My best vacations require a long scenic drive, whether my own car or a rental car (manual preferred), with lots of random side stops along the undetermined route to explore deeper and get a more authentic experience of the town, state, or country. It’s important to try the local roads over the highways, because you’ll just miss all the architecture, local shops, food and people. The trick is not to have a set itinerary, be flexible with your time and what activities you want to do, this will open up plenty of options when you discover them on the road, with no time restrictions.
What makes a great drive? I am always looking for well paved roads that have a lot of twists and bends with elevation changes, either along the coast line, a cliff, or a mountain side. Being able to scale a mountain and look down 3,000 feet is awe inspiring, while driving along a cliff knowing if you don’t pay attention, you could easily be at the bottom of the cliff in a mangled wreckage, will keep your heart at a high pace. The speed of the drive is relative to the contours of the landscape. It’s more fun to take a slower car and pushing it to the limit, than having to take a fast sports car and idling around a bend. If you really want to experience full control, either drive your own manual car or rent a manual car outside the States.
I will try my best to describe my top favorite drives around the world in order starting from the best. I will be available for hire as an international driver if anyone is interested!
This past weekend was supposed to be a great night for a meteor shower, so I took a late night drive up Palisades Parkway to 9W through Black Rock Forest in New York and stopped at a lookout. It was nearly pitch black with a hint of city lights in the distance. Unfortunately while I was busy setting up the camera and taking photos, I missed the few shooting stars that my friend witnessed.
The photos are all single exposures, taken with a Canon 16-35mm 2.8L on a full-frame body, 30 second exposures with a remote. The foreground was lit by the iPhone flash and the lens was manually focused. It’s a good idea to take multiple photos with slightly different focusing distances in case you misfocus the first photo.
We all have certain movies we fantasize about playing the same role as the hero, for guys it would be a wide variety in an action movie from special forces to martial artists to professional drivers. The hero usually has an amazing ability to never die, can kill anyone with their bare fists, and of course, drive any car and perform stunts without beading a drop of sweat. While you watch the movie, some of the times you really want to believe you can do those things too, and the majority of the times you realize how ridiculous and blown out Hollywood makes it all. Then there’s Drive.
Drive might be the complete opposite of over blown Hollywood stunts, CGI, and sexy heroes. The nameless Driver in the movie is anything but charming. Awkward introverted personality with a deep dark secret. The movie is mostly slow paced with chunks of action scenes that kicks your heart rate into 0-60 in a split second. What I love about the movie is how it romanticizes pure driving. You typically associate cars with guns and women in movies – and yes, Drive has guns and girls too – but it really emphasizes on just the drive.
You watch the Driver cruise down the city streets alone, slow, with just radio chatter – not unrealistic for an evening drive. The simple visual stimulus of street lamps and street lines zooming past your windshield is enough for me to escape the world. This is probably how the Driver escapes his world.
When he meets the girl, his idea of a date is to ask her out for a drive. Inside the car, he is able to share his world with her by transforming what average people consider a hassle of driving, into an adventure, all without a single word being spoken. She is charmed by this. Here is a guy sharing his best moment with someone special and she is intuitive enough to understand and appreciate every moment of it. They proceed to go on dates, each time sharing a moment inside the car.
This movie best portrays my love of pure driving. Not necessarily being a gear head, nor a professional driver, but enjoying the road on a set of four wheels, and what better way to enjoy it than with someone else in the passenger seat? Unfortunately it is not a popular romantic idea, just like this movie isn’t a popular Hollywood action flick. I think it’s hard to convince a woman that all you want to do is to take her out on the road and just enjoy the drive, but for the right woman that says yes, I have found my bliss. I hope you can watch this movie too and feel what I feel.
Below you will see a composite from the evening photos. The main shot is the ambient light from the street. Other shots of Mila and the smoke were taken with a Canon Speedlite on a Quantum battery, triggered remotely by an Aputure Trigmaster (more reviews on the device in a future post). The camera is on a tripod while I hand held the flash at different angles pointing at Mila, and my assistant Tiffany would press the camera shutter on my command.
My favorite model, Mila is lit with two Canon 580 exII, triggered remotely, shot with a Canon 16-35mm and a 70-200mm. I metered the camera to expose the sky/clouds, and adjusted the flash power settings to lighten up the foreground. The image was desaturated using Hue/Saturation, while individually desaturating each color channel except for red and a little bit of yellow. A few Curves layers were added to create the mood.
Hover over the flash at the bottom to see the process.
I realized I never posted these two driving videos, both were recorded last year. The first drive was through Bear Mountain in my Z4 M Roadster. Unfortunately only one GoPro was in HD, and the one viewing my car was low-res. The second was a rental car driving down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I can’t wait till the weather warms up and I can make more polished videos with my new GoPro Hero HD.