The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

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.

20151024 - Katie's Cars and Coffee - Film 1.jpg
20151024 - Katie's Cars and Coffee - Film 2.jpg
20151024 - Katie's Cars and Coffee - Film 3.jpg

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.

20151025 - Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive - Film 1.jpg
20151025 - Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive - Film 2.jpg
20151025 - Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive - Film 3.jpg

Katie's Cars and Coffee: August 20th, 2016

I'm slowly catching up on my backlog of personal work from this year; here are some pictures I took at Katie's Cars and Coffee back in August.

Yes, you saw that right; that last picture is indeed an LS swapped Polaris Slingshot.  The owner blew the original (tuned and modded) motor on a track, and dropped in an LS, doubling the cylinders as well as the batshit-insane-ness of this Slingshot - remember, all those 500+ horsepower are routed to a single rear wheel; better make that rubber thick and grippy, because this is a 24/7 smoky burnout machine.  Other mods beside engine and tuning include weight reduction, suspension, and big, beefy brakes to stop this beast.

2016 Dulles Day Plane Pull and 5K / 10K on the Runway

Dulles Day 5K / 10K On the Runway

In 1993 Dulles International Airport held the World's very first Plane Pull, a charity event in partnership with Special Olympics, that began a phenomenon of other plane pull charity events worldwide.  In 2013, Dulles added a 5K (and in 2014 a 10K) to Dulles Day.  While technically the 5K / 10K is a separate event from the Plane Pull, it is always held on the morning of as the newest annual part of Dulles Day.  Each year 2,500 participants are able to run on R/W 1R and return to the Start / Finish via T/W K.  It is one of Potomac River Running's most popular runs, both because it offers the unique opportunity to be a pedestrian on an airfield (and run under the wing of a United 777), and there is no other run of that distance which offers a perfectly flat venue other than a track.

In previous years I've been on the ground for photos (thank you to Airport Operations for always providing me with speedy transport anywhere I need to go), but this year I was in the helicopter circling the event to capture new angles and promo photos I haven't gotten for this event before. In contrast to the other photographers at the event who are tasked with capturing each runner's photo, my assignment for the Plane Pull each year is to document the entire day and capture marketing photographs in a photojournalistic manner.

Thanks to an unexpected, last-minute delay of the race start, I was able to capture some great photos and video footage of the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center before the run got underway.

Also visible is Washington Dulles International Airport's Concourses and Terminal, ATCT, VMF, and R/W 12/30.

Huge thanks to Bussman Aviation and all the fine folks in Dulles Airport Operations who make aerial photography and the entire day possible!

If you're looking for the video footage, scroll to the bottom of this blog post.

Dulles Day Plane Pull

The Dulles Day Plane Pull is a Summer festival suitable for all ages, and is great for families and aviation enthusiasts alike.  There are food vendors, games, giveaways, booths and displays, demonstrations, a classic car show, ARFF and Mobile Lounge rides / tours, live music, and ~50 private, vintage, and military aircraft on display, but the main attraction is the Plane Pull itself; ~100 teams compete in pulling a FedEx 757 or a United A320.

The first pull to kick off the day every year is always the Special Olympics team.  This year they had a little help from Superman!

Another notable team is the Fairfax County Police Department.  Dulles's property crosses over between Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and many of the teams that compete are police and sheriffs offices in the surrounding communities.  The police community is already a tightly knit brotherhood, and that family is brought together every year with this friendly competition amongst neighboring jurisdictions.

Something of my own tradition I've begun since I began documenting the Plane Pull in 2013, every year I capture an aerial portrait of Eero Saarinen's famous Dulles Main Terminal Building.  This year’s Plane Pull was overcast - excellent for pictures of people and scenes, but not the most flattering light for glamour shots of buildings.  The iconic Main Terminal Building is seen here with ongoing construction for the Dulles Metrorail Project entering the bottom of the frame, including excavation and two cranes.

For 10 straight years now eyes have been on the Chesapeake Sheriff's Office; the team with an outright dominant reign as the Dulles Plane Pull's fastest.  They successfully defended their title for the 10th year in a row, with a time of 4.872s; 2016's fastest pull, however just short of setting a new Plane Pull record - a record of 4.753 they set in 2015.

The Dulles Day Plane Pull is also a planespotter's / AVGeek's dream; ATC does their best to route as much international, heavy, and otherwise interesting traffic to the nearby center runway.  Guests are encouraged to bring their cameras, and it's common for folks to come just to grab a lobster roll and planespot alongside the taxilane the entire afternoon in anticipation of spotting a jumbo like Lufthansa's 747-8i or Air France's A380.  This is completely in addition to the static private, vintage, and military aircraft on display.

Once again, I have to thank Bussman Aviation and all the fine folks in Dulles Airport Operations who make aerial photography and the entire day possible!  I rely on these fantastic folks to get me from A to B in speedy fashion, and what I do wouldn't be possible without them!

Video Footage

Here is a collection of the video footage I captured at this year's annual 2016 Dulles Plane Pull benefitting Special Olympics Virginia. Still photographs are my main focus, so this is content I captured between the still photos I captured to document the day.

Alyssa in DC: 2015

This post is overdue.  Long overdue.  Like, almost a YEAR overdue.  I even got our New York pictures up way sooner!  It's all my fault; honestly the pictures from Day 2, hiking in Harper's Ferry, just left me reeling.  They were so uncooperative, and left me frustrated as a perfectionist.  This is a personal post; I put my paid work before it, perpetually backburnering this and other personal work.  But it's here finally, for Alyssa and all my friends who hear all about "that Rhode Island friend of mine."

Day 1: Arrival • Annapolis, MD

Alyssa was due to touch down at BWI in just a few hours; I was coming from Rachel and Andrew's wedding shoot from the day before and drove direct to BWI in time to get her.  Leaving Rachel and Andrew's, I photographed one of their horses grazing in the dawn fog.  On the way to BWI I passed a convoy of various military equipment.

This was the first time I'd met Alyssa in person after about two years of long-distance friendship thanks to iMessage and FaceTime.  We happened across one another on the Internet mid-2012, and found we had a lot in common, as we're both photographers.

I hadn't planned anything in particular, so I chose to take her to nearby Annapolis for lunch and a bit of exploring through Old Town.  Annapolis is one of the region's most charming cities; it's a place I've explored a little bit, but not to the extent I'd like to.  Every time I visit Annapolis I can only think of how wonderful it must be to live there, right on the Chesapeake Bay.  I'm desperate to continue my love affair with Maryland's capital city.

It was a hot day; I took Alyssa to a tavern on the shore for authentic Maryland crab cakes, and eventually we gave in and got ice cream, which we devoured because it was melting quickly!

After this, Alyssa got her first taste of a DC traffic jam; it took several hours and a thunderstorm to get us back to Fairfax.

Day 2: Hiking in Harper's Ferry, WV / MD

Harper's Ferry is a little Civil War town at the crossroads of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland.  It is where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers converge, and is the only point where all three states can be seen at the same time.  The town itself is in West Virginia, right along the Appalachian Trail, with the popular Maryland Heights Trail physically in Maryland, not West Virginia as popularly thought (it's in the name, people!).

Alyssa had seen the pictures of this hike from several other trips of mine, and wanted to go to "the bird hike," which I am just now noticing I never blogged - one time I went, I photographed from above a variety of birds circling the cliff face - it's a perspective not often seen with bird pictures.  The cliff face itself is ~650 feet above water, and less than 1/4 mile from the West Virginia Shore directly, but the height makes for crazy perspectives especially when paired with 400mm lenses even at f/8.

Harper's Ferry also is home to several active and defunct rail lines.  Because of the frequent rail activity, Harper's Ferry is a popular location for train spotters, both on the peak and at different points below.

We went on a damp day, and the greenery was in full bloom!

That face when she reached the peak...

As usual, I'd packed lunch for the trail, and we ate at the peak.  Much to her dismay, there weren't any birds flying.  She did, however, get to spot quite a few trains.  This was on a weekday, so we had the entire trail and peak to ourselves.  It was very calm; the quiet was only disrupted by the occasional train, and a few trucks in the distance.  I've never heard this trail so quiet before.

400mm lets you really zoom in on things, even at great distance.

