The Death of the Black Swan; Enter Bumblebee

The day I’ve been waiting for months finally came. If you recall my previous post about actually getting the Brembo’s, you’ll know that I ordered it at the end of January and didn’t end up getting them for almost 2 months after. Even after getting them, I couldn’t put them on because of the shitty weather we’re having. As I type this, we are under a snowfall warning and expecting 10-20cm of snow – WTF – it’s the middle of April for Pete’s sake!

Whatever, I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing about our century-long winter so let’s just talk about the exciting stuff. This last weekend ended up showing us a bit of mercy and we had +10C weather – nice enough for us to stay in the garage and wrench on the cars. Punit and JC came over and helped me swap out the brakes and flush the lines. You know when you have those projects/installs that should really only take an hour but one small thing goes wrong and it takes you like 3? It happens to us every time…

Anyway, I’ll talk about it as we go… On to the pics!

The Brembos all ready to go.

You (background) vs the guy she told you not to worry about (foreground). lol

We got started right away by removing the original brake line. This was the first part that really should’ve taken like 1 minute. The brake line was caked in gunk and seized a bit so when we took the 10mm wrench to it, it sort of rounded off the nut. We ended up taking two vice grips to latch on and turn. Cue the “That Was Easy” button press.

The weapons…

Removing the brake line bracket

Punit installing the Brembo caliper bracket to allow the caliper to mount properly.

Shot of the bracket on!

The dust shields were removed – they’re not needed nor will they fit with the new brakes. You can see the new rotor to the right as well.

The stock rotor came off with a bit of hammering and the new one slid on like a glove. We put some lug nuts on to keep it in place while we installed the caliper.

Shot of it all complete!

Another shot of the finished product.

The stock calipers and rotors

Next problem was that the TE’s didn’t clear the calipers. It rubbed just barely on a part of the brakes. So who you gonna call? Zokusha Tuning!

As soon as we realized spacers were needed, I slid into Eric’s DM and he met me within half an hour to give me these 5mm spacers. The one good thing about this over shops or online sites is that if they want to be, they could be open all day, every day. Where would I get parts on a Sunday afternoon otherwise? Thanks to Eric @ Zokusha Tuning for the quick service! Life saver!

We popped the spacers on and then the wheel – perfect! The next hard part was getting the car back on the ground without getting the jack stuck or wrecking the bumper on the wood lol.

I am SO digging the look though.

The next few shots are just of the car outside. I didn’t think I’d hate it as much as I have been saying it, but I really hate taking pictures of black cars with black wheels. I did a quick edit on this because I had no polarizer and it was just bright as hell outside so everything was either overexposed or underexposed.

And another…

One more…

Front quarter shot you might have seen on the Gram…

A bit closer…

Unfortunately, back in the garage. 😦

One last one before closing the garage and heading in. I suppose it’s OK – I’ve still got a little work to do before taking out. It’s been a while since I’ve done a full detail on the car, so I think I’m going to take a full day and give it a spa day.

I need to clay bar it, give it a 2-stage polish, seal and wax it up. I want to give the front bumper a little TLC – the grill is all chipped up from last year and I need to touch it up. I’m hoping some polish will get rid of a lot of the spots from a lot of the grime it’s picked up from driving. I’m going to be a bit more patient this year and wait until most of the rocks are gone. The combination of being a black car and being low is terrible for catching everything off the road. More pics soon!

Canon to Sony: The Leap of Faith – A Tragic Love Story

A question that I’ve been asked for a while now is “why did you switch?”, or “do you like it?”. I thought I’d answer that here. Note that I decided to answer it in form of a story. Far too many of the reviews/blogs that I’ve read about making the switch are too technical, and not helpful. You’re basically giving me the spec sheet in paragraph form. I’m the type of person that needs something more tangible and relatable. Hopefully this helps those of you looking for another opinion. I won’t put any pictures here as I don’t want to clog the reading space… So read on if you’re interested.

For those of you that don’t know – one of the biggest decisions I made over the winter was to finally make the jump from Canon to Sony. For the last 12 years, I’ve been a loyal and happy fan of the Canon brand and that’s the brand that I’ve worked with to learn all of what I know now. I certainly don’t dislike Canon but the spark between us has dwindled and it was time to move on. It felt like I was ending a relationship that I had originally thought would last forever – I didn’t see this day coming, but when it did – I couldn’t think of anything besides moving on. This must be what destiny feels like.

