23 Feb 2020

The right stuff

Grandson Otto with his own handmade collection box for the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. It was Otto's birthday today and he asked that his friends who came to his party give money as donations to the hospital instead of presents. He's collected $340.
 Great job Otto.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is caring for many koalas which have been injured in the recent bushfires.
 Photo below Otto and his brother, Felix, counting the loot.

22 Feb 2020

Going, going, gone.

One from the archives. A classic Aussie milk bar photographed by me in Broken Hill, NSW, in 2001. Turn the clock back forty years and there was a milk bar in almost every suburb and town in Australia. Now they are very much on the endangered list, killed by the shops in service stations, 7/11 convenience stores and changing lifestyles.
The other staple of Australian country towns in the years following WW2, the Greek cafe, is now almost extinct.

This one is also from the archives. A Holden Commodore wagon. The fact that it is the only photograph of a Holden I have tells you a lot about Holden, GM's Australian brand. This week GM announced that it was the end of the road for Holden, often referred to as "Australia's car". Holden will be gone by the end of the year and GM made vehicles will no longer be sold in Australia. GM have promised ongoing parts and service support for ten years but with the dealer network gone this may prove problematical.

The announcement should not have come as surprise. Holden stopped local production in 2017 and since then it has been a slow lingering death for the brand although the rot had set in many years before. Holden joins the long list of once thriving brands which GM, through incompetence, have managed to kill.

The news of Holden's demise has been met with an outpouring of mostly sentimental tosh and ill informed comment from politicians, academics, journalists and the members of the general public, particularly on social media.

Most of the Holden dealers had seen the writing on the wall many months ago and there were already many closed Holden dealerships across Australia before this week's announcement. Ironically many are taking on Chinese brands particularly LDV (Leyland Daf Vehicles)- and MG.
The GM assembly plant in Thailand which was producing RH drive vehicles has been purchased by Great Wall, the Chinese brand, and they have announced that they will be stepping up their exports to RH drive markets.

I have to confess that I squirm every time I see a new Chinese MG on the local roads and there are quite a few of them already.

How did it come to this?

21 Feb 2020

View from the bridge.

More memories of China-see previous post. A popular photo stop in the limestone karst country near Yangshuo, Giulin on a hot and very hazy day back in 2014.
Will I ever go to China again? Never say never but it seems unlikely.
Turn the clock back 20 years and there was an expectation that the growing prosperity of China would lead to it becoming an open, friendly society and a valued member of the community of nations. Sadly the pundits were wrong. Very wrong. China has become a more authoritarian, less open society-more belligerent and often openly dishonest in its dealings with its own citizens and other countries.
With so many friendly places to visit China is not on my 'must go again' list. Which is sad.

19 Feb 2020

Everything old is new again.

For the past 14 years I have been using Adobe's Lightroom for processing my photos. I started with Lightroom 3 and moved through version 4 and then into version 5. With each of these versions I bought the software on a CD and it was mine. However after version 5 Adobe changed their business model to a subscription model so that now you have to pay a monthly/annual fee for the ongoing use of what is now called Lightroom Classic. All updates are automatic but you never actually own the software- you just rent it.
I was very happy using Lightroom 5 -it met all my photo processing needs -and as my system has been very stable I have resisted switching to the subscription model until this week. However I recently discovered that Lightroom 5 will not work with Apple's later iOS systems. My Apple Mac is a 2009 model and it will not accept the later Apple iOS. Now one day my very reliable Mac will die and I will have to upgrade to a new Mac. So I decided, very reluctantly, to switch to Adobe's subscription Lightroom so that I am ready for the inevitable switch to a new computer.
The subscription Lightroom Classic does incorporate some enhancements on my old Lightroom 5 one of which is a slider for a function named dehazing which miraculously reduces haze in a photo.
I found this photo, taken in the mountains near Giulin in China, which has haze. I reprocessed the original DNG (RAW) file -taken with my Leica X1-and I am very surprised at the result. It partially, but only partially, offsets some of the pain of paying Adobe A$14.50 per month for something I previously had for nothing.
Below for comparison is the RAW file before I tweaked it in Lightroom Classic.

14 Feb 2020

Old sleepy head

Phoebe at 1.00pm today. The grand old lady is 20 going on 21. She sleeps all day from 6.00am to 5.00pm then she is awake for 3 or 4 hours for dinner and supper and then she's back to sleep until 5.00am for breakfast -waking us up to ensure that it is delivered on time.

9 Feb 2020

Enough !

We are into the fourth day of rain and the past 12 hours have been the heaviest rain I have ever seen here in Terrigal or indeed anywhere except in Hong Kong and that was in a typhoon. It is typhoon like here now. All night the wind has been howling and the sun louvres on the house whistle loudly in very strong wing. The rain is not falling -it is driving sideways. Fortunately we have no leaks so far. The house is shaking and the trees all around are bending. The enormous gumtree behind the house is a constant source of worry in these conditions.
Yes we desperately needed rain but we've had enough now. Surely the 6 months deficit has been reversed ?

8 Feb 2020

What a difference a week makes.

What a difference a week makes. This photo was taken at 12.58pm North Avoca. The wind was so strong that I could barely stand to take the photo. The temperature was 23ºC and the rain was lashing down.
At the same time a week ago I was at Bathurst in 40ºC+ heat where it had not rained for many months.
The rain and the stormy conditions started on Thursday and there has been heavy rain since down most of the coast of New South Wales and Southern Queensland.There has been flooding in many areas due to the intensity of the rain and the fact that many drains and water channels are blocked with leaves and branches after so many months of drought.
Australia -a land of extreme contrasts.

