AMG

2017 - A Period of Growth

On first glance, 2017 seemed like a bit of a letdown after the whirlwind of 2016. 2016 was all about crazy new experiences. That year, I flew to Pikes Peak with media credentials to live with a race team, flew to Texas for another team and followed them to New Orleans, and flew back to Colorado for an endurance race. Other than a brief trip to Detroit at the beginning for 2017 for the NAIAS, the farthest I went for work was Topeka. Glamorous, right?

But the more I dig through this years photos (of which there were a lot), the more I realize that this year was massive for me, just in a more subtle way. Instead of big bucket-list events, 2017 has been about polishing what’s here. Shooting nearly every day that weather permitted, in a variety of conditions, has forced me to be more accurate and confident in my camera work. As compared to the studio work I used to do at Pure Pursuit, where the light never changed, this year has seen me shooting at all hours of the day, in all types of weather, indoors and out. So I’ve had to get much better at predicting what settings will work, reading my meter, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.

This year I’ve also made it a point to assist photographers who are more talented and educated than I am. I bring nothing to the table other than some manual labor, but I take a lot away. Watching how others work is helping me develop my own composition skills. I have no formal education in photography. Everything I know is from trial and error, and watching a lot of YouTube videos. I’m slowly learning how to stack foreground and background elements around my subjects, as well as how to treat the light as a physical element. Instead of just trying to hide from it, use it. Shoot right into it, catch flares, play with shadow lines.

Does all that make me seem like a pretentious artist?

Sweet.

Here’s to the people that made 2017 possible:

  • Britt-for going location scouting with me in the middle of the night, tagging along for rainy photoshoots, and generally being the most encouraging and supportive partner imaginable.
  • Travis Carroll-for letting me tag along on shoots and learn how real photographers work, while showing me what’s really possible.
  • Travis Young-for generally being a rad dude, and reminding me that this shit is supposed to be fun
  • Tom-for loaning me equipment that I couldn’t afford
  • Joe-for tagging along on late night shoots to make sure I don’t get hit by a car or stabbed by a hobo.
  • Robert and Kris-for giving me a shocking amount of creative freedom, and trusting me with cars worth more than my house.

Apologies to anyone I missed.

Without further ado: my best shots of 2017.

The Nobleman (S63 AMG)

There are luxury cars, then there are German luxury cars, then there is the Mercedes Benz S-Class. It is a monolithic brick of teutonic engineering. The S-Class is a car designed to place your comfort above all else. These days it seems that everyone’s interpretation of a luxury car is to try and beat the BMW M5 at its own game. An admirable goal as the M5 is a staggering feat of engineering, but the answer to every question does not have to be rock hard suspension and Nurburgring lap records. The S63 is luxury in the classic definition. Soft leather, wood inlays, and an effortless drive.

Cars these days are heavier than they’ve ever been. It is not unheard of for a sedan to weigh over two tons. A decade or two ago, that was the weight of a Suburban, but now an Audi S8 weighs nearly the same. Most manufacturers use heavily assisted electronic steering racks to mask this bulk. You can lightly spin the wheel with one finger, completely forgetting the thousands of pounds of steel wrapped around you. That is not the case in the S63. It is heavy. Unabashedly, unashamedly so. Within the first dozen feet you are very aware of the mass at your control. But mass does not mean unwieldy. It feels solid. Stable. Monolithic.

What happens, then, when you give this paragon of old-world luxury over to the frothing lunatics at AMG? It would be easy for them to ruin the formula, but they actually keep it reined in. Well, reined in for AMG. The ride is still compliant, and the stereotypical raucous exhaust has been dialed down. Until you really put your foot in it, the performance capabilities are fairly innocuous.

Oh, sure, you can dial the Active Body Control over to Sport, and shift using the paddles behind the wheel, but that just misses the point. Manual shifting takes an eon to relay your request, and the big girl never feels light on her feet. This is not some lithe and agile track weapon, it is a bruiser of a grand tourer. The sole purpose of all that power to allow you to leave the peasants behind, choking on your aristocratic dust. For remember, you are better than them, because you have an S63 and they don’t.

The S63 was well over $100,000 when new. It may not be the most expensive car I’ve ever driven, but it certainly feels like it. But, more importantly, it looks like it. People have a primeval response to a blacked out S-Class rolling up on the curb. You instantaneously become a person of distinction. Not necessarily one of class, but one of note. Being human, occasionally you have to play up the role.

While the S63 does not encourage quite the flagrant disregard of all restrictions in the manner of a sportbike, there is the subtle suggestion that certain things are beneath you. Not because the rules are flawed, it’s just that you are important, and everyone should cater to your whims.

Surely that speed limit doesn’t apply to you.

You own an S63.

Of course you can park there.

You own an S63.

The front passenger should move out of your way when you’re in the back.

Because fuck them, you own an S63.

That’s right, the rear passenger can move the front passenger’s seat. Because the person being driven is the one with the power. With one little button press, you commandeer their seat controls. If they could have legally allowed the rear passenger to control the driver seat as well, I’m sure they would have. From the luxurious back, you also can control the shade on the rear sunroof (because of course it has two) as well as the shades on both rear side windows and rear windshield.

With some cars, it is difficult to tell where all the money has gone. Within the first hundred yards in this, it is blatantly obvious what you are paying for. The S63 just feels expensive, in the most glorious way. There is something to be said for a car that is worth more than your house, that can easily cruise at double or triple any speed limit in the nation. Whether in the front seat or the back, you feel just that little bit more important than the other plebeians on the road. Because you are. After all, they’re not in an S-Class.