My love for photography started at the same time my love for cars did 12 years ago. I remember the days of browsing car forums and seeing amazing pictures of amazing cars and amazing pictures of not-so-amazing cars. I remember wondering what kind of magic this kind of art was and how game changing it was for me. A decade ago, photography was not a huge thing like it is today… There were a few well-known blogs with great photography, but for the most part – just standard point and shoot pictures are all that you would see on forums. I would say at that time, the rise of automotive photography was on the horizon. Legends like Easton Chang and his rig shots were the epitome of what automotive photography could and should be. Nowadays, everyone is a photographer as long as they meet 3 criteria:

  1. They just bought DSLR
  2. They write “Automotive Photography” in their instagram profile
  3. They put a watermark on their photo

It’s almost like that’s the path to becoming a real photographer – you need to front your game before you actually have game. It’s a bit frustrating to see because these same guys are asking for paid photoshoots, and some poor soul out there will pay because they don’t know any better. I’m not trying to discredit the guys that put time into learning the art – it truly does take time. Just because you can take a picture of a flower at an open aperture to create bokeh doesn’t make you a professional. It means you can read instructions. /rant.

Anyway that’s not why you’re reading this, is it? You’ve come here to see why I decided to make the jump from Canon to Sony. As I was saying, over the last 12 years, I’ve been disgustingly loyal to Canon – almost to the point of where I would not even acknowledge other brands because I felt Canon was superior. It’s not a good attitude to have, by the way. I’ll be honest though, there was that small 1% of me that was a little curious about what other brands could do. Over the last year, my loyalty to Canon has dwindled and my inspiration to shoot has faded. I’m going to be go out on a limb here and risk saying it – but I just felt like my Canon 7D was not performing the way I wanted it to anymore. “Jason, it’s not the equipment”, you say… “It’s the user” – and it may very well be the case. It wasn’t producing sharp pictures, it was always missing, it failed me during ‘once in a lifetime’ moments and thus, my trust and love towards my once trusted Canon camera just started disappearing. I didn’t want to pick it up anymore, my S8+ was more reliable than it, and despite numerous attempts at calibrations, cleaning and google searches – there just seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Now you must be saying – “well Jason, my Canon is perfect” – and I don’t doubt that it is. But my story of ending my relationship with it happened to be because of imperfection – perhaps I expected too much, or it just wasn’t meant to be. This really starts to sound like a romance novel, but I assure you that it’s just a story between me and my camera.

The magic of user-tailored ads on social media can be amazing. You search one thing and it bombards you with deals and the magic of that product for weeks on end – forcing the little devil in the back of your mind to say “just do it. This is a sign”. And no matter how much you convince yourself that this is just showing because you googled “Sony DSLR’s” once, you start to fall into the obvious trap. It was like I was willing to step right into the bear trap even though I acknowledged and saw it and that’s where my Sony journey begins.

So I finally convinced myself that Sony was the next match that I was going to swipe right on. In order to give myself the push, I put my Canon 7D up for sale and within hours, it was sold. That did exactly what I was dreading but had hoped for – it solidified the fact that I was no longer a Canon user. That same day, I went out and bought the Sony A7II. Sony’s entry-level full frame camera – I wasn’t shooting weddings, I wasn’t shooting events that were going to pay me thousands of dollars. I was shooting my daughter, cars, and that was it. I just know that down the road, I’ll convince myself again that I need an upgrade, but for now – I had to ease into this new relationship slowly. Perhaps, we’ll take it to the next base in a few years.

