Posts in Category: Automotive

MORR VS52 Competition Wheels

I got beautiful new shoes for Mila. 19 inch MORR VS52 Competition wheels, powder coated in Bronze Chrome. The amazing work was done by The Alloy Artists.

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Breaking Expectations

I am proud to show off one of my pride and joys in life, my 2005 BMW 330xi that has just hit 200,000 miles this weekend. This was my first purchased car when I was 23, a proud moment in my life – a new premium luxury car with my own hard earned money only a year after graduating from college. It was a status symbol, but by no means the main reason why I have such passion and pleasure for driving, it’s just in my soul. I admit I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable about cars back then as I am now, thanks to the fact that German performance cars are high maintenance, I almost feel like a mechanic.

Can you tell a man’s character by how he treats his cars or possessions? I will tell you about my relationship with my car and you can be the judge. I wanted my car to express my taste, be unique, and stand out from the many other 3-series out there. I started modifying the car before the payments were even halfway finished, from exterior and interior aesthetics to intake and suspension work. The style of my car gradually evolved from a sporty-aggressive-blacked-out-slammed back to a stock-comfort setup as I got older (and having a dedicated weekend car). Through out the years of modifying and upgrades, there were also a lot of time and money spent repairing and maintaining the car. I even keep a detailed spreadsheet on all the work done, and I would be embarrassed to reveal exactly how much extra I’ve thrown into the car. I’ve tried to do as much of the mechanical work by myself as possible with the tools available, from changing rear suspension, interior upgrades, electronics hard-wiring, to engine maintenance. While most people would suggest selling the car sooner and upgrading to a new car, I felt I was committed to mine and considered this my expensive project car. I’ve learned a great deal on the mechanics and electronics of cars and it gives me great pleasure to know I can fix something with my own hands, with the help of my friends and the internet. I also spent countless hours detailing the car, memorizing every curve and corner of the body inside and out. Perhaps I did grow a bond with my car affectionately named “Boba” (he’s black, round, and shiny). On another note, giving your car a good name helps your friends (especially females) grow a bond with your car as well.

There were times where I wish I had a new car, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of Boba. Like everything else I own, I stay pretty committed to using the most out of it until its lifespan is beyond the intended amount, i.e. a DSLR with shutter actuations well over its rated quantity, or using a smartphone or tablet for 2-3 generations. Perhaps that’s the Asian side of me showing through. As the years went by witnessing such a large population of E46 (2000-2005 3-series) enthusiasts made me want to keep the car even more. This was going to be a classic someday, regarded as one of the best bodies and engines BMW has ever produced, even though that applies specifically to the M version, the fact that my all-wheel-drive version is in the same family made it just as special. Even through the seemingly constant repairs and maintenance, through many of my own personal doubts, I told everyone I would try to hit 200,000 miles on this German performance car. I’ve had many fun road trips alone or with friends in Boba, and he’s been faithful and reliable on all of them. We’ve been racing together. We’ve smiled, vented, sung, and cried together, and yes, even made love in. We’ve traveled together enough distance to circle the earth eight times.

I have truly enjoyed most of my time spent inside Boba, and while most people only see their cars as a tool to get from point A to B, I argue that if you are going to spend a third of your life commuting in your car, why not make it an enjoyable time? You commute to work to make money to make your life better. I am not suggesting major performance or aesthetic upgrades for everyone, but a little customization to anything you own can instantly transform it to something uniquely yours or even easier to use. I really don’t mind the few times I get stuck in traffic because I have 6 sources of music available: iPod, Sirius-XM, radio, CD, Pandora, Spotify. I have a perfect console that is customized to my liking, such as custom docking stations for both satellite radio and phone. All electronics (iPod, radar, dashcam, satellite, phone charger) are hardwired for a clean wireless look. I never let any trash stay in the car, it is always ready for presentation, and people are always surprised my car is over 9 years old! Your car is one of the most expensive things you own, why treat it as just a tool when it can bring so much pleasure into your life? I can admit that sometimes I can’t help but smile when a good song is on, the weather is perfect, and it’s just me and the road.

This is my tribute to hitting a milestone in one of my greatest pleasures in life, driving. You don’t have to be a gearhead or engineer to appreciate the shear pleasure of driving. It is an internal feeling anyone can have, being on the road, being in control, cruising down engulfed in your own thoughts, or music so loud you can’t even think, enjoying company with friends in a small intimate space, or being your escape or hiding spot. I encourage more of you to treat your cars with love and care, as part of your family, and it will really repay with more joy and happiness in your life.

Below is just a Happy-200k photo shoot for my Boba. He’s far from perfect condition, he’s rough on the edges, but he brings joy to my life!


Sabrina with Mila

There is something really sexy about watching a woman be part of a male dominant world, such as operating a manual transmission, and even sexier when both the car and driver are extreme eye candies. Take me anywhere you want, make do anything you ask.


Classic Meets Modern

I bet you can guess which part is the classic, and which part is the modern part of this series. I took a weekend road trip with a beautiful classy dame, in my modern sexy red roadster, both dolled up in a lustful red. Yes, we really did use the map during our trip when reception was unavailable, so don’t take map reading skills for granted. What better way to end the night than with a kiss?


Top Drives Around the World

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!



El Bob Races in Germany

El Bob had the privilege to take the journey of every car enthusiast’s dream and step hooves on the motherland of German cars sacred ground of the Nordschleife. His first stop was Munich to enjoy a few days of Oktoberfest which was overhwhelmed by an insane number of drunken Germans. After a tour around the city including BMW World, El Bob took a 5 hour drive on the infamous Autobahn to Nurburg to get a taste of the Nurburgring. It was heaven. El Bob thinks this is one of the best trips he’s ever taken, and would surely like to visit the Ring again.


