30 Jun 2016

Car stuff and thoughts on Instagram

Some miscellaneous car stuff from around the world and a plug for Instagram.

Firstly a nice glimpse of an early E-Type Jag taken at a coffee and cars meet in Detroit by Scott Ferrier a few weeks back. A typical good Instagram photo and in this case taken on an iPhone. I have a growing enthusiasm for Instagram and a declining enthusiasm for the blog format. I was an Instagram sceptic but I have changed my tune. I am seeing some really good photography on Instagram.
 I like this type of shot - good examples of the genre can be found on Instagram at Bob Tilton's @Werk_crew,Scott Ferrier's @motorcityscotty, Matt Hart's @the_escape_road and  many more which I have not found yet.
 Matt Hart is a leading practitioner of this style and he also has big portfolios on Tumblr under the escape road tag. He also builds and competes in interesting cars.

Secondly another recent phone shot. This one by David Young from the streets of Paris.A very ordinary ordinary car but it raises two questions which have always intrigued me. Why do many French enthusiasts still find classic British sports cars so fascinating? Maybe it is because there were not any French made sports cars  in that era - except Alpines.
Secondly why would you go around in a very pedestrian MGB in Paris nowadays? I know that this is heresy to many but surely an early Mazda MX5 is a much better proposition than a MGB if you want a cheap early sports car to hack around in Paris. Enough said.

Thirdly a photo from the past I found last weekend. Friend Patrick's beautiful 1971 911T Sportomatic which we drove south from San Francisco to Monterey back in 2004.I took the photo with a Leica Digilux 1-an early digital Leica. Sadly Partick moved to Belgium in 2008 and he had to sell the 911 which has now been turned into an outlaw 911.It was beautiful as it was.

Finally two shots by me taken on my Leica X1 at the Gosford Classic Car Museum last week. American Iron and Italian Red. Instagram fodder. My Instagram photography is on Instagram@therollingroad
You can follow thousands of Instagram accounts devoted to Porsches and classic cars without much effort.The trick is to restrict the number you personally follow to those you can spare time to look at and which feature quality original content.
My personal list in addition to the ones above is @zwart,@24heuresdumans @singervehicledesign,@reedminor.@autofokus911,@aewebster,@duckandwhale,@vintagecarcollector @porsche and finally the star-@petrolicious.
If you have not discovered the Petrolicious website yet then you have been missing out on some of the best classic car photography and videos around.The Instagram account maintains the standard.

27 Jun 2016

A beautiful lens-Zeiss Planar 45mm f2.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I am a Leica fan. My enthusiasm for Leicas goes back a very long time - I bought my first in 1967-and I just like using them for all sorts of reasons but above all else for their lenses which are just stunning performers.
I also own a Sony a7 and for a change the weekend before last I did some photography of my grandsons using the a7 fitted with a Zeiss Planar 45mm F2 Contax G series lens which I borrowed from my son ( yes we are all into photography). This fits onto the Sony with a rather clunky adapter which has to turn as it operates the manual focussing of the lens.
This particular Zeiss lens is reputed to one of the sharpest lenses ever made and although it is an old design-and this particular lens is probably around 20 years old-it is still an incredible performer. The photos have a distinctly Zeiss look to them which is markedly different to the look from Leica lenses to my eyes.

I am not into pixel peeping and photographing walls for lens tests but I can say that even at very high magnifications the sharpness of photos from this lens is extraordinary even right into the corners and with the lens wide open. The sharpest lens I have ever used? I can't say but it certainly is up there.
You can find,with luck,find one of these lenses for sale for US$250-$500 depending on condition.

 It certainly holds its own with modern lenses but you do have to focus it manually and the adapter is clunky. Techart do make an electronic adapter which allows the a7's autofocus to work with the lens but I have not seen any reports on its performance and it is quite costly. I also see that B&H are advertising a DEO-Tech adapter which also promises to link the autofocus and the exposure controls. It is not available yet so there are no reviews of its performance.
All the photos below were taken with the lens wide open at F2.

24 Jun 2016

I cannot believe they did it

Thirty nine years ago I left the UK and permanently emigrated to Australia with my family and three years later we all became Australian citizens. I broke the umbilical cord to the "mother" country but the events of the past 24 hours sadden me greatly. The Leave vote is going to inflict real financial and social pain on the UK people and do massive damage to the world economy. For what? For some nebulous concept of "independence" and a bizarre belief that somehow they will be better off by cutting themselves off from free access to the world's biggest market.
The Leave voters in the UK align themselves alongside the Trump for President, the US gun lobby and the Climate Change deniers in Australia for living in a post factual world. Facts don't count anymore.
My heart goes out to the enlightened millions in the UK who voted to stay in the EU. These are the ones who will be in the deepest despair. They realise what the alternative meant. The Leave voters will be waving their union jacks and singing Rule Britannia and Jerusalem and feeling euphoric but the reality will bite soon enough and they will surely rue the day they marked that ballot paper leave.You cannot eat union jacks.
Words totally fail me so perhaps I should just leave it to a more erudite writer to express my and I am sure many others feelings.
From today's editorial in the UK Financial Times.

A great big disappointment

Gosford Classic Car Museum has recently opened in Gosford,NSW. It is housed in a very big box warehouse-formerly a Bