27 Apr 2015

Special shoe cream


 I came across this Leica Co van in Tokyo in a pedestrian street in the area where by total coincidence there are/were many small camera shops. My first thought was that it was a Leica camera delivery van but that seemed implausible.Then I saw the side. It delivered Leica Shoe Cream to shoe shops.In fact it was standing outside a shoe shop. For the Leica owner who has everything-Leica branded shoe cream. Nikon,Canon and Sony owners eat your hearts out.


Just after I saw this I witnessed a motorcycle courier rider knocked off his bike by a van which pulled out without the driver checking his mirrors. The injured rider lay on the road and a crowd gathered round him. He was conscious but very groggy but then a couple of the bystanders decided to lift him up like a sack of potatoes -or should that be a sack of rice-and carry him to the pavement (sidewalk) so as the traffic could pass. You can't have injured people lying around in the road blocking the traffic in a well ordered society can you?
I intervened very swiftly before they had a chance to lift him and pushed them aside screaming at them in English to let go of his arms and legs.The "helpers" obviously thought I was demented but the injured man could have had a broken neck or spinal injuries or whatever. Luckily for me an ambulance then arrived -in an amazingly short time -and the paramedics took over.The bystanders were still in shock at this mad old westerner who had screamed at them. An odd experience. When I did a First Aid course years before I never expected to be using the knowledge on a street in Tokyo.

26 Apr 2015

Confronting


I found this photo a few weeks ago.It was in a slide file with the other slides from the same film.It was taken in the north of Vietnam in 2004 and had been overlooked for 11 years.When I returned from that trip I was very busy with work and I had the film processed and filed the slides and forgot about them.At that time there was not a lot you could do with slides except look at them on either a lightbox or with a projector.You could make prints but they were very expensive.The expansion of internet has totally opened up the way we view and use photos.

The photo was taken with a Leica M6 using a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit lens-a superb and quite compact lens.I do not know what film was used.I am not going to pull the mount apart to check but I suspect it was Ektachrome.
There is something special and unique about film.In many ways I wish that I was still using film.Apart from its look and wide dynamic range it encourages a measured and contemplative approach to photography. However it is expensive and digital is just so convenient.Perhaps too convenient.

I find the photo very confronting.It is the very cold hard stares of the two girls that I find disconcerting.The look is a look of resentment not a look of fear.Just examine those eyes.It makes me think that maybe I should not have taken the photo.
It was taken in the country north of Sapa towards the Vietnam/Chinese border.The girls are from a minority hill tribe.I cannot remember which one.The minority peoples have been harshly treated by the Vietnamese government.They are extremely poor.I cannot blame the girls for resenting me.Here I am a westerner with my fancy camera treating them as if they are exhibits in a zoo.I do worry about photographing in these environments.It worried me in Myanmar two years ago.I try to be respectful and to elicit an unspoken assent when I take these photos but it leaves me with a guilty feeling and a growing disquiet about the inequality in the world.
Perhaps I should not be writing this after the previous story where I tell of the problems with losing power for 4 days and not being able to watch TV or toast bread.These girls had probably never seen electric power.It's all relative and it should not be.
I am off to southern India later in the year.It will be interesting to see how I react to photographic situations there.

