25 Oct 2014

Chrome,tats,rock and roll and Elvis

It is the annual Chromefest hot rod show at The Entrance,NSW this weekend over three days.It gets bigger every year.More cars,more bands and rock and roll,more tats and more Elvises.
I was there this morning-Saturday- with my camera.It was hot and really bright and as entertaining as ever.I certainly had plenty of photographic competition there today.Smartphones dominated followed by Canon DSLRs.
I am disappointed that I missed out on the shot of the day.An older man with a completely shaved head which was totally tatooed -scalp,face,ears,neck and all. I asked him cheerily if I could photograph him and he told me to "f... off" .which I did pronto.Disappointing but discretion is the better part of valour.
The raised finger bonnet( hood) mascot is on a cutdown coupe Morris Minor.My first job in the motor industry was at the Cowley in Oxford in the UK and they were still making the  Morris Minor then.I never would have dreamt then that I would be seeing one made into a skunk rod and on display in Australia 46 years later.
Here's today's crop from my 90 mins at the show.All taken with the Leica XVario.I found the swivelling EVF on the XVario very useful as it allows me shoot with the camera lower down - without having to get on my knees- in a crowd.

















Surfie's cottage

Just down my street is an old cottage.It's pretty dilapidated and for the last few years has been rented by a guy who is a surfer.
Yesterday morning the rising sun caught the front of the cottage and made a very colourful,if somewhat twee,photo.
I try really hard not to take twee photos nowadays but sometimes I lapse.Indulge me this once.Leica X1 photo.


23 Oct 2014

Old glass

I took the photo below of one of my granddaughters last weekend.The interesting part is that it was taken with an old lens-Zeiss Sonnar F2.8 90mm in a Contax G Mount on a Sony A7 using a cheap ($29) Chinese adaptor.This particular lens is a beautiful piece of glass and the example I used is in pristine condition.I would rate it as highly as the 90mm Elmarit Leica M lens I used to own.
The Chinese adaptors are a really good way of using old lenses on a variety of cameras.A very good article on the adaptors,by George Fox Lang, can be found at Chinese Adaptors
George has also written a very good piece on using old Olympus Zuiko lenses see Zuiko lenses
If you need any convincing about the quality of those Zuiko lenses which can be picked up very cheaply nowadays take a look at the Ferrari story below.



20 Oct 2014

Ferrari Racing Blues

There are rumours around that Ferrari are considering withdrawing from Formula 1 at the end of 2015 and going endurance sports car racing to compete with Audi,Porsche and Toyota at the Le Mans 24 hours and in the World Endurance Championship.
I reckon that this is just very wishful thinking on the part of sports car enthusiasts.It would be great but I cannot see it happening.
It is true that Ferrari's F1 performance has been very poor for a number of years and that the F1 team must be costing a fortune and Ferrari's boss,Luca Di Montezemolo has been fired ("resigned"-in executive speak) due to a disagreement with Sergio Marchionne,the hard man boss of the Ferrari parent company Fiat-Chrysler,over the performance of the F1 team and the future direction of the Ferrari brand.
But the fact is that Ferrari and F1 are almost joined at the hip.They have just announced that Vettel is joining the team for 2015 for a massive fee.They would have hardly have made this move if in the workshop down the corridor from the F1 team they were building an LMP1 sportscar.And there is no way that they could afford to do both.
In any case Ferrari,even if they are not performing on the track,are an essential element of the F1 circus and if ringmaster Bernie heard even a feint whisper that they were about to quit F1 he would be firing up the executive jet and hot footing it down to Ferrari HQ in Maranello to ensure that there was a rapid "attitude adjustment" by some means and all would be resolved.
Leaving aside Bernie's vested interest Ferrari's customer base,particularly in the Middle East and Asia are into bling and the vulgarity of F1.I Cannot see City bond traders,Chinese dotcom millionaires,Russian oligarchs and minor middle eastern princelings standing around at Le Mans watching the cars grind around for 24 hours.Singapore,Monaco,Abu Dhabi etc are more their scene.


