31 Mar 2011


Another superb shot courtesy of Roger Putnam .As Roger explains-" It was taken by David Phipps - a well known F1 photographer on the test track at Hethel  as the 49 with the Cosworth DFV engine was rolled out for the first time. Graham Hill is bending over the cockpit and Colin and Maurice Phillipe, the designer are on the left. Hazel, Clive and myself are on the right. Walter Hayes, Ford of Europe's Communications Director and great friend of Henry Ford II is just out of shot. Colin persuaded Walter (later Aston Martin Chairman) to get Ford to fund the engine. About 5 days later Jimmy won the Dutch GP in this very car, just out of the box."

Looking at this car the most striking feature is the clean lines due to the total absence of aerodynamic devices . The design of today's formula 1 cars is totally dictated by aerodynamic considerations and it is the aerodynamic devices which are making overtaking very difficult if not totally impossible .

Despite my best intentions I did see a fair bit of last weekend's Australian Grand Prix courtesy of Star TV out of the corner of one eye in a restaurant/bar in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam .And yes, it was another very boring high speed procession with the only significant overtaking confined to the pit lane .The so called rule changes introduced to "improve" overtaking seem to be totally ineffective.The only high spot for me was that Sebastian Vettel appeared to be smiling after the race but I am sure that it was just a severe case of stomach cramps .The crowds were thin and no wonder -Melburnians in particular and Australians generally have better things to spend their money on than going to another boring formula 1 race .
There are clear signs that the govt of the state of Victoria is jacking up paying the exorbitant eight figure annual fee to the F1 overlords for the "honour" of running the grand prix . Most Victorian taxpayers think that the money would be better spent on education or public transport or hospitals and they would be dead right .The emperor has no clothes.

29 Mar 2011


The French colonial era in Vietnam was a dark period amongst many dark periods in Vietnam's long history but the Vietnamese should be grateful that the French left behind one valuable legacy -French baking -- and not only has this resulted in thousands of Vietnamese hot bread shops started by Vietnamese refugees in the US, Canada and Australia/NZ but also great bread on sale everywhere in Vietnam.

I spotted this motorcycle delivery of rolls in a market in Central Vietnam . Another Leica X1 image .


I've always loved the wonderful communist government posters you see beside the road in communist countries . Obviously they originated in the Soviet Union but the graphic exhortation style was picked up by China ,Cuba, Vietnam ,Laos and Cambodia and presumably North Korea . Despite the extraordinary transformation of Vietnam into a free market economy the posters carry on but they have been subtly updated so although the comrades still look like poor waxworks representations of Russians and Vietnamese who have interbred and they still seem obsessed with big cranes and tractors they have included a laptop in this latest version seen last week in Ho Chi Minh City( Saigon) .Wonderful and a really good example of everything old being new again .


I found this wonderful motorcycle parked by the kerb in Hoi An ,Vietnam last week . It's an ancient Ural -a Soviet era copy of a wartime BMW -and was very dusty and leaking oil from more than a few leaks .Its custodian who spoke good English told me that it regularly covered long distances as a tourist renter and despite its appearance was very reliable .Photographers may be interested to know that the image was captured on the new toy ,a Leica X1,and processed in Lightroom.

13 Mar 2011


The Rolling Road editorial team ( ie me) is taking a short break to take some photos so TRR will not be updated for a couple of weeks .Whilst I am away the Australian Formula I Grand Prix will take place but this is of no consequence to me .I was a serious F1 fan for 30 odd years and have been fortunate to spectate at grand prix all over the world but modern F1 leaves me cold . It is the combination of usually boring races on predominantly boring circuits and the whole F1 culture.I know younger readers may put this down to the ramblings of an old duffer but really formula 1 used to be superb . Now it is a money fuelled circus and the obnoxious Sebastian Vettel's often used one finger gesture sums it all up so well .
Anyway I am looking forward to my trip and posting more photos in April and the 2011 Le Mans 24hours is getting closer every day .For a nice piece on the spectacle that is Le Mans see


A classic Porsche racing shot from my archive-- the Jagermeister sponsored Porsche 962C--driven by Larraui and Ratzenberger to fourth place--- approaching the Bus Stop chicane at Spa , Belgium .Round WSCC September 1989.
The 962 was such a wonderfully proportioned and succesful sports car .A Porsche from a different era .Taken on a Leica on film -- photography from a different era .

9 Mar 2011


Lotus were an incredibly succesful race and sports car manufacturer during the 1960s and 70s across a wide range of formulae but in one division of racing , big engined sports cars, they failed miserably .Their first effort was the Lotus 30 which featured a backbone chassis as per the Lotus Elan with a Ford V8 at the rear . Despite the best efforts of the magician ,Jim Clark. the 30 was never a front running contender as the chassis lacked rigidity and the car handled like a brewer's dray .Lotus then compounded their errors in the Lotus 40 .
Again a great unique photo from Roger Putnam's vault with his commentary .
"One Saturday morning I went into Lotus and there was a Lotus 40 (the 30 with 10 more mistakes) which needed moving out to the test track. The exhaust covers were about to come off and the 5.2 litre engine cranked up. I found that I was that man." A very lucky man .

