28 Sep 2013

Another time -Japan 1979

Back in 1979 I went to Japan on a business trip.Japan was an exotic and mysterious destination then.In Tokyo only the main central metro stations had the station names in western script so navigating the metro unaided was a challenge.Westerners were still very much an oddity outside the main centres.Very few people even in Tokyo spoke any English at all.Taxi drivers spoke none.They could not read western script so unless you had your destination written down in Japanese you could not travel by taxi.
Since 1979 I have visited Japan many times most recently a couple of years ago and it  has always been an extraordinary experience.In 1985 I even drove my family without a guide and of course without GPS in a big left hand drive car (Japan is a RHD country) extensively on the north island over the Christmas/new year period when it was snowing.I must have been very brave or just crazy.

I had my Olympus OM2 SLR with me on that first trip all those years ago. The yen was very weak then against the Aussie dollar so camera gear was a real bargain in Tokyo and I bought a 28mm Zuiko lens for the Olympus.I took photographs in the Kawasaki small motor and motorcycle factories and Tohatsu outboard motor factory I visited.As the light was very poor I used a very fast film,Ilford HPS-which was harsh and grainy .I developed it at home in a very fine grain developer.The photographs were taken on the run as I was on business factory visits -not sightseeing.Focussing was very difficult in the low light and even with the fast film the shutter speeds were slow.Camera shake ruined quite a few of them.

The factories were very noisy,hot,dirty and very crowded.They smelt of hot oil and hot metal.As you can see the working conditions were harsh.OH&S was not a consideration -note the lack of ear and eye protection.It would be so different today.I am sure much of the small engine production is now highly automated or has moved offshore most likely to China and other asian countries.
Today they would be much less willing to allow you to take photographs on security grounds and just imagine trying to focus manually wearing plastic lensed safety glasses.I was fortunate to record quite literally another time.

Only a couple of these photos were printed at the time.I was too busy with work and a young family to spend hours in the darkroom and in any case they needed printing skills which were beyond me.I found them last weekend in a big box full of thousands of negatives in my garage.With a scanner and Lightroom I have been able to give them their first visibility.

27 Sep 2013

Singapore F1 Grand Prix bore

Well it was the Singapore F1 GP last weekend .Held as usual under lights around a street circuit in the evening.Staging it in the evening is a big plus for the thousands who can watch the race from their hotel room balconies because as they inevitably start to doze off watching it is only a few short steps before they are in bed and pushing out zeds.And they would have been early into bed last sunday because,surprise,surprise Figjam* Vettel led from the first lap to the finish.Yawn,yawn, yawn.
The formula one fun police were out in force penalising Mark Webber ten grid places at the start of the next race,the Korean GP, because-wait for it- he hitched a ride back to the pits on Alonso's Ferrari after his engine exploded on the last lap.In days gone by this would have been seen as a bit of fun and camaraderie but nowadays no one is allowed to smile or have fun in F1 or many other branches of motor sport.Poo faces are compulsory.All offenders will be penalised.
Webber will be glad to be out of F1 and particularly the poisonous atmosphere of the Red Bull team.His place is being taken by another Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo, who has said that he gets on well with Figjam Vettel.Don't kid yourself Daniel.No one gets on well with Seb except Seb.He thinks that sportsmanship is a boat you race in the America's Cup.I am sure that by the end of the 2014 season Ricciardo will have changed his tune.Like a lamb to the slaughter.
* "F... I'm good -just ask me"

26 Sep 2013

Why I love my Leica X1

Nowadays I look at very few photography websites and blogs on a regular basis because I find most of them tedious as they are devoted to camera gear and not the end product-photographs.I now particular avoid those with forums where people who have not got a life go to be nasty to others.And they certainly can be nasty about Leica products and Leica users.It really is quite strange-the majority of camera gearheads just do not get Leica and in particular the X series cameras and if you follow The Rolling Road on a regular basis you will know that I am a big X1 fan.It may well be a much maligned camera lacking the bells and whistles which the gearheads consider essential equipment for any self respecting contemporary camera but it takes just wonderful photos.In fact as well as its superb image quality it is its simplicity and lack of unnecessary menus and settings which appeals to me.

