let it heal, and that's largely what I did.  I did, however, shoot some photos as I saw them, so I'm including some highlights of my trip here.

Before I could leave town, however, I had to find someone to care for the bonsai Alyssa gave me.  I may have decorated it beforehand though...

STL Christmas 1.jpg

Roadtripping there led to I-70 to visit with Bernie and Natalie in Indianapolis while there was clear weather along the Northern route.  First though was a stop at a West Virginia rest area with an overlook of the carved-through mountain.  This mountain pass is usually completely coated in shimmering ice by December, so it was a new sight to see its bare rock in direct sunlight.

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Next stop was seeing Bernie and Natalie at a Steak N Shake not far from their home in Indianapolis.  Interestingly, we've done this enough times that some of the wait staff recognize us now, and gave us free coffee for the road.  Can you say *you're* a regular at a restaurant 600 miles away?

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Upon arrival in St. Louis I may have decorated my hotel room...

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I've developed somewhat of a tradition of taking my cousin Carrie's kids out each year to see the latest Star Wars.  This year, however, I had been doing a bit of punking and when they asked me when we were going to see The Last Jedi I told Ryan and Alex I'd already seen it a few days earlier (true).  "But we always go!"  Sarcastically feigning pain, "Ow, my knee *really* hurts...  I don't think I can see it..."

And then I started in on the mix of spoilers:  Han Solo dies!  Luke drinks green milk fresh from a teat... then he tickles Rey's hand with a leaf!  It's just like Battlestar Galactica except there's no whiteboard!  Kylo Ren kills Han Solo, and boy oh boy do I have some bad news for you about Carrie Fisher... BOOM!!!  *feigns gasping for air*

Obviously you wouldn't know what of that is true or false unless you've seen the movie; little did they know it's all true... but with a 2 ton asterisk on the end, and none of it is central to the plot.  Also little did they know I'd already bought the tickets.  So, Christmas morning came and I'd given them a Christmas card simply signed "Han Solo dies!!!" inside, with the tickets to Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in 3D for the next day.  The reaction of them realizing what it was was pretty worth it.

STL Christmas 5.jpg

Fast forward a few days to my mom's birthday, and we're all sitting around my grandpa's kitchen table visiting with him.  He's 98, and last year I gave him prints of some aerial photos I've taken, and pictures of me taking some of them; he's always been intrigued by flight, and is always asking what kind of aviation stuff I'm taking pictures of, so it was a fitting gift - I think he lives vicariously through me a little since I've been on some flights he didn't even get to experience in the Army.  This year I accidentally left this year's new prints at the hotel on Christmas, so I instead gave him the prints a few days later; it was for the best - he was more awake and focused than on Christmas with all the tiring activity.

This part really made my day - this is my 98 year old grandfather reading an article on profiling me and my marketing photography work in the aviation industry.  Here is my only remaining grandparent soaking in every word of an article about me.  His only question was "what is a Plane Pull?"  I showed him pictures and explained the charity event.

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This was almost a two week trip, but it flew right by, and as you've seen I don't have too terribly many photos to share from it due to my own preference of rehabbing my knee (12-weeks post MPFL Reconstruction surgery as of that week), and extreme caution to avoid ice and any slippery footing; St. Louis always harsher, more annoying Winters than DC - almost every day it is in the teens or single digits, accompanied by freezing rain, snow, or sleet.  There were only ~2 days of the entire stay that didn't have some kind of Winter precipitation - not a welcome sight for post-op knee safety, even if at 12 weeks my gracilis tendon has *in theory* fused with my bones and become a new ligament.

That same Winter weather was tracking North, so the I-64 Southern route was the obvious choice to return to DC.  St. Louis has a lot of decay in certain areas; I find it beautiful, although those aren't areas I would recommend going on a touristy photo-walk unless you're an experienced urban explorer (I am not).  The highway out of town takes you straight past some of these spots, so I always love seeing the decaying abandoned industrial buildings leaving St. Louis and into Illinois.

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Later, in Kentucky, one of the rest areas just a few miles from the Woodford Reserve Distillery had a display of Kentucky Whiskey memorabilia and selections from local vineyards.  I'm much more of a scotch person, but I think I'd really enjoy visiting the Woodford Reserve Distillery.

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Finally, some sights heading into Louisville, Kentucky; it's always seemed like it would be a really cool city to explore and perhaps even live in, but I've never understood why a city most famous for its baseball bats only has a AAA team which feeds into an Ohio team.

I've seen a few sitting in parking lots, but I've mostly only seen these when I visit the Infiniti dealer for service; this is the first time I've spotted a CV37 generation Infiniti Q60 driving on the road.  I do kinda like it, but it still just seems like a mashup of BMW 4 Series / Mazda 6 / Honda Accord to me; in other words, as a whole, unoriginal.  There is also the glaring omission of a manual transmission option.  I'll spare you the full car review, but I have quite a few complaints about the interior as well.  That all said, it's still a really sharp looking car.

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Hands down my favorite sight along I-64 is this oil refinery; the steam is always distinctive and visible for miles, and between the steam clouds and thousands of sodium lamps, it's roadside industrial Christmas.  This is the first time I've ever seen them burning off excess gas; the industrial candle lit the lumbering overhead plumes even brighter, adding depth with its flicker.

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That night, while editing some photos, I again felt compelled to decorate my hotel room; these AA powered Christmas lights are the best $7 I spent all of 2017!  They served as the perfect nightlight while editing that evening (the room lamps were all just too bright), and the perfect warmup in my groggy, pre-coffee state the next morning.

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By morning the band of snow in the North had swirled down and reached an arm down to the I-64 corridor; the <1" of accumulation was welcome in comparison to the >36" the same storm had dropped in a matter of hours North in Pennsylvania overnight.

West Virginia's capital building has always drawn me to visit, but I still haven't had the chance.  It looks very beautiful, from the quick glimpses you spot it passing through Charleston.

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Regular Car Reviews - October, 2016 Car Meet

If you've never heard of Regular Car Reviews, well, first we need to get you up to speed.  RCR, as it's affectionately called, is a YouTube channel that started four short years ago, quickly gaining popularity in the car enthusiast blog circuit communities, namely Jalopnik.  Mr. Regular, the faceless (until last year) voice behind the reviews, along with music and filming assistant Roman, release a new "regular" car review each week, broken into seasons.

Regular has multiple meanings all used at once: RCR reviews "regular" cars for "regular" folks in a way a "regular" guy would see it.  In other words, RCR reviews pedestrian cars by means of pop culture references and fart jokes.  It's very popular.

Neither of my cars have been reviewed despite offering my 2001 Sebring Coupe (which DEFINITELY would have fit in perfectly) before I got rid of it, nor my G37S 6MT or Jake's Jaguar XF or Ford Cougar, but my friend Patrick's 2004 VW Phaeton was reviewed, and at the time Mr. Regular said it was a tie between the Phaeton and the Tesla Model S for the nicest "regular" car he's reviewed.  Here is the Phaeton video as an introduction.  The most iconic RCR video, however, is of modern motoring's most loved little sportscar, the answer to all questions, the Miata.

Headlights go up, headlights go down! Track day bro!

So, now you should understand RCR and the international following it's gathered.  While there have been two previous meetups, both at the same combination rec-center-and-bar (huh? small town) in Mr. Regular's hometown in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, those were both just pub nights - grab a few drinks and talk cars - I went to the first meetup this past January.  Mr. Regular is in fact in the picture below.

January, 2016 Regular Car Reviews meetup, posed with Silicone Sally.

January, 2016 Regular Car Reviews meetup, posed with Silicone Sally.

This weekend was special though, because it was the first time Mr. Regular has organized a car meet.  I wouldn't miss it.

The meet started at 9AM, and Orwigsburg is ~3hrs away, so Jake and I hit the road before sunrise to get there on time, even stopping for breakfast at the same Sheetz we hit every time we make the trip.

As it turns out, I was the 2nd G37 at the meet - the other was a 2013 7AT xS.  Andrew, the owner, was a really chill guy I wish I'd gotten to chat with longer.  For full disclosure, there wasn't much chatter and I didn't shoot many pictures because I was so tired - I am *not* a morning person.  I've always liked the facelifted front bumper with lower foglights (my fogs are built into the headlights), but they didn't start using that bumper until 2011MY, and my 2010 was an incredible, unheard of deal for a 6MT in black with 33K miles.  No regrets.

