26 Feb 2016

A little piece of paradise

The photo of the camels on the beach in the previous post has been so well received with quite a few emails commenting on the scenery and the photo that I have been prompted to post two more photos from my recent trip north up the coast of New South Wales. This time both were taken on the ground.

Firstly-above,Little Bay,in the Arakoon National Park near North West Rocks.
It looks like an exotic cove in some remote destination in a travel magazine but this little slice of paradise is not so far off the beaten track. It really is a special place particularly as behind me as I took the photo in the middle of the day were dozens of kangaroos and wallabies snoozing in the shade of trees in a clearing.

The second photo -below-was taken from Crescent Head looking south and shows another spectacular beach heading off into the distance.Beyond the first headland there is another beach stretching kilometres to another headland and so on south. The beach is totally empty apart from three SUVs driving south. One is just visible as a black dot in the middle distance.
The SUV drivers would be camping and fishing on the beach.The beach is unpatrolled and whilst it is very good surfing the sea can be very treacherous for swimmers with strong rips and currents.

Both Leica X1 photos.

24 Feb 2016

From above

Camels -Lighthouse Beach,Port Macquarie,NSW. Photo taken three weeks ago from a floatplane which gives scenic flights out of Port Macquarie Harbour.
After the first world war there were hundreds of surplus military planes in the US and discharged pilots bought them for a few hundred dollars each and then flew them around the country "barnstorming"-giving acrobatic displays and taking locals up for joy flights for a few dollars. Charles Lindberg,the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic made his start in aviation in this way.

Now all aviation is tightly controlled and barnstorming is long gone.The floatplane on the Hastings River at Port Macquarie is a reminder of how informal flying used to be. A plane,a basic pontoon,a pilot,a canvas gazebo for shade on the shore,a ticket seller and a deck hand to tie the plane up.Check in time 2 minutes before flight departs. Fill in the form giving personal details,put on the flotation device,climb aboard,listen to the emergency procedure,do up your seat belt,put on your headphones,hang on and watch out for dolphins on the "taxiway".  Enjoy the flight.

I only had my Leica X1 with me when I took the flight. A longer lens would have been useful but I am pleased with this one shot. I am surprised that the resolution on the photo is so good as it is a big crop and it was taken through the perspex side window of the plane.These Cessnas and Pipers invairably use Lycoming or Continental horizontally opposed 4 cylinder engines which are very reliable but not at all smooth. So you need to ensure that the camera and your hands/armsare not touching the window and to use a very high shutter speed-I used 1/2000th-so as to minimise the effect of vibration. You also need to ensure that the camera is not trying to focus on the window. Using manual focus is one way to avoid this.

The camels in the photo give beach camel rides.There are tens of thousands of feral camels in the Australian deserts. They were originally introduced in the 19th century for desert transport and they came with their Afghan handlers. The Afghans have gone but the camels stayed and bred. Now Australian camels are prized for their genetic diversity and are even exported to the Middle Eastern Gulf States for camel racing .

Floatplane Hastings River,Port Macquarie

23 Feb 2016

Bernie on the state of F1

Wonderful quote in today's Guardian from Bernie Ecclestone.
Ecclestone has recently described F1 as “the worst it’s ever been,” adding, “I wouldn’t spend my money to take my family to watch a race. No way.”
I could not have put it better myself,Bernie.We agree for once.However let's not forget who got it into this state.

To read more see State of F1

21 Feb 2016

A sunday morning drive

A Sunday morning Porsche drive to cafe Tractor 828 at Ebenezer on the Hawkesbury River today. Of course it rained-just a few showers-but enough to make the roads very slippery in parts after weeks without rain. I covered just short of 300kms-including three ferry crossings- on the round trip and kept up a fair pace on some very winding roads particularly on the run back to Gosford from Wisemans Ferry. I was in my 2.2 and as the ambient was over 30ºC and the humidity very high I was wringing wet by the time I got home. A good long morning drive.

19 Feb 2016

Hold the schnitzel Fritz

Last week I had a phone call asking if I would be willing to let Porsche Australia borrow my early Porsche 911 for the launch event for the 2016 911 in Sydney.They were actually looking for a SWB model so mine did not suit so it went no further. But this set me thinking why do Porsche want to put the svelte,slim 1971 911 in a line up with the fat bloated 2016 911 ?
I know the young Porsche marketeers are anxious to show the heritage and talk about the bloodline and the inherited DNA but in reality it achieves the reverse. It emphasises how big and bloated the latest Porsche is.
I recently saw a rear end shot of the 2016 911 beside a 1970 911. What a contrast. Obesity alongside an athletic taut frame.
And Porsche have recently released this photo of the new Boxster Spyder alongside its "relative" the 550 Spyder.
When I read a review of the Boxster Spyder I was very impressed but when I see this photo -which hardly flatters the Spyder anyway-my reaction is that all the new Porsche models including the Spyder really need to go on a diet. For a car with just two seats,minimal luggage carrying capacity and limited weather protection it is gross.
Of course none of this matters to the swoon brigade who "like" everything Porsche do and who will buy the fatty Spyder in great volume but for us purists it is rather tragic.

