Drivers Skills and Motion Photography

Note – If you want to download any of these photos, you can find the full resolution files here (the ones on my blog are reduced to shorten page load times) – https://adobe.ly/3r6B76f. Feel free to repost these photos to social media but please include the following credit or just tag and credit me directly if posting on Instagram – ”Jeff Jones @911maniac on Instagram“

For those that don’t already know, Drivers Skills is an all day hands on car control clinic sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Region Porsche Club. You don’t need to be a member and you don’t need to bring a Porsche. This is a great way for any driver, even the younger ones, to learn more about safely handing a car, van, truck, suv, etc. Working with experienced instructors and volunteers, participants work in small groups to learn more about their cars and themselves over the following sections:

  • Slalom 
  • Skidpad
  • Accident avoidance (my personal favorite)
  • Figure 8
  • Mini-autocross

No racing and no timed competition. Just fun practice in a low risk high reward setting. By far the best $140 you can spend and that includes a hot lunch. Don’t hold me to that price…prices change but my old blog posts don’t 🙂 You can learn more at www.pnwr.org and you can register for upcoming events online at the PNWR section of the MotorsportReg site – PNWR on MSR.

My first experience with Drivers Skills was as a student in my 2016 911 GTS Targa. This time, I was there as a volunteer (cone shagger was my official title) but mostly I was there to try my hand at motion car photography. Karl Noakes I am not, but considering this was my first time trying and considering it was raining most of the day, I’m very happy with the results. I’m even happier that I got the chance to get out and meet new people, see such an eclectic mix of cars at the clinic and laugh with other volunteers as we did the old man run/jog/walk to shag cones at the slalom course. In terms of metrics, I ended the day with 2736 photos to process, 82 keepers (maybe a dozen that I really love), 15,000 steps, 1 bbq sandwich and 4 Advil, 6 if you count the two this morning. A great day by all measures.

We started the day in the dark, chatting and taking some photos as folks arrived:

Group photo once everyone arrived (I used my Jeep as a makeshift ladder):

Volunteers make this event possible and the instruction participants get comes from years of experience. Lunch was really good as well considering we are operating under COVID safety measures and can’t do the normal lunch options. Everyone seemed happy with their BBQ sandwiches all ready to go.

In no particular order, here are my favorite motion photos from the day (looks best on a larger display):

Here are my second favorite motion photos and it shows the wide variety of vehicles that attend Drivers Skills…bring anything and learn more about how it performs at the limits:

I wasn’t sure if any of these panning photos were going to come out, so I made sure to take a few standard photos throughout the day and here were my favorites:

My favorite of the day. I just low how the motion turned out in this photo, I love the reflection of the car and the pop of color from the helmet and brake lights. More luck than skill but I’ll keep practicing!

Rain, snow and playing with models

The weather in Seattle from late November to March is great for skiing and having fun in the Jeep off-road, but not so great for sports cars, mountain drives or car shows. So what is a 45 year old car enthusiast that still acts like a 12 year old suppose to do when not skiing…play with models of course!

First up is a 1:43 scale model of the 718 Spyder that I’ve ordered and other than the caliper color, it is a perfect match for my spec.

Next, Shep and I finally got around to building one of his Christmas presents, a complex 1700 piece Porsche RSR race car. We got a freak snowstorm with over a foot of snow so while the kids were playing and Meg was busy making a huge snow family, I had some fun taking photos of the model.

The last model was a Lego build as well, but this time I bought it for me! When it arrived, Shep got all excited thinking he got more Legos but he quickly learned that this one was all Dad’s. Okay, he got to help build it and helped me find some pieces along the way…my old eyes need the help. This lego build allowed you to create an early 911, either a 930 Turbo or the 911 Targa. The Targa build is a near perfect match for my first Porsche so the choice was obvious. The only struggle was whether I should buy two kits and build them both!

What the heck is a Porsche 718 Spyder?