As I said above, it’s been about a year since I’ve been thinking about Sony, so you can imagine that my expectations of its capability had grown exponentially over that time period. I was truly convinced that my Canon was done for and that Sony was going to be my savior. I won’t keep you in suspense – it was indeed everything that I had hoped for. You know when you leave a dull relationship where things weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either? Then you find one where sparks fly every time you meet? That was how I felt. Taking pictures with my Sony was – trying not to sound cornier than I already do – magical. Pictures were sharp, they were clear and vibrant. It didn’t “miss” shots like my Canon did. When Aria smiled, Sony got them. Where Canon failed when Aria was jumping, Sony soared. That one particular spot of carbon weave in my Voltex wing that I wanted in focus was actually in focus. Suddenly, taking pictures felt like how it used to 12 years ago – I wanted to take more, I wanted to have free reign over my shots without worrying about something being out of focus when it got on the computer. Sony, Sony, Sony… You have revived my love for shooting again that I haven’t felt in a long time, and it makes me wonder where you’ve been all my life.

Dear Canon, I don’t hate you. I just think things between us weren’t working out the way they used to. You’ve done all that you could do and honestly, it’s just me. I don’t miss you either, but I’m thankful for all that you’ve taught me and I think it’s better this way. I hope you’re in the hands of another that will treat you with the same respect as I did. Perhaps you will inspire another to become a professional photographer – either for real or just by way of writing it in their instagram profile.

For those of you that want a little more technical and less drama, here’s a version that’s not so heart breaking. My Canon 7D was my trusty sidekick for the last 3 or 4 years. I had originally upgraded from a Canon 40D, and before that – the long forgotten Canon XT. As you can see, my history of SLR’s began with Canon and unfortunately does not end with Canon. The 7D was great at first and I admittedly bought it for its video capabilities which I never used. Still – it provided me with many of the successful photos and photoshoots that you see on the blog today. Over time, I just found that it was slowly declining in performance and it was the same for my two previous bodies as well. Those performance issues translated into (as mentioned above) out of focus shots, images that were once sharp were no longer sharp at all, and generally just lack luster photos. I did ensure that my lenses were calibrated and performing as well as they should have been and came to the conclusion that it was the body – right or wrong.

Upon choosing the Sony A7II, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. It was going to be my first full-frame body, and my first mirrorless body, AND I was also switching brands at the same time – so there was lots of change happening all at once. I paired it up with a Sony 35mm F1.4 – a very stellar and highly recommended lens. Again – right or wrong – the Sony just outperformed in almost every aspect when shooting the exact same subjects – most notably, Aria. One could say it’s because it’s a brand new body, others would say that it’s all in my head. Whatever it is, it’s now sparked my inspiration to shoot again and I love it. The tracking auto-focus is amazing when I’m following Aria around and taking snaps. It’s ISO noise control is superb, and separation between foreground/background is just so sharp and distinct. One of my favourite features of this mirrorless route is the ability to not only live view the picture you’re taking, but to see exactly what it’ll look like before pressing the shutter button. In other words – you’ll see exactly what your bokeh will look like, where your focus is, what your shadows and highlights look like and it ultimately gives a real (or as real as it gets) representation of what your final outcome will be. You’ll not only know what the picture will look like, but also WHEN to take the picture. I say “when” because timing is everything in photography, so when I know what the picture will look like and how it changes based on the subjects movement in conjunction with the surrounding light and all other factors within the frame – then I have a MUCH better idea of when to take the photo, if that makes any sense.

I’ve found that over the last month of shooting with Sony that I’ve just been much more satisfied with almost 95% of the photos I take prior to post-processing. With my Canon, my success rate was near 50% and that’s a very bad thing when it comes to taking pictures of people or “once in a lifetime” moments. If 50% of my photos turned out to be garbage, then that means I only have good pictures 50% of the time – this is assuming composition, lighting and everything else was ideal. I found myself taking multiple photos like a mad man, hoping that of the 10 I took, at least 1 turns out. I like to review my photos all prior to post-processing and determine whether they’re even worth processing in the first place. More often than not – I’ve been keeping all the shots coming from the Sony A7II and this time, only one shot is needed instead of ten.

Overall – am I satisfied with the leap of faith? Yes, absolutely. If I had a few words (and not a whole novel like above) to explain my reasoning: The Sony A7II has proved to create exceptional photos with outstanding colours, clarity and sharpness that I have not seen in a long time. Despite the critical reviews about “slow AF” or it’s bigger brothers (A7R**, A7S**) better performance – this is a perfect balance for someone like myself that wants awesome performance and quality at a price that won’t break the bank. I think you’ll see the quality translated over into my photos this summer and I hope that you notice the difference. A few of my recent posts are pictures from the A7II as well. Whether it’s the equipment or the user – when you feel inspired to take photos, you almost always take great photos.