It was all so different back in 1981 when I took the above photo at practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.The Ferrari is a 1.5 litre V6 turbo and the driver is Didier Pironi.The car looks like the sort of racing car that you would love to have in your garage whereas the current Ferrari looks like a piece of space junk.You might able to get the 1981 car running  although parts would be a problem.There is no way you could even get a current F1 running without another garage load of specialist gear.Now you even have to heat the oil before you start the engine.
Look at the decals on the car.They are literally decals and they are modest in size.Nowadays the car is a giant painted billboard.

But look at all the other little details in the photo.There is Lancia advertising trackside.It's a long time since Lancia advertised at a race track and next year Fiat-Chrysler stop manufacturing Lancias.The Ferrari team manager is standing beside the car in a jacket.Nowadays he would be in corporate gear-wired for sound and not on the pit road.And how about the little picnic table by the pit wall with a driver's helmet on the shelf underneath and the jackets hanging over the chair and the early electronic timing gear? Now they have weatheproof crew capsules alongside the pit wall.It is all so sterile and you cannot make the emotional connection.They are no longer racing car teams-they are technologists supporting a device which is called a racing car but which is barely a car.

The photograph was taken on Kodachrome film-oh beautiful Kodachrome - on an Olympus OM2 camera using a 28mm Zuiko lens.Sadly I sold it a long time ago but most of those early Zuiko lenses were just wonderful.So sharp and with such wonderful colour rendering.I even managed to get part of the face of the glam blonde standing next to me into the frame.I did not put her in with Photoshop this morning.She was really there.Thinking about it a glam blonde on the pit counter maybe the only part of F1 which has not changed since 1981.Sadly I am sure that the particular one in my picture will,like me,have declined somewhat since 1981.

18 Oct 2014

Cats,dogs and cameras.







The world's population it seems can be divided into 4 distinct groups-those who like cats, those who like dogs, those who like both cats and dogs- this apparently is a small group-and finally a group who either don't care or who don't like either cats or dogs.
Anyway here are two photos to please the first three groups-the non -carers should just move on at least from this story.
I am really pleased with both these photos.The first I spotted beside a backroad just inside the Austrian border with Slovenia near Villach back in June.The cat was on the windowsill of this old house and the colours were just superb and it was overcast but bright so the light was just right.I stopped the car just past the house,reached for my camera which was on the back seat and fully expected the cat to get up and jump down and make the whole exercise futile.Cats are like that.But much to my surprise the cat stayed in place.
The wonderful dog I spotted looking out of the window of a restaurant on an early morning walk in Paris.I would hazard a guess that it was waiting for its owner to come down and take it for a walk.

Both photos were taken with my Leica X1 as DNG files which I have processed in Lightroom 5.As there are quite a few new readers coming to the blog -welcome-I should say that for me the Leica X1 is just wonderful.Its most attractive feature is its lens and the image quality it produces but also it is small and light and there are no complex menus and useless features to distract you.Just a superb fixed length lens -no zoom lens or interchangeable lenses so no decisions to be made- and plain simple controls.So many photographers burden themselves with too much equipment.A wise old photographer said to me recently that the more equipment you carry the less photos you take.And he is right.

Nowadays you can pick up a s/h X1 for modest money.If you are tempted ignore all the ignorant chatter and BS from the so called experts and pixel peepers on the forums and enthusiast sites and treat yourself.Put an optical viewfinder onto it-the Voigtlander OVF is excellent-and get out and start taking photos.It will do wonders for your photography.But of course if you really prefer to play with toys and talk about features and megapixels rather than taking photographs well the X1 is not for you.....

16 Oct 2014

It's endurance racing


Whilst the Le Mans Classic does not involve 24 hours of non stop racing  it still involves the teams putting in a lot of hours and by the sunday morning at the 2014 event this crew member was so fatigued that he fell asleep behind the wheel of his car in the paddock.Leica X1 photo.

