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Another Glance at Final Bout

Another Glance at Final Bout © Andor (30)

I do like drifting. But the real reason I still go to these events has little to do with the cars, or the driving. To Me, camping is the good life. Out under the stars, the sounds of wind, sweeping through the trees, the lack of sirens, which never stop at home in the city. Race tracks aren’t exactly what most people think of when You say camping, but they’re a great alternative to the many popular parks, which are often booked full, or only offer a gravel parking lot full of other people and claim it’s a camp site… Usa International Raceway has, for many years, been My go to camping track. I first pitched a tent here in 2006 and have been happy to do so at least once a year since. It’s not a secluded hike in camp, nor is there a waterfall to soothe the senses. Though it is pretty sweet waking up to wailing engines and screaming tires.

Naturally, I took the time to shoot the stars on both nights this Final Bout weekend. This after all, is what I love to do most… Don’t mind the terrible video quality, tis the way of things when You get free hosting. If You watch it on Vimeo’s site, it will look a little bit better. Just don’t expect it to be great.

I would like to point out how lucky we were, or how lucky this guy was anyways. To survive without a fiery melt down. There was once a Hyundai Genesis that went up in flames and burned til it was no more than a pile of metal at this track. Though it would’ve made great pictures to see this s14 burn, I’m happy it didn’t. Please note, the flamable liquid flowing from behind the door for the gas cap!

Another Glance at Final Bout © Andor (20)

Though My goal for the weekend was to capture as much carnage as possible, I didn’t get any. I even missed Tim slamming his car in to the back of Fish. Which looks to have ended the life of Tim’s s13 and delt a fair amount of damage to Fish’s freshly built Boss Datsun Camaro Rocket Mustang Silvia Bunny, or whatever the hell You’d call it. And so, in the absence of destruction of whole cars, here are a few more views of tires being ravaged by horsepower and tarmac. Among other things.

 


Chasing Waterfalls on the Willow River, Again…

After the failed attempt to shoot hot air balloons on Saturday, we headed 15 minutes north. Neither of the guys I was with had been to the waterfall on the Willow River and since we were already three quarters of the way there, it seemed silly not to go. There was a lot more ice than the last time, but the falls were still flowing steadily. Here is a quick time lapse of it and a few pictures. Such a gorgeous place!

 


Behind the Scene

We are fortunate to have a picturesque waterfall, within the urban sprawl of the Twin Cities. Minnehaha falls, a very popular spectacle. I’ve taken pictures of it before, but had not investigated what is possibly it’s most awesome feature in a long time. Over the years, the falls have eroded a sizable amount of rock out from behind it. Making it possible to wander behind the beautiful waterfall. The ice laden cavern was about three times wider than My last visit, some 10+ years ago. Allowing for some pretty rad pictures. Sediment captured in the ice gave a pretty cool rainbow effect in some sections. Awesome stuff!


My First 6 Months of Time Lapsing

Yep, I made a video! There’s a first time for everything… The first three quarters took Me about 2 hours to patch together, from clips made after each time I shot a sequence. The song took a couple days of semi-inspired attention. The last segment of the video however, took 3 weeks to edit. Mostly because I used StarStax to make 5 versions of the sequences. Then, I had to pluck the right spots from those in small chunks, reverse the numbering order on half of them, make videos of each of those sections, then finally patch them all together and time them to the music. The result? Dancing stars! Watch through the end and see what I am on about..

As with all the vids on this blog, it is hosted for free by Vimeo. So it is of low image quality, watching it on their site does look slightly better than watching it here… So sad, because it looks awesome in 4K! Vimeo also neglected to keep the music synced with the video! :( No wonder I refuse to pay them a penny!


Chasing Waterfalls on the Willow River


Stacking the Stars

In the past, I would take long exposure shots of the night sky. 30 minutes for a single photo was a normal affair. Last summer however, I started shooting time lapse sequences. Setting up My camera to automatically take a picture at what ever interval is desired, changed things up a lot. I found Myself going camping and letting My camera run, aimed toward the heavens while I slept. At first I was taking the resulting photos and making videos. Which is quite cool, watching the stars fly by at high speed. Not very long ago I found a free program called StarStax and have added another dimention to the time lapses I’ve been shooting. There is a video in the works, but it won’t be ready for a while. So, here are the stacked still images of a few of the night sky time lapses I captured this year.