According to my research, the first time Porsche used the Spyder name was for the 550, a beautiful race car made between 1953 to 1956. The 550 had a mid-engine mounted air-cooled four cylinder engine. Mid-engine, meaning the engine was mounted forward of the rear axle, was in contrast to the 356 (and later 911s) with their rear engine layout. The 550 Spyder got off to a strong start for Porsche, winning the first race it entered, and continued to be a successful race car throughout its run.

The 550 is perhaps most well known for being the car that James Dean died in. He had nicknamed his car “the little bastard”. Dean had been ticketed for speeding just two hours before his fatal accident. The accident involved a collision with a Ford sedan…the little Spyder didn’t stand a chance. Thankfully, Dean’s passenger and the driver of the Ford survived although if you believe all of the stories, the little bastard was cursed and continued to wreak the kind of havoc that you will only find in a Stephen King novel. Dean’s passenger later died in a drunk driving accident and the driver of the Ford of died of lung cancer. The car body and the drivetrain were separated. When unloading the body, it rolled off the trailer and crushed a mechanic’s legs. A thief broke his arm trying to steel the steering wheel. A race car that had the engine of the 500 crashed killing the driver and during the very same race, a different car that had the transmission crashed, severely injuring the driver. While on display, the body rolled off a truck again and broke the hip of a nearby student. After that, during transport, a truck driver lost control of the truck and was thrown from the vehicle, only to have the 550 fall off and kill him. Apparently while in storage, the building burned down and the only thing left was the car, untouched by the fire somehow. It is likely that some, maybe even all of this is nothing more than legend, but it makes for fun research.

Porsche followed up the successful 550 with the 718, a race car built between 1957 and 1962. It improved on the 550’s aerodynamics and suspension and continued with an air-cooled four cylinder mid-engine layout. The 718 was made in a number of configurations throughout the years and had a very successful racing history for Porsche. To the best of my knowledge, there are no known cursed version of the 718…let’s hope that trend continues with the one that I’ve ordered.

Clearly Porsche wanted to send a message when it named their new race inspired street car the 718 Spyder. With such a rich racing heritage, this new car has a lot to live up to.

Personally, I’ve never been strongly drawn to the smaller, mid-engine Cayman or Boxster, at least not enough to overcome my total obsession with the 911. The 911 is the most iconic design in the car world, going all the way back to the first 356. It is the top of the line in the Porsche lineup, the lower cost mid-engine siblings have always been held back a bit. The 911 has the engine in the back and uses 60 years of sorcery to overcome that fact. Hell, my site and Instagram account are 911maniac! So what swayed me? Enter the GT4 and Spyder. Both are 420 horsepower, 6 cylinder naturally aspirated mid-engine sports cars you can get with a manual transmission…perhaps the last of a dying breed as we reach the end of the internal combustion engine. The Spyder checks my most important boxes better than any other car at the moment, performance and design. It has become “the next one“.

Performance...check. Previous modern Spyders were nicely optioned Boxsters. The Boxster is a great car and the Spyder design made it that much more special, but it lacked the full GT car performance and suspension. That changed with the 718 Spyder. Honestly, a more accurate name for the car would be the GT4 Spyder because it is a GT4 in all ways, just with a removable lightweight roof. Same performance, same engaging driving experience, same GT3 race derived suspension, same gearbox…it is a convertible mid-engine race car and a legitimate product of the Porsche GT division. I fell in love with the GT4 the first time I saw it and this has all the benefits plus open top motoring.

The category defining GT4 is a thing of beauty (photo from Porsche.com)

Design…check. Wow, just wow. In my opinion, the 718 Spyder is one of the most beautiful cars you can buy right now at any price. Porsche nailed the design. The flying buttress wings on the top, the streamliners on the rear lid, the aggressive and beautiful front end, the functional aero diffuser in the rear. Porsche describes it as “perfectly irrational” but I just call it perfect. You can clearly see elements of the original 550 and 718 and it reminds me in many ways of a baby 918 Spyder, Porsche’s latest hyper car. It is impossible not to fall in love with this car and it looks just as good with the top up as it does down, something that almost no other convertible manages to do. Silver is clearly the throwback color but Seattle is gray enough already so I’ll take mine in white please.

