30 Jun 2013

The Egg Man

    It is said that some dog owners resemble their dogs.This egg seller in Freiburg street market has a variation on the same theme-- he has ended up resembling his eggs.Extraordinary.Leica X1                              

29 Jun 2013


A quick post that the Classic Porsche 911 Register Run to Bilpin was cancelled due to the weather/road conditions.
No relevant picture to put on this bad news-who wants to see more rain- so here is an oldie -still one of my favourites.I have given it another rework.It's now had more cosmetic work done on it than a Florida orthodentist's wife's face.

27 Jun 2013

Mark Webber to drive for Porsche

Well the rumours have turned out to be true.Australian Mark Webber has just announced that he is leaving the Red Bull F1 team at the end of this season and that he has signed a multi year contract to drive the new Porsche LMP1 sports car at Le Mans and in the world endurance championship series.
He will be glad to be clear of the poisonous atmosphere of the Red Bull team where the totally obnoxious,untrustworthy Vettel rules the roost.Webber has had quite a succesful F1 career and even if he had not found himself alongside Vettel I am sure that he would have been looking to retire/move on anyway at the age of 36.
Webber has driven at Le Mans previously although he never made the race as he was in the infamous flying Mercedes team which were involved in a series of terrifying accidents in the lead up to and during the 1999 race.
I personally met Webber when he was invited to a launch event for the MGF sports car at Wakefield Park racetrack near Goulburn,NSW in 1996.At that time Webber was a very cocky 19 year old local Formula Ford driver from Quenbeyan not too far from Wakefield Park.Part of the launch consisted of a timed hillclimb where the local motoring journalists competed against each other driving MGFs up the Wakefield hillclimb course which was made up of part of the back section of the track and then a go kart track like ascent of a small hill .Many of the local motoring journos at that time were quite handy drivers and before Webber stepped into the car the best time of the day was 45.6 secs I seem to remember.And the journos had had about 5 runs each.Well Webber had never even sat in the car before as he only really turned up late in the day for the free dinner but he got in and drove upto the start line -- which meant that his experience with the car was driving about 5 metres very slowly- and then he went and blasted up the hill in 44.5secs.The MGF was a pretty mediocre little tin can of a car and I remember thinking at the time that he was in a totally different class to all the rest of us there.I was right.
So it will be great to see him in sports cars particularly as it will be a Porsche.The Le Mans cars really race.It is not the artificial contrived "show" that F1 has become.In sports cars Michelin make most of the tyres and they are designed to last not fall apart after 5 laps.The cars are able to overtake wherever they can -- not in some artificially designated DRS zone and best of all Sebastian Vettel has nothing to do with Le Mans as it runs way past his bedtime.
Best of luck Mark -- hopefully I'll be there in 2014 to watch you.

26 Jun 2013

French street collection

Taking street and people photos in Myanmar,Cambodia or Laos is relatively easy.The subjects are usually smiling and colourful and co-operative.I can adopt what is literally an "in your face" shooting style.It is a very different story in first world countries.The shooting style is much more restrained.The subjects are much less colourful and often not smiling.Here are some street shots from the recent trip.I believe that they work better in black and white.

25 Jun 2013

Black in black and white

The Fujitsu sponsored Porsche Carrera Cup cars are black.Not my favourite car colour but each to their own.Anyway the black cars with their big black doughnut Michelins make a good study in black (and white).
Leica X1 photo from the recent Australian Porsche Rennsport.