It was finally time to turn back; down is always quicker, but we were racing to catch the last shuttle back to the visitor center.  We'd have to explore the town another day; the next time Alyssa visits.  At the bottom we found the only wildlife we saw all day - two geese and their goslings.

Day 3: Washington Dulles International Airport • Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Washington Dulles International Airport

The next day, I had a photoshoot scheduled, but that was only for a few hours, so I brought Alyssa along to see how I photograph commercial images of food and concessions for marketing.  In this case I photographed mostly menu items for an airport restaurant.

After the shoot, I showed Alyssa around the airport I've called home for 11 years.  Our first stop was a complete surprise to her, and a place very few people can visit.  The historic, now out-of-use, Air Traffic Control Tower in the center of Eero Saarinen's Dulles Main Terminal Building.  It was another rainy day, so not the prettiest or best visibility, but still awesome nonetheless.

Now it was time for a bit of a drive around the airfield.  Alyssa got to stand under the two largest commercial aircraft in existence; Lufthansa's 747-8i, and British Airways' A380.  Most people only get this close to aircraft of this size when boarding through a jetbridge - standing on the ground next to them will leave you awestruck at the engineering and physics that even allows these birds to fly.

Next, I brought Alyssa over to Airport Operations; to her surprise there was ANOTHER tower: the midfield OPs / Ramp Tower that actively controls all the taxiway and gate area ground traffic.  Operations is a great group at Dulles, and they know how to give a great tour.  They explained how aircraft interface between them and the FAA ATCT (which controls all taxilanes and runways), how mobile lounge traffic is directed, and shared stories from some of the interesting and historic events the controllers have been a part of throughout their stay at Dulles.  Sometimes the controllers will hand over the headset and dictate the radio commands, letting guests give actual live commands to ground traffic; I'm a little disappointed they didn't let Alyssa do that, just because... how many other people (who aren't controllers) can say they've done that?  Even I can't say I've done that.

The Ramp Tower is a little closer to the heart of activity at Dulles, so it offers a the best view for planespotting of all the towers at Dulles.  And yes, planespotters who follow me, I even think it's a bit better than the FAA ATCT, just because the Ramp Tower is a little more diversified in its views.  Yes, the FAA Tower is twice as tall, but you can't see any ramp operations, and you only get a clear view of arrivals on R/W 1R, 1C, and departures on R/W 30 (which quickly grow into ants as they close the two mile length of runway in a few seconds time).  That said, on a clear day you can spot the Washington Monument and air traffic at DCA from Dulles FAA Tower... so there's that.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air & Space Museum

Since it was kinda a dreary day, with patches of blue sky and sunshine, but mostly rain, I thought it would be a good opportunity to use the rest of the day at the Udvar-Hazy Center and complete the aviation theme of the day.

I still have never been up the Udvar's Observation Tower.  We just came from two of Dulles' actual towers, so of course we skipped that and checked out the exhibits.  Unfortunately we only had a few hours before the museum was to close, so our visit felt a bit rushed.

It still doesn't feel like that long ago, but it'd been three years.  Three years (four years now) since all the Space Shuttle events that so dramatically changed my career.  Looking back, even though it doesn't feel that long ago, it's still be long enough for my photographic style to refine a bit.  Still though, the photo of Enterprise departing on the SCA... I feel it's probably the best photo I've ever taken.  And here she is, Discovery, safe at home.

This was one of those times I only brought one lens with me.  Like usual, I selected the 85mm f/1.2L.  Anytime I do something for fun like this, I travel with only one lens, usually a prime, and challenge myself to get great photos with a set focal range (the hike was a different circumstance; I always bring a telephoto on that hike because I know I can get great bird pictures from that peak).

Day 4: Washington, DC - The White House • WWII Memorial • Lincoln Memorial • Vietnam Memorial • Washington Nationals Baseball Game

Washington, DC's Mall and Monuments

So on Day 4, we spent the afternoon touring around DC's Mall area; pretty basic stuff if you live here, but must-see stuff if you've never been.  Alyssa will surely return for another trip, so let's introduce her to DC's basics.  Because we were carrying our cameras, I opted to drive in and park at the Ronald Reagan Building rather than take the Metro; even though our cameras would be allowed in the baseball park, I never bring mine because I'm happier downing half-smokes, beer, and peanuts than looking through a lens for 9 innings.

