29 Sep 2016

Holiday snaps

I gave up taking holiday snaps years ago. But thousands have not. In my recent travels throughout Portugal I saw thousands of tourists from all corners of the globe taking thousands of photos.  Their cameras of choice were split 48/48% between smartphones and DSLRs with tablets and small point and shoot cameras making up the residual 4%. I only saw one Leica being used- an X2- - by a Japanese tourist.
The number of tourists - and particularly elderly tourists using big Nikon or Canon DSLRs was really surprising and selfie sticks are still really popular- particularly with Japanese and Chinese tourists.
Whilst it is each to his own in my book I was disheartened to see so many tourists just shooting away indiscriminately. Many do not even bother to compose the photo. I was on a boat on the River Douro east of Porto one afternoon and there was an older English tourist shooting with a big Nikon DSLR and he was pointing it at anything and clicking away like a man possessed.  I asked him -politely- how many SD cards he had - and he said he had only one 32GB card and he usually took over 100 photos a day and he "cleaned up the card" each evening. Words fail me.
Anyway I felt that words would be wasted telling him that I was shooting an average of less than 10 photos a day on the trip and some days I did not take any.
Now my objective with my travel photos is to capture that atmosphere of the places I visit and to take photos which form part of a narrative. Not a narrative of "this is a boring photo of the two of us standing in front of the Lisbon waterfront" but along the lines of "this is a typical back street in the oldest part of Lisbon where on the very hot day we were there most of the locals were out in the street talking to each other and it really reminded me of how Paris backstreets were 20 years ago."

I went to Portugal with the objective of coming back with a dozen "good" photos. In fact I have 38 photos in the Lightroom collection labelled "Portugal" from the trip. By the standards of the Nikon man on the boat my output was miniscule- just two more than a 36 exposure cassette of film. I have now disciplined myself not to even think about taking a photo which I know will be discarded. For me there are no 'just in case photos" nowadays. So I approach taking digital photos as if I am using film and I reckon that my photography has improved measurably as a result of this approach.

Here's the first batch of my Portugese photos all taken with the Leica X1. With the exceptions of the napping souvenir seller and the wine cart on the waterfront at Belem,Lisbon-what a civilised idea- all the rest were taken in the old part of Lisbon at the end of a very hot afternoon. I went on a 5 hour food tour - by foot -with a really fun local guide-that's her back to the poster below- and a great group of enthusiastic tourists-through the back alleys and side streets in the old city beneath the castle. The locals were all out on the streets -the guy with the classical guitar was not busking -he was playng beautifully for fun- and the atmosphere was just great. The group drinking on the steps bought their beers from a nearby bar which is so small that it will only accommodate 3 so they give you a little table and you go and sit on the steps outside. I ended up shooting people not places but that's my "thing"-I like people. And as always I tried to engage with them before taking the photos so they are usually smiling. The Leica X1 has one fixed lens-no zoom- so I always try and fill the frame and that means I have to get close to the subject so being friendly is important.















27 Sep 2016

Portugese wheels

I have just been driving around Portugal for three weeks in a Peugeot 308 diesel rental car. Over the years I have been a Peugeot fan. I was responsible for Peugeot sales and marketing for Australia from 1981 to 1989 and I still own a Peugeot 206 which my wife drives. Sadly after the 206 Peugeot lost the plot. Their build quality fell far short of Japanese standards and their cars were just ho hum. But lately they seem to have fully recovered their mojo. The latest 208 with its 3 cylinder turbo motor and 8 speed auto has received rave reviews and my personal experience driving the latest 308 over 1300 kms was a real eye opener. The car was really well built,fully equipped,it handled and rode well, the gearbox and steering were excellent and the power and particularly the economy from the diesel motor were outstanding. I managed 5.6 litres per 100kms including long high speed stretches on the autoroutes. In fact it was so frugal initially I thought that the fuel gauge was not functioning. It was a marked contrast to the very ordinary Nissan Sentra I rented in California a few months back.

