Practice Autocross with WDCR-SCCA

I'm going to start posting little tidbits about some of my hobbies besides photography on my blog. Today we have some thoughts from me about autocrossing my Mazda Miata.

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I've been autocrossing for almost a year. After I put 2000 miles on the Miata's odometer, I immediately signed up for the next Capital Driving Club (CDC) event. I really enjoy spending time with the the CDC people. They are very welcoming, friendly and always willing to provide tips or feedback on my driving. The CDC events themselves are very casual. Often, drivers are quite willing to let me ride shotgun on their morning runs.

At 15,000 miles on the odometer and nine CDC events later, I felt it was time to finally sign up for an SCCA event. The Washington DC Region SCCA (WDCR) course at Fedex Field was much bigger than I've driven at the CDC venues. This WDCR course had veteran drivers running times in the 58-60 second range, whereas the Waldorf CDC courses (the biggest CDC venue) usually have veterans running times between 39-40 seconds. WDCR also incorporates much more slaloms than CDC does in their courses, which I wasn't very familiar with.

I really enjoyed driving the bigger course at Fedex Field. It almost felt like I was re-learning how to drive my car again, as I was unsure how fast I could take some of the slaloms and corners at times!

Below, here's a video of my fourth and final run at the WDCR practice event. I still have a lot to work on, but for now I'm trying to concentrate on looking ahead to the next corner and braking earlier than I think I should into corners.

Black and White in the Botanic Gardens

My friend Sara and I went shooting at the US Botanical Gardens in the beginning of March. It was a while since we last shot together, almost five months! Since last seeing her, she's moved into a new apartment and started a new job in Washington, DC.

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I've never self-developed a roll of black and white medium format film before, so I've been hesitant to shoot any black and white rolls out of my medium format cameras. I was in the mood for shooting black and white, so I took the plunge, loaded the panchromatic film into my camera and told myself to worry about developing it later. One of the photographers I admire has said the phrase, "Shoot first, think later," and it has been stuck in my head.

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I brought the medium format Bronica SQ-AI and 80mm PS f/2.8 lens, and loaded the back with Ilford HP5+. Usually if I'm shooting 35mm, I'll rate for 1600 and push two stops, but I kept these medium format rolls at box speed, 400. The Zenzanon 80mm PS f/2.8 never ceases to amaze me. I couldn't ask for any more image quality from this lens.

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The US Botanic Gardens is a neat place in Washington, DC. Like other DC attractions and museums, you can just walk in without needing to buy a ticket or pass. I especially enjoyed the arid climate garden. The cacti and other desert succulents are very interesting looking and quite uncommon to see without visiting a TexMex restaurant. In the center garden, there are catwalks you can walk on that traverse along the greenhouse. The views from the catwalks are awesome, but after a few steps onto the platform, you start to feel like a warm plant going through photosynthesis.. 

Shooting Graduation Photos!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of shooting grad-photos for my friend, Sara. She may seem familiar as she is the subject of many of my digital portraits.

For the shoot, I brought along my Canon 6D, 70-200mm f/4, 50mm f/1.8 STM and my Yongnuo 560IV flash/Wescott Rapid Octa Box lighting combo. The weather was partly cloudy, but with bursts of sunshine every now and then. This kept lighting pretty simple, as I could use the Rapid Octa Box to fill in shadows and let the soft, cloudy light do the rest of the work.

Wind was a bigger issue than I was expecting.. Besides messing up hair, it ended up tipping my lightstand over! Luckily, the Yongnuo flash was just left with a few scuffs. I neglected to bring sandbags and used my backpack filled with miscellaneous camera gear and bottle of champagne to weigh the lightstand down. Unfortunately, I had the backpacking weigh down the wrong leg when a strong gust of wind knocked the lighting equipment over.

The 70-200mm f/4 is probably one of my favorite lenses of all time. It's also the only Canon EF mount lens I currently own besides the 50mm. The 70-200mm f/4 contains a lot of great focal lengths found in prime lens such as 85mm, 100mm and 135mm. The white zoom lens packs all of these together with image stabilization.

While editing, I noticed that my strongest images were made with the three-quarters view. Perhaps poses are easier with the three-quarters view because more of the frame is covered, for example, in a typical "hands at your side" pose. There's more space to be filled in the frame by the background if I shot the same pose with a full-profile perspective. I really enjoyed the middle photo in the first set of images above (Sara's back facing the camera), even though that was framed with the full-profile perspective. I think the compression at 175mm and her pose where she's holding the Oxford cap fill the frame quite nicely.