I didn't realize that the Ronald Reagan Building was home to a few exhibits, and the Global Entry offices; I'll have to pay another visit later on.

Outside, I spotted a wrapped Jaguar XJ L RS with New Jersey HQ plates - pretty cool to see a production tester out on the streets just a block from the White House.  The car had all kinds of equipment inside and stuck to the windshield (cameras, telemetry, GPS?).

The White House

I didn't tell Alyssa where we were going.  I simply led her through the streets, following the ever-growing crowd until we reached the clearing showing the unmistakable home with the unforgettable address.  For what it's worth, this was the first time I've visited the South Lawn side of the property.

For good measure, I also took her up to the North Lawn, but we weren't there 1 minute and the Secret Service closed off Pennsylvania Avenue, Lafayette Square, H Street, and 15th street for a VIP movement.  Thanks, Obama (Obama wasn't home though).  This was the first time I'd seen the additional fence added after the fence jumping incident earlier in the year.  I snapped this photo as everyone was being pushed back.

World War II Memorial

The way we were pushed several blocks away by the Secret Service kinda put a kink in our plans, especially since Alyssa's one request was to go see "the sitting guy."  Uh, you mean Lincoln?  "The sitting guy!"  You don't mean FDR do you...  "The sitting guy!"  Uh, ok...

So we had to book it back to the Mall and start heading West in a hurry if we were to go see Lincoln and still make it to Nats Park before opening pitch.

Along the way we passed through the WWII Memorial, and got Alyssa her picture with Rhode Island.  We also spotted some DC duckies, for which the Reflecting Pool is famous for.

Lincoln Memorial

Finally we got to the Lincoln Memorial; it was a lot more packed than I was expecting, even on a weekday.

Vietnam Memorial

On our way back to the Ronald Reagan Building I decided to surprise Alyssa once again, and take her to the Vietnam War Memorial ("The Wall") and The Three Soldiers statue since it's so close and so impacting.  Several months later in New York we'd visit the 9/11 Memorial together, which very similarly displays the names of the fallen.  The 9/11 Memorial would have a much larger emotional impact on me than I ever could have expected.

Washington Nationals vs Chicago Cubs

Baseball is my favorite sport.  I watch almost every Nats game - I'm usually editing photos with the game on.  This was a last minute decision - I purchased the tickets just that morning; I wasn't sure what the weather was going to do that week, but everything worked out!  We were seated in nosebleed, but I really don't mind it as long as you're somewhere along the infield, because it gives you a great overview of every play.  That said, PNC Diamond seats are amazing because you get a view of every pitch (and can tell when the umpires make a bad call - I took my Dad to a game behind home plate, which happened to be the one where Papelbon hit Machado with a pitch; only the beginning of Papelbon's troubled stay with the Nationals.  Please, go back to Philly.).

Tanner Roark went on to win this one for the Nats 7-5 against Tsuyoshi Wada of the Cubs.  As we left, we watched part of Nats Xtra being filmed live, which is always pretty cool.

On the way back to the car, we had some fun in a fountain, and I tried the iPhone's slo-mo (high-speed) function out.  It's pretty cool if you have the right thing to film!

Day 5: Katie's Cars and Coffee • AOPA Fly-In & Airshow • Wine Tasting

Katie's Cars and Coffee

If you've even briefly followed my pictures, you know I shoot a lot of cars - cars are a love of mine, so I shoot car events for fun when I go... which is quite often.  Seeing these pictures from me for years, she wanted to go to the car show and meet some of my friends.  It wasn't long before Patrick arrived (barefoot as usual).  Our cars look good together ;-)

You should also know that I have a serious lust for Porsche.

At one point, Alyssa wanted to try my camera, so I let her at it, to compare my 85mm f/1.2 to the 50mm f/1.4 she had just gotten (on her crop body the FOV is roughly the same, but with less DOF).  Here are a few she shot that I pulled out and edited.

And here she is ruining a picture.

This was that one day everyone got their food except Jake.