24 Jun 2013

Le Mans 2013

Despite being in France upto a few days before the race I did not go to the Le Mans 24 hour race this year.This was for a variety of reasons including travel logistics but mainly because I was not keen to make all that effort to see another Audi procession.And I was right.Audi won again although a Toyota finished second with another Audi third.
Porsche made a bettter showing than their dismal performances of recent years with 911s winning both the GT categories.
The weather was dismal- it was cold and wet although it had been over 30ºC earlier in the week and I was not the only one who made the decision to stay at home going by the small numbers of spectators in the stands on the TV video.
The race was marred by the death of Danish driver,Allan Simonsen,whose works Aston Martin crashed at Tetra Rouge on the third lap of the race.It was the first fatality at Le Mans for 27 years.
Hopefully the return of Porsche into the top category in 2014 will provide a much needed boost to the race although apparently the Porsche hybrid is a very complex machine and it may take a few outings to sort out.Anyway let's hope that 2014 is a real race with better weather.

23 Jun 2013

The curse of digital photography

Back in Aus after a wonderful three weeks in La Belle France.I am not so sure that I will post on the blog whilst travelling in future.Uploading photos using an iPad and hotel wi-fi networks is often slow.I cannot edit the photos and the size of the photos is restricted in the iPad blogger app.
More critically I am very anxious not to appear like all the posters who put their every movement up on Facebook.I want my photos to be considered not just taken to post on a blog.I am convinced that digital photography is ruining the travel experience for many travellers.They are blindly snapping away and not taking in what they are looking at.Whilst on a bus tour in Lyon a man in the seat in front of me was taking photos in every direction in a frenzy.It was as if he had a neurological disorder-his whole body twitching as he snapped left, right and centre.He saw nothing.

I first really noticed this frenzied snapping in Strasbourg Cathedral last year but now I see it everywhere.Hooray to the museums who have banned photography.It makes it so much more comfortable for those of us who want to look at the pictures and take them in.
It is not a laughing matter-people really are missing out on a critical part of the travel experience.They are not observing and taking in what they came to see.Of course when photography used film this situation did not arise but now with smartphones it is even worse as they are photographing everything and then posting it onto their Facebook page or sending the photos to their friends immediately.But it is not just smartphones- the big black Canon or Nikon DSLR is still the camera of choice for many European tourists -particularly the older ones.What do
they all do with the photos?

I am making a very conscious effort to use my camera very sparingly .On the trip I saw wonderful panoramas and scenes and committed them to memory.I am just using my camera to take just a few,hopefully,interesting photos not as a recording device for my every move.

Anyway a few low key but Pur(e) French photos from the last three weeks

19 Jun 2013

Local colour 2

Some more local colour including shots of very colourful canvas still being made in a mill in an isolated village in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

16 Jun 2013

A barn find

All car enthusiasts dream of a barn find.An old long forgotten Porsche 356 or a Bugatti under a layer of dust and straw.Well there are plenty of rotting Renaults and Citroens in barns here in France waiting to be discovered but I found a Lamborghini under a layer of dust in a barn behind our hotel this morning.A shame that it is a tractor!

Canal Du Midi

Came to the Canal Du Midi on way to Carcassonne yesterday.Found an idyllic restaurant on bank in small village to have lunch -see photo.It does not get much better than this.Canal packed with big plastic boats full of English banker types and their friends/families sipping wine and getting sunburnt.The Home Counties golf clubs must be very quiet this week.

14 Jun 2013

In Ceret

Now in Ceret.Very close to Spanish border.Beautiful little town with great ambience.Was frequented by Picasso,Matisse and other painters in early part of last century and has a great museum featuring many of their paintings of the town.Town still alive not some tourist trap full of tat.Staying in tiny little hotel just off the main street.The owner does not speak hardly any English.My French really getting a workout.Drove up into the Pyrenees today.Car got bigger and roads got narrower- a few close calls.Visited some very well preserved medieval villages although most of the houses look abandoned.Took a few photos but most need work in Lightroom.Here are just a few from Ceret and surrounds taken today straight from the camera.

12 Jun 2013

To Collioure

Went to Collioure yesterday close to the Spanish border.Beautiful place totally overrun with tourists but who am I,a mere tourist,to complain.