The very impressive Peugeot 308 diesel rental car making a rare stop for fuel.
The car scene in Portugal seems pretty dull. Because of the difficult parking and narrow roads in the cities,the high price of fuel,the low incomes and high taxes like France,Spain and Italy most cars in Portugal are small and diesel. There are a few of the usual suspects in bigger cars - particularly Mercedes with the usual supporting cast of Audis and BMWs but I only saw a couple of Porsche Boxsters,a handful of late model Porsches and not a single early Porsche. I did not see a single Bentley,Ferrari or Lambo and in my three weeks I did not see one old classic car.
I did see quite a few old Renault 4s and Citroen Amis. In fact I reckon that now there are more Renault 4s on Portugese roads than there are on French roads.

Portugal is a great driving country. The roads are good,the traffic is light and I only saw police on the roads once. No wonder so many car companies are choosing Portugal for car launches.

A typical Portugese R4 -in this case 29 years old and apparently still going strong.


25 Sep 2016

Fabulous Portugal


Well I'm back home in Aus after most of the month of September in fabulous Portugal. What a country. I have been very fortunate to have travelled to many countries over the years but I had never been to Portugal for some reason. All those years I missed out and now I am regretting it. Move over France I have a new affection. Why Portugal? So many reasons. The people are so friendly. The country and the towns and cities are beautiful- so many historic places which have remained intact over centuries. The food is great and is distinctly Portugese- not international tourist food. The wine is terrific. The beer is ok but you would not visit Portugal for the beer. The hotels were very good and interesting. The country is compact so you can see a lot without travelling vast distances. The autoroute system is excellent-reputedly the best in Europe - and as it is all toll roads the traffic is very light. Off the autoroutes the roads generally are good. The climate is great. Finally Portugal is great value. By Australian measures eating and drinking are really cheap. I could go on but I am sure that you get my drift. I loved it and I'll be going back.

I came back with a good haul of photos- taking interesting photos in Portugal is not difficult. I took my two Leicas which was mistake as together they are quite heavy. Whilst the XVario was useful I could have easily got by with just the X1. As I get older I find lighter cameras more and more appealling. I cannot even think how I travelled around with all that big heavy film gear twenty years ago. I am not quite down to wanting only to carry an iPhone but I can understand the appeal.

I will be posting the photo haul onto the blog over the coming weeks . In the meantime I have to recover from the jetlag and do a few domestic chores- like clearing up the garden. The header photo is for starters. Taken at Cascais, a beach resort to the west of Lisbon.

23 Sep 2016

Big fat tyres.

Big fat tyres are back in F1 for 2017. A step in the right direction-more mechanical grip and the tyres will apparently be designed to perform not purposefully degrade. First photos of 2017 cars show that they look so much better see 2017 car
Next they need to cut down on the aero. Aerodynamic grip and stupid tyres have ruined Formula 1 in the last few years..
One from my archives - the Leyland P76 V8 powered F5000 Unipart McLaren of John McCormack back in 1978 when tyres were also big and slick.

21 Sep 2016

A lady and her MG

I guess if you own an MG of this vintage you have to dress to look the part. Spotted at the recent Shannons Classic. Thanks Allana for being a good sport and posing for me.

20 Sep 2016

Late afternoon in Numbucca


On the road trip up the New South Wales Coast a few weeks ago we stopped overnight in Nambucca. The restaurant close to the motel was BYO - bring your own alcohol - so Craig and I went off in search of a liquor store or as they are known down here a "bottleshop" . As it was late afternon I optimistically took my camera. The main street of Nambucca is pretty dreary but I saw this interesting scene outside the library.
Leica X Vario

16 Sep 2016

Where to for supercars?