24 Apr 2015

The Big Storm

Here in NSW we have just experienced a big storm- on the Central Coast it has been described as the storm of the century.It started on Monday morning and by the evening the wind was howling and the rain was lashing down but it then got progressively worse through Tuesday and into the night.It was very frightening.As the house has a steel roof and is clad in steel sheeting heavy rain driving sideways into it sounds like gravel being thrown at it at a very high velocity.The noise was horrific.I feared that the next blast of wind would rip off the roof or bring a gumtree down.Our cats were terrified.
The damage over the region has been enormous.Roofs blown off houses, trees down everywhere with many falling onto houses and cars.Houses swept away in floods.
In Terrigal most boats were cleared from the local harbour,the Haven,in advance but one large boat was left and it ended up on the beach 3kms away badly damaged.A large branch fell on my roof and many fell on my garden doing serious damage.It's frustrating to spend 6 years growing a beautiful tree and then have it smashed in seconds by a giant gumtree branch.There is still a big branch balanced on the roof now.
As well as the flooding -over 200mm of rain in 24 hours on the Central Coast- the biggest disruption has been to electric power supply.Over 250,000 homes and businesses lost power.We lost ours from Tuesday midday until late this afternoon-Friday.It was not a good experience.Food in fridges ruined.No hot water.Cooking by the light of little LED torches.And the mobile phone networks were all down as well for 3 days.
I went out Tuesday morning to try and get some photos but I literally could not stand in the wind and sand was blasting off the beaches-not good for my camera or me.The roads were very dangerous with big branches falling down,garbage bins and garden furniture flying around  and live power lines lying on the road so I headed home very quickly.After that it was more about worrying about the storm and whether a big branch would hit our roof or whether the windows would get blown in-a very distinct possiblity as they are very big sheets of glass.
So these are the only two pictures I took.The first is looking south towards Avoca and the second is sea foam being blown up the pathway from the beach at North Avoca.
As a postscript I have just read that the biggest wave ever recorded off the NSW coast was on Tuesday and it was 14.9 metres in height.I am not sure how you measure a wave but that is big.Certainly some of the waves we could see on Tuesday afternoon from our house were enormous.



21 Apr 2015

The red Fiat

The new Fiat 500 has become such a common sight on roads across the world that it's easy to think of it as being a very small car -which it is in comparison with most other cars - but not if you put alongside the original 500.I saw this original 500 parked casually on a street In Germany last year and was surprised that I had forgotten how small it really is.It's a great scene-the Fiat parked casually on the old cobbled street and people strolling around it as if it is a children's toy.
Not one of the world's greatest motoring photos I know but I bet it made you smile and not many car photos can do that.

20 Apr 2015

Tail piece





I photographed this car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the early days -back in 2004.I don't know what the car is but it is impressive.
I took the original photo with a Leica Digilux 1 and found it today and converted it to black and white in Silver Efex 2 then lightly processed it with HDR Efex.Yes it is a very wet day.I hate rainy days and mondays.

Concrete shoes

Sign on tradesman's truck,Sydney 2015

18 Apr 2015

Extremes

I went to the local cinema in Avoca on Friday to see The Salt of the Earth a 2 hour documentary on the life of famous photographer Sebastiao Salgado.He is a superb photographer and it was a very engaging film but I did find it depressing.He spent much of his life photographing human misery-famines,atrocities and appalling working conditions.He produced amazing photos-many of them now famous but all the misery has left him depressed and pessimistic about mankind.He has now moved onto photographing the unspoilt parts of the planet.Seeing his photos it was easy to share his pessimism and this is reinforced by events all around us.So much brutality and suffering and so much nastiness and greed and so many people behaving badly and dishonestly.
Even on a day to day level the way people behave on social media and on forums is appalling.Look at the photos of Lewis Hamilton in the post below and remember he is not a teenager - he is the World Champion.It is as if all ethical checks and balances have been abandoned.Bullying and trolling are almost the norms it seems.No wonder so many people have retreated to watching videos of cats playing the piano and similar.

Fearing a blue mood I sought refuge in my photo archives and I found some photos of extremes -innocent,benign extremes. 
Extremes on two wheels.
Firstly Moto-Cross at Appin in NSW a few years ago.Taken with a Canon EOS camera and the beautiful Canon 70-200m F2.8 lens with a two times converter on Fuji Velvia film.That lens was special.Now I wish that I had not sold it but it was a monster.To think that I carried it around all over the world.




And by way of complete contrast three girls cycling home in the then beautiful town of Hoi An Vietnam.Taken with my Leica M6 on,I think Fuji Velvia film,from the back of a pick-up truck whilst on the move.This was taken in 2002.
Hoi An still has World Heritage listing but it is now completely spoilt by crass over development as I found out when I visited in 2012.It nearly made me weep.Lesson - do not return -you may well be disappointed.Does not apply to Paris.


16 Apr 2015

More than just wires

I have a nephew, James ,who is in a senior position at one of the world's leading motor racing systems companies based in Norfolk UK.He goes to motor racing all over the world.Lucky man.Motor racing must be in the family genes.Anyway on his Instagram account I found two photos which fascinated me.The first shows part of a F1 main chassis wiring loom 20 hours into a 170 hour build.Every wire is identified by the technician so they know the destination connector and contact.When it is done this loom will be millimetre perfect to fit the F1 chassis.
Now I don't have any time for the politics and spectacle of current F1 but I do appreciate the technology and this is an example of something I had not even thought about-how they connect all the complex systems on a current F1 car.It also gives an insight into why F1 is costing so much .