Left on the street

Saw this English registered V12 E Type parked on the main street in Avignon overnight last Friday.Fairly risky as there were a few drunks around but he probably had no choice as it was way too big for the spaces in the main city underground car parks which had been laid out with Renault Clios and Peugeot 205s in mind and even the spiral entry roads would have been too tight with the Jag's long nose.And those big doors would be a problem everywhere he parked.I bet he was having misgivings about taking the Jag to Avignon.

9 Jun 2013

For the drinking cyclist

Seen this morning in a shop selling vintage bikes in Montpellier.A wine bottle holder which fits under the crossbar on the bike.The bike is sideways in the shop window in the photo.

On French dogs

The French love their dogs and there are a lot of dogs in France. But despite all the years of jokes about the streets of Paris being full of doggie poo and the placing of plastic clean up bags and now even dog toilets on some streets many French dog owners still seem to be content to let FooFoo open his/her bowels whenever the urge strikes and to walk idly on leaving a steaming pile as a momento.
Yes it has improved in recent years and the clean up movement is gaining traction but it is wise to keep looking at the ground when walking in a French city/town or even village.Only yesterday in a beautiful village full of tourists in the Cotes De Rhone region a large momento graced the main path in the village square.
No photos of momentos but some of nice French dogs.

8 Jun 2013

Up Mt Ventoux

Drove up Mt Ventoux this morning.Mt Ventoux is to cyclists what the Vatican is to Catholics.Today it was full of Dutch cyclists-over 600- taking part in a big charity ride to raise funds for motor neuron disease research.It was a big deal with loads of timing gear and every rider in team Lycra gear and hundreds of supporters.It is one helluva climb and some of the riders were climbing it three times today.Extraordinary.Very taxing drive up and down the other side as the road was full of cyclists and parking at the summit is very precarious anyway and was seething with riders.Photo taken from the summit and shows the final climb.Small dots are riders.Back down from the summit went into small village and it was cycling central and the atmosphere was wonderful.Great lunch watching the amazing cycling circus.And the atmosphere was so laid back and friendly.Wonderful.

7 Jun 2013

By Peugeot

Driving a Peugeot 508 rental car-manual diesel with a 6 speed gearbox.The French still much prefer manuals but it is odd to find a manual gearbox in such a big car.Peugeot have never had much success with their big cars primarily because France is a small car market but I have been really surprised by how good the 508 is.It is very comfortable and the ride and handling are excellent.Such a contrast to the appalling blancmange with wheels aka a Chevrolet Impala I rented in the US last year.Peugeot have always made good diesel engines and this one is excellent-quiet,quick and amazingly economical.
But it is a big car and I have really been challenged parking it in small spaces and negotiating very narrow lanes getting to the hotel and parking station in Avignon-the remote operated retracting side mirrors are not gimmicks.

6 Jun 2013

German lobsters

Drove down across the Camargue at the mouth of the Rhone today.I've always wanted to see Camargue but in reality it is pretty featureless.I did see quite a few of the famous white horses but alas they were too far away to photograph.Visited a beach resort which was just extraordinary.It was attractive enough but the beach was what we would call mud flats in Australia.Most unappealling.At the height of summer the town is apparently packed out and even today it was pretty crowded.Thousands of Germans,Dutch,Belgian and Swiss as well as French holidaymakers pour in to soak up the sun and eat day and night going by the vast number of restaurants .
A very large German lady of advanced years was sun baking topless not far from where I took this photo of two German lobsters working on their skin cancer.The topless lady was not a pretty sight at all so I was not tempted to photograph her monster boobs even for the blog.

Sur Le Pont D'Avignon

I reckon that the famous bridge in Avignon is overrated.It's a real pity that half of it washed away a few centuries back.Today the Avignon Municipality would have got an EU grant to repair it.It is seething with tourists during the day.I was up at the crack of dawn this morning to get this tourist shot without the tourists.

