31 Oct 2014

Not better in black and white

I shot this on Terrigal Esplanade at dawn today.Another beautiful day.Shot with my Leica X Vario.
The colour on this shot and some of my very recent photos-see below-set me wondering why I ever do black and white photos.Go back a few decades or more and it was obvious why so many photographers shot black and white film-colour was expensive and difficult.That reason totally disappeared with digital photography.But black and white has made a major comeback in recent years.It has always been seen as more"arty" and "serious" than colour and that position has if anything been reinforced in recent years particularly with Leica releasing the M Monochrome camera which only shoots monochrome.
Many photographers including myself often use black and white as a cop out-to make a photographs look "better" and to give them "gravitas".I have decided to try and avoid doing so in the future.
This post will be well received by friend Patrick in Belgium.In the 12 years I have known him and the number of his photos which have appeared on the blog not once has he sent me a black and white photo or expressed any enthusiasm for any of the black and white photos which have appeared on the blog.Patrick is a colour man.
And if you are reading this and consider yourself a street/urban photographer who shoots in black and white for the atmosphere take a look at the work of a brilliant urban photographer,Fred Herzog, who shot over 100,000 Kodachrome slides of life in Vancouver over a 50 year period.Very inspirational.A small selection of his work is in a wonderful book Fred Herzog Photographs  see also Fred Herzog

29 Oct 2014

Porsches,pubs,beer and other things

Some more great classic vintage Porsche photos taken by Justin Reed's father and supplied by Justin who is in some of the photos.

Many thanks for these Justin.I did not scan them in but I would guess that some were taken on Kodachrome and others on Ektachrome.They are very well preserved.

This photo was obviously taken on the fly-probably photography was not permitted in the factory-but what a contrast to today's pristine robotic assembly line.CAD/CAM has changed everything -for the better-in car manufacturing.It is amazing that Porsche and others achieved the build quality they did given the way cars were designed and manufactured.The best way to appreciate how modern manufacturing has changed cars is to take the door trim off an old Porsche.It is a long job.Loads of small screws and cup washers and small pieces of trim.Even a hardworking German worker would have had to spend some time putting it together.Today's door trims come as one moulded part from an outside supplier with just push on fasteners.It literally takes seconds to fit and there are no rattles or squeeks.

Great atmospheric shots of very tranquil factory surroundings.All seems to be under control although there was obviously a small problem with wheel or tyre supply the day in 1963 the overhead 356 factory parking area shot was taken.Porsche did not have to deal with the almost continuous strikes experienced by British car manufacturers through the 1960's,70's and into the 80's.

In 1974 there was a strike at the Lucas starter motor and alternator factory in Birmingham and at the same time there was a strike at Pilkington Glass who manufactured the windscreens and rear windows.Despite the non supply of these parts the British Leyland factory at Cowley did not stop producing Morris Marinas  -a truly awful car-so the cars were bump started off the production line and those which did not start were pushed off the end of the line.The front and back holes where the glass was missing were covered with polythene sheets held down by sticky tape.The cars were stored everywhere there was space in the factory grounds.And when they ran out of space there they stored them on the works soccer fields.It was November and very soon there were over 15000 cars standing around not finished and many were quickly sinking into mud.

Eventually they ran out of space and they stopped the production line.When the strikes ended it took months for all the cars to be finished and by that time many of the plastic sheets had come loose and many of the cars were full of rainwater....
I remember all this because I was working there at the time.It was character building.

If you are unaware of the Morris Marina take a look at this TV ad.Marina Commercial
If you know the Morris Marina you will have found that hilarious and perhaps also sad.Were they really that naive? I wonder if any Marinas survive.Certainly those featured in the TV ad would have rusted away before the commercial went to air given the way there were driven in seawater.

It was a pretty unusual to find a Porsche parked on the street even in the best parts of London in 1972.And look at the lack of cars parked in Kensington-so different to today.
Porsches were extremely expensive even back then.You could buy two E-Type Jaguars for the price of one 911.No wonder they photographed this one which does look very much like my 2.2.