AOPA Fly-In & Airshow

That afternoon we had all planned on meeting up with Ellen at the AOPA show in Frederick, MD, which is basically like Katie's car show, but for aircraft (so it's not every weekend ;-)).  Unfortunately, she couldn't make it this year, and we missed meeting up with her Dad, who owns a glider and aircraft tour business in New Jersey (still haven't gone to check it out yet).

This year Europe's Breitling Jet Team was in town performing in their Czech L-39 Albatros trainers.

They're quite a sight.  Their precision flying is definitely not to be missed.

I was very shocked at how close they let the public get to the aircraft.  Working at Dulles I am used to it, but every other airshow I've been to has had a lot of separation; at the AOPA show the jets just taxied right up to the crowd standing on the taxilane.  After that you were free to just walk up and stick your head in the aircraft - crazy!

Next performance was the Goodyear / Whelen stuntplane.  I actually took a bit of video of him too - it's shaky; 400mm handheld will do that.

After that, we browsed the parked aircraft for a bit, picking up free swag along the way.

Wine Tasting

If you know me then you know my other love, beyond cars and baseball, is wine.  All wine, as long as it's dry.  After the air show, we went back to Virginia wine country to vineyard hop.  The first vineyard we planned to visit was closed for the day for a wedding, so we went a mile up the road to The Barns at Hamilton Station; ironically the local vineyard I've visited the most, but not one of my favorites.  Although their wines aren't my favorite, they do have a cozy atmosphere, and they have a cat!!!  The last time I was there, it just hopped in my lap and cuddled until closing time!  I've actually been back there several times since Alyssa, Patrick, Jake and I went.

If you want more photos, you'll have to bug Alyssa for them, because I was more focused on tastings than taking pictures - left my camera in the car so I could enjoy the vino.

After Hamilton Station at the Barns, we headed over to Fabbioli Cellars; a place none of us had been, but I'd like to go back and try again.  They were interesting to me because they really focused on pairings - they actually give you a paired bite of food with every wine you taste.  If you're new to wine, you'll be in awe the first time you try a great pairing - compare a bitter red to how it tastes after a bite of certain food, and just see how it will open up into a robust, rich flavor with no negative traits - pairings are an exciting part of your wine journey, and are one of the most fun things to experiment with.

Day 6: Departure

I don't have any more photos to share.  Her last day in town, Alyssa and I spent with some family she has living here, and her grandparents who drove up from Mississippi.  We spent the day lounging by the pool and enjoying a nice dinner before I had to drive Alyssa back to BWI to fly home.  The flight to Rhode Island isn't that long; we raced home, me in my car, and her in the plane.  Even though I grabbed a donut at Dunkin before getting lost in the parking garage searching for my car, I still beat her home by a few minutes, all the way from BWI to Chantilly.

One of these days soon we'll plan another trip together.  We already met up again in New York since the trip in this post took place.  Til we meet again...

2016 Washington Auto Show

UPDATE:  This post was featured on Jalopnik's homepage on February 2nd, 2016, garnering 13,000 readers in the first 24hrs alone.

Last year was the first year since 2009 that I didn't attend the Washington Auto Show; ironic because I skipped it to go out and actually buy a new car (the most valid reason you could give, if you ask me).  Needless to say, even though I was content to fall absent last year given my reason, I was excited to explore the show this year, since it's now been two years since my last visit.

Before going further, I should note that my focus this year was exploring the state of the 2016 car market's product offerings rather than collecting photographic documentation.

Over the years I've seen the cars evolve, the focus of the show change, and manufacturers rise and fall.  This year many manufacturers are going to shake up US roads; many things are coming to our automotive market that European countries have enjoyed or been influenced by for a very long time.  In the last two years, Fiat's acquisition of Chrysler has brought about a lot of changes within Chrysler's marquees, some good and some bad.  2015 was the first year since 1995 that the US market was blessed by Alfa Romeo's presence as a retailer.  2016 is the year Alfa will begin to expand on our roads.

Last December I saw my first 4C on public roads - a red example waiting at a stoplight in Reston; I grinned from ear to ear the rest of the day - I've always had a soft spot for the beautiful Italian designed cars of all vintages.  At the Washington Auto Show, a yellow Spider 4C was breaking necks (as much as the lovely woman presenting Alfa's two-seater offering to North American roads).

