22 Mar 2017

The Sony a7-not a good idea

I've, at last, just sold the Sony a7 camera which I acquired nearly three years ago.  At the time the Sony a7 was the "in" camera and friend Roger, whose opinion and expertise I respect, had just bought one and he was very enthusiastic about it-and as far as I know he still is.
Now over the years I've owned a few cameras and I've always bonded with them. I loved my original Leica, the Olympus OM2 and all the film Leicas-they were gorgeous. I was never so keen on the big clunky Canon EOS SLRs but they were great tools. I did handle a few Sony a7's before I took the plunge but as soon as I unpacked the camera I knew something was amiss. It just did not feel right. It felt like a piece of plastic electronics-not a camera. The haptics were all wrong. But it got worse when I came to use it. The menu system is a total nightmare as are the controls. Knobs and buttons everywhere and the knobs did not have a nice mechanical feel when used. To put it bluntly I hated it but I thought that I have it so I will persevere.
The camera came with the Sony kit zoom lens which is like most kit zooms nothing special. At the time Sony's selection of a7 lenses was pretty thin so I bought some adapters and used legacy lenses which I had in my cupboard. Using these was not much fun. All the forums and fan sites carry on about the joys of using legacy lenses but for the most part they are a pain.
It was not all bad news as I did get some good action photos and photos of my grandchildren with it.  But it was hard work. After a few months I put the a7 up on eBay but only got silly offers so it stayed on the shelf -unloved and largely unused. A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was silly leaving it there - the batteries would go off and cameras do not improve through lack of use. So this time I put it on Gumtree. There were quite a few a7's on offer on the local Gumtree and most were the higher resolution later models. It was a crowded market but in the end I took a fair offer and it has gone. Thank goodness. A lesson learnt.  I have only myself to blame. I had this gut feeling that I just wasn't going to like the camera but then I thought "look at the enthusiastic reviews- this is the way forward". I should have gone with my instinct.
Now apart from the film Hasselblad-which is another issue- I am back to being 100% Leica and it is going to stay that way going forward. You can only have one Sony a7 in your life.

18 Mar 2017

The way we were

I stumbled across a few ancient strips of negatives a few days ago and I scanned them in and found a couple of intriguing photographs both of which are good reminders of what "the good old days" were really like for all those who constantly yearn for them.
The first photo below was taken by me in Bulgaria in 1971. Going to a Black Sea resort was very popular in those days for British as well as German,Dutch and Scandinavian tourists. The resorts were just fine but when you ventured inland you saw the real Bulgaria which was a hardline communist state. It was grim and this street scene is typical.  I just cannot believe reports that many Hungarians and Estonians apparently yearn for the good old communist days. Be careful what you wish for.
The second photo was also taken by me in a street market in London in the early 1960s. The photo is very evocative and conveys how grim it was in that period.
Out of curiosity I Goggled Marie's Cafe and much to my surprise find that it is still in business as a smart Thai restaurant in exactly the same location. See  Marie's Cafe . Lower Marsh St, Lambeth where the photo was taken is now an "up and coming area" and the street market is still going. Below is a photo from Google streetview of the location today. What is it about British streets and betting shops?  Many of the buildings remain the same. Little did I know when I went out on that wet and cold day all those years ago that I would be able "revisit" the location on a computer screen whilst sitting on the other side of the planet 50 years later. And some people want to go back to the good old days? Give me a break.

15 Mar 2017

The smiling photographer

Because Terrigal is such an attractive location it attracts photographers. On my early morning walk I often see a photography group-usually from a camera club - with their tripods and Nikon and Canon DSLRs-everyone of them earnestly staring at glowing LCD screens in the twilight as they try and capture a totally boring scene of moving water over rocks by the rockpool at the end of the beach. Inevitably the camera club groups are nerdy types - male and female - with big Lowepro backpacks and very serious demeanours.
I have never had any interest in joining a camera club and my recent exposure to these club members in Terrigal has done nothing to change my mind. I have also experienced camera snobbery whilst talking to these groups. When I show them the little Leica X1 in my hand they can barely conceal their contempt. They almost say out loud " you can't take real photos with that toy". One actually said to me that "you can only take the sort of photos we take with a serious DSLR". I thought about this and concluded that he is probably right but not in quite the way he intended.
I believe that photography is a solitary pursuit and you cannot practice creative photography in a group. Even if I go for a bushwalk with my good photographer friend Peter I rarely ever come back with a good photograph although this maybe more down to the fact that I don't do landscape photography than being with someone.
Anyway it was a delight to meet a solitary photographer earlier in the week on my early morning walk . She is not quite a local she comes from Wyoming about 14kms away so she was dedicated to get up early. She has a great smile. I hope her photographic excursion was worthwhile.
Leica X1 photo.

