20 Dec 2014

Before GPS

At the turn of the 20th century France was just starting to become mobile.There were very few cars and motorcycles and a rapidly growing number of bicycles.The roads were poor but people were starting to venture out from their towns and villages on the roads.Pneumatic tyres were critical to the new bicycles,cars and motorcycles but early tyre technology combined with the very poor roads meant that punctures and shredded tyres were commonplace so tyres were big business and there were dozens of manufacturers fighting for a share of the rapidly expanding market.
Michelin were amongst those manufacturers and they were the most innovative in promoting their brand.They were brand building a long time before the term was even coined.They published maps,tourist guide books and restaurant /hotel guides.Michelin became the premier restaurant reviewer in France and then Europe.
I have a collection of Michelin maps.They are jewels.When planning a journey in France,even in the age of GPS,nothing beats sitting down with a Michelin map and looking at the route and picking the most scenic roads and interesting villages as delineated on the local Michelin map.You can still buy current paper Michelin maps -(but for how long?)-and vintage maps can be found by the boxload in s/h bookstores and flea markets all over France.They are worth collecting.
One of Michelin's most succesful brand building exercises was putting Michelin branded directional markers besides French roads.This started in the 1920s and they were welcomed as a major benefit to cyclists and motorists.Many of them remain although many more have been lost as roads have been rebuilt and people have liberated the markers for their gardens.I photographed this one in Azay Le Rideau in the Loire back in July.I suspect that it was once down at street level and has been moved up the building to preserve it.
The most enduring and succesful Michelin symbol is of course the Michelin man-Bibendum.He was introduced right at the turn of the 20th century and has remained a Michelin icon ever since.The photograph below shows the author with the Michelin man at Le Mans in 2009.The Michelin man is the one on the left.

17 Dec 2014

Thoughts on the Le Mans Classic 2014

It's that time of the year when the magazines,well those that are still going,and the TV channels are assembling their lists of the year's best of whatever.Well I am not in a position to nominate a best historic motor sport event of 2014 because I only went to three and two were here in Australia and were very low key and the other was the Le Mans Classic.
This year was my fourth Classic and despite some awful weather it was by far the best.I am already looking forward to the 2016 classic and to those motor racing fans who have not yet got the Classic on their bucket list -it should be.So far the Le Mans Classic has not  embraced all the VIP premium "platinum club" exclusive hospitality nonsense which has gained a foothold at other events.At this year's event there were the first signs of it but I hope that the Le Mans organising club,the AOC, keeps the event as a big accesible festival for real enthusiasts.
If you are over the massive crowds at Goodwood take a look at the photo of the scene at this year's LMC in one of the paddocks on Friday.Sheer viewing pleasure.Leica X1 photo

16 Dec 2014


I'm not a dog person but I would make an exception for this one seen yesterday at the town called The Entrance on the Central Coast-it's actually called The Entrance because it is where a big coastal lake flows into the sea.
I first spotted him being lifted out of a back of an SUV in the car park and then later I saw him rubbing noses with his owner outside a cafe so I went up to ask if I could photograph them.Sadly the light was all wrong-very harsh and bright and from the wrong direction but having a chat with the owner revealed that Chester is a retired guide dog although he is only 5 years old.Apparently his blind handler had sadly died a year ago and the Guide Dogs organisation had taken Chester back but had decided for some reason that he should be early retired as a guide dog so here he was with a new owner.
Yesterday morning he had been playing in the surf for some time and was looking forward to sharing a kebab with his owner-a regular ritual.He had the most gentle temperament.If only more dogs were like Chester.
Not great photos but I felt that Chester was worth a mention and a couple of photos regardless.Leica X1 photos

15 Dec 2014

My Bench

I tidied one of the benches in my garage/workshop this morning.Yes,I know but you should have seen it before I tidied it.
As you can see I have a lot of motor sport memorobilia and it covers most of the walls.The sad part is that over the years I have lost/thrown away more than I have saved.
This photo was taken with a 20mm Canon EOS lens on a Sony a7 using a Metabones adaptor.It was taken using the available light at ISO 3200 and was handheld at 1/60th sec.The old Canon EOS L lens is a really nice lens.It's a leftover from when I had a big Canon EOS SLR outfit.

13 Dec 2014

Avoca Beach NSW Australia 13th Dec 2014

Photo taken by me this afternoon with a Sony a7 using a Zeiss Sonnar 150mm Hasselblad lens and a Chinese adaptor.
I sat on the rocks and shot 48 photos and this the only one which really worked.I immediately deleted the other 47.There's no point in keeping junk.