Two weeks ago Tesla announced their next new model - the S P100D - which will sell for US$134,500 and accelerate 0-60mph(100kmh) in 2.5 seconds with a claimed range of 300 miles (482km) on a battery charge. The above chart shows where the new Tesla will fit into the hierarchy of supercars. The horizontal axis is the acceleration time 0-60mph and the vertical axis is the vehicle base retail price in $m. Of the competitors only the conventionally powered Nissan GT-R comes close to the Tesla in terms of price/acceleration performance.
Will the Tesla hurt supercar sales from the dress circle manufacturers? The answer surely has to be "yes".  Of course many of the "look at me,look at me" buyers of Ferraris and Lamborghinis will stay with their gaudy,ostentatious,conspicuous consumption statements but the trend followers will surely flock to the Tesla in droves. Porsche will also feel the wind of change. They have a new all electric supercar coming in a couple of years. That eye watering Porsche premium pricing will be an issue with the Tesla around. Pencil sharpening and head scratching time in Stuttgart methinks.
Tesla chief,Elon Musk,says that soon we will regard the internal combustion engine in the same way as we regard the steam engine. He may well be right.
That will completely disrupt a massive industry. Hold onto your hats -a helluva fast ride coming up.
 



12 Sep 2016

Yet more weird and wacky

Another weird and wacky car spotted at the recent Shannons Classic at SMSP.

 The Goggomobil Dart. A fibreglass bodied sports car created by Australian car dealer and builder Bill Buckle Motors and built between 1959 and 1961 . Standard Goggomobil running gear imported from Germany was fitted into an Australian moulded tub. Over 700 of these weird devices were built - powered by either 300 or 400cc twin stroke motors. What were they thinking? Surprisingly quite a few survive.



10 Sep 2016

An Italian lunch in Paris


Nowadays so called street photography is very popular. Years ago it was called candid photography. Now it is shortened to just "street" as in "I do street" .
I am sure it is so popular because it is easy to find a location- you just step out onto the street.
It helps if the street has atmosphere. This street shot is from a Parisien street with so much atmosphere - Rue Guisarde- in Saint-Germain-des-Prés -right across from the market. The restaurant is well respected-here's a link if you want to book -Alfredo Positano
A business power lunch and a boy skipping past. If only I had got all his feet into the frame.

8 Sep 2016

Some photo thoughts


I will soon be on a road trip in Portugal. Sadly my transport will be a Renault Clio rental car -not a 911-although that may be a blessing as I hear that Portugese drivers share their road manners with Sydney and Rome drivers.
I am tempted just to take one camera - the Leica X1. I took only the X1 to California earlier in the year and came back with a nice portfolio of photos and avoided the hassle of carrying around a bigger camera or worse still two cameras.
I am at the stage where I really only want to try and take just a few really good photos. I will be satisfied with just a dozen really good ones from a three week trip. My days of filling an SD card up with hundreds of mediocre or worse photos and a few good ones on a trip are behind me.
Ansel Adams, the famous American landscape photographer is quoted as saying
"Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop." I guess the keyword here is "significant "but the point is well made-less is more.
I know of a friend who went to Antarctica on a short trip a few years ago and he took over 7000 photos. In the end they overwhelmed him. He could not even sort them out. He could not see the wood for the trees or should that be the penguins for the icebergs.
Whatever camera I take I have resolved to really chase the "sparkling" light early in the morning or late afternoon. Fortunately I enjoy getting up early -the best time of the day. I took the above photo in a market in a small town in Myanmar early morning. Without the right light it would be just another dull market shot - I've taken many. You see the bustle of the market and you expect that to be magically transported into your camera but it falls flat literally and when you look at it back home it's just another dull scene with no edge and no depth. Capture some magic light and it starts to sparkle. So get up early.
Leica X1 photo.


6 Sep 2016

MotoRRetro CBX1000

Seen at the Shannons Classic at SMSP last month. A superb creation from the local resto shop MotoRRetro. See their story at MotoRRetro .

3 Sep 2016

More weird and wacky



How's this for an oddity- an Armstrong Siddeley ute? Armstrong Siddeley was a British aircraft engine manufacturer which also manufactured upmarket and rather majestic saloon cars. After the second world war British manufacturers were implored to export or die and they were allocated precious steel based on their export performance. At the same time farmers in Australia were seeing record prices for wool due to strong demand from Europe and for uniforms for the Korean war. Armstrong Siddeley improbably spotted a lucrative market and created the ute version of their stately saloon. Splashing their cash Australian farmers, or graziers as they are known down here, bought over 1200 of these wonderful vehicles. Of course Armstrong Siddeley did not call the model a "Ute". It was the much more refined "Murrel Station Coupe". I would love to see one unrestored and with a few merino sheep in the back bashing down a dirt track in the outback.
You do see them frequently at car shows in Australia so quite a few must have survived. The owner of this one was in keeping with the stately British demeanor of his vehicle rather superor in tone when I went to talk to him. Perhaps I got off on the wrong foot by calling it a ute.