Hope that helps!

A Little Brembo Never Hurt Anyone…

Finally the last piece of the puzzle arrived! (this was actually last week but never got around to posting until now). It’s been a grueling and kind of frustrating process to get these suckers but I’m glad they’re finally in my hands.

When I originally ordered them on January 31st, I was told that it would take a week or two to assemble at the Brembo factory and then it would be shipped out. Great – not a big deal – I wasn’t in a huge rush and it was still pretty much the dead of winter with tons of snow on the ground so it’s not like they were going on the car anytime soon. A few weeks go by and I hadn’t heard anything so I followed up. I was told that they are still preparing the parts and they will be in touch soon. Another few weeks go by and still nothing. By this point, it was already March and I had no Brembos in my hands. I followed up yet again and was told they are reaching out to find out what the status is. Finally, by mid-March they said the product was going to be shipped ASAP and well… It was shipped the week after. Whatever – I still couldn’t put them on anyway but I hate being told one to two weeks and actually waiting months for something. I get that there are things that happen, but typically I find that as a customer, we’re given the best customer service with the shortest estimated wait time until we hand over the money then it goes downhill from there. Not ALL the time – but maybe it’s just me. Again, not a big deal – I got the product, they delivered on what I ordered so I’m not going to stay bitter about it but I would rather have a “it’ll be about 2 months” and have it show up in 4 weeks rather than a “it’ll be about 2 weeks” and have it show up in 2 months, you know?

Anyway – not only do I get to play ring around the rosie with this (unnamed) company for a few months, now I get to do it all over again with FedEx. The delivery was scheduled to be on a Friday. I called them on Monday before it even crossed the border and asked for them to hold it at the facility before having it go out on the truck for delivery when it got to Calgary. “No problem”, they said – and the tracking was updated. On Wednesday, I get a call saying the package is ready for pick up. I think to myself “whoa, an early arrival date. Good for me”. So I ask where can I pick it up and they said “Great Falls, Montana”. Turns out they decided to hold it at the border rather than where it’s originally supposed to go. Smart. No big deal – I tell them that this is a mistake – it’s gotta come to Calgary and I’ll pick it up when it gets here. Come Friday, it makes it’s way to Calgary with the exception that it will be held. What happens? It goes on the truck and out for delivery – I don’t get my brakes on Friday. Ugh. To save yourself the extra reading – the same thing happens on Monday too. I finally call again and ask that it does not go on the truck again and they assure me it will not. I end up picking them up on Tuesday – they did actually hold it the third time – but still a frustrating process nonetheless.

That’s my rant. At the end of the day, I got my brakes and I’m happy. I just wanted to do a quick post showcasing them before they got on the car – which likely won’t be for another few weeks until this weather decides to get its shit together. It’s April and it’s still snowing…

The beautiful boxes. lol

The GT calipers in all their glory. I can’t wait to put them on the car and get the car down on the ground.

Stainless steel brake lines

The slotted rotors. The coating should go away after the break in.

Another shot of the calipers. The packaging is amazing. The brakes come with a manual check list of everything to ensure all is in working order and all parts are accounted for. It’s then signed off by someone at Brembo and dated. I like those details.

Here we have Endless RF-650 brake fluid courtesy of Eric over at Zokusha Tuning. Shortly after receiving the brakes, I went on Instagram and asked for recommendations on new brake fluid. I’ve tried a few and am no expert in brake fluid so I thought I’d try something new. In the past, I’ve always used Motul as that seemed to be one that lots of people gravitated towards. One of the first times I had used Motul was about 10 years ago in my Civic. I had tracked with regular stock fluid and that was terrible – the pedal was mushy and it wasn’t long after the braking was just fading away. After switching to Motul, the braking was MUCH better on the following track days and that would’ve been the first time I became a believer.

This time around, a lot of the recommendations that came in were for Endless RF650. Not just for the JDM scene points, but this ended up being one of the top notch brake fluids out there. I mean, everyone knows I’ve built a track car and go to shows. I’m not going to front that fact but I hope I get some seat time on the track some time this year – I’ve been itching it but other things get in the way. It doesn’t help that it’s like 2.5 hours and a hotel stay away for a night just to get to our nearest track.

