7 Jul 2015

Sweet on the street

In maybe 30 years time,perhaps even sooner,most of the internal combustion engine powered cars will be gone.Electric cars will rule the roost.Perhaps they will all be Google driverless cars forever suggesting shops we should visit and places where we can eat as they drive us along and automatically telling Google Circles where we are travelling so that all our "friends" can "share" our drive.Banish the thought.

What a sad place the world will be.No more engines to tune,to tinker with,to maintain,to repair,to listen to,to discuss,to curse and of course to love.All gone.Replaced by soulless electric motors,electronic control units and battery packs.Let's love those IC engines whilst we can.

Two sweet sights on the street.Opposite ends of the automotive spectrum.Top-a quite beautiful Alfa convertible parked casually on a street corner outside a cafe in Paris a few weeks ago.What a beautiful car and so suitable for cruising around Paris-the right companion would just set it off.....magnifique.
Bottom -an old Volvo wagon on a street in Portland Oregon a few weeks ago.The owner has had it resprayed in a very attractive gunmetal colour,lowered the ride height,fitted bigger wheels and tyres and blacked out the chrome.Complete with bike carrier it is a very cool wagon which costs a lot less and carries a lot more than a contemporary SUV.A silk purse from a sow's ear although that's a little unfair as these old Volvos have a lot going for them -they were just underappreciated by non Volvo owners in their day.I am told these Volvo wagon revivals are becoming very fashionable in Europe.Every dog has its day...
Alfa photo by David Young.Volvo photo by the Rolling Road

5 Jul 2015

The gum wall-totally revolting.

This post is revolting.If you visit Seattle all the tourist guides tell you that one of the top tourist sights is Pike Place Market.That is nonsense.It is a tatty,tourist trap.Not a real market.A few theatrical fish stalls selling overpriced salmon,a few florists selling flowers which do not last probably due to the way they have been stored-we know we bought some-and lots of tourist tat shops and overpriced and frantically busy restaurants.And then of course there is the original Starbucks shop-I'll come back to that another day-and then there is the gum wall.
The gum wall is located in Post Alley which comes up to the market from the south.It is actually two walls on both sides of the alley where thousands of people have deposited their chewed chewing and bubblegum.Can you think of anything more revolting?
I came across the gum walls by chance as I was walking up the alley from the waterfront.I could not believe my eyes.And there were tourists-all young- depositing their gum on the wall.Totally vile.I could not get out of there fast enough-after a few photos for the blog that is.It turned my stomach typing this and as for those two girls with the selfie stick touching the wall words fail me.....I am sure that the blog followers from Singapore where gum is illegal are probably retching by now.Enough....

4 Jul 2015

On classic car prices and Le Mans

The recent post see Classic Porsche prices on escalating early Porsche prices drew a few emails.
One reader reminded me that some extremely valuable Porsches and Ferraris -we are talking cars valued in millions and even tens of millions of dollars-are still being risked on the race track so all is not yet lost.Agreed.Here's two photos of very valuable cars - a Porsche 917 and a Ferrari 275GT being campaigned hard at the Le Mans Classic 2014.
Photos taken at Tertre Rouge at the start of the Mulsanne Straight.
A very recent story on the Macfilos blog see Macfilos-Le Mans  lamented the difficulties of taking action photos at this year's Le Mans 24 hours due to the catch fencing.
As these two photos show you can avoid most of the bad effect of the catch fencing if you go to the right place.At Tertre Rouge there is a big spectator embankment on the inside of the corner and from the top you are looking down on the cars and the catch fencing is in the lower part of the photo.Also by panning at a lower shutter speed you can blur out the wire and posts as well.The Porsche at full tilt was taken at 1/100th second and the Ferrari at 1/60th.Both these photos were taken with a 28-70mm zoom lens and cropped.I could have done a lot better if I had a much longer lens with me.

3 Jul 2015


The Goodwood Festival of Speed June 2015.The show was bigger than ever and sadly the garden party atmosphere has long gone but no worries as the sun shone,the crowds poured in and Peter was there with his big Canon.Thanks Peter.