The second photo shows the beginnings of an Indy Car engine wiring harness.Look at those connectors.This is aerospace technolgy and a long way from the very basic and crumbling wiring harness and ancient connectors in my 1971 2.2 Porsche 911.It also makes me think about the state of wiring on many of the old planes still in service around the world.I remember getting onboard an American Airlines DC9 about ten years ago and seeing a plate in the door aperture showing that it had been built 35 years before.Best not to think about the state of the wiring on that one.

As well as being interesting technically these are actually good photos.Thanks James





15 Apr 2015

Another oaf

If Formula one racing was not in enough trouble already - with tedious boring races dominated by one team-falling TV audiences-race promoters unable to afford the F1 race fee -some of the small race teams on the brink of bankrupcy- and Bernie Ecclestone the F1 supremo offending people left ,right and centre-it now has its own sexist oaf-a man apparently in the mould of Jeremy Clarkson-Lewis Hamilton- who has used the victory champagne as a weapon to spray the poor podium girls at three successive grand prix.
Apparently social media is alight with Hamilton's critics and defenders.To me it seems an open and shut case.The man is behaving like an oaf.Look at the photos below and decide for yourself whether the poor woman is being assaulted by Hamilton.
Time to grow up and apologise Lewis.You are a disgrace.I am surprised that Mercedes have not stepped in as in my experience German companies are usually very correct about their employees public behaviour.




13 Apr 2015

A Sunday drive in the country







A great turnout of classic Porsches on Sunday for a run to the Great Northern Trading Post in tiny Laguna in the lower Hunter.The road to Laguna skirts a vast area of wilderness and although it is only 120kms N of Sydney it really is deep in the country.It wasn't so long ago that the road to Laguna was dirt and even today Laguna has no mobile phone reception.On my recce for the drive three weeks ago on a hot day I nearly hit a very large goanna-probably 2 metres in length- basking on the road.Hitting a goanna of that size at 100kmh would have been serious.
Sunday was beautiful -a Kodachrome sort of day,superb scenery and great driving roads and very little traffic.And we had a water pumper along but not any old water pumper-Andy Purvis' superb ex racer 924 CGT -and it's the genuine article.My car of the day.


11 Apr 2015

Three days in China-2004

In December 2004 Qantas started direct flights from Sydney to Shanghai and there was a promotional offer to launch the new service -with a package of flights and three nights accommodation in Shanghai.I went along and it was a hectic three days.
Normally at that time I would have taken my Leica M6 film camera as I was still wedded to film but friend Roger in the UK had just bought a Leica Digilux 2 camera and he sold me his Digilux 1 and I was curious to see how it performed.The Digilux 1 was a clunky device - a joint Panasonic/Leica effort and back in 2004 digital photography was still on its trainer wheels.
I took just the Digilux to Shanghai and despite all my reservations I came back with a really interesting set of photos which I had forgotten about until I found them last weekend.
The Digilux i has two attributes - it takes great infra red photos and it produces jpeg and tiff files with an interesting and unique look.You can find more details on this rather odd camera- I still have mine - on Wikipedia at DIGILUX 1
 I am surprised to see that on Ebay sellers are currently asking for around $300 for Digilux 1s.

Here's my three days in China-2004 collection.I unfortunately only took jpegs on that trip because the tiff files were very big and the SD cards at that time had a very limited capacity.Please don't judge the photos on their technical merit -remember that this was an early digital camera.Comparing them with current digital photos is like comparing a Boeing 707 with a 787 Dreamliner although I am surprised by how good they are.Nowadays all the gearheads who inhabit all those tedious forums on the web who cannot get by without the latest camera packed with features would not even dream of taking a photo with a camera with a tiny sensor and only 4 megapixels but it must have been inspirational for me.Most of the city and streetscapes I took on that short trip have now gone so this is a snapshot of a vanished China.I am sure that the wedding dress hire shops in Shanghai don't wash the returned dresses and hang them on a tree beside the main road nowadays.