Anyway just to prove my point -well at least to myself- here is a very recent -last weekend-shot from my Leica X1 which I reckon shows what a great lens can do on a reasonable sized sensor in a quite small camera. DNG (RAW) file processed in LR4.Very little adjustment in LR and lightly cropped.Taken at f2.8 on the Auto setting because it is Leica design philosophy that the aperture control is for adjusting depth of field not exposure so on Auto ISO and Auto shutter speed and Auto aperture the X1 always tries to default to ISO100 and f2.8-the widest aperture- and whatever shutter speed is appropriate.In this case the shutter speed was1/1000th.
Of course looking at an image on a small screen is not a challenging test.That comes from looking at the image on a large scale-preferably as a big print -and these X1 images really excel when they are big prints.

And to all those who say that the X1 is slow and not suitable for street photography here's a clown picture taken on on the fly.Some of us were taking photos before autofocus was invented.Indeed before automatic exposure metering was even thought of yet alone IS or wi-fi connectivity and GPS tagging.And no Matilda you don't need a zoom lens.One fixed lens will do just fine.
Photo taken on the street in Paris.Surely there must be easier ways to try to earn a living?

24 Sep 2013

Steamed up

When I was growing up in the UK in the 40's,50's steam trains were ubiquitious but then in the 60s steam engines were rapidly replaced by diesel,diesel-electric and electric power and the age of steam was over.Most of the steam engines were scrapped but some escaped the wrecker's blowtorch to ride the rails again on enthusiast railways some after years of restoration.
Many of my school friends were train enthusiasts.Some probably still are.Trains never really interested me.I was into cars and cameras from an early age but I can still admire a working steam engine as a wonderful piece of heavy engineering.
Now in the UK and elsewhere railway nostalgia/restoration is a massive industry/hobby.In the UK in particular there are literally dozens of resurrected railway lines with enthusiasts running steam trains on them.

Paul Perton is a South African based photographer who is also a steam train enthusiast.He has a portfolio of superb and very atmospheric steam train photos a small selection of which are shown below.The photos look as if they were taken in the heyday of steam on film but appearances can be deceptive.They are all in fact modern era digital photos.

A presentation of some more of Paul's railway photos-"Saving steam" can be found on Saving Steam
Paul's website on Paul Perton showcases his wide range of photography.He even does Paris street photography.Well worth a look.

22 Sep 2013

Lost in translation?

Seen on Terrigal Beach yesterday morning this Japanese tourist wearing boots.knitted woollen tights, a thick woollen skirt and sweater and a heavy jacket and scarf.It was well into the high 20s C.The lifeguards were on patrol ,the beach was crowded and my three granddaughters were in the sea.Maybe the lady misread the Australian weather or maybe she accidentally looked up the weather for Austria in late September and came prepared.Good thing she bought the water -she was in serious danger of dehydrating.
photos taken with a Canon G7 because Leicas and beaches do not mix.

20 Sep 2013

Stelvio Pass and thoughts on the 911

Son Toby has been travelling in Europe and sent me this photo from the Stelvio Pass in Italy which has been rated as the best driving road in the world by some and as Europe's most dangerous road by others.
He said that it was full of motorcyclists and Porsches this particular morning.
I would love to take my 2.2 911 or indeed any early model Porsche over it.Something small and nimble and with a very lively engine and above all else an engaging drive.I would not be so keen about taking over one of the latest 911s-so big and bloated and with so many driver's aids combining to result in an uninvolving driving experience.
The latest 991 model 911 maybe an engineering and technological marvel but it's no longer a pure sports car to my mind.Sure the GT3 version is a sports racing car but those on the track are far removed from the showroom 911 Carreras.
But at the end of the day who am I to criticise Porsche -I just read this week that in terms of % margin on sales Porsche is the most profitable car maker in the world making over $20,000 margin per car.The formula works for them.Just a pity that they do not have a high tech but basic pure sports car in the spirit of the original 901.In some ways today's Toyota 86 is more akin to the original Porsche 901 philosophy than the 991 911.Food for thought.
Whilst Porsche has been making a big deal of the 50th anniversary of the 911 and emphasising the bloodline running from the first 911 to the latest iteration I feel that the Cayman is now the true descendant of the first 911 in that it is a relatively nimble Porsche sports car whilst the 911 has become a Grand Tourer albeit one with very limited luggage capacity.Ironically today's 991 model 911 is more like a 2 door Panamera with the engine in the back.
This was really brought home to me last weekend at the 50th anniversary event in Sydney.There were a few late model 911s participating and mixed with the beautiful svelte early cars they looked corpulent.Like whales swimming with dolphins.