Mike Evans in the UK was able to identify the pub in the pub shot as the Anglesea Arms in Selwood Terrace South Kensington in London-thanks Mike- and I have included a modern shot of the pub for contrast.It looks much more inviting today.Back in Sept 1972 when Justin,complete with a Porsche badged jacket,and his mum were standing in front of a longnose 911 outside the Anglesea Arms it was, judging by the sign, selling Watneys Red Barrel beer.Today it is a free house selling a variety of beers from different brewers.Watneys Red Barrel and its major competitor Ind Coope's Double Diamond and their companion lagers,Skol and Harp,were just awful slops-you cannot call them beers-and were basically responsible for the emergence of the Real Ale movement in Britain.Double Diamond and Watneys Red Barrel are what happens when the finance department does the brewing.

The 1960's and 1970's were a grim time in Britain.Mediocrity ruled and the big brewers and British Leyland were the front runners.
If you want a taste of Double Diamond times see Double Diamond works wonders .V

What a contrast between the display of the 917 pink pig in an old shed  and my photo of the same car in the beautiful Porsche Museum today.

How about the colour scheme on this 911 Targa? Surely inspiration for all those Targa owners who wonder whether the hoop should be stainless steel or painted black.That's a young Justin standing by the car.What a lucky boy he was.

These two photos above were taken at Sydney's Amaroo Park track - long gone and now another "executive" housing estate.It was a short challenging track and the paddock facilities were very basic and in a natural bowl and on a hot day it was as hot as hades.But it was great fun-particularly in a Mini Cooper S the only car I ever drove there.By the time I had a Porsche it was houses.And those were the days when Kodak was a big cheese and sponsoring motor racing.
The photo below was taken in 1978 or 79 and shows a 935 which was imported by the O'Neill family.Justin believes that it never actually raced locally and was recently being offered for sale in Europe as one of the most lightly raced 935s in the world.

25 Oct 2014

Chrome,tats,rock and roll and Elvis

It is the annual Chromefest hot rod show at The Entrance,NSW this weekend over three days.It gets bigger every year.More cars,more bands and rock and roll,more tats and more Elvises.
I was there this morning-Saturday- with my camera.It was hot and really bright and as entertaining as ever.I certainly had plenty of photographic competition there today-smartphones dominated followed by Canon DSLRs.
I am disappointed that I missed out on the shot of the day-an older man with a completely shaved head which was totally tatooed -scalp,face,ears,neck and all. I asked him cheerily if I could photograph him and he told me to "f... off" .Which I did pronto.Disappointing but discretion is the better part of valour.
The raised finger bonnet( hood) mascot is on a cutdown coupe Morris Minor.My first job in the motor industry was at the Cowley in Oxford in the UK and they were still making the Morris Minor then.I never would have dreamt then that I would be seeing one made into a skunk rod and on display in Australia 46 years later.
Here's today's crop from my 90 mins at the show.All taken with the Leica XVario.

Surfie's cottage

Just down my street is an old cottage.It's pretty dilapidated and for the last few years has been rented by a guy who is a surfer.
Yesterday morning the rising sun caught the front of the cottage and made a very colourful,if somewhat twee,photo.
I try really hard not to take twee photos nowadays but sometimes I lapse.Indulge me this once.Leica X1 photo.

23 Oct 2014

Old glass

I took the photo below of one of my granddaughters last weekend.The interesting part is that it was taken with an old lens-Zeiss Sonnar F2.8 90mm in a Contax G Mount on a Sony A7 using a cheap ($29) Chinese adaptor.This particular lens is a beautiful piece of glass and the example I used is in pristine condition.I would rate it as highly as the 90mm Elmarit Leica M lens I used to own.
The Chinese adaptors are a really good way of using old lenses on a variety of cameras.A very good article on the adaptors,by George Fox Lang, can be found at Chinese Adaptors
George has also written a very good piece on using old Olympus Zuiko lenses see Zuiko lenses
If you need any convincing about the quality of those Zuiko lenses which can be picked up very cheaply nowadays take a look at the Ferrari story below.

