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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.

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.

Jaguar Alive Driving Experience

After getting exclusive access to the new Jaguar F-Type at the 2013 Washington Auto Show, my friend Jake and I were invited by Jaguar to a track day in which we could test drive all of Jaguar's top end and most recent models, including the 550HP, $155,000 XKR-S, and the pre-production XFR-S, among others.  Unfortunately the F-Type was still unavailable to drive, although a beautiful orange example from the Paris Auto Show was on hand to demo under the reception tent. Events we took part in were a Timed 0-60 / Top Speed Run, Autocross Circuit, Traction Control Demo Circuit, and Free Drive of any of the available lineup (the XJL was VERY well appointed).  As Jake later pointed out, we drove ~$1,000,000 worth of cars in just a few hours time.

The day started out with being greeted by showcase Jaguars, including a 1967 Jaguar E-Type, with DC plates "ELATED".  The event attracted plenty of exotic cars in the parking lot, mostly Jags of course.

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Not far away was the Orange F-Type V8 S, and one of MANY XKR-Ss (actually there AREN'T many; the XKR-S is a limited production run vehicle with only 100 examples being sold in the United States).

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Our driving experience started out by road testing the XJ, which was very responsive, although the Eco feature that disables the engine in stop and go traffic was a bit strange (we later disabled it).  All the Jaguars had very sensitive brakes - not a bad thing, but something that took a few minutes to get used to.

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Next we were briefed by Lorraine McKiniry, host of Velocity Channel by Discovery Network's "What's My Car Worth?" who gave a history of the Jaguar brand, culminating in the 2013 lineup, and discussion of future plans for the carmaker.  Then it was out onto the track, where first up was my 0-60 / Top Speed run in the XKR-S.  I reached 90MPH with a 5.5sec 0-60 time (unofficial - official times are forthcoming).  The track was uphill on cold, hard tires, so the XKR-S' specified 4.0 - 4.2 sec range wasn't possible given the conditions.  You can watch my runs and see the live telemetry below!

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Next it was on to the Autocross Course and Handling Tests.  I had a more strict course instructor than Jake did, so I wasn't allowed as much freedom on the course as Jake was which was somewhat disappointing.  The result was a top time of 39.6sec compared to Jake's 37.something sec time.  The Handling Course in the XFR-S was much more fun however, mostly because I startled and impressed the course instructor with a massive drift - he wasn't expecting it, but he was shocked that I maintained full control around the entire turn in a textbook drift without the traction control engaged.  His reaction after I snapped the car back in line for the straightaway was "WHOA!!!... OK.... Um... I didn't know you could do that.  That was very good...  Wow!...  You handled that.... really well!..."

Unfortunately I don't have many pictures from this or the rest of the day... because I was too busy driving!!!

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It was an amazing, fun day!  I wish we'd had more track time!  I think our performance on the course would have improved dramatically with just a little more time to become more acquainted with the cars; but this goes without saying!  I also had two people, one of them a Jaguar representative, ask me who I was writing for - I apparently looked like an automotive journalist for this event (not paparazzi, like so many other occasions - I'm so happy!).

Loved it!  I can't wait to do another track day like it!  Now we're looking into other events sponsored by Porsche, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and others to experience more!

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.

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