18 Sep 2013

Wet and dry- Goodwood Revival 2013

The Goodwood Revival is widely recognised as the premier historic racing event in the world.It is just a wonderful show.It is in fact much more than a motor racing festival as it is also a historic aircraft festival,a fancy dress garden party and just a wonderful exercise in nostalgia which the English do so well.I have not been for many years but everyone who has been recently comes back wildly enthused so it seems to just get bigger and better every year.
And despite it being in the UK in September the weather usually fully co-operates but not this year when after a gloriously hot summer the rains came to Goodwood for some of the Revival Meeting last weekend.
I have a personal soft spot for Goodwood.I saw Stirling Moss win the TT there in a Ferrari 250GT having travelled there by public transport from Surrey when I was just 14.I was also there when Stirling Moss had his big accident and I went a few times more to the Easter Meetings through the 1960s.Maybe it's time to think about going back for another taste of nostalgia in 2014.

Peter de Rousset-Hall was there last weekend with his Canon 1DX and the new Canon 200-400 lens with built in converter. He says ... "having used it for almost all my shots over the weekend I believe it is worth every penny of its horrific price.(note B&H in the US have it listed at US$11,799..!!!!)  Most of these were taken at 560mm with the lens wide open and with quite a bit of cropping. It has equal in quality and focus capability to the 400 f2.8 IS, is much more versatile and also much lighter."
Thanks Peter for some superb photos and also the captions below.

 This was the evening race on Friday night for 1952-55 Sports Cars.   It was supposed to run for 90minutes but was curtailed after 60.This shot may explain why.

This Daimler Dart - SP250 to Dodge Fans -is one of only two racing in the UK and has good period history including running at Sebring when new.    As a result of a stub axle failure it was comprehensively rolled the previous weekend and, despite being told they were attempting the impossible, John Abel (Owner) and Andy Shepherd (Driver ) managed - with some bits provided by various Daimler fans - to have it back up and running by Friday morning's practice.It successfully completed the race and here it is managing to stay ahead of a Ferrari - which is a testament to Andy's driving skills.

Andy's brother. Bill Shepherd, also had a good weekend in one of the few ex Holman and Moody Galaxies with a win in the second 60's Saloon car race.  It was driven by Jochen Mass, seen here in the first race.  He is leading here, though fell to third after an engine hiccup.

On a brighter note, the early mornings were nice and sunny - showing off the aircraft well

16 Sep 2013

Wobbly wheel

Jacked up the car to investigate the slight high speed vibration which started on the run down to the 911 anniversary event.The optimist said that a balance weight has fallen off a front wheel.The pessimist/realist said that it is a worn or slightly loose wheel bearing.It looks as if the pessimist was right.Just the slightest trace of a knock /wobble in one of the front wheels although no rumbling through the shock absorber tube.Back to Simon,the Porsche whisperer, at Autowerks.Leica X1 photo.

15 Sep 2013

911 50th Anniversary -Sydney

I took part in the Porsche 911 50th Anniversary drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge this morning.Organised by Porsche Cars Australia and led by a Porsche Museum 911 100 911s from the Porsche Club of NSW took part in the run.The 7.00 am assembly time down at the Rocks in Sydney meant getting up before the kookaburras in Terrigal but it was fast run down the M1 in my 1971 2.2 which ran faultlessly all day -as always- although a vibration from the front end at high speed on the motorway may be worn wheelbearings.I will jack it up and investigate tomorrow.

Led by a police liveried Panamera it was a 10min run across the bridge in single file at  8.00 am and then onto a breakfast at Taronga Zoo.The weather gods were smiling as rain threatened but the bridge crossing was in sunshine.