Travelling 308 style

German couple checked in to the hotel right in the centre of the old city in Avignon having arrived in their 308 Ferrari which they casually parked on a disabled space on the street whilst they checked in and which I saw later parked overnight in the public car park.They had some nice vintage look soft bags to fit the car but otherwise seemed to treat their classic 308 as just an everyday car.As you do.
I'd like a 308 but I'm not sure that I would want to take it quite so far from home but good on them.They obviously trust it.

5 Jun 2013

Random thoughts on cameras

Sometime ago found this great post on the photography blog Visual Science.It's a few years old now but it holds more than ever and I certainly agree with it 100%.I can't recommend Visual Science as a read as the author nowadays has the most long winded writing style.He never hesitates to use 3 sentences where one would do.Back when he wrote this he was more sparing with his words.

The best fashion shooter I ever met just had one lens. It was a Hasselblad 150mm .She didn't own any other lens so she never had to think about which lens she would use or how she would work. She just did her work and it was stellar. No choices, just the right choice. No confusion just vision. Amazing. But now we're all so fearful we feel like we need to have "all of our bases covered" even when we're just doing this for fun.That's why it's not as much fun.  

Zooms are for sissies.I have a collection.I'm just a sissy.Show me the guy with one 50mm lens and no bag and I'll show you an artist. Or at least a guy without a back problem.....

You won't listen anyway.  Go ahead and buy whatever you like.

This is excellent advice-well apart from the last flippant remark- and one which I had unknowingly already followed.I used to have bags full of gear but about 5 years ago I was over it -- the weight and the hassle was just too much.So in a moment of decisiveness I sold the Leica outfit and all those beautiful lenses and sold as much of the Canon SLR gear that I could including the  70-200mm f2.8 lens.A brilliant lens but no lightweight.I bought myself the little Leica X1 and used a little Canon G9 as a backup.And then I bought a big,heavy vintage Hasselblad film camera outfit but that is a collectible and is not a day to day shooting piece of kit and doesn't count.

The Leica X1 has proved to be a superb tool but there are still times when I get feel pangs of gear acquisition syndrome -GAS.This condition afflicts millions of  photographers who believe that by buying the latest newly launched camera their photography will be miraculously transformed.I have manged to avoid these demons for 4 years now but last week in a Leica dealer in Sydney I nearly weakened and bought a Leica XVario when they offered me a $1000 discount.The XVario is like a grown up Leica X1 or X2 with a slow, short zoom lens but it is beautifully made and by all accounts the images it produces are beautiful quality.But it is not that small and it is heavy and it is expensive.Boy is it expensive.After a momentary hesitation I put the GAS demons behind me and the fact that the camera plus EVF was still going to cost $2750 made the demons banishing a no brainer.
However it would be nice to sometimes have an alternative to the fixed 35mm lens on the X1 and to have a wide angle lens and a long lens or a zoom.I was reminded of this when I found the photo below.It was taken in Zimbabwe (once one of the most beautiful and richest countries in Africa now completely trashed) in 1998 on my Leica M6 with a 135mm Elmarit lens.
I used to carry a Leica body with 5 lenses -28,35,50,90 and 135mm in my camera bag.I so rarely used the 135mm that I stopped carrying it around and then the 50mm was also taken out as I realised that lighter was better.But on this African trip I did find a use for that heavy 135mm lens.I took this photo from the passenger's seat of a Land Rover.I rested the lens on the sill of the open window and shot with the lens wide open to try and ensure that only the bird was in focus.Nailing the focus with the 135mm lens on the Leica was not easy -one of the reasons why I used the lens so infrequently.
The photo which was taken on Kodak Ektar 100 colour negative film has received very little tweaking -- this is almost as it came out of the camera.
In fifty plus years of taking photos I can only recollect taking two photos of birds and this is one of them.

3 Jun 2013

Summer in France

Really cold yesterday.Coldest I have been since I went to Montreal in December a few years ago.Difficult to believe that it is June in France.Heading south today and it looks as if temperature more acceptable there.Here's hoping.Took a few photos around old city yesterday.