27 Feb 2015

My Postcards from Hawaii

After the hectic Bathurst race weekend- see previous stories- it was onto an Hawaiian Airlines A330 three days later and off to Hawaii for two weeks.This was my first proper visit to Hawaii.My previous visits had been confined to the transit lounge of Honolulu Airport as prior to the introduction of the Boeing 747 400 in 1988 trans Pacific flights had to call into Honolulu to refuel.
I only managed to visit two islands on the trip O'ahu-the most populated island where Honolulu is located and Maui.I was underwhelmed and disappointed.Maybe my expectations were unrealistic.I do understand that some of the other islands are pristine and largely unspoilt but O'ahu and Maui are perfect examples of paradise lost.Overdeveloped, overcrowded and overpriced.And seriously oversold.Huge,ugly beachside resorts built right upto the high water mark.Pretty towns spoilt by strip malls,fast food outlets and specialist outlet malls.Badly neglected public infrastructure.Roads jammed with rental cars and tourists buses.I won't labour the point and I am usually so enthusaistic about my travels but Hawaii just did not float my boat at all.The box is ticked and in this case General MacArthur's famous words-"I shall return"- do not apply.
However I did manage to take some photos which I have called My Postcards from Hawaii.Here's the first of them.
All taken in my usual manner -Leica X1 carried in my hand with strap wrapped round my wrist.Just the fixed lens.No decisions about gear.Just  looking out for photographs.

25 Feb 2015

Oh what a beautiful morning

A Porsche GT3 Cup car locks up a rear wheel braking for the Chase on Conrod Straight early in the morning during the 2015 Bathurst 12 hours race.I cannot explain why the smoke forms a straight line at the back of the car as I have not manipulated the photo in any way.It must be a trick of the light.
A haze lies across the country looking west towards the Blue Mountains.Not only is the Mount Panorama circuit spectacular but it is in a beautiful setting and surrounded by great touring country.

22 Feb 2015

Too many safety cars

The Bathurst 12 hour race was plagued with safety car deployments which broke the continuity of the race.Too many cars hit the walls.Very few cars retired due to mechanical problems.Modern racing cars are incredibly reliable.
Mount Panorama is totally unforgiving.Many of the overseas drivers who made up most of the field had not previously driven on the circuit.They are used to driving GT cars on wide open circuits such as Dubai and Silverstone where you can get away with a little looseness or even a spin. They pushed too hard on Mount Panorama.I hope that next year the drivers approach the track with more respect and that more of them stay on the island.
The situation was not helped by V8 Supercars-Australia's version of NASCAR-childishly holding a test weekend the same weekend as the Bathurst Race.This kept many experienced Bathurst drivers away from the race.Which of course was the intention as V8 Supercars like Formula One is owned by a private equity company and private equity companies do not care about fans or motor sport they just care about money and TV rights.The CEO of V8 Supercars is an ex-TV executive and he would have loved pooping in a rival TV channel's nest.Silly people.Greedy people.
The driver walked away from the accident below at the top of the mountain.It was a seriously hard hit at very high speed and was the worst crash of the day.The car was a Marc Focus GTC running in the non production invitational class.I don't know the details of the crash but I believe that the driver was not at fault-the car was possibly given a tap in the rear.

20 Feb 2015

Night and Day

The ceramic disc rotors on the Erebus Motorsport Mercedes SLK glowing in the dark as the car brakes at the end of Conrod Straight in the opening laps of the Bathurst 12 hour race.This was taken on the Sony a7 at 1/400th second at 6400 ISO with the Hasselblad 150mm Zeiss lens.I probably should have bumped the ISO upto 12800 and used 1/1000th second and it would be sharper.
At the start of the race at 5.50 the temperature at Bathurst had barely reached double figures but as soon as the sun came over the horizon it started to warm up and if you were not wearing a hat by 10.00am you were a serious candidate for sunstroke.These guys-below- photographed in the paddock were doing the sensible thing.
Midway through the race Matt Bell driving one of the Bentleys became dehydrated and suffered a lapse of concentration at the top of the mountain but made it back to the pits for a driver change and they rehydrated him and amazingly he recovered and was leading the race upto the final two laps and finished fourth.