15 Oct 2014

It's not always sunshine


After very warm weather last week and a beautiful weekend-see previous story-a series of massive storms have swept across NSW in the past 48 hours bringing gale force winds, heavy rain and even snow on the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.The winds have really whipped up the sea.This photo was taken looking south from North Avoca at 10.00 am today.Those waves are seriously big.Taken with my Leica X Vario.I would have liked to have done better but it was pissing down with rain at the time and Leicas and rain do not mix so it was a case of a few grab shots from under the rain jacket and this heavily cropped shot is the best of them.
At Terrigal there are surfers in the sea but they are too far out and it is too wet to photograph them.Brave -or perhaps silly- people.
I have converted one of the shots into black and white.Maybe it's more graphic.It certainly looks as miserable as it felt.Can hardly complain about the weather though.


13 Oct 2014

Twinkle,twinkle little car.

I was at the Porsche Club of NSW 2014 Concours at Newington Armoury,Sydney Olympic Park yesterday.The event was originally scheduled for six weeks ago but had to be cancelled as the venue was waterlogged.The earlier date had been chosen to avoid the heat which has been a problem in the last few years.It was hot yesterday so it was back to square one.

There was a record entry for the event - over 180 cars-but although there were, as always, quite a few really nice cars and a few oddballs-see below-there were no"star" cars this year.No cars which made me go -wow.Perhaps my Porsche palette has become jaded after seeing all those gorgeous cars at the Le Mans Classic back in July.

I made a big effort this year and entered both my cars which were cleaned and polished with assistance from mon ami mate,Warren.
They both looked superb.Thanks Warren.I must make a big effort to keep them upto approaching this standard.
Warren also assisted by driving the yellow 2.7 down.He was able to enjoy the aircon on the 90 minute hot drive home.The 2.2 with its black interior and vinyl bucket seats was very hot when I got in it to drive home and it did not cool down and I emerged from driving it looking like I'd had a serious bladder malfuncton.

I find it increasingly difficult to take original and interesting photos at these events.I just took along my little X1 and only shot a few frames as most of my time was spent talking about Porsches.



My two cars -left and centre -alongside Colin Wilson-Brown's 2.4

An early start from Terrigal meant that we were on the field by 8.00am

David Nicholls explaining some obtuse technical point on his 356S to a very attentive audience.

Paul Nieuwenhuis polishing hard -he was in the top Concours class.Serious Q-tips territory.
Seeing one slant nose in Australia is a rare event yet alone two.
Judges' briefing
John Marroszeky went to the Le Mans Classic and came back with a T-shirt.
I had not seen this 914-6 cabriolet before.Nicely done - but how stiff is it .Unfortunately it reminds me of a Reliant Scimitar SS 1.

I saw this Speedster creation before it was complete and reserved my final judgement until I saw the completed car.It is very well executed and it does look well special.

Looking at Porsche 928s can have a soporific effect.........
This 356 was not to my taste.Too much bling.I would not have been surprised if someone had told me that Mickey and Minnie Mouse had arrived in it.

In marked contrast to Mickey Mouse's car is Terry Lawlor's beautiful and totally understated 356 Speedster.My pick for People's Choice award.

11 Oct 2014

The battered Parisien bunny mystery


There are shops in Paris full of what they say are antiques.But to me much of what they display looks like junk or near junk -the detritus from deceased estates.

This particular shop -in the area known as Village Saint-Paul in the 4th arrondissement which is populated with antique shops - was displaying a strange collection of stuff much of which would have felt right at home in my local Salvation Army store.

 What's the story behind this obviously once well loved toy rabbit now kept under a glass dome? Is it really of any value? Is it an example of the work of a once well known Parisien soft toy artisan? Does it smell of dust and age, musty cupboards and a long since grown up child? Why would anyone want to buy it now? Can anyone really love an already battered bunny? Maybe it was once owned by a child who grew up to be famous.Perhaps it was once an infant Charles de Gaulle's favourite toy. Who knows? Questions I will never have answered. If only the battered bunny could talk .