Photos by Peter de Rousset-Hall.

2 Jul 2015

Early morning -Far from the Madding Crowd

I have just seen the recently released movie-Far from the Madding Crowd.The director certainly likes "golden hour" light as almost all the exterior scenes are bathed in golden light.The cast and crew must have had a lot of very early mornings.
The movie has been widely acclaimed by the critics but whilst there is no doubt that the acting and the cinematography are excellent it left me underwhelmed.It is just too bucolic.Even the beggars look like their clothes have just been bought and roughed up a little.The lead man always looks as if he has come straight from the hairdresser.And as for the countryside it looks,well,bucolic. An idyllic picture of Victorian rural England when the reality was very different.
But maybe I have missed the point and the producers did in fact intend to show a romanticised world and not real life.
Whichever it is I hope Australia's Prime Minister does not see it - he is already intent on dragging Australia back to the 1960s- as he may well be tempted to go further and take us back to the 1870s. Indeed the scene where the hero loses everything when his flock of sheep go over a cliff and he is reduced to abject poverty without any welfare or social security would really resonate with the Government.I can just picture the Treasurer and Finance Minister chortling at his misery and lighting up a couple of Havanas at that point.
Here's my take on early morning light in Portland,Oregon June 2015.No happy peasants pitching hay or rosy cheeked wenches smiling at the yokels in the fields there- -but so many beautiful mornings-I'm fortunate to be a morning person.Leica X1 photos.


30 Jun 2015

On V4 power

Whilst the two Porsche 919s with their 2 litre V4 turbocharged hybrid powertrains were roaring/purring around the Sarthe circuit to take a superb 1/2 in the Le Mans 24 hour race I was on the last few days of my V4 turbo powered 2000km drive in Oregon and Washington State.Sadly my mount was an Avis Ford Fusion Titanium with a 2 litre turbocharged Ecoboost power unit.It was in fact a surprisingly competent if characterless car.Well put together and comfortable with a well sorted chassis.The steering is too light and lacks feel for my taste but that seems to the market requirement nowadays.
With a rental car there is no handbook so I was never able to work out how to operate any locking and unlocking mode other than the basic buttons on the fob however the fact that red numbers appeared on the driver's side B post suggested there was PIN activated access system and another Fusion driver I spoke to told me there was also a proximity activated locking system.Typically American-too much choice.
I was able to access the menus on the electronic dashboard and so was able to set the aircon and exterior temperature readings to celsius as I no longer can relate to fahrenheit.

The Ford V4 turbocharged family of engines come in a variety of capacities and are fitted across the US Ford range in models as diverse as the Mustang and the F150 truck.In the car I was driving it was coupled to a 6 speed auto transmission.
The engine has good grunt low down -very useful for merging onto a fast moving interstate highway but it runs out of grunt at the top end.
Over 2000 kms it averaged 10.1 litres per 100 km fuel consumption.A tad lower that I might have expected given the eco part of its moniker but not so bad.

The 2/2.5 litre V4 turbocharged configuration seems to be the power unit layout of choice for many manufacturers as the way to meet ever tightening fuel consumption and emissions targets.Apparently Porsche are about to announce a flat 4 turbocharged 2 litre power unit for the Boxster and Cayman ranges and soon there will only be one sports car model Porsche with a naturally aspirated engine.Turbos are soon to rule beyond Le Mans.
919 photo by Porsche Cars

29 Jun 2015

Checking the oil

                                               Terrigal,NSW,Australia.Winter afternoon sunshine Mon 29th June 2015

28 Jun 2015

Welcome Felix

Welcome to the world,Felix.
Grandchild #5,grandson #2.To Julia and Toby at Sydney RPA Hospital approx 17.30 on Saturday 27th June.

Photo taken today - Felix being introduced to big brother,Otto.Leica X1.Jpeg file straight from the camera.1/30th sec at f2.8 ISO 500

Today was a wonderful day.It was also a personal test.I had a momentous family event to record.I had a choice of 4 cameras-the Hasselblad film camera,the Sony a7,the Leica X Vario and the old standby, the Leica X1.Instinctively I took the X1.No fuss,no decisions to make and I knew that it could produce outstanding results.It did.I am delighted with the photos I took and this has to be my personal favourite.Simplicity wins again.Maybe eBay beckons for the others.