13 Mar 2017

Vale John Surtees

John Surtees died on 10th March at the age of 83. He was one of motor sport's greats. The only ever F1 and 500cc motorcycle world champion. He was a great engineer and a brilliant driver and rider. I was very fortunate to have seen him race in Ferraris, Hondas and Lolas. Photo above taken at, I think, Silverstone showing him looking on whilst the Honda engineers work on his car. All so different to today's F1 paddock scenes. A giant from another age.

9 Mar 2017

Surf days

In the last two months I have been looking at a book of photographs- A lifetime of Looking- by the British photographer Jane Bown who died in 2014. Jane worked for the Observer newspaper and was best known for her superb portraits of celebrities but she also photographed many of the newsworthy events in the UK in the post war era. She was a master of her craft.
On the back cover of the book is a quote by her-"Some people take photographs.I find them." This really hits a chord with me. I guess that it is something I have known for many years but not always applied .
 Our long very hot summer has drawn to a close-it is not cold but it has been wet and very stormy. Yesterday I went out to nearby Avoca Beach between the showers and the storms seeking to follow Jane's axiom and look for pictures.  The strong winds had whipped up the sea and the surf was big. I came back with some good photos. Today the storms had passed but the surf is still high and at Avoca there is a big surf competition. I drew an almost total photo blank. The one  shot I did get was of one of the pro surf photographers in action on the beach. He was using an enormous Canon lens and the latest Canon pro DSLR body. He said the total kit was worth over  $25000. No point in trying to compete with that.
Here's my photo haul from the two days. I am particularly pleased with the photo of the young surfer on the rock against the big storm out at sea-above. This one just came together for a couple of seconds. It was not staged. The sun broke through right on cue, a big wave came and he turned in my direction. Eureka. Sheer luck.

All photos taken with the Leica XV

5 Mar 2017

On the road again

Warren's car is on the road again-after two and a half years and a big spend. It sounds great and he seems very happy with the performance and the gearchange from the rebuilt gearbox. I hope that he does not now regret his personal customisation of the car. Top photo shows Simon of Autowerks (right) doing the handover to Warren on Friday afternoon.

The yellow car is my 2.7 which is still grounded at Autowerks with starting maladies . It was not a good week for me and my Porsches as I had to replace both batteries of the 2.2 on Monday at a cost of $360. I should not really complain as they had been in the car for just over 9 years-is this a record? The early cars have two batteries housed in boxes behind the headlamps in both wings. This setup was adopted for weight distribution reasons. Getting the batteries in and out is not a simple task. I am glad that they started to fail whilst the car was at home. The NRMA or any roadside assistance battery supplier would not carry the unusual size batteries and they certainly would not have been prepared to spend the time changing the batteries over.

27 Feb 2017

Nearly there

Friend Warren's Porsche 911 1977 Targa is back on the road after a two and a half year rebuild. Warren has customised the body and interior. It's his personal "Singer" car. You end up doing this if you read too many Porsche magazines.
The engine and gearbox have been totally rebuit by Autowerks in Charmhaven,NSW. Photos below.
Two weeks ago Warren and I went to Autowerks to see the engine before it went back into the car. The car passed its rego last week and is now being shaken down. We plan to go up and collect it this week. I will put up photos of the finished car hopefully later this week.
I will also be collecting-I hope- my 2.7 which arrived at Autowerks last Friday afternoon on a flat bed truck after failing to start in hot conditions in a car park in Terrigal Friday morning.  This is the first time in 16 years of ownership that the car has let me down like this. I had to use the NRMA for which I have memberships for the four family cars and they were about as useful as a chocolate teapot and it seems that my experience was not unique. No renewals coming up next year. It seems that the NRMA are just not prepared to look at even attempting any sort of rectification on a car nowadays. They basically change tyres, bring fuel when you have run out, rescue children and dogs from locked cars and jumpstart cars or sell you a replacement battery.
I have bought a lithium-ion jumpstart power pack which I will keep in a Porsche and use if I have to attempt a jumpstart again.