Starting with this gem, which was a 5 and a half hour long series of 1,000 images. Nearly a quarter of earth’s rotation, viewed in one still shot. For those who are curious, The moon was on the other side of the earth and My Canon 6D with 24mm lens were set up as follows: Manual mode, f/1.4(focused on the stars), ISO 640, white balance 5400K, shutter speed of 13 seconds, taking a picture every 15 seconds. There is no edit involved, except running the images through StarStax. The second shot is the same image set, with “comet mode” selected in StarStax, no other edits…

Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (1) Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (2)

I’m particularly proud of that time lapse! The rest of these were taken with Similar settings, at different locations over the last 6 months. Sadly, the moon was in the sky for all of them but the last one, so there are less stars visible compared to the above shots. Even so, They look pretty cool. If I say so Myself… It’s been cloudy here for weeks, but as soon as I get a chance, there will be more coming.

Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (1) Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (2)North Polar Axis over the Avery Wildlife Refuge © AndorNight Sky in Central Minnesota © AndorOrion Passing By © Andor


Final Bout

Final Bout © Andor (10)

ClubFR came up with a truly great event, which promises to be the continent’s most beloved annual drift spectacle. Teams from coast to coast, north to south, gathered in a small town in rural Wisconsin. Unlike most drift events, this was a battle of teams, as opposed to individual drivers. The stage was set at My favorite track, USA International Raceway, known to most as UsaIR. A hilly, winding cart track located just outside of the town of Shawano. To those of us from the midwest drifting comunity, this place is also called the rollercoaster of love. Now, the love has been shared with a selection of crews from far beyond our region. I hope they all enjoyed it and come back for more next year!

Final Bout © Andor (8)

Never have I seen enough people to be called a crowd of spectators at this track, until now. They certainly got to see what they came for. Two days of tire shredding, wall riding and relentless attempts to get right up on the door of each other, the drivers in attendance left nothing on the table. The judges for the event were three heavy hitters, though one is more a regional legend, they were a good choice of respectable drifters. They narrowed down the field to four teams and after another run from each, made the verdict. Fourth place was taken by ShaDynasty, a crew from Washington State. In My opinion, the cars driven by these guys were the most interesting collection there. Third place was handed to regional heavy weights, Risky Devil, from Chicago. Second place went to the Hot Boyz, hailing from Alberta, Canada. They were outshining just about everyone on the first day, but a concrete barrier decided to intervene and change things up. The winners of the first annual Final Bout, team drift battle? High Fade, also from the Chicago area. They were very consistent all weekend. It looked to Me like they had been practicing team driving more than anyone else. Before launching for each run, the lead car would rev it’s engine twice and wait. The last car in line would then rev it’s engine once, signalling everyone was ready and off they went. Most of the crews ended up spreading out during their runs, but High Fade stayed together every time. Some may argue otherwise, but these guys earned the win for sure!

I was not on the media roster for this event, so this is not a complete coverage kind of post. In fact I spent half of the weekend working the entry gate, so I did miss an awful lot of the action. However, for Me, there is no such thing as going on a road trip and not taking a ton of pictures. Happily, the ClubFR family are friends of mine, so they thanked Me for helping out and let Me go do My photo geek thing for a while. Phill, Maggie, Simba, Ilia and the rest of the crew, thanks a bunch for coming up with the idea for this event and making it into reality! I had a great time and I’ll see You when I see You, hopefully that will be soon.


Skating University Avenue

Skating Univerity Avenue

Skating on University Avenue © Andor (8)


Mosquito Infested Hell, With A Beautiful View


Rolling In Style

My Mercedes 2014 © Andor (1)

Ten years ago, I discovered this frame on eBay. I wanted a full suspension set up, but had pretty much given up on finding such a frame that wasn’t stupidly heavy for My purposes. I was looking for a light weight mountain bike frame to build up for riding the city streets. This beauty weighs in at 4.55 pounds, that is the frame, shock and the black seat mount together. It just doesn’t get any better than that, unless You want a rigid frame. It was made by a company called Amp Research, formerly Amplifier, in the late 90’s. Originally, these bikes came with disk brakes, the first bike ever with disk brakes in fact. Though that made for some complications in My build. Now, there are standard mounting points for brake calipers and rotors, but since this was before standards came to being, the only ones that work are the original Amp brakes. Unfortunately Amp Research is an engineering group, that dabbles in many different types of things and at the turn of the century, they ended their decade-long run making bicycles. Needless to say, finding all the hardware, without buying another one of their bikes, whole, was not an easy task. Over the next couple years, I actually bought two more variations of them. This one aquired on auction from a police department in Michigan.