Another great move on Fiat's part is the revival of the Chrysler Pacifica.  I know this van has gotten a lot of heat since its announcement, but I'm a fan; it's a very exciting entry for the minivan market, and as a friend put it upon seeing the interior, "you could baby so hard in that thing."  This van is meant for some serious modern family-ing (including the annoying TV show if you want - look at that awesome rear-seat TV screen setup!).

Unfortunately 2016 will also mark the last year for the Dodge Dart; a mistake if you ask me.  The Dart is a car that I favorably reviewed previously; I know not everyone has had as many nice things to say, some of which I agree and mirrored in my evaluation.  I never said it was perfect; though it isn't the most valuable car in its class, it is the most exciting (which always comes at some price), and it isn't perfect, but the major problems I found were ones which currently plague most other vehicles in the Chrysler / Dodge / "SRT" (lol) lineup.  In other words, the designers are still finding their groove.  I WILL touch your Dart, thank you very much.

Also on hand was an example police-spec Charger.  To Punish and Enslave...

Something I found disconcerting was Ford's trucks' frame examples - the "new and improved" frame was bent out of shape and easily bendable in my fingers; if it can't stand up to an auto-show, how would it stand up to daily driving, let alone abuse and accidents?  I must be missing something, because I know and like Ford trucks - I've driven them more than any other brand.  If you know what's up with this, tell me in the comments, because I honestly didn't read the placard on the display - it just stuck out to me while taking a quick break.

A segment of the Washington Auto Show that is painfully missing is vehicles and technology aimed at helping those with disabilities.  I'm glad there is a renewable energy section, but Washington Auto Show organizers, I challenge you to create a Disabled Access section; incentivize auto makers, retrofitters, and accessory vendors specializing in motoring access for those with disabilities to display vehicles and booths in their own section at the 2017 Auto Show.

The only example I saw this year was Toyota Mobility's Sienna with Auto Access Seat.  Amazing how it works, however the people I saw around it seemed to think it was a sports tailgating feature - that's not really the image this kind of innovative product deserves.

Toyota is wonderful for letting its designers explore the outer-reaches of conceptual design; the Tron-inspired FV2 was on display last year as well, and is a good example of a modern proving-test-bed for future ideas and technology.  For this, I give Toyota a great deal of praise.  Toyota makes great cars - the 2016 Corolla, Camry, Highlander, and their trucks are good, solid vehicles.  The Toyobaru is great.  It's when it comes to production time for vehicles like the Prius and Mirai that Toyota falls flat.  The Prius is the car that car guys love to hate, partially because of its looks and specs, and partially because of its typical owners.  Oh, and then there was that awful song too.  I’m all for what the car stands for - energy savings, renewable energy, saving the environment... but it’s such a damn committee car! Just about every car maker out there has now proven that you can make a hybrid / electric car that’s *exciting*. The Prius has a massive following, which is great - the car is here to stay, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s good that a hybrid is so popular. The problem is that it’s such a boring, ugly car. It seems that Toyota has tried to make the Prius (alongside the Mirai concept) more exciting by making it more distinctive... the problem is that “distinctive” isn’t always good. In this case, the committee made it derpy. Actually, the only auto maker with more committee / group-think ruined cars is Toyota’s direct competitor, Honda, whose cost-saving but not cost-reducing shortcuts are evident the second you sit down; I want to like their cars, but they’re overpriced for what you’re getting. So, I don’t know what the Prius team was thinking, but this is the ugliest iterations of the car I’ve seen yet.

So, instead of blowing a lot of hot air, I’ll make my suggestion of what I would see as an exciting, attractive Prius. First of all, lose the bubble shape - yes, I know it’s like that for aero; just hear me out. Lose the bubble shape and random body scoops and waves, and go toward a 5-door hatch / wagon design - those have hoods! Imagine if you made a Corolla into a slightly smaller Panamera or Mazda 3, with the styling of the FR-S, but the economical drivetrain, solar panels, and weight / energy saving goodies at the Prius’ core. You’ve pretty much got that with the CT200h; take that concept, and apply it to the Prius namesake, giving it the full suite of Toyota Prius tech and soul. THAT is what I think these cars should be.