Upon receiving all the recommendations, Eric reached out and let me try out a liter of this apparently epic Endless brake fluid. I’m super stoked to be trying this out in combination with the Brembos.

If any of you local guys need parts, I highly suggest checking him out here:

Over the last year, he’s been super helpful with getting me quotes and information on products with no hesitation. He can get a lot of stuff that you don’t see on the website obviously – reach out to him via Instagram DM’s or email. You won’t be disappointed with his prices.

Once I get the Brembos on the car, I’ll be doing a review on it all and a write up on how everything looks and feels. Stay tuned! Now we just wait for the snow to go away so we can all have some fun.

Black on Black on Black (with a little bit of blue)

The pieces are finally coming together! When you’re busy, even some of the simplest tasks become complicated. You’d think putting together wheels and tires would be as easy as bringing it to a shop to get it done – and it is. Except I make things harder than they actually are sometimes.

I had to order two new tires, so I finally got my lazy ass to text Alex to see if he could source me some new ones. Boom – even delivered to Jackie’s shop for me. One down. The next piece was the valve stems… I wasn’t about to run red valve stems on the new black TE’s – not that anything is wrong with it, but it just wouldn’t match the look I’m going for. In my plea for help in trying to find black Rays valve stems without paying $100 for shipping, Errol said that he had some spares. Boom – Errol gave them to Jackie for me.  Next was just dropping everything off to Jackie’s to get it done. Isaac finished it for me at lunch yesterday and that was that.

The point of all this is that I’m thankful for the friends in the car community. I mean, I could probably have gone and done all the picking up and delivering myself but I probably would have taken months to actually do it. It’s just the little things that matter – I’m grateful for that. I’m pretty sure the car would probably have just stayed on jack stands this year without their help.

Anyway, just a few quick shots of the wheels. I’m just waiting on ONE MORE big piece of the puzzle before the car gets to go back on the ground. It rhymes with “Dig Drake Bit”. Until then, it remains hoisted up with dusty ass panels until I find time to polish and wax it for the start of the season.

That blue with black is SO good. I never thought I’d love black wheels ever.

Match made in heaven.

Can’t forget the titanium valve stem caps from TiBurnt. They look so rad and the blue/purple works well with the blue Rays/Volk stickers.

Just a mock up. As you can see almost impossible to get a good pic LOL. Underexpose all the things!!

All Black Everything

Well finally the pieces are starting to come together for the FRS once again and I got up off my lazy ass to start getting some things done. The first thing was to get the TE’s dismounted and sent off for a colour change. I’m not going to say that I was necessarily tired of the red, because I still thought it looked great. I just wanted to change it up a bit. I’ve said before that the #1 combination of colours that I hate shooting is a black car with black wheels, yet here I am doing exactly that.

I’ve envisioned this look for about a year now and I’ve finally come to decide that I think it’s going to be a nice, fresh start. I’m not sure what the current trends are lately – they seem to be bouncing back and forth between super vibrant colours or a chrome wheel. I’ve decided to go back to the basics with the TE37’s with the OG gloss black. Not necessarily the Diamond Black that Volk has come out with – that is more of a very dark charcoal colour. To put the cherry on top, I also decided on finishing them with the OG TE37 decals as well as opposed to the SL spoke sticker.

Anyway, there’s a few more pieces I need to complete this look and I think the last piece is something you guys are going to love. The combo is just going to be too rad and I haven’t seen it done yet. Going back to the basics and hoping to really bring a different, yet simple look this year. Enjoy!

Right out of the packaging.

Beautiful. It’s a bit naked without the spoke stickers, but it’s definitely refreshing to see a nice new finish.

Got my cleaning supplies/degreaser to prep for stickers.

Replacement VOLK/RAYS stickers…

Simple application… PS remember that they go on a specific spoke and in a certain order. Locate the valve stem hole, then go up to make a T. The two spokes to the left and right of the center cap is where the stickers go.

In all their glory. It’s amazing what a set of stickers do to make these look amazing.

That concave. Love it.

For now… They’ll just rest in Diana’s library LOL.