Photo taken in July 2014 on my Leica X1 whilst I was pursuing my favourite occupation in Paris-- being a flâneur.For an explanation see Flâneur 
I love taking photos such as this.Photos which tell a story or later evoke memories and the atmosphere of a place.



9 Oct 2014

Air New Zealand launch Sardine Class

There are so many lifestyle benefits to living in Australia and New Zealand but one of the downsides is that it takes a long flight to get to another country.From Sydney it is a 13 hour flight to the west coast of the US and Canada- 14 hours on the return leg due to headwinds-and most European destinations are a 20 plus hours flight taking in one refuelling stop.
Sitting on a plane for 20 hours is a pain.In the pointy end-First Class or Business Class it is just about bearable but back in Economy/Coach it is no fun whatsoever.
But Air New Zealand who fly some of the longest routes in the world have just made it even less fun.They are reconfiguring their Boeing 777s to introduce "Sardine Class"-my description not theirs.
Now I know airlines are struggling.The budget airlines have flooded the markets with too much capacity and they are not making money and the legacy full service airlines such as Air New Zealand,Qantas and Air France are desperate to cut costs.But Air New Zealand's approach is a step too far ---see this link SARDINE CLASS
I desperately hope that other airlines do not follow Air NZ on this.It looks like hell.I believe it carries serious health risks-DVT-and also safety issues.I am very surprised that the US FAA has certified this configuration for flights into the US.
Shame on you Air NZ.

F1 musical chairs

Whilst I have only a very passing interest in formula one nowadays I was amused to see on the TV news a few days ago that sportsman of the decade Sebastian
Vettel is moving from the Red Bull team to Ferrari for the 2015 season replacing Phillippe Alonso who is moving to McLaren for some ridiculous sum of money.
It certainly looks if Vettel,Mark Webber's nemesis,has thrown his teddy bear out of the pram after having his arse well and truly roasted this season by his team mate Australian newcomer Daniel Ricciardo aka known as "smiley boy".Daniel is unique amongst the current crop of F1 drivers in that he has kept his amiable personality intact despite being caught up in the wanker's circus also known as F1.How long that lasts we will see.
I have not seen any F1 racing this year but I am told that Vettel's body language is wonderful to behold.A very sore loser is that boy.
The Ferraris have not been on the pace for a couple of years and as usual team politics have come into the picture.I can't see Seb handling that environment very well.
I don't have a current F1 photo-I don't do photos of catch fencing- but this Kodachrome slide of the Mclaren team at the Italian GP in Monza in 1981 is more interesting anyway.Taken by me in the Saturday afternoon practice session it shows the McLaren-Ford of Italian driver Andre de Cesaris.
How about the tight shirts of the technicians and of course the cigarette sponsorship? Both are long gone-fortunately.
 Ron Dennis-control freak extraordinaire-had just taken over as team boss at Mclaren for the 1981 season.He returned as team boss  for 2014 after a few years away making the people in some other part of his now very large McLaren empire miserable.
Go on and call me an old curmudgeon but on the subject of the rotten state of formula 1-what was once the pinnacle of motor sport-I know that my views are shared by many others as the rapidly declining worldwide TV audience numbers attest.

Footnote-I have just learnt that Andre De Cesaris was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Rome last weekend.I was unaware of this when posting this story earlier in the week.A strange coincidence.




7 Oct 2014

Paris and Porsches

See earlier posts on early 911 Porsches being used apparently as daily drivers in Paris of all places.From one of The Rolling Road's roving correspondents, Christopher Balfour, a very tidy 912 -the 4 cylinder budget 911 derivative- parked on the street opposite the Luxembourg Gardens - one of the best parts of town-in Paris last week.
I love the orange accessory lights -I want some for my 2.2.But those Fuchs look alike wheels are repros and it is a pity that the owner has not put on some genuine wheels.
Early 911 prices are really rising rapidly and now 912s values are following them so this is now a valuable car-despite the wheels.