20 Oct 2014

Ferrari Racing Blues

There are rumours around that Ferrari are considering withdrawing from Formula 1 at the end of 2015 and going endurance sports car racing to compete with Audi,Porsche and Toyota at the Le Mans 24 hours and in the World Endurance Championship.
I reckon that this is just very wishful thinking on the part of sports car enthusiasts.It would be great but I cannot see it happening.
It is true that Ferrari's F1 performance has been very poor for a number of years and that the F1 team must be costing a fortune and Ferrari's boss,Luca Di Montezemolo has been fired ("resigned"-in executive speak) due to a disagreement with Sergio Marchionne,the hard man boss of the Ferrari parent company Fiat-Chrysler,over the performance of the F1 team and the future direction of the Ferrari brand.
But the fact is that Ferrari and F1 are almost joined at the hip.They have just announced that Vettel is joining the team for 2015 for a massive fee.They would have hardly have made this move if in the workshop down the corridor from the F1 team they were building an LMP1 sportscar.And there is no way that they could afford to do both.
In any case Ferrari,even if they are not performing on the track,are an essential element of the F1 circus and if ringmaster Bernie heard even a feint whisper that they were about to quit F1 he would be firing up the executive jet and hot footing it down to Ferrari HQ in Maranello to ensure that there was a rapid "attitude adjustment" by some means and all would be resolved.
Leaving aside Bernie's vested interest Ferrari's customer base,particularly in the Middle East and Asia are into bling and the vulgarity of F1.I Cannot see City bond traders,Chinese dotcom millionaires,Russian oligarchs and minor middle eastern princelings standing around at Le Mans watching the cars grind around for 24 hours.Singapore,Monaco,Abu Dhabi etc are more their scene.

It was all so different back in 1981 when I took the above photo at practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.The Ferrari is a 1.5 litre V6 turbo and the driver is Didier Pironi.The car looks like the sort of racing car that you would love to have in your garage whereas the current Ferrari looks like a piece of space junk.You might able to get the 1981 car running  although parts would be a problem.There is no way you could even get a current F1 running without another garage load of specialist gear.Now you even have to heat the oil before you start the engine.
Look at the decals on the car.They are literally decals and they are modest in size.Nowadays the car is a giant painted billboard.

But look at all the other little details in the photo.There is Lancia advertising trackside.It's a long time since Lancia advertised at a race track and next year Fiat-Chrysler stop manufacturing Lancias.The Ferrari team manager is standing beside the car in a jacket.Nowadays he would be in corporate gear-wired for sound and not on the pit road.And how about the little picnic table by the pit wall with a driver's helmet on the shelf underneath and the jackets hanging over the chair and the early electronic timing gear? Now they have weatheproof crew capsules alongside the pit wall.It is all so sterile and you cannot make the emotional connection.They are no longer racing car teams-they are technologists supporting a device which is called a racing car but which is barely a car.

The photograph was taken on Kodachrome film-oh beautiful Kodachrome - on an Olympus OM2 camera using a 28mm Zuiko lens.Sadly I sold it a long time ago but most of those early Zuiko lenses were just wonderful.So sharp and with such wonderful colour rendering.I even managed to get part of the face of the glam blonde standing next to me into the frame.I did not put her in with Photoshop this morning.She was really there.Thinking about it a glam blonde on the pit counter maybe the only part of F1 which has not changed since 1981.Sadly I am sure that the particular one in my picture will,like me,have declined somewhat since 1981.

18 Oct 2014

Cats,dogs and cameras.

The world's population it seems can be divided into 4 distinct groups-those who like cats, those who like dogs, those who like both cats and dogs- this apparently is a small group-and finally a group who either don't care or who don't like either cats or dogs.
Anyway here are two photos to please the first three groups-the non -carers should just move on at least from this story.
I am really pleased with both these photos.The first I spotted beside a backroad just inside the Austrian border with Slovenia near Villach back in June.The cat was on the windowsill of this old house and the colours were just superb and it was overcast but bright so the light was just right.I stopped the car just past the house,reached for my camera which was on the back seat and fully expected the cat to get up and jump down and make the whole exercise futile.Cats are like that.But much to my surprise the cat stayed in place.
The wonderful dog I spotted looking out of the window of a restaurant on an early morning walk in Paris.I would hazard a guess that it was waiting for its owner to come down and take it for a walk.