1 Sep 2016

There's patina and there's patina


I saw this Kombi van at Soldiers Beach car park near Norah Head, NSW, this morning-1st September. Talk about patina.  How does it get through the registration safety check-surely the body corrosion is too much? The front bumper seems to be held on with cord on one side. The owner is obviously well read. It is certainly authentic. Is it valuable or is it too far gone?  I do not understand the silly prices people are paying for old Kombis. They are as slow a wet weekend and noisy and uncomfortable with it. Will the Kombi price bubble burst? What's the story on Gus? How on earth did Donald Trump end up as the Republican Presidential candidate? Life's a mystery too many days nowadays.

30 Aug 2016

Seen from the bus


So often I see photos from a car,a bus,a train or even a plane but then they are  gone before I have my camera out.
I was travelling on a country train in Italy 6 years ago and it was rattling along at a fair clip when suddenly a beautiful small village on a hill bathed in golden late afternoon light was precisely framed through the window on the opposite side of the compartment. I had my camera on the seat next to me,I rapidly raised it to my eye,powered it up but the scene had gone. I can still see it in my mind's eye.
Too often when I am driving I see a photo op but just do not have the opportunity to stop and turn round and shoot it. Also when I am driving a long distance I have this irrational desire to keep moving and cover the ground.
A few weeks ago I was driving back along a backroad south of Foster,NSW when I passed an abandoned farmhouse up a muddy track. I thought " photo" and for once decided to turn back. I found a place to pull over and went back but when I got there it was a disappointment. Perhaps I had mentally Photoshopped the scene in my mind after it had flashed past. Because I had made the effort to turn back I felt obligated to take a few photos but I knew that they were destined for the trash bin.
The photo above is one I did not miss. Taken through the window of a bus in Myanmar. In fact the bus was in a line of slow moving traffic leaving a temple complex and had already passed the herdsman once so I was ready for when he repassed us on the sidetrack. I lucked it with the late afternoon light and perhaps more surprisingly the bus window was clean.
Note since writing this I have realised that no way could I have taken that photo through the glass window of a dirty local bus so I must have slid the bus window open.

24 Aug 2016

Like ripping bedsheets


Writing the previous story on my recent 911 road trip prompted me to reflect on how much of the frisson has gone or is going out of life and motoring and motor sport in particular.
I am so glad that the first 50 years of my life were lived in a world without the world wide web -an invention which has made life so much better and easier in so many ways but which has also facilitated unimagined horrors and taken so much of the mystery and magic out of life.
I am glad that I was able to travel to beautiful places in Europe before they were overrun by seething hordes of the new Chinese middle class taking selfies and to have visited places in the Middle East where chaos now reigns.
I am glad that I will not be around to see the roads full of driverless cars - or autonomous vehicles as they are now called.
I am glad that I was able to see drivers like Stirling Moss,Jim Clark,Graham Hill, Bruce McLaren,Jochen Rindt and John Surtees in action on spectacular and often dangerous circuits in cars fitted with tyres which did not fall apart deliberately and engines which sounded like racing engines not Dyson vacuum cleaners.
And talking of noise I feel so lucky to have heard the Mazda rotary engined cars in action at Le Mans in the 1980s. The photo above taken by me at the 1989 Le Mans 24 hour race shows the 12th placed 4 rotor Mazda 767 on the pit straight early in the race.  The noise from that Wankel motor was quite extraordinary. I can only describe it as sounding like someone ripping apart a very large bedsheet very quickly and amplified to max volume. Surely the drivers must now all be deaf.
Photo taken with a Canon EOS5 SLR using the fantastic Canon 70-200 F2.8 lens and a 2x converter. I only sold that lens a few years ago . Now I wish that I had kept it.