24 Feb 2017

Racing food

One thing you used to be able to count on at any motor racing meeting was unhealthy food. Le Mans was bad but so were Australian circuits. Ghastly food was a given. At Le Mans there used to be big tented restaurants where food was served to hundreds sitting at trestle tables. The food was steak with the consistency of racing tyres or pork swimming in fat served with salads and very greasy fries. And as for the prices-sacre bleu! At stalls around the circuit there were sausages cooked on hot plates and the sausages were literally floating on a sea of fat. I have a photo of one of those stalls from 2004 but I cannot find the file which maybe just as well. After a weekend at Le Mans your chances of dying from heart disease must have more than doubled.
When I last went to the Le Mans 24 hour race I was really surprised at how much the food offerings at the circuit had improved. Filled baguettes, salads and even fruit were easy to find.
 I remember in 1989 I went to a round of the Sports Car World Endurance Championship at Spa. I was there with a group of Jaguar dealers so it was a junket and we had a lavish lunch laid on in a suite above the pits. With a colleague, John Crawford, I managed to sneak away from the groaning tables of fine food to find a little stall serving  Belgian frites. They serve them freshly fried and piping hot in a paper cone with mayonnaise and they are delicious. Mission accomplished. I took quite a few photos that day but sadly none of one of the most memorable parts of the race - les frites.
At the Bathurst 12 hours three weeks ago there was a choice of healthy food available in the paddock but for breakfast Warren and I went for a motor racing staple - a bacon and egg roll. Vintage motor racing food-and this time I did have a camera ready.

21 Feb 2017

Tyre changes

Big fat slicks seen at the recent Bathurst 12 hours. As it was a dry race there was no need for wet tyres although all teams had sets ready just in case. The quantity of tyres used in these endurance races is extraordinary. The tyre fitters from the tyre suppliers were flat out in the heat fitting tyres to wheels for the whole race.
 I don't know how much one of these tyres costs but I would hazard a guess at approaching $800 per tyre. Motor racing is an expensive business.
At the Le Mans 24 hours there is a whole huge paddock devoted to the tyre supplier's trucks and for the whole 24 hours teams are shuttling back and forth with tyres.
For 2017 Formula 1 goes back to big fat tyres. Hooray. Real racing cars should make a lot of noise and have big fat tyres. This wonderful shot below from my archive taken at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1981 shows how it used to be.
There are a host of rule changes for F1 in 2017 designed to improve the closeness of the racing and to enhance spectator appeal. The really good news in that Liberty Media have completed the takeover of the F1 rights and the very obnoxious Bernie Ecclestone has been shown the door. The new rights holders are committed to turning the sport around but they have a big job ahead of them. After sacking Bernie - by phone apparently-I would have done it by SMS myself- they need to find a way to sack Lewis Hamilton. Then they need to get stuck into bringing about more fundamental rule changes for 2018 and in particular dumping the stupid DRS rules. But at least their first move was the right one.

19 Feb 2017

Taking the plunge

Taking the plunge at the headland Avoca Beach,Central Coast, NSW- last day of the school holidays-Summer of 17.
Leica XV photo.

17 Feb 2017

The lone surfer

 The lone surfer-first surf of the day at Terrigal just before the sun was over the horizon today.
I have an Instagram account and I am challenging myself to take one good photo a day to post on it. A few years ago there were personal websites where photographers posted their photo taken that day. The websites enjoyed a very fleeting success - the issue being that the viewers had to actually log onto the websites to see the photos. Also perhaps, even more critically, posting a photo a day was too much for most of the photographers and many of the photos were rubbish.
Anyway Instagram avoids one of these shortcomings-you can follow an account/feed and when a photo is posted on it you get to see it automatically. You can avoid most of the rubbish photos by only following feeds with good photography and there is some superb photography on Instagram and it really has made great images widely accessible. There is also a load of rubbish being posted.
Today I managed two photos for my Instagram account-@therollingroad- and the above is one of them but after consideration I decided that the surfer is just too small for Instagram where most people view the photos on their phones.

The Sony a7-not a good idea

I've, at last, just sold the Sony a7 camera which I acquired nearly three years ago.  At the time the Sony a7 was the "in"...