Only the frame and fork were from that auction, along with a set of the old Amp disk brakes. These black and white bikes were originally made for the New York police department, amp added the rack to their standard issue Mercedes-branded bikes and sold them to cops around the nation. I love the front fork on this bike. A second generation Amp model, which has a mere two and a half inches of travel, but they are so smooth and absurdly light. This is a B3 series frame set. Which recieved all of the rest of it’s components, less the brakes and wheels, from My old specialized rock hopper. I bought the Vuelta wheels and a set of Shimano IS Hydraulic disk brakes once I figured out an adapter to be able to mount the now standard brakes. Which was a four year hassle that eventually led Me to sell this bike in frustration. The front worked just fine, but the rear brakes were mounted in a pretty shody way. At least I doubled My money on it.

My Other Mercedes 2010 © Andor(4)

Shortly after selling that bike, I found an Amp F3 front fork, with the carbon fiber pipes, from their last(B5) frame. I proceeded to replace the Girvin Cross-Link Elite that had been on My silver B4 frame for 5 years. This was a welcome change, since the old Girvin fork was nearly twice the weight. Oddly, the carbon fork is actually heavier than the older, all aluminum one. It does have a longer range of travel, but it is not as smooth as the elder fork was either. It does match the carbon rear end of My frame and the bike is much nicer to ride than it was with the cross-link on it. I must admit though, I liked the look with that girvin fork too.

Me and My Mercedes 2006 © Andor

I was happy to aquire My third Amp Research bike(not pictured) because it had the v-brake clamps. If I had not worked out a way to run them, I would have had to switch to some regular wheels and run the same lack lustre rear disk brake arrangement as on the police bike above. I really did not want to take the non-disk braking, carbon composite Spin Tri-Spokes off of this bike. They just look so great and if You haven’t connected the dots, just think, Mercedes-Benz logo, only they are the wheels. Yeah, I went there… Having rode this bike for 4 years with only front brakes, clamping on the mounts for the rear end was a nice feeling. So was the feeling of being able to stop really fast, without flying over the handlebars. Six years after getting the frame, the bike had reached what should be it’s final incarnation. I wish I could have fit a larger front gear, but the angle of the lower-rear fork will not allow more than the 48 tooth that’s on it. She rides like a champ, quite fast, easy to accelerate and it has a firm ride, but takes the edge off of those massive Minnesota pot holes.


Urban Vibration

Urban Vibration © Andor (4)

Last night, I went out with a friend who is in to time lapse photography. Which basically means You will be sitting in one place for a couple of hours. So, I set up My tripod and proceeded to take a bunch of long exposures. These pictures captured something more than just the lights of buildings and cars passing by. The lights of the vehicles revealed the vibration of the bridge upon which we stood. That bridge being a walk-way, maybe eight feet wide, spanning the ten lanes of traffic on I-35W, just south of the I-94 junction. It was pretty windy early on, but it was the semi trucks that were causing the bulk of the motion. You can see in the cropped image below, the effect of a large vehicle passing underneath. Head lights apear as if the highway was a row of small waves, with increased hight when a large truck goes by.

Capturing Vibration © Andor (3)

Despite the constant vibration and the rain early on, I came through with some decent shots of downtown Minneapolis. They are not a crisp as I would like, but the texture added to the streaking lights is kind of nice. A neutral density filter, which I usually do these kind of shots with, was not involved. I will try that spot again sometime, but clearly a more stable position to do long exposure shots with traffic and the city skyline is more desirable. This is a great vantage point though, there aren’t many places in town with such a nice perspective.


Road Kill

A Hawk Dining in the Road © Andor (1)

This beautiful hawk was clearly not happy about the amount of people stopping and walking toward it. I was more than happy to disturb it’s meal, considering it was on the side of a road. It was an intersection too, most of the people who drove by, turned around and came back. We spotted it and stopped immediately. Hastefully removing the wide angle lens from My camera and applying the hefty Sigma 70-200 2.8, since I did not think the bird would let us go near it. This large bird, which I believe is a ‘red tailed’ hawk, let Me within 15 feet or so before jumping up and perching in a nearby tree for a moment. I could feel a strong swirl of wind from the roughly 5 foot wing span as it took flight. Staying nearby as We humans went on our way, I assume it was going to swoop right back down on it’s kill. I admit the Mallard duck that it slayed looked quite delicious to Me as well, enjoy that fat meal bird. I hope no one hits it while it is feasting.. I see two or three of these birds of prey daily, never so close up though. They are much larger than one might think from seeing them perched atop a light pole on the side of the highway. What a magnificent semi-urban predator.