11 Dec 2014


I recently came across this photo in my files.I am pretty certain that it shows the assembly/scrutineering area in the paddock at Brands Hatch circuit in the UK and I took it in 1964 or 1965 or maybe 1966.It was a club race meeting and what looks like an interesting collection of cars is assembling for a race.At the front is the Ferrari 250GT and there is a Lotus 11 and a Healey Silverstone and a car which is probably an early Cobra.It could have been a scratch race or a handicap race which were very popular in those days.
It was obviously a warm or even hot summer's day as sleeves are rolled up and some men have even removed their ties.Very casual for the 1960s.

I googled YN4 and was able to find out much more than I expected.The owner of YN4, the very English sounding Maurice Bingham-Baring, was a very keen Ferrari enthusiast who over the years owned a number of Ferraris one of which,a 250GT Lusso,is by coincidence currently being offered for sale by a UK dealer.It seems that he transferred his cherished number onto each new Ferrari and he insisted that all his Ferraris were red .One time he came to collect a new Ferrari and found that it was not red and the dealer repainted it at no cost to him.He must have been a very good customer.

I can't be certain that Maurice B-B is in the driver's seat in this photo but as he was apparently such an enthusiast it seems very likely.He is wearing a race harness but otherwise the car looks standard-although I am not so sure that the racing fuel filler cap is standard equipment.I am sure that he would have driven the car to the track -raced it- and then driven it home again.I cannot even remember the meeting yet alone the race but it must have been interesting to see the Ferrari mixing it with the other cars.Happy days.

The photo was taken on an Olympus half frame camera and the film was processed by me -in not very sterile conditions going by the number of dust spots on the negative.

10 Dec 2014

The $120m grumpy cat.

I was amazed to read in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that a grumpy cat was the highest earning "artist" in the USA last year and that it had earned $120 million -yes that's right $120 million-in two years from product endorsements,guest appearances,etc.Gwyneth Paltrow, who I do not believe is at all grumpy ,apparently "only" earned $22m last year and she is one of the top earners.
Now I don't want to sound churlish but really $120m for a cat which had the misfortune, or should that be fortune,to be born with a mild form of dwarfism.When you think about all the people and causes desperate for money it is a very sad reflection on our times.
Anyway in the spirit of the season I am making available for product endorsements etc one of my cats,Zoe,a 14 year old one-eyed Himalayan-pictured above.If anyone wants to use her she is prepared to give all her appearance fees to the UNHCR appeal for Syrian refugees.
Photo taken by me with a Sony a7 using a F2.8 90mm Zeiss Sonnar lens.

9 Dec 2014

A real barn find

By coincidence just 24 hours after writing the previous story I read about a true barn find.Not just a barn find but an extraordinary barn find.This one is not a fantasy.See  BARN FIND

8 Dec 2014

A private collection.

About 8 years ago a link to a website was being passed around.The website purported to show an amazing collection of neglected but very interesting cars discovered in a large shed in Portugal by a surprised beneficiary of a will.The facts were much less colourful than the web story but this did not stop the link being dug out and passed around every few years and a new bunch of viewers saying  "amazing "and eagerly passing it onto their friends.I have not seen it lately so maybe it has run its course.

The collection in the photos below is real.It has not been discovered but is the personal private collection of an Italian collector,Mario Righini, and it is kept in a castle in Italy.The photo shows part of this very large collection of literally hundreds of amazing cars.
The second photo is the first independently Enzo Ferrari designed racing car-ACC 815- which is in the collection.He could not call it a Ferrari as he was still under contract to Alfa Romeo at the time.This particular car competed in the 1940 Brescia Grand Prix driven by Alberto Ascari.
Photos thanks to Graham Lawrence who was fortunate to visit this jewel of a collection.

7 Dec 2014


A clean break from motor racing for this post. I do try to vary the content of the blog.
Clarence Boudreau from Canada sent me the clever top photo taken on a 2003 vintage Leica D-Lux 1 which shoots 3.2 mp files.Very Canadian and very well spotted.Thanks Clarence.
The second photo was taken by me in June using my hotel room window as a frame.Taken in Villach,Austria.Leica X1 photo.
There are photos everywhere.You just have to see them.

5 Dec 2014

Tasman Revival Meeting 2014-Part 3

The final tranche of photos from last weekend's historic racing at SMP.Loads of chassis frames and old tech.Wonderful.