That said, I’m just one person (Jalop) with an opinion, and the CT200h vs Prius sale numbers say that Toyota’s right and I am wrong. I’m also quite far from the Prius’ target demographic. I’ve always admired the CT200h though - I’m giddy every time I see one, or the even more rare Acura TL wagon... in metallic brown! :-D

Well, just two more negatives I noticed, and we'll get through those quick.  Firstly, the exhaust pipes on these GMCs (and presumably Chevys? I didn't check).  I love everything GMC makes, but the give-a-damns stopped on the exhaust tip - this looks like you guys used a fence post.

And finally, the one I've been waiting to mention.  BMW.  You guys.  Ugh.  You guys.  You've officially lost it.  You've been acting a little crazy for a few years now, but you guys have officially gone looney with your latest batch of naming convention.  Infiniti went through a bit of a naming crisis in 2012 when it began giving all its models a Q designation, but that quickly worked itself out.  BMW, however, you guys are going through a full-on identity crisis.  Let me give you a hint - you don't have to be good at EVERYTHING.  You currently make multiple cars for everyone - it's unnecessary and confusing, and surely can't be financially sound!

Look at this!

You currently have 25 - 27 models for sale (depending on how you count them), and that doesn't even count trim levels.  And don't get me stared on you calling a 4-door a coupé.  I like the 6 Series Gran Coupe (I like fastbacks), but how about you tidy up your naming convention and bump that over to the 7 Series, along with the awesome Alpina B6?  I also would like to see you and Mercedes go back to your roots of using engine displacement as model designators.  It's ok, if you want to differentiate trim levels, using x and s and i and ci are still great!

I can't wait to see your next iteration of the Z4 (will it be a big enough change to christen it the Z5?).  I love every bit of that car (except it deserves a 6 speed manual option, of course).

Speaking of little roadsters I love, by far the best new car on display at the show was the ND Miata.  The Miata has always been a fun little car, but sitting in the ND is a whole new level.  A whole new experience.  Mazda has hit a home run with this car (with the exception of the derpy headlights and taillights - are derpy lights the new craze for Japanese cars for some reason?  Is there something culturally spurring this in Toyota, Honda, and Mazda now?).  The interior is perfection.  It's comfortable, and everything is easy.  The clutch is light (my Infiniti's is very heavy and long in comparison), and the shifts are extremely short - this is clearly a car meant to get into some (good / fun) trouble with.

I don't have pictures because I was too busy drooling in the driver's seat.

One I was excited to see was the Buick Cascada.  It's so pretty :-)  And I'm very happy to see Buick going in this direction, because I so desperately want them to survive as a brand.  I like what they're putting out; they just need to step up their interior game one little notch.  Hopefully they do so with the Cascada.

Here is the Cascada's top going up in ~15 seconds.

The other car I was excited for at this year's show was Lincoln's new Continental.  If this is the new Lincoln, it needs to trickle down to the rest of the product line - it's *beautiful.*  This is the flagship Lincoln so desperately needs.  If they can up their interior quality in the lesser models from Ford level to Jaguar level, Lincoln stands a chance to be a luxury contender again.  From the distance of its pedestal, the new Continental is doing all the right things inside and out.  Please trickle down and make Lincoln great again!  (Yeah, it's an election year :-/)

The only car I desperately wanted to see was Infiniti's new Q60 - it wasn't on display.

Those are my big takeaway's from this year's show.  I found out how much I like Mercedes-Benz's E-Class while Jake found he just barely still fits in the rear-facing seat.  We also got to sit in a Polaris Slingshot, which I can only describe as a Power Wheels for grown-ups - this was the second I've seen in person.

After this spending all day at the show and STILL not seeing everything, it was time to bail; we all went to this amazing sushi place called Momiji right off of H Street.  I need more sushi in my life!

This blog post has been republished by J. David Buerk onto Oppositelock. For the full set of photos, view the album at his Facebook Page. All photography is by J. David Buerk, and is copyrighted All Rights Reserved.