El Bob thinks Germany looks just like Switzerland.

 

Mila Star Gazing

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.


Raise Your Weapon

Drive

 

 

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.

El Bob at Baltimore Grand Prix

El Bob goes down to Inner Harbor, Baltimore for the Grand Prix weekend. It was exciting to walk the track built on the city streets, eat good food, and have good company. It was always El Bob’s dream to go 180mph, so this was his next closest thing.


El Bob tests out the tire barrier for the Grand Prix. Safety’s number one!

 

Mila in Baltimore

I recently attended a large BMW East Coast meet called MPACT in Baltimore, MD. I took the opportunity to have a photo shoot in front of the hotel and at the stadium. All of the shots are taken with multiple exposures or bracketing for a slight HDR editing effect that isn’t too obvious or noticeable, therefor a tripod is a must-have. One thing I dislike is over abuse of HDR. Photographs need contrast and a focal point.

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.

Mila’s first evening photo session

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.

Driving Videos

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.

Enjoy!

Best Bracket, Bracketron Review

Having the right accessories in your car changes your whole driving experience, which is why I am dedicating a whole post just to a phone car mount. I’ve seen many variations of universal phone mounts and brackets, some are universal and some are device specific. There are different mounting methods such as suction cups, vent mounts, dash mounts, and custom fits.

Ruby & Mila

Santa’s Ride

 

click here to see before

 

Whiteout

Carcissism

car·cis·sism
[kahr-suh-siz-em]

–noun

1. inordinate fascination with one’s car; excessive car-love; vanity.

Does anyone else find themselves turning back looking at their car every time they walk away from it, either in a parking lot or their own garage? I think it’s easier to just tell people I have carcissism.

This photo was taken with a Canon S90 with slow shutter, placed on a newspaper dispenser on the sidewalk, hence the tilt.

Two more stitched photos taken with the Canon S90.

Hover over the numbers below for step by step.

Photography Lesson #12: Wide vs Telephoto

While most people understand the basic difference between wide angle and telephoto angle is how much you can see in an image, they do not realize there’s a change in perspective, distortion, and depth of field when you change from wide to telephoto. The same rules apply to all lens, whether it’s a DSLR or compact, if you learn the basic rules, you can become very effective in taking photos in the way you intended.

Wide angle would be considered 35mm or below, and telephoto would be 85mm and above.

Depth of field
Wide angle produces a larger depth of field while telephoto produces a more shallow depth of field. When you shoot wide at f/2.8, most of your scenery will still be in focus, whereas a telephoto at f/2.8 will be focused only one a certain point with everything else blurred due to more shallow depth of field.

Light
If you have a cheaper lens that does not stay at the same aperture when zooming in or out, you will lose light when zoomed into telephoto. A 70-200mm f/2.8L lens will stay at f/2.8 from 70mm all the way to 200mm. A cheap 55-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens will change from a maximum of f/3.5 at 55mm to f/5.6 at 135mm, you already know that you’re losing light just by zooming in. Even though a compact point and shoot does not list the specs, the same rules apply, the more you zoom in, the less light comes in. Never zoom in without flash or tripod when shooting indoors on a compact!

Distortion/Perspective
As you change from wide angle to telephoto, the perspective and distortion changes. A more skewed perspective is not necessarily worse than an accurate one – you can use either to your advantage. In wide angle, the perspective is stretched, lines converge into a far-away vanishing point, objects closest to the lens are large, and become significantly smaller as they move away from the camera. This is why you can squish your loved ones between two fingers when you place it in front of a camera, there is a huge difference in size vs distance. A telephoto lens will keep the distortion at a minimum, the vanishing point is less obvious, and objects stay closer in size even at different distances.

Some real world examples include people photography. Why do people always suggest telephoto lens as a better portrait lens? That’s because a large telephoto lens will not distort a person, and keeps everything in proportion. Accuracy is important in most situations unless you specifically want to distort the subject. Ideally, it would be best to shoot a person with a lens anywhere between 100mm to 300mm, but you would have to stand half a block away! The same results apply to any object, like a car.

The wide angle photo has an extreme perspective, the front of the car is extremely large and scales down dramatically as it moves away from the camera. The dumpster shrinks a lot, and the pickup truck in the background is only about the size of my rear view mirror. You know for a fact this is not an accurate size in real life – you know it’s perspective.

The telephoto view is much less distorted, the car has more proper proportions, the dumpster grew in size. Even though the car fills in the same amount of space in the picture frame, you will notice a lot less of the background is visible. The telephoto lens narrows its field of view. Not only do objects get smaller, there is also a distortion as you look at the front of the car.  You will notice the wide angle photo bulges or bends the front of the car into a much rounder shape – imagine doing that to a person’s face!

Which photo is better? That’s your opinion. An accurate representation may be your desire, or you can have a more artistically rendered representation of an object. I like the wide angle because it makes the hood aggressively larger than the mid-section – that is what a roadster is. I am emphasizing the “land shark” nickname of this car. The narrower windshield makes the car look more streamlined as well.

 

 

Female Drivers Wanted

How many of you guys would make it a point to teach your female partners how to drive better or even how to drive a manual transmission car? There’s something very attractive about a woman who has the skills and passion to drive well, and can tame a powerful beast with her delicate yet firm grip. Not only can you share a passion together dominating twists and turns, talk about your favorite on/off ramps, or both get turned on by a sexy exhaust note or high RPM, she can actually drive your car when you’re too drunk or tired. I’m interested in meeting more women with a love of performance driving, and maybe sneak in some portraits of them with their ride, or if any ladies just wants to shoot in mine, I’ll come pick you up.