Adlestrop

When I was at school one of the texts for English was the very popular poem by Edward Thomas- titled Adlestrop
It describes a stop of a train at a small station in a very rural part of England.It is a simple poem but it is beautifully told.......

Yes, I remember Adlestrop --
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop -- only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. 


If you would like to hear a beautiful reading of Adlestrop by Richard Burton click onto ADELSTROP

In contrast there is an appalling reading of the poem on a US poetry website -by a female who obviously specialises in mispronunciation.Her grating accent for this very English poem combined with horrible mispronunciation- she makes Adlestrop sound like a town you would find in Idaho-and her total lack of empathy with what she is reading is enough to make you never want to read the poem again.She sounds just like the dismembered voice on my Tom Tom GPS.What were they thinking? Hear it for yourself on NOT ADELSTROP

  The poem was written in July 1914 just weeks before the outbreak of the first world war which claimed the life of Thomas in 1917.So it has just passed its 100th anniversary.Much of the popularity of the poem is due to the fact that it Is so evocative of the last days of an age of innocence -an England and a time which was lost in the horrors of the war to end all wars.And is there are more typical English rural village name than Adelstrop?

For me the poem conjures up images of hot days of summer in my childhood and train journeys through the English countryside.In 1964 just a few years after studying the poem I was on a train on a cross country line from Reading to Dorking in Surrey.It was a very warm July day and the train was just three carriages long and pulled by a small steam engine.There were very few passengers and the train meandered through the beautiful countryside of Surrey-no M25 motorway and industrial estates and ugly station car parks then- and we pulled into one charming country station which overlooked open fields.
 I can vividly remember leaning out of the window -you lowered the window by adjusting a thick leather strap which fitted over a brass fitting on the carriage door- and seeing the well kept flower beds on the platform and the stationmaster in his uniform and wearing his railway cap coming out to greet the train and no one got on or off and so the guard blew his whistle and waved his green flag and the little engine gave a toot and away we went and I thought of Adlestrop.

Now in the poem Thomas states that his train stopped at Adlestrop "untowardly" - implying that it was not scheduled to stop there - but researchers have found that the railway timetable for that year clearly shows Adlestrop as a stop.So Thomas either did not realise that the stop was scheduled or he used some artistic licence. 

In 1962 the British Government appointed a Dr Beeching to undertake a rationalisation study of Britain's rambling and very extensive rail network and in 1963 he recommended axing many lines and stations.The cuts were savage and many beautiful lines and stations were closed and indeed obliterated including sadly Adlestrop.The main line survived but the station was totally demolished.Not even a name sign survived.Rather surprisingly the line I remembered, the Reading to Reigate line, survived Dr Beeching's axe and is still in use today although the little steam engine is, of course, long since gone.

All this came back to me when Roger Putnam in the UK sent me a beautiful photo of a narrow boat on the Stratford on Avon canal in the UK.The photo was taken just last month but it could well be 1914.The old man on the boat looks as if he is straight from 1914.The photo although modern evokes that simpler and more innocent time and the name of the boat "Remembrance" is appropriate.
Thanks for a very well framed photo Roger and for triggering some very pleasant bucolic memories.The photo was taken on a Sony a7 using a Leica Vario-Elmarit lens.










5 Oct 2014

It's a beautiful day


Sunday 5th October.It's a beautiful day.The clocks went forward today and so we are now on summer time.And summer really is making an appearance.It's been 34ºC up here in Terrigal on the Central Coast of NSW,Australia.Seriously warm and certainly warm enough for the first swims of the season in the pool.The water was glorious.
I was up and out by 6.00am and took my camera along for my walk.The light was gorgeous .Here are the photos-6.00am to 7.00am Terrigal.Just casual photos of a stunning morning and smiling people enjoying it-and yes I managed to get a photo of a Porsche in as well.Indeed a beautiful morning.
Leica X1 photos.