26 Jun 2015

Thoughts on classic Porsche prices

Not for sale.My 1977 2.7 .

A few weeks ago a 1975 2.7 911 Porsche sold at auction in Sydney for A$75,000.Apparently it is a very tidy car in original but by no means concours condition.This is an extraordinary price for what is one of Porsche's least exciting models.At the moment this sale seems to be an outlier but it is indicative that the prices of big bumper G-series 911s are moving rapidly upwards.
Prices for longnose pre-1973 911s are continuing to climb into the stratosphere and 356 prices are already stratospheric.

This is all very bad news for Porsche enthusiasts.It means that many genuine enthusiasts will be tempted to cash in their much loved cars. I have recently heard a story of one enthusiast who has owned a very desirable early 911 for many years.He restored the car and for him it has been a long term project and a real labour of love.It is now worth approaching A$200,000.He finds himself asking whether he should sell it and put the proceeeds into his mortage or his children's education.Others will be asking the same questions.
I have also heard from two friends of recent instances where they were offered very substantial sums for their Porsches,one a longnose 911 the other a 356,whilst at local car events.
Already we are seeing competition fields depleted of early cars as the owners consider them too valuable to take on the track.

The price inflation will move the classic cars out of the reach of most genuine enthusiasts.Less cars will be run on the road.More cars will end up in the hands of rich collectors.This is already a well established trend.It's the wealth inequality thing again.Wealth gets concentrated into the hands of a few.

This is all particularly sad for Porsche as the older cars are so usable.They are very reliable and they keep up with modern traffic.They deserve to be driven and owned by true enthusiasts.Alas it looks as if many will end up as garage queens.

A Sony lens for $43

I may be telling this story against myself given my enthusiasm for Leicas and Leica lenses in particular but this photo was taken with a lens which I bought for A$43 on eBay. It was A$60 with the postage from an Australian seller in Brisbane.
The lens is a classic Minolta F1.7 50mm MD mount which I fitted onto a Sony a7 with an adapter I also bought on eBay and which cost A$11.47 with free postage from Hong Kong. Despite its price the adapter is very well made - how do they do it?
The lens did not come with caps and to protect it I bought a 49mm Hoya UV filter off eBay from another Australian seller for A$14.50 again with free postage.So my total outlay for the lens,adapter and filter was A$86 say US$64.
The lens is in excellent condition.Optically it is mint and the focus ring turns like oiled silk.Minolta were once a very well regarded camera and lens manufacturer. Indeed they had an association with Leica at one stage. They were bought by Sony in 2006.
The above photo of Phoebe,my beautiful old Himalayan,was taken at F1.7-the colour is great and the lens is tack sharp - see the enlarged section below.

 Below are a couple more shots I took with it a few weeks ago. It performs very well and also it it feels good on the camera.The pattern on the focus ring on the lens reminds me of an Olympus Zuiko lens.The adapter is quite short so that the lens/camera combination is compact.The problem with using some heritage lenses on the a7 with adapters is that the adapters are long so you end up having a slim camera body dominated by a great big lens.
If I had been asked to do a blind test of this lens and had been told it was a new $1000 Zeiss lens for the Sony I would have said that it is a very good lens.For A$86 it is a quite extraordinary lens.If you own a Sony a7 and are looking for a wide aperture 50mm lens find yourself one of these. And if you own a Sony NEX this lens becomes a F1.7 90mm equivalent which really is a useful piece of kit.Sure you have to focus and set the aperture manually but that is not a big deal particularly as the Sony's manual focus peaking works so well.And remember many of those high priced current Zeiss lenses for the Sony mount are manual focus and aperture control.