3 Dec 2014

Tasman Revival Meeting 2014- Part 2

This is the second batch of photos from last Sunday's historic race meeting at Sydney Motorsport Park.For me the appeal of historic racing is that I identify with the cars and I can access the pits and paddock area to soak up the atmosphere and photograph the cars and the people up close and personal-something you just cannot do in top level motor sport nowadays.I like racing cars to have spaceframe chassis,engines you can see and fitted with carburetors or early fuel injection,steering wheels without buttons and lights,simple dashboards and gears shifted by the driver using a lever.Modern racing cars are technological marvels but to me they lack the appeal of the cars of the earlier eras.
I used to have the gear to shoot track action photos but it is long gone and anyway nowadays I much prefer to shoot atmospheric behind the scenes shots.Again all photos taken with the Leica X Vario.

1 Dec 2014

Tasman Revival Meeting 2014 -Part 1

I took the 2.7 911 down to Sydney Motor Sport Park (formerly Eastern Creek Raceway ) yesterday to go to the HSRCA Tasman Revival Race Meeting.In 2006,2008 and 2010 the NSW based HSRCA tried really hard to promote a big international historic race meeting-the Tasman Revival -in November at SMP to rival the very succesful March historic meeting at Phillip Island in Victoria.
I cannot fault their efforts but sadly they failed to attract the crowds and the format lost the club a lot of money. So this year's Tasman Revival Meeting was a very low key affair.There were plenty of competitors and some great racing but no publicity and promotion and hence barely any spectators.The stars were a good field of Formula 5000 cars-all of which were beautifully prepared and which make a gorgeous sound.The hot bed of enthusiasm for Formula 5000 is New Zealand which despite being a very small country (population only 4.5m spread over two islands) has a very enthusiastic motor sport scene and quite a few race circuits.

The fact that it was another scorching hot day did not help the spectator numbers either.Again I took the 2.7 because it has aircon.By early afternoon a big electric storm was rolling in so I took off before the rain came down and managed to beat the storm back to the Central Coast.

I took more photos than usual and had a higher hit rate than usual so I have split the photos from the day into three batches which I will post succesively.All the photos were taken with the Leica X Vario.The image quality from the XV is just extraordinary.The photo of the two Porsches on the main straight is very small part of the image as the XV only has a 70mm equiv max zoom.Most of the photos are jpegs straight from the camera.

25 Nov 2014

A snakey tale

There can be very few cars which have had such an interesting history with so many twists and turns as the AC Cobra.It started life as the AC Ace-a very British tweed jacket and flat cap sports car made by a small independent car manufacturer,AC Cars in Thames Ditton,Surrey,UK. I remember cycling one day in the summer school holidays to the AC factory when I was 11 years old-they had not invented helicopter parents then and there were hardly any cars on the road either.It was about an hour's ride from my home.I arrived expecting to see a yard full of beautiful sports cars but what I found was a small factory turning out British government invalid cars designed for use by amputees.

Now I am sure that the amputees- it was close to the end of the second world war so there were many of them-were very grateful to this device for giving them mobility but to me it was like something from a horror fairground ride.A small crude fibreglass bodied single seater powered by a motorcycle engine.The AC invalid car was actually banned from British roads in the early 1970's as it was deemed too dangerous.How sad that a war hero who lost a limb in climbing out of an exploding Spitfire could have perished in Brixton High Street under a London bus a few years later in an invalid car.

Now it should be pointed out that in no way were AC involved in the design of this horror-they merely built them under contract but there could not be a greater contrast than between the AC built invalid car and the Cobra.If you had to design the world's most dangerous car you could pass on the Pinto,the Corvair and even the Trabant for inspiration.You would go straight to the AC built invalid car.With a high centre of gravity,a very narrow track and short wheelbase,a thin light fibreglass body with zero crash resistance which was highly susceptible to cross winds -indeed even a fast moving truck could blow it off course-with very crude steering,narrow tyres,basic brakes,a crude transmission and a temperamental motorcycle engine and minimal performance it was disaster in blue fibreglass.
I cannot include a photo of the invalid car as those I have found are subject to copyright.

But I digress .The AC Ace was originally powered by an AC engine but this was soon replaced by a 6 cylinder Bristol engine -which was a BMW pre war design-then to give it more herbs they put in a 6 cylinder Ford Zephyr engine in 1961.The top photo below shows an AC Ace-photographed at this year's Le Mans Classic.