14 Feb 2016

Bathurst 12 hours-pit and paddock

I have always enjoyed going into the paddock at motor races.In some ways I find the paddock more interesting than the racing. I used to love going into the paddock at the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch and Silverstone but sadly those days are long gone and anyway there is nothing to see in the paddock at F1 nowadays. Everything is hidden away in massive transporters and "facilities".
Fortunately the Bathurst 12 hours is not yet like that. Last weekend I could see right into nearly all the pits although Bentley were playing precious with blocking screens.
One striking aspect of modern motor racing is how much gear and personnel the teams bring to the track. Much of the gear is electronic gear-banks of monitors,telemetry and communication equipment. When I put my head into their cavern Bentley seem to have more monitors and technicians than a full sized TV studio.
I do wonder whether all the personnel in the pits are really necessary. Many of them seem to be standing around most of the time. The cost of bringing them must be astronomical for the European teams. And again I find myself asking why do many of them have faces like they are permanently sucking on lemons? You are supposed to be enjoying it folks. There are people who would give their right arm for your jobs.
Anyway a selection of my pit and paddock photos.All Leica X Vario photos.

12 Feb 2016

A Long Flat beer

Whilst I was up on the mid north coast of NSW last week I drove inland from Wauchope towards Walcha on the B56.The road is a great driving road-smooth,interesting,passing through wonderful country and with very little traffic. A great Porsche driving road. Sadly I was not in a Porsche but maybe next time.
Passing through the tiny isolated settlement of Long Flat I spotted these two drinkers enjoying a beer outside the Traveller's Rest Hotel - one of the oldest country pubs in NSW. I stopped the car up the road and I walked back and asked them if I could take their photo. After some witty banter they agreed and here it is. Now I wished that I had asked the guy in the blue singlet to remove his sunglasses but that's life. Anyway to my mind it's a very Australian photo and you don't see many characters like these two nowadays even in the bush.
They explained that they were having a beer at 11.15 in the morning because it did not take them a full day to do a full day's work.
Leica X1 photo

9 Feb 2016

Bathurst 12 hours-another great race

It was the Bathurst 12 hour GT race last weekend.For overseas readers Bathurst is a country town about 3 hours drive over the Blue Mountains west of Sydney,Australia. It is also the home of one of the world's greatest motor racing circuits-Mount Panorama. It's up there with the Nordschleife Nurburgring. Better than Spa. And even better than Le Mans.Yes it's that good.
Every time I stand at the top of the mountain and watch the cars rocket across the top at Skyline and down the Dipper I just say wow-this is real motor racing.
One of the great aspects of the 12 hour race is that it is not expensive to attend and you have full access to the pits and the padddock on the general admission ticket. This may change in the future as the rapacious V8 Supercar organisation owned by private equity have bought 50% of the race and they do not have a good record of looking after any other interests but their own. Just like Formula 1. If they do screw it up it will be a great shame but money always talks and it is hard to be optimistic.
This year's race was cooler than last year's-thank goodness. It was hot in the afternoon but not heatstroke hot. And the race was just as exciting.There were 29 changes of lead in the 12 hours and five different marques made up the top five places-McLaren,Nissan,Bentley,Audi and Mercedes. And the winner set a new circuit lap record and won by just 1.8 seconds.
And the Stone and Wood draught beer in the Hotel Canobalas in Orange where I stayed tasted great Saturday evening and Sunday evening.
In summary it was a great weekend.
Some action photos from the race with some paddock photos in the next blog post.

The start at 5.45am.An early morning wake up as I stayed in Oprange -54kms away.

Dawn breaking,Brake rotors glowing at the end of Conrod Straight.

Porsche Cayman entering Caltex Chase in the early morning light

The winning McLaren setting an cracking early pace as the sun rises over the Blue Mountains in the distance

Fast food.The McDonalds sponsored Ferrari did not bring home the bacon.