6 Mar 2011


If you are into Paris ( that's me ) or panorama photography ( ditto) take a look at a remarkable website-an amazing panoramic stitch of 2346 photos of Paris
The definition is amazing .It is worth looking at the explanations of how it was shot and how it was all stitched together.A technical tour de force.

I have been fascinated by panoramas and I even bought books on how to shoot them back in the film era but for years they were out of my reach but now that has all changed. Some of my efforts courtesy of Photoshop Elements and my Canon G7 and G9 are below.The Photoshop Elements panorama stitching tool is very good and also very easy to use .It is accessed under "file" "new" and is pretty intuitive to use.It is so good that it is almost worth buying PE for this feature alone. If you have ever wanted to do panoramas give it a try -they look great.

I hand held the camera for these panoramas because I believe in travelling light and never use a tripod .I overlap each frame generously by about 20% --at either end-- and I do it by eye.Taking vertical (portrait) format images works best when you are hand holding the camera for panoramas because any vertical variations in the angle you hold the camera between the frames can be compensated for when you crop the final image .
If you shoot the panorama with horizontal frames and you do not hold the camera level you can end up with a very thin panorama when you have to crop out all the misaligned edges.
However shooting vertical frames means you do end up with more images to stitch together and very big files which can easily freeze your computer .Best to shoot panoramas on smallish file sizes or reduce the file sizes in the computer before you attempt to stitch them together.
When shooting panoramas avoid movement which goes across images such as waves because the stitching software cannot handle it.

The Canon G series cameras have a panorama setting which holds the exposure constant across the multiple panorama frames which is very useful. If your camera does not have this facility I recommend that you use a manual setting to hold the exposure constant across all the frames of a panorama. Photoshop will sort out any variations in brightness between the frames .
My panoramas show an amazing amount of detail in their original files but much of that is lost in the compressed images below .I use my standard technique of using the lowest possible ISO setting to minimise the "noise" in the image and maximise the quality--in all these examples I used ISO 80.

It is amazing to think that today we can produce panoramas such as these with a  very reasonably priced compact camera and some easy to use software. Just ten years ago you would have had to use an unwieldy and very expensive panorama camera ,a panoramic tripod head and a great big tripod and then after you had taken the panoramas you were faced with the cost of printing them and very few people would ever see them.

The city panorama was taken from the Montparnasse Tour (Tower) close to the Gare de Montparnasse . It is higher than the Eifel Tour and there is usually no or very limited waiting to go to the viewing galleries . And it is much cheaper .
The panorama over Champs Elysees was taken from the viewing gallery on top of the Arc de Triomphe on Bastille Day .

4 Mar 2011


Upto the end of the 1960's when sponsorship came into motor racing cars were usually, but not always , painted in the racing colours of the team's country of origin . British cars were green , Italian cars red , German cars white or silver ( originally the nominated colour for Gemany was white but prewar the magnificent Auto Union and Mercedes Grand Prix cars were bare metal and then painted silver and this became the alternative German national colour) .Belgian cars were yellow , American cars were white with blue bonnet stripes and ,of course , French cars were blue .There was no specific pannetone for the colour so British Racing Green had various interpretations from dark green as used by Jaguar on their Le Mans cars  to a distinct light green as used by the Vanwall team .French Bugatti cars were invairably a very distinct Bugatti blue but other French teams had subtle variations on the blue theme as these three images of respectively a Alpine-Renault , Matra-Simca and Bugatti-- all taken at the Le Mans Classic-- show.
The French always do a nice line in "different" racing cars . They do "small" well and often resort to unusual engine configurations ( eg straight 8 supercharged in the Bugatti ) . The Alpine-Renault is a great favourite of mine . Highly tuned small capacity engine hanging out the rear in a very light body .

As this post has ,for some reason,proved to be very popular here are some more French Racing Blue images.

3 Mar 2011


The 2011 F1 world championship opening race,the Bahrain Grand Prix , slated for 13th March has been cancelled by the ruler,Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, due to the civil unrest in the Arabian Gulf slate . Whilst on balance this was definitely the right decison I cannot find myself wondering whether the Crown Prince missed a golden opportunity to calm the local population down .If he had allowed the race to go ahead and given all the citizens of Bahrain free entry tickets based on the form of last year's race after watching a few laps of the cars circulating on this mind-numbingly boring track they would have fallen into a collective soporific slumber and abandoned all thoughts of rioting in the streets.

My small Himalayan,Zoe, is a fully paid up member of the Mark Webber fan club ,and yet after ten minutes of watching the Bahrain race last year she lapsed into a deep sleep.........


An interesting aside on this is that whilst researching the crown prince's name I went to the official formula 1 website . Apart from a very brief mention of the cancellation buried deep in the news section there is no trace of the Bahrain Grand Prix on the site . It has all been removed . In Bernieland the sun always shines , the grass is always green , babies never cry , every track is the Nurburgring , every race is a thriller and every arab king and prince is a jovial, benign ruler surrounded by adoring citizens.