Both photos were taken with my Leica X1 as DNG files which I have processed in Lightroom 5.As there are quite a few new readers coming to the blog -welcome-I should say that for me the Leica X1 is just wonderful.Its most attractive feature is its lens and the image quality it produces but also it is small and light and there are no complex menus and useless features to distract you.Just a superb fixed length lens -no zoom lens or interchangeable lenses so no decisions to be made- and plain simple controls.So many photographers burden themselves with too much equipment.A wise old photographer said to me recently that the more equipment you carry the less photos you take.And he is right.

Nowadays you can pick up a s/h X1 for modest money.If you are tempted ignore all the ignorant chatter and BS from the so called experts and pixel peepers on the forums and enthusiast sites and treat yourself.Put an optical viewfinder onto it-the Voigtlander OVF is excellent-and get out and start taking photos.It will do wonders for your photography.But of course if you really prefer to play with toys and talk about features and megapixels rather than taking photographs well the X1 is not for you.....

16 Oct 2014

It's endurance racing

Whilst the Le Mans Classic does not involve 24 hours of non stop racing  it still involves the teams putting in a lot of hours and by the sunday morning at the 2014 event this crew member was so fatigued that he fell asleep behind the wheel of his car in the paddock.Leica X1 photo.

15 Oct 2014

It's not always sunshine

After very warm weather last week and a beautiful weekend-see previous story-a series of massive storms have swept across NSW in the past 48 hours bringing gale force winds, heavy rain and even snow on the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.The winds have really whipped up the sea.This photo was taken looking south from North Avoca at 10.00 am today.Those waves are seriously big.Taken with my Leica X Vario.I would have liked to have done better but it was pissing down with rain at the time and Leicas and rain do not mix so it was a case of a few grab shots from under the rain jacket and this heavily cropped shot is the best of them.
At Terrigal there are surfers in the sea but they are too far out and it is too wet to photograph them.Brave -or perhaps silly- people.
I have converted one of the shots into black and white.Maybe it's more graphic.It certainly looks as miserable as it felt.Can hardly complain about the weather though.

13 Oct 2014

Twinkle,twinkle little car.

I was at the Porsche Club of NSW 2014 Concours at Newington Armoury,Sydney Olympic Park yesterday.The event was originally scheduled for six weeks ago but had to be cancelled as the venue was waterlogged.The earlier date had been chosen to avoid the heat which has been a problem in the last few years.It was hot yesterday so it was back to square one.

There was a record entry for the event - over 180 cars-but although there were, as always, quite a few really nice cars and a few oddballs-see below-there were no"star" cars this year.No cars which made me go -wow.Perhaps my Porsche palette has become jaded after seeing all those gorgeous cars at the Le Mans Classic back in July.

I made a big effort this year and entered both my cars which were cleaned and polished with assistance from mon ami mate,Warren.
They both looked superb.Thanks Warren.I must make a big effort to keep them upto approaching this standard.
Warren also assisted by driving the yellow 2.7 down.He was able to enjoy the aircon on the 90 minute hot drive home.The 2.2 with its black interior and vinyl bucket seats was very hot when I got in it to drive home and it did not cool down and I emerged from driving it looking like I'd had a serious bladder malfuncton.

I find it increasingly difficult to take original and interesting photos at these events.I just took along my little X1 and only shot a few frames as most of my time was spent talking about Porsches.

My two cars -left and centre -alongside Colin Wilson-Brown's 2.4

An early start from Terrigal meant that we were on the field by 8.00am

David Nicholls explaining some obtuse technical point on his 356S to a very attentive audience.

Paul Nieuwenhuis polishing hard -he was in the top Concours class.Serious Q-tips territory.
Seeing one slant nose in Australia is a rare event yet alone two.
Judges' briefing
John Marroszeky went to the Le Mans Classic and came back with a T-shirt.
I had not seen this 914-6 cabriolet before.Nicely done - but how stiff is it .Unfortunately it reminds me of a Reliant Scimitar SS 1.

I saw this Speedster creation before it was complete and reserved my final judgement until I saw the completed car.It is very well executed and it does look well special.

Looking at Porsche 928s can have a soporific effect.........
This 356 was not to my taste.Too much bling.I would not have been surprised if someone had told me that Mickey and Minnie Mouse had arrived in it.

In marked contrast to Mickey Mouse's car is Terry Lawlor's beautiful and totally understated 356 Speedster.My pick for People's Choice award.