Then Carroll Shelby discovered the Ace and squeezed in a Ford V8 and as they say the rest is history.In fact the first Cobra was quite an elegant car but soon the tyres got wider and the wheel arches grew and it became a bulbous device -a far cry from the very elegant lines of the Ace.The AC Cars company disappeared in the 1980's and then was resurrected and if I remember correctly was even partly owned by Ford for a while and then it disappeared again and was resurrected again....
There were continuation runs of genuine Cobras and a whole industry making replicas had started up.The lines between a genuine Cobra and a replica and a continuation became very blurred.It is such an easy car to replicate-a simple chassis,a Ford V8,a Jaguar rear end and in the cheaper replicas a fibreglass body or in the better examples such as this one seen at this year's Le Mans Classic an aluminium body.

I went to the Le Mans 24 hours in 1999 in a friend's Cobra replica.I have to find the photos.It was an experience.We just made the cross channel ferry out of Portsmouth after having to investigate a noisy wheel bearing soon after we departed.Despite its huge size it had no weather protection-a rain jacket was mandatory and the worst aspect was that the boot (trunk) was totally filled with an enormous spare wheel and tyre with absolutely no space for luggage.And there was no space behind the seats.So I had a small rucksack filled with camera gear (and I carried a lot more gear in those days) and my clothing and soap bag on the floor between my legs and the seat.Talk about uncomfortable.
Both photos Leica X1.The top one is a big crop so is not the usual standard.

21 Nov 2014

The Leica photographer

About 6 years ago I sold my lovely Leica M6 (film) camera and my collection of Leica lenses and spent the proceeds on restoring my 1971 Porsche 911.I wasn't using the Leica and it just seemed to be dead money.From time to time I wish that I had kept it-or better still that I could afford a new Leica M 240 -the latest digital version of the M rangefinder series-and a few of the latest lenses.
At the Le Mans Classic back in July friend Patrick and I caught up with his friend Michael who is both a Porsche driver and a committed Leica user.Despite his enthusiasm for Leicas and Porsches he still had some rough edges back in July-he wanted to sidetrack to go and look at a display of De Tomaso Panteras when there were far more interesting cars all around us but Patrick and I kept him walking in the right direction and he never mentioned Panteras again.
The photo shows Michael shooting with his Leica M9 in one of the LMC paddocks on the very wet Sunday morning.Michael tells me that he is using his 21mm Super- Elmar f3.4 lens on the Leica in this shot.
I really like this photo-it shows an artisan hard at work-and he definitely was not shooting a Pantera.Photo by me on my Leica X1.

18 Nov 2014

A wet afternoon in Paris

Another wet photo.If you are a regular follower of this blog you may be surprised to find a black and white photo here after my disparaging remarks about black and white a few weeks ago.But oddly this photo works so much better in black and white.So I will eat a little humble pie for this one.It was taken late in the afternoon at the corner of Place Joffree and Av de Tourville in Paris in July this year.
There is so much going on in the photo.The Eifel Tower in the background and there is one of the very distinctive Air France airport buses,the Asian tourists in their "Paris" plastic rain coats,the embracing couple,the senior without an umbrella, the group of police and the very distinctive Parisien buildings,trees and street furniture and more. Leica X1 photo.

15 Nov 2014

More rainy days...........

The rainy days sequence in the previous post  below has been so well received-thanks for the emails-that I though that I should add some more rainy day photos.Particularly as yesterday we had a very hot day-41ºC on the drive back from Sydney.That's hot by any standards and a good time to wish for a rainy day or two.
First photo taken back in June on a very wet day in Dürnstein,Austria.The rain was there a few weeks later when I took the second ,third and fourth photos in Paris on a wonderful street near my hotel in the 7th arr.
And it was still raining at the Le Mans Classic  when I spotted someone who was prepared for the weather with her red "wellies".
The line up of wet 356 Porsches was also taken at the Le Mans Classic.
The umbrellas by the lake was taken in 2004 in Hanoi on Fuji Velvia slide film on the same morning I photographed the rush hour photo on the first rainy days post.And the sea of umbrellas was taken in Tokyo a couple of hours after the previous wet morning in the park in Tokyo shot.All the recent photos were taken on my Leica X1 apart from the Tokyo shot which was taken on my Canon G7.
In response to the email asking how I take photos in the rain without getting the camera wet my answer is with great difficulty.Cameras and water do not mix-particularly today's electronic cameras where one drop of moisture on a circuit board can literally mean"goodbye Mr Chips".
Some modern camera are weather sealed but this does not mean that they are that waterproof.The cameras I use are not sealed so I stand under an awning,or in an archway as in the first photo or hold the camera with one hand and an umbrella in the other as in the Tokyo shots .Sometimes I put a plastic bag around the camera but that is strictly a short term measure just to keep the rain off for a few seconds.