24 Jun 2015

Concorde in Seattle

I never had the opportunity to fly on Concorde but 2.5m lucky people did whilst it was in service from 1976 to 2003.I used to see the British Airways and Air France Concordes at Heathrow and Roissy on my trips to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s.Now there are 14 of the original 16 Concordes left and on display -for list of locations see Concordes on display.
I photographed this one at the Museum of Flight in Seattle two weeks ago.When you go into it the interior is small,cramped and the analogue flight deck looks very antiquated.It was by any standards an amazing piece of aeronautical engineeering-a commercial failure but a technological triumph.
I have entered this photo into an international competition-I hope its simplicity will appeal to the judges.I stood for some considerable time on the spot waiting for the cloud to drift into exactly the right position and luckily it followed my script.

22 Jun 2015

In Portland

Portland,Oregon is a very liveable city.It has a very nice feeling-some would call it a vibe.It has an unofficial slogan-Keep Portland Weird.Well it's not weird but just different.
It is a very green city with good public transport and obviously a strong sense of community.The city is beer,bike and tattoo mad.There are 84 microbreweries,74 bike stores and 72 tattoo parlours in the city-all for just 600,000 people.That's roughly one brewery,one bike shop and one tattoo parlour for every 10,000 Portlanders.
It also has what is claimed to be America's biggest bookstore,Powells, and this means that it is probably the world's biggest bookstore.The store still seems to be thriving.It is enormous and open till late into the evening.I suspect that some people live there undetected.
Portland is home to Nike,Columbia Sportswear,Intel and numerous high tech companies and even Leatherman tools.It still is a major port for timber exports.
It must also have the world's largest concentration of Kia Soul cars.They are everywhere.When you pass a Portland Kia dealer their forecourt is just a sea of Souls.Some would say that this enthusiasm for the Soul proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Portland is in fact weird.
Saab,Volvo,VW and Subaru used to be the cars of choice for Portlanders going by the old uns you see.Subaru and VW are still in there but new Volvos are thin on the ground and Saab has gone.
If you don't have a Soul in Portland then you have a Subaru XV and for maximum brownie points it has to be a hybrid with a Thule roofbox and a bike rack.Portland hipster.However there is an electric Kia Soul now and this may qualify for even more Portland brownie points.
Here's a selection of the cars I spotted on my early morning walks within a couple of blocks of my hotel in N Portland.Some are well decayed,some just needing some TLC-how about the Porsche 944 with the rust patch on the wing? I even saw a rare BMW 2002ti in a very sad state being driven in the traffic.

19 Jun 2015

Back from the USA

The blog has just been barely ticking over for the last four weeks as I have been travelling in the US but I arrived back this morning and am into sorting out my photos despite feeling exhausted from that long trans Pacific flight.
I have had a love/hate relationship with the US and Americans over the years but on this trip it all crystallised for me.I really began to more fully understand the US and Americans. I realise that I had been taking a sometimes oversimplistic view of the country and the people despite many trips to the US and working for Americans and American companies. It's a very complex place and society/culture and full of contradictions and things I still do not understand-more on these later.It's almost as if it is a patchwork of separate countries as the regions are so different in terms of landscape and culture.
I travelled predominantly in Oregon and Washington State with a flight to Las Vegas to see the Grand Canyon.I drove over 1300 miles-2000kms -and enjoyed perfect weather nearly every day for 4 weeks. I met so many friendly,helpul and polite people and surely some of the most patient and courteous drivers in the world.Indeed the only person who was not friendly or polite in the whole trip was the immigation official at Los Angeles Airport on the way in.Yes I know that they are trying to keep the bad guys out but they do seem to have an attitude problem.
As always I took quite a few photos with both my Leica X1 and the X Vario and a quick selection is below.I tried to avoid tourist shots and I don't do landscapes well but I could not resist including a couple of photos of the Grand Canyon taken from inside the Canyon.
My picks of the photos below have to be the portraits - particularly the guitar player. I now just ask people outright if I can take their photo-in the US I avoid asking if I can shoot them as I could be misunderstood.I only had one refusal on the trip and of course I gave a few dollars to the young guy with the dog in Las Vegas who was obviously doing it tough but who still manged to smile for the camera.
My first take on a very sunny US trip.Thanks to all the lovely smiling people - it was a real delight.