4 Feb 2020

Bathurst 12 hot hours

 I just spent a very hot weekend at Bathurst for the 12 hour GT race. Saturday morning was spent travelling to Bathurst over the Blue Mountains. Well they were once blue but now they are black . Kilometre after kilometre of burnt out world heritage listed national park. It was very depressing. The fires had been so intense even the metal road signs had melted.

When friend Warren and I were approaching the Mount Panorama circuit the car's thermometer was showing 39ºC. We decided to eat lunch under a tree on the approach road to the circuit rather than in the shade free car park. After we had parked we found that although we had pre-purchased tickets to collect them we had to queue up with those who were waiting to buy tickets. There were only two ticket windows open. We had to stand in the sun for 35 minutes. It was hell. Big black mark to the race promoters.

To cut a long story short the heat was impossible that afternoon and after a walk along the pit complex and catching up with a few Porsche and Alfa friends racing in the historic Group S race we decided that the best place to be was in the bar of our hotel in Orange 54kms away. As we left the circuit at 3.30 the car's thermometer was showing 43ºC. Little wonder that we could not take it.
The beer in the bar was good and we enjoyed an excellent meal in the hotel restaurant. Even at 9.30pm the temperature was 36ºC.

 We were up at 4.00am Sunday to head back to the circuit in time for the 5.45am start. It's one of the greatest sights in motor racing to see the full field of GT cars heading up Mount Panorama in the dark. It's even better than Le Mans and having been to Le Mans so many times I can say that with authority.
Sunday was cooler than Saturday but it was relative. It only reached 38ºC mid afternoon. A big dust storm came in late afternoon but the wind was strong and there was lot of dust swirling around all day. Not ideal conditions for photography. Rain was forecast from mid afternoon but it held off until just as the race was finishing so no need for all those wet tyres they had ready.

The race was a good race as usual but not it did not go right down to the wire as it had done in 2018 and 2019 . The race was won by the Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT #7 photographed above coming over Skyline at the top of the mountain. Second place was taken by the McLaren 720 S of 59Racing/EMARacing-below.

Sadly Porsche did not make the podium but took out 4th place. They were a few very disappointed teams. Audis always turn out in force for the race supported by a big corporate promotion and although the cars always are reliable they just did not have the pace. The new Aston Martin Vantages with their AMG motors were way off the pace. They would have been very disappointed with their showing.

Warren and I decided to head back to our hotel mid afternoon to watch the end of the race on TV with a cold beer at hand. Unfortunately after about 45mins from the finish a big storm came through Orange and there was a power cut. I managed to get the TV broadcast streaming on my iPhone but it had very little battery so Warren and I ended up watching the finish on the phone plugged into the charger in my car. Strange days indeed.

The rest of my photos from the race are below. Because of the very hot and very dusty conditions I only took my Fuji X-E2 and the 50-230mm lens. An outfit which had only cost me A$650.

31 Jan 2020

Strange days, indeed.

I had to drive down to Chatswood in N Sydney this morning. Chatswood is known locally as Chinawood. It is not a typical Chinatown as it is more like an affluent part of Hong Kong transported to Australia. The transport of choice is a late model Mercedes and most of the shops and restaurants are now catering for the locals of Chinese origin.
Today there were a fair number of locals wearing masks because of the fear of the coronavirus. I was not wearing one but in the unlikely event that I had wanted one it seems as if they are already in short supply as this sign on one pharmacy shows.

It's been a very hot day and they are forecasting more of the same for the weekend which is a pity as I am off to watch the Bathurst 12hour GT race on Sunday. Watching motor racing in 38ºC plus is not fun as I know from previous years. On the motorway on the way home the car's external temperature reading was 41ºC and I took this shot  in West Gosford with the temperature showing as 40ºC.  Despite what all the climate change deniers tell us this ain't normal folks.

Finally on this very strange day to complete the set- a photo of Nigel Farage- a world class idiot. We have some pretty appalling politicians in Australia currently but I would not swap any one of them for Nigel Farage. What a truly horrible piece of work. I know where I would like to insert his union jack and it's not a place where flags are usually flown.
But he has his wish and the UK leaves the EU today. I fear this saga is far from over and it will end in bitter tears and disappointment in the future. Go the EU.

30 Jan 2020

A very hot Hot Shop

Whilst in Canberra last week we visited a favourite, the Canberra Glassworks. It's always fascinating to see the glassblowers at work and the works they have for sale in the small shop are superb.
The area where the glass is heated and blown is known as the Hot Shop. They had 6 furnaces going when we visited and the gas bill does not bear thinking about. When I visited the Hot Shop was even hotter than usual as it was over 36ºC outside. We could only watch for a short time before seeking aircon and water.

Photo taken from the public viewing area in the Hot Shop with my Leica X1. Who needs a big camera on a very hot day?

27 Jan 2020

Capital times, sad times

I spent three days in Canberra last week. The purpose of the trip was primarily to see the Monet/Picasso exhibition at the National Gallery but I also went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the excellent Eye to Eye exhibition.

Whilst walking back to the National Gallery from the Portrait Gallery I decided to take a look into the High Court of Australia-a building I had never previously visited. It was the day after the very sad crash of the C130 Hercules firefighting waterbomber in the Snowy Mountains in which three American crew members were killed. As a mark of respect all flags on Australian government buildings were at half mast. I took this photo of the Australian coat of arms with the flag at half mast outside from inside the High Court building.

There were no other visitors in the High Court and the court was on summer recess. A  guide, Alison, gave me a really excellent  presentation on the workings of the Constitutional Court. Sounds dull I know but Alison made it really interesting. Many thanks Alison -pictured below.