17 Feb 2015

Godzilla on the Mountain

The Nissan GT-R-Godzilla- has never really appealed to me.Fast,very fast yes,but stylish no.I guess that it is an age and cultural thing.In Japan the GT-R is an icon.It may not appeal to me but I take my hat off to the team who bought the GT-R home in first place at the Bathurst 12 hour race.They were on the pace for the whole race and when it really counted in the last two laps they had the straight line speed.Maybe it was the supply of cup noodles which gave them the edge.
Two of the drivers were basically rookies who came to be in the car because of their gaming skills.It is a remarkable story see NISSAN GT-R

14 Feb 2015

More photos from the Mountain

More photos from the Bathurst 12 hour race.
 I used a Sony a7 with three lenses.Firstly -a Canon EOS 20-35mm zoom.This is an old lens but it is a beauty.I used it on the Sony with a Metabones adaptor which gives me slow autofocus and automatic aperture control.The wide angle shot below of the Audi climbing out of the cutting was taken with this lens at 20mm.
The second lens was a Zeiss Sonnar F 2.8 90mm.A beautiful Contax mount lens I used with a Fotodiox adapter and focussed and set the aperture manually.All the pit shots were taken with this lens.It is sharp but I did find focussing difficult even with the Sony's manual focus assist.
Finally I used my 150mm Hasselblad mount 150mm F4 Zeiss Sonnar for all the action shots except for the wide angle shots .This was also mounted on the Sony with a Fotodiox adapter.The Hasselblad lens is very sharp and fast but it is very heavy and it is also all manual.The whole outfit-camera and three lenses was pretty heavy and I found changing lenses in the dusty conditions difficult
There were spectators loaded with good gear at the race and already lots of great shots have been put up on the internet.I am pleased with my efforts particularly the night shots which show the capabilities of the Sony in low light but at my stage in life I am not sure that the effort/reward ratio is right so next year I may well be back to my minimal gear philosphy and I will leave the action shots to fitter and younger people with lighter gear.

9 Feb 2015

Bathurst 12 hours-A Really Great Race.

I spent the weekend in Bathurst in western NSW with friend Warren at the Bathurst 12 hour GT tace.and it was fabulous.I have not been to the Mount Panorama track for a few years since a lot of money has been spent on the facilities.It is now not only one of the world's greatest race circuits but it now has great facilities for the spectators and the crews.
The admission price was very good value( astonishing value compared to the F1 Grand Prix ),the viewing areas are excellent,there was by Australian standards a good crowd and the ambience was wonderful.

The admission price included admission to the paddock and you could look into the pits and even talk to the drivers.It was a world away from Formula 1.The spectators were knowledgeable motor racing fans and there were lots of families.It was just delightful and I thought I would never say this but to my mind it was nearly as good as the Le Mans 24 hour race.And it was only 300 kms from home over the Blue Mountains.

The only negatives were that it was just a bit too hot -34ºC ambient and clear skies at 2.00pm with a track temperature of 54ºC and many of the overseas drivers charged a little too hard and did not give the circuit the respect it demands so there were way too many incidents and way too many safety car deployments as a result.

The race itself was an absolute cracker and the last 2 laps were the most exciting motor racing I have ever seen in 50 years of spectating with the lead being contested by 7 cars.In the end a Nissan GT-R driven by Chuyo San,Reep and Strauss won from an Audi R8 with an Aston Martin in third place.The variety of front running cars was great-the first seven places were taken by Nissan,Audi,Aston-Martin,Bentley,Mercedes,Ferrari and Lamborghini-but sadly no Porsche.In qualifying Belgian driver,Laurens Vantoor in an Audi R8,recorded the fastest ever lap of the Mount Panorama circuit.This car finished in second place.

Overall a fantastic weekend and thank you Warren for being excellent company.I was silly enough to carry a load of camera gear with me hiking over the top of that very hot mountain thereby breaking all my own rules about carrying minimal gear and not taking anymore action photos of motor sport.You can judge whether my efforts were worthwhile from this selection of photos from the weekend.I will post details of the gear in a future story and more photos will follow.

The weekend's most important piece of gear-sunscreen.