“The Next One” happened sooner than expected

I’ve talked in the past about my answer whenever someone asks what my favorite car has been…I always answer the next one. I’ve been loving this Turbo so much and fully expected to own it for many years…maybe even a true forever car. A few things converged to change that sooner than expected. First, I’ve always wanted a true Porsche GT car, a special line of track bred cars designed by the GT division of Porsche. Second, I really missed open top motoring this summer….all of my previous 911s were targas or full convertibles. Third, as fast as the Turbo is…and it is crazy fast, it isn’t all that engaging to drive. It’s a great car, but all it really asks of the driver is a willingness to pay for speeding tickets. Lastly, I ended up with a rare opportunity to secure an allocation for a 2021 Porsche Spyder, a limited production car that is not easy to find. I worked out a great trade for the Turbo to a dealership that wants to sell it, not just wholesale it out and custom ordered the Spyder. Just like that, I’m on to the next one.

Prepping my car for trade (removing parts to sell or swap to the new car and putting back on the painted front lip)

I’ll do a more detailed post on the Spyder, a bit of history and my configuration but here is a “photo” from the Porsche online configurator:

Late night at the Pike Place Market

I wanted to try some night photography again and decided to take advantage of the mostly empty Seattle streets after 10pm. I started by driving up to Queen Anne to Kerry Park, a local park famous for the view of the Seattle skyline. It can be busy but I got lucky and found a parking spot that allowed me to get a decent skyline in the background. I’m still such a beginner when it comes to night photography, but it was fun to play with some long exposures.

After having some fun at Kerry Park, I made my way to Pike Place Market to have some fun. I thought I would have to rush to get a few quick shots before being sent away by security guards, but I got really lucky and found it totally empty. I was able to take my time and really enjoy it. The Christmas lights and huge tree made it extra special.

This one was my favorite of the night:

Exploring Seattle

Before the weather really turned bad, one of my favorite escapes was to just get in the car and drive. Sometimes it would be 8 or 9 hour day drives to far off places but I’ve had just as much fun exploring close to home. Seattle has so much to offer, so many beautiful places to check out and sometimes it is just good therapy to drive late at night. Mostly empty roads and good music can soothe my soul. Here are a few different in city adventures.

Exploring the Museum of Pop Culture, the Space Needle and finding some fail foliage close to home on Alki:

A black and white series that I wanted to do because my car was filthy, it was raining and my mood was pretty black and white. Exploring the city always helps fix that, even on a gloomy day:

Exploring West Seattle on a beautiful day and then a very foggy morning:

I made the cover of the Spiel!

A while ago, I took a fantastic day trip to Mount Rainier and submitted a few photos to The Spiel, our local PCA chapter, Pacific Northwest Region (PNWR) monthly magazine. I was pleasantly surprised a few months later when I received the November Spiel and saw my photo on the cover and my blog post published inside! Very cool.

I’ll post a link to the Spiel online edition when it becomes available, but here are a few photos that I grabbed:

Tis the season for toy drives and I’m loving it!

Saturday was another great car day but this time with the Jeep (bad weather). It was another day spent with awesome car people, beautiful cars and all for a good cause, more toys for kids in need. 2020 has been a terrible year for everyone but it certainly hits some much harder than others. We had hundreds of cars show up throughout the day to donate much needed toys to help ensure a happier holiday season for every kid.

I met a friend early before we ran to Starbucks for some coffee and breakfast. Starbucks drive-thrus are a wonderful thing. I had to get a shot of my Jeep doing its best Rudolph impression. A red nose…antlers and Christmas lights on the inside:

Then it was on to The Shop where they had sponsored with Avants and DirtFish to hold a socially distanced, masks required, cars and coffee. There was a very rare Audi RS6 Wagon, DirtFish brought out their student cars, we had a ton of beautiful Porsches show up including a brand new 992 Turbo S in a paint to sample Deep Sea Blue and a beautiful old back 356. Santa approved of Rudolph and told me that everyone was going to be on the nice list this year.