A fun fact some DMV residents may not know; Pennsylvania does not require front plates, which is why many of the cars at this meet lack front plates without fear of a ticket.  My car was a former lease car in Allentown, PA, so when I bought it it had no front plate mount.  I actually am running an aftermarket mount that mounts under the bumper, so if I ever wanted to remove the front plate I don't have any unsightly holes.

The PugCityRacing bagged Mustang attracted a lot of attention thanks to its lowrider status and stripped interior - simplify and add lightness.

There were plenty of other regular cars on hand, including a few TDIs awaiting refund checks.

I was informed that caffeine adds +25HP.

You can never go wrong with a W10 or W20 MR2; I am wondering if they are undergoing some kind of revival, because this is the 2nd one I've seen in the last two weeks.

For me, the AE86s were the most interesting "regular" cars on hand... until the Infiniti M30 Convertible rolled in at the end of the show.  Apparently it shares engine, suspension, and electronic bits with the Maxima of the time, but has the frame of the previous generation Maxima (even though it looks like the equal gen Maxima).  I actually didn't know this car was made in drop-top form until this weekend.  The car was only produced for 3 years, and Nissan contracted American Sunroof Corporation to convert half of the M30s into convertibles brand new.  The 1992 M30 was Infiniti's only convertible until the G37 convertible was introduced in 2009 (one year after the G37 coupe and sedan were introduced to replace the G35 / 350Z platform).  I totally fan-girled over this car.  This is a car from the late 80s with an electronically adjustable suspension (Comfort / Sport switch on center console).

The star of the show of course was Mr. Regular's very own Vagabond Falcon, which if you follow Regular Car Reviews on YouTube, you've watched Mr. Regular complete a full restoration to the car.  Silicone Sally, the 2007 Honda Fit funded by RCR viewers was not on hand this time around.

I love Instagram Stories (hate Snapchat though), so here is my Story from the day; check out the crazy amount of play in the stick of this Ford... Fox Body(?)... ...Mustang???

Sorry for the long post; have a corgi!!!

Shenandoah National Park & Blue Ridge Parkway

As many of you know, I take an annual trip along Skyline Drive on peak weekend of Fall colors.  Most trips involve taking pictures of our cars, although all of us got some great car photos last year, since it was the first year I'd had my new car for the trip.

As of late I've been quite cooped up concentrating on a major project I just finished up this past week, so the sole purpose of this weekend was to get out and go for an enjoyable scenic drive; photography given a secondary priority.  As it is, I have photos from this Summer when I took Alyssa on Skyline Drive and up Stony Man Mountain.

This trip was a little different because I drove further along Skyline Drive than I've ever gone before; I drove the entire length all the way to the Rockfish Gap South Entrance, and right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.  An item on my Bucket List is to drive and even camp out the entire distance of the Blue Ridge Parkway; we only did a small segment of it today before turning around and heading to downtown Charlottesville for dinner and antiquing.  All in all, I drove almost 300 miles.

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).


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) 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.

 Finally!  Some decent photos of my car!

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!

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: 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

Katie's Cars and Coffee, February 7th, 2015

This weekend's Cars and Coffee was a VERY special one for me.  For the first time, I now have a car that is worth bringing to show at Katie's - I finally have a car that gets (some) attention.  That's right; this past Saturday was the new car's first car show, and to my surprise, it actually got some looks and photos taken - not nearly as many as the GT-R next spot over, but hey, I'm happy with what I have: a car people notice, and more importantly, with reliability (*knocks wood*) and a warranty!

I just missed it, but the man in this photo was the first person to walk around, look at, and take some photos of the new car... before of course moving on to the GT-R.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

I actually didn't shoot any photos of my car beyond these two; I'll definitely be giving it a proper photo sesh on a later date.  Here it is with it's more energetic, very distant cousin.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015

So, I used Katie's the big reveal to a few friends of mine who have known I've desperately needed a new car for quite some time... in fact, a friend of mine *also* brought his new car (a Jaguar XF Portfolio Edition) to the show for the first time - that made two of us sharing our new cars for the first time at a car show; we both decided to do so at Katie's.

But enough of that; I also braved the cold and enjoyed the show's other (obviously more interesting) offerings.

It was a Porsche kind of weekend, but I really enjoyed this VW Rabbit Caddy.

All A Dream: Spring of 2015