29 Apr 2016

Mind the Gap

Whilst in Albany in SW Western Australia two weeks ago I visited the Gap near the old whaling station.See Postcards from WA  below.
The Gap is where the sea pounds into a large chasm/gap in the rocks.Even on a calm day such as when I visited the sea was roaring below. Apparently on a stormy day the waves crash into the Gap so fiercely that spray rises upto the top of the cliffs. Until three weeks ago the only way to see into the Gap was to climb right to the edge of the chasm. Not surprisingly many people have died there through accidents or suicide.
Now the WA National Parks have built a viewing platform which projects out over the Gap so that you can stand on it and peer down into the sea. The photo above was taken from the edge of the platform.
I was very fortunate that the platform had only opened the previous week. It is a spectacular engineering feat as it is anchored into fractured rocks and is apparently able to take the weight of 5 full sized elephants. Note to overseas readers whilst we do have exotic fauna in Australia elephants are not amongst them so there is no real prospect of this claim being tested.
The floor of the platform is a steel grid -not spooky and scratchable glass. Walking onto it feels normal. The good news is that there is absolutely no charge for going onto the platform-and they have not littered the surrounding area with security fencing and warning notices. It is all very tasteful and if you want to take the very considerable risk and climb out to the edge of the Gap then you can still do so.
When I went onto the platform my camera battery died and it was some walk back to the car so the only shot I managed to take was the one above. The photo of the platform below I have lifted from the Albany tourism website -see AMAZING ALBANY

28 Apr 2016

Western rig

Seen on the street in Perth 10 days ago a custom Toyota rig. Very nicely done although care would be needed loading that rear tray otherwise the steering could become very light.
Go back 20/30 years and Toyota 4WDs dominated the roads in rural Australia. There are still plenty of them but they now share the roads with a myriad of other brands. Out in deepest,remote south western Western Australia I was surprised by how many Land Rovers I saw including quite a few Defenders. For many years selling Defenders in Australia was very hard work but in the run upto the cessation of production at the end of last year they could not get enough of them. It's a weird world.

24 Apr 2016

Show and shine time

It's the Australian Porsche Rennsport Reunion next weekend -Saturday and Sunday-at Sydney Motorsport Park- formerly Eastern Creek Raceway.
The first Australian Rennsport three years ago was a great success.This one is promising to be bigger and better. It is never going to rival the mega US Rennsport Reunion but there are only 24 million of us down here and we are spread out across a very big island. Let's hope the sun shines again this time.

I spent the morning polishing and detailing the exterior of my 2.2 which is entered in the Show and Shine. I'll do the interior tomorrow. The car is looking good but it stands no chance against some of the immaculate specimens which will be there.

By way of variety I used my Sony a7 with the Zeiss 28mm f2.8 Biogon for the photo because it has a tiltable LCD screen which allowed me to hold the camera above my head. The Zeiss Contax G series lenses are very sharp-Leica sharp. On the original file of the photo you can easily read the numbers on the tacho on the dashboard. These lenses are nearly the equal of the equivalent Leica lenses and they are a lot less expensive. But whilst they are very sharp and contrasty the images ultimately lack that distinct Leica look.
The major issue with using them on the Sony- or for that matter a Fuji- is that they have a built in focusing motor which was actuated by the autofocus system in the Contax G series camera and there is no way of manually adjusting the focus. When used on the Sony the lenses have to be manually focused so the adapter used to mount the lens on the Sony also has to do the manual focusing by moving the whole barrel of the lens in and out. It works but it is not that smooth. I have tried two different brands of adapters and both are a bit stiff and slightly "clunky" in their focusing action. They feel as if they need some of the WD40 in that can but I would not dream of applying WD40 anywhere near a lens or a camera.

22 Apr 2016

Postcards from WA

I have just spent two weeks in the south west of Western Australia (WA) starting out in Perth and then driving south through the Margaret River region and the Karri forests to Albany and back to Perth.
I have visited Perth and Albany a few times over the years on business but never for leisure. For overseas readers Australia is wider than the US and the flight from Sydney to Perth takes nearly 5 hours so visiting the west from the eastern coast is a trek but nothing compared with the flights to Asia,Europe or the US. So really I have no excuses I should have visited SW WA earlier as a tourist.

I borrowed some great wheels for the 2000km round trip-more of that later in another blog story. The weather did not co-operate fully. It was warm but many days the skies were overcast and some days they were leaden. I would have liked more "sparkling" light for photography but it was what it was.
Driving in WA is easy although the distances are vast and fatigue could easily be a problem particularly in the very hot summer months. The traffic is so light - on many long stretches you not see a vehicle for long periods. The roads are in very good condition-presumably due to the very light traffic-and the posted speed limits are high. A driver's delight.