A great turnout of 911s from the club-mostly older cars.There is going to be a Porsche official video of the event including aerial footage from both a helicopter and a drone on Youtube within a few days so I will post a link to that when it is up.
The view from the function centre at the zoo where we had breakfast was worth the trip.See final photo.

Thanks to Porsche Cars for this big budget event and the great gifts - including a superb calendar which has some great use of  Photoshop-more on that in another post -and also thanks for the gift of a 50th anniversary 911 - pity that it was only a model though.

Here's my personal take on the wonderful assortment of participating cars in the assembly area - sorry no pics of the actual bridge crossing but I was driving and that was demanding enough. Leica X1 photos

I must get that clock fixed

13 Sep 2013

MG thoughts

Heading down to Sydney yesterday morning late in the morning rush I spotted this MG TC being driven down the Pacific Highway south of Hornsby.Brave man.The Pacific Highway is never a road for the feint hearted and in peak times it is tough driving.Very aggressive drivers - young girls in Hyundais texting as they drive ,mums in big SUVs, quite a few big trucks plus delivery vans and school zones and numerous speed cameras.Not a road on which I would want to be driving a 60 year old car.
The MG TC was a very succesful sports car,particularly in the US, but that was then.I drove a TC once for a few kilometres on the open road.Once was enough.It was as slow as a wet weekend.The brakes were woeful, the steering was incredibly vague and the very narrow tyres meant that it tramlined picking up road surface irregularities.The ride was choppy and the driving position was uncomfortable.I know MG enthusiasts swoon over them.Each to their own.

Seeing the early MG reminded me of a sad story.Way back in 1969 I saw a rather scruffy but complete  MG TA Midget for sale on the forecourt of a country garage in Dorset in the UK.The TA was produced upto 1939 .This one was British Racing Green and it had a number of small metal plaques and badges on the lid of the glovebox.One I remember was from University Motors who were MG dealers and the other was for the Oxford University Motor Club.
The petrol pump attendant- it was 1969-saw me looking at the car and said that it was for sale for 25 pounds sterling.Now this was more than I was earning a week so although it sounds very little today it was a reasonable sum for the time.The sad part came when he explained that the car had been in the garage of a local house since 1942 because the only son of a couple was an RAF fighter pilot who had been killed in action and never came home to drive his car again and his parents had been so distraught that they never moved the car and had left it in their garage until a few weeks previously when they had decided they had to sell it.A very sad story.I wonder where that car is now.

To add a postcript to these MG thoughts MG is now owned by the giant Chinese car company SIAC and they are just trying to relaunch the brand in Australia.The product is a dreary looking four door saloon and hatchback which is grossly overpriced and is now only available with a manual transmission which is a major handicap as most cars sold in Australia are auto.The story I have heard is that they have optimistically imported 400 as launch stock and surprisingly I saw a promo/demo vehicle on the road last week.It looked like a "me too"design with more than a hint of a Honda and Hyundai.I would say that given the bland styling,transmission and pricing it is currently totally saleproof in Australia.But one never knows with the Chinese.Maybe from this rather unlikely acorn a big MG oak tree will grow as later models hit the spot.Or maybe they will depart tail between legs after failing miserably as Opel have done recently and Seat did a few years ago.

11 Sep 2013

Golden Hour- a world apart

When I first became interested in photography-a very long time ago- the most authoritative source of information and news was a weekly UK magazine "Amateur Photography" and due to a stroke of luck a keen amateur photographer at my father's work bought it every week and passed it onto me via my father every week as soon as he had read it.That unknown benefactor--I never met him or even knew his name - single handedly nurtured my lifelong enthusiasm for photography.An amazing piece of luck.
One of the things that AP taught me was the concept of the"Golden Hour" the one hour after dawn and the hour before sunset when under the right conditions the light has a golden,magical quality.Many of my best photos have been taken in the Golden Hour because it still holds true today as it did 50 years ago.

Here are two "Golden Hour "photos taken in the last few months and they could not be further apart.

The first was taken at the gate into the beautiful old town in Ceret in Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France back in June by me on my Leica X1 digital camera.Two neighbours enjoying a chat in the fading summer light.