Audi R8 powering up the Mountain

The second placed Nissan coming out of the Cutting late morning

The third placed Bentley

The fifth placed Mercedes SLS

Porsche class winner descending the Dipper

Winning Mclaren fighting Bentley for lead mid afternoon

Porsche coming down the Dipper

Porsche and Audi turning onto Syline at the top of the Mountain.

Fifth placed Mercedes coming down pitlane

Over Skyline and into the Dipper
All photos by JohnS using a Sony a7 and 90mm Zeiss Biogon and  200mm Minolta Rokkor lenses. Both manual focus lenses.The Zeiss lens is superb and gives beautiful results which barely need any processing.
The Minolta lens which I bought for A$12 off eBay gives surprisingly good results after work in Lightroom.
The irony is that I used to have a superb Canon 70-200 F2.8 lens and 2X converter but I sold all that gear years ago when I decided that my days of dragging a big lens and cameras around a race track were over. That was then this is now and at least the outfit I used on Sunday was light and small.

8 Feb 2016

A Midget in Paris

Some photos from David Young of what looks like a fully restored MG Midget parked in Paris .You rarely see such well restored Midgets and Austin Healey Sprites nowadays because it does not make economic sense to restore them unless you do most of the work yourself.And the simple fact is that they are unexciting cars.They are basic,small and slow. Why spend good money restoring one of these when you can have a new modern car with all the things the Midget/Sprite lack for the same or even less money?

When I joined the then weeks old British Leyland in the market planning dept in August 1968 the company was making over a quarter of a million sports cars-MG,Triumph.Austin-Healey and Jaguar-a year. An astonishing figure.The  majority were going to the US -particularly the west coast. Within ten years this vast market had almost gone.
At my job interview in January 1968 I asked,David Christie,the market planning manager, what the company thought of the very advanced Honda S800 sports car. It was a prescient question.
At the time Honda had a very small presence in the UK market although they had already done very well with motorcycles and I was an early adopter of Honda having owned a Honda bike since 1964. So I was aware of how good and how reliable their products were. Christie replied that the company regarded them as toys and did not see them as competitors at all. Well how wrong he was although it was not Honda which did the damage it was Datsun (Nissan) and later Mazda and of course the US EPA with the emissions rules. The Japanese cars were better engineered,better built and just better all round.

BLMC did nothing to protect their sports car market. There was a paucity of new products - just facelifts-and in fact the cars got worse. The emissions compliant engines were dogs.The one new product, the Triumph TR7, came in 1974 -by then the Japanese had already eaten British Leyland's lunch and were getting ready to eat its breakfast and dinner too. And the TR7 was a dog. The build quality was woeful and due to faulty tooling the wheelbase of the car was marginally shorter on one side than the other. Yes, really. At launch there was only the ugly coupe and the standard 4 cylinder engine was gutless. Later pretty convertible and V8 versions were introduced but as always they were too late.The dog had a bad name.The horse had bolted.It was all over red Rover.

My first ever company car in 1972 was an MGB GT -bright orange with Rostyle wheels and overdrive.It was almost the last of the good MGBs. After that model the MGB acquired hideous rubber 5 mph impact bumpers and it was raised to meet the impact bumper height rules.It looked awful-like a geriatric ballet dancer on tip toes- and the performance was even worse with a single carb replacing the twin SUs as they tried to meet the emissions legislation.The US compliant MGB was so bad that it would not do 100 mph even downhill and the driveability was hideous.

Fortunately my MGB looked great and would do a genuine 100 mph on the level-even if the speedo told me it was doing 115 mph-the MGB's most effective performance enhancing equipment was its Smiths speedo. At that time I was commuting to the BL factory at Cowley south of Oxford from Caversham north of Reading. I can still remember my daily commute on wonderful open,traffic free country roads across the Chilterns hills in the early morning and late afternoon and really giving the car some stick.There were no speed cameras littering the roadside in those days. As it was England it was often wet and I really polished my wet road driving skills in that MGB. I had my first experience of black ice in that car on one morning commute. Fortunately I slid into a soft grassy roadside bank and no damage was done.I drove very slowly for a few miles until I was over the icy Chilterns after that heart stopper.

Amazing to relate I retained the MG as my company car after our first child,Lisa,was born. I bought my wife and newborn back from the hospital in the MGB. We carried the baby and baby gear around in the MG for about 6 months until it was changed for a much less interesting saloon. Today's babies seem to require about 5 times as much "gear" as 1970's babies and most of today's parents would consider an MGB totally unsuited as a baby carriage. Indeed from my personal observation many parents regard an Audi Q7 as the minimum sized vehicle capable of carrying a baby and its life support equipment.