Perth feels like a very big country town suffering a hangover after the heady days of the recent mining boom and it is a smidgin dull. However Fremantle -Freo to the locals- Perth's port is far from dull and has great streetscapes of late 19th century/early 20th century architecture which has been beautifully restored. We visited Freo on a Sunday and it was full of people so no photos of streetscapes sadly. Rottnest Island off the coast is interesting and well worth a visit.
The Margaret River region and in particular Yallingup where we stayed is beautiful-the surf beaches and the coastline generally are spectacular - much of the region is either National Parks or vineyards.A winning combination in my book.
Albany in the south is spectacularly located with a beautiful harbour and is full of history but to me it has an eerie isolated feel about it and an air of having seen better days when it was a major port with a booming hinterland extracting hardwoods as fast as it could be cut down. In atmosphere it reminds me of towns on the south island of New Zealand.

 Landscapes and seascapes are not my strong suit and the region has many galleries showing the work of accomplished local landscape photographers and artists who have the benefit of being on the spot when the light and the weather are right.
My modest efforts are really only postcards from a great trip-which I should have done years ago.

Beach walker,dawn Yallingup Beach.
Grommets sitting out some heavy surf at dawn Yallingup Beach

Gumtree flower Margaret River
Kangaroo warning road sign on road to surf beach at Gracetown, Margaret River
Dawn at Yallingup Beach looking towards Cape Mantelle

Sunset,Yallingup Beach
Surfing at dusk,Yallingup Beach

 At The Gap,Albany

Natural Bridge,The Gap.Albany
Wind farm,Albany.
View from Old Whaling Station ,Albany

19 Apr 2016

Barry Sheene

 As a follow up to my recent photos of the Barry Sheene Festival of Speed meeting at Sydney MotorSport Park last month Peter de Rousset-Hall whose motor racing photos make the blog regularly sent me this great photo of Barry at the 2002 Goodwood Revival Meeting.This is one of the last times Barry was seen riding a motorcycle before his death.

13 Apr 2016

GT3R hybrid

Great photos of the GT3R hybrid on display in the Porsche Museum Stuttgart late last year taken by Rolling Road's European correspondent David Young.
 I believe that Porsche have now moved on from this flywheel energy storage system the technology for which was developed by Williams Hybrid Power a subsidiary of Williams Grand Prix Engineering.

10 Apr 2016

And now it's free

The Nik Creative Collection was launched a few years ago to great acclaim. Photographers found it a very useful set of tools-particularly the Silver EFX colour to black and white conversion. When it was launched the Collection was priced at over $400 here in Australia .
Google bought out Nik three years ago and cut the price to about $150. It was a real bargain. I bought the Collection then and have found it very useful.
But there's more -now Google are giving the Creative Collection away for free- for niks you could say.
It can only be used as a plug in with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom but if you have these apps and you are interested in photography and you don't already have the Nik Collection don't delay.
It is not known why Google have taken this route but one fears the worst and it may not be with us for too much longer so don't miss out. It really is a useful set of tools and tools do not come cheaper than free.
A few examples of my conversions using the Collection below.The link to the free download is NIK CREATIVE COLLECTION

7 Apr 2016

Mercedes wins again.Yawn.

Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes won the Bahrain F1 GP last Sunday. No surprises there. F1 has become a one make series.The teams are bored with it-apart from Mercedes that is. The fans are bored with it and now the drivers are bored with it apart from presumably Rosberg and Hamilton.
The ridiculous qualifying format introduced in Melbourne and universally disliked was not abandoned as the teams and drivers had requested for Bahrain. No, it was continued.That is Bernie Ecclestone's way of saying "I run this show.What you want does not matter so f... off,rude letter follows."
Motor sport commentators are saying that F1 is close to meltdown.

For those of who once loved Formula 1 when it was the absolute pinnacle of motor sport it is very sad. Ecclestone seems addicted to money. It is as if he is on a drug. He is obscenely rich and very old and yet he will do anything to become richer. It is a disgusting spectacle. It's an awful thing to say but he cannot die soon enough.
His comments on women,Putin and other matters put him in the exactly same category as Donald Trump.
Bernie is again talking about taking the F1 Grand Prix away from Italy and Belgium so that he can give it to some tinpot dictatorship or obscenely rich Arab state with no tradition of motor sport but who are prepared to pay the massive licence fee to hold a GP. This year we have the Baku GP in Azebaijan in July. Yes, really.It ticks all Bernie's boxes. Test yourself . Find Baku on a map without using Google.  If that's too difficult try finding Azerbaijan on a map without the aid of Google. 