The second was taken ten days ago on the beach at North Avoca in NSW, Australia on one of the last evenings of winter with two girls enjoying an evening dip whilst the local surfers enjoy the breaking surf.Surprisingly this photo was taken on my Vintage Hasselblad on Kodak Portra 400 film with a 150mm Zeiss Sonnar lens.
A contrast in seasons,locations,generations,technologies and pace -all they have in common is the Golden Hour and the photographer.

8 Sep 2013

I still shoot colour film

As a change from Porsche content this blog story is one for the really keen photographers and maybe bushwalkers.
Regular readers of The Rolling Road will already know that I am a firm believer that less is more when it comes to cameras and photogear.The less gear you have the more likely you are to take your camera with you and having just one fixed focal length lens means less decisions.However principles can be flexible and encouraged by friend Roger Putnam in the UK who had already started on the Hasselblad collecting trail I purchased a good collection of Hasselblad gear in Australia and Germany over a few months last year-funded by selling some unwanted Porsche wheels and racing tyres.This is the antithesis of the less is more philosophy.It is a big, heavy collection of vintage film camera gear.I bought it so that I could dabble in film photography again and because I had always coveted a Hasselblad-the king of cameras.A Hasselblad is a piece of high precision mechanical and optical engineering and totally unaffordable for most of my lifetime but now selling at bargain basement prices.

I'm still learning to use the Hasselblad.Shooting with medium format (6x6) film is a completely different style of photography to shooting with digital --even to shooting with 35mm film-it is slower and more considered and shooting with an old Hasselblad is even slower and even more considered.Adapting to the square format also takes some time.
I find focussing using the waist level finder very difficult because it is so dim.There is very limited depth of field with the Blad lenses -even the wide 50mm Distagon has limited dof unless it is stopped right down which is not often possible if you are handholding the camera as camera shake is an issue.The mirror makes a big "slap" when it moves.I now understand why Hasselblad photographers so often used a tripod.I have a growing admiration for those professional photographers who used Hasselblads as their camera of choice to shoot fashion,wildlife or whatever.Even loading a film in the Blad is a not a simple task .I cannot imagine doing it in a hurry or carrying a Blad outfit around on a photoshoot.

I have just weighed my complete Hasselblad outfit-a 500 body,two magazines,an exposure meter,a prism viewfinder and 50mm,80mm and 150mm Zeiss lenses,assorted lens hoods and an extension tube and it weighs just over 7kg.My Leica X1 weighs 330 gm incl the battery.Not a fair comparison but telling nonetheless.

I have been learning to use the Blad over the past 14 months shooting both colour and black and white.In the last couple of weeks I have taken it into nearby Bouddi National Park -see Bouddi- firstly down to pristine Maitland Bay where I took the above photo on Kodak Portra 400 film using the 80mm Zeiss Planar lens.It was a handheld shot.The negative was scanned in on a Canon flatbed scanner and it has not been manipulated at all.What you see here is as it came out of the scanner.Portra is just a wonderful film.The white object on the horizon is the sail of a yacht on the Hawkesbury Rive.

The photos below were taken on two of the tracks in the park -again on Kodak Portra 400 film- the first with the 50mm Zeiss Distagon lens with the camera on a tripod and the second and third with the 80mm Zeiss Planar lens with the camera handheld.I particularly like the third shot as it captures the atmosphere of the steep track down to Maitland Bay so well.
I wish that I had used a tripod for these shots so that I could have used a smaller aperture and got more depth of field-the foreground is not quite sharp as you may have noticed-but the track is a very steep climb and it is all I can manage to take down the camera body and one lens.Taking a heavy tripod and another lens would be heart attack territory.

6 Sep 2013

Beautiful Dawn September 6th

There is a very popular Australian website Aquabumps where the photographer posts photos of Sydney beach/surf scenes taken every day.I am not about to challenge him and I know that this is the second Terrigal beach scene post in just a week but the light this morning was beautiful and the exceptionally warm conditions have bought out the early morning exercisers in their droves so I had to use my camera.
Photos taken within 15 mins 3 hours ago on my morning walk on my Canon G9.