I recently read,and it was not on 1st April,that there are rumours that Bernie has approached Kim Il Jong about the possibility of holding a North Korean GP around a street circuit in Pyongyang,the capital of N Korea. Kim Il Jong is apparently keen on the idea and has guaranteed a massive crowd-indeed the whole population of the city-as spectators. Bernie and Kim Il Jong would get on famously. The Bernie race licence fee could come from money set aside to buy food aid but I am sure the locals would willingly miss a few meals- they are used to it anyway- just to see a Mercedes procession. They are used to processions.
Wouldn't a Pyongyang GP be great for the sport ?

There are issues of course. Kim Il Jong may not be prepared to let anyone into the country who has an ego as big as his which would reduce Mercedes and Ferrari down to just one driver each and anyway Lewis Hamilton may not be willing to race in a city where there are no nightclubs. Also if he did a burnout in his Mercedes courtesy car on the street outside his hotel-as he did in Melbourne a few years ago- he would probably be arrested and sentenced to 15 years hard labour. Now that really would be great for the sport.

Photo above. Brands Hatch 1968.Jo Siffert in private entrant Rob Walker's Lotus-Ford on way to winning British Grand Prix. The glory days of F1. Photo by me Leica 3A 50mm Elmar lens.Ilford FP3 film.

4 Apr 2016

I admit defeat

It was a Classic 911 Register drive yesterday. A great turnout and a great run over surprisingly empty roads. My "Yellowbird" ran beautifully and seems as if a good time was had by all. The only disappointment was that I came home with just a few photos and none of them were original or worth keeping. I have decided that it is not possible to take an original photo of an early Porsche 911. Every angle has been done to death. It was not always like this but in the last five years photographing early 911s has become almost a cult. Every hipster photographer  has a few shots of longnose 911s in his portfolio
Just look at all the early 911 photos on tumblrs,blogs and Instagram. I admit defeat. I may well be leaving my camera at home on future drives - or just photographing the drivers.

1 Apr 2016

Yellowbird video

Back in the early 90's a Porsche enthusiast friend passed me a VHS video copy of the classic film of the 1987 RUF Yellowbird lap of the Nordschleife Nurburgring. Now if you are a younger reader you may not fully appreciate that before the internet,You Tube and digital the VHS magnetic tape cassette -or if you were in a small minority the Sony Beta cassette -was the way videos were passed around.
The VHS cassette was a flawed device as the magnetic tape travelled a convoluted path and easily got snagged.The Sony Beta cassette was a better system but Sony played their cards too close to their chest and the VHS system became almost universally adopted as it was "open source". Repeated viewings of VHS and Sony cassettes resulted in wear of the tape and a fall off in image quality.  Both systems also suffered from the problem of magnetic print through where the magnetic imprint on one layer of the tape transferred through to the layer below over time. The longer the tape,the thinner the tape and the more print through occured.
An analogue copy of any medium-film,audio or video always loses some quality-each generation copy is worse than the one before. My VHS copy of Yellowbird was far removed from its parent so it was more than a little fuzzy.
Nonetheless like so many others I found the video spectacular.
Ruf,the legendary Porsche tuner,has now released the video onto You Tube.This version is still not HD-it was after all shot on film nearly 30 years ago and it has  suffered  wear and deterioration.You can see it here RUF YELLOWBIRD.
There are other versions of the video on You Tube but they are not as good quality as the RUF version.
Nearly 30 years on the lap is still spectacular.The driver was RUF's test driver,Stefan Roser. Note the slim hips of the car,the lack of added aero devices and the standard steering wheel. The driver is in a short sleeved shirt,with no gloves nor a crash helmet. And it is not even a closed track. Those were the days. His car control is just extraordinary and he was driving on tyres which were so different to today's-hence the wonderful slides.
When I bought my 911 2.7 in 2001 my first thought when I saw it was "Yellowbird". Sadly it is not a RUF-it is in a totally different horepower league to the RUF car and I am most certainly not Stefan Roser but that does not mean that I did not try to emulate him-at least in my imagination.
The photo is me in my Yellowbird at the Huntley Hillclimb in NSW in 2004. I seem to recollect that I won my class and a plastic trophy that day although I admit the competition was pretty ordinary.The Huntley Hillclimb near Dapto south of Sydney is a charming venue. At 34 seconds for the climb it is hardly the Nordschleife though.
The photo was shot on my Leica Digilux 1 by a friend. Not bad quality for what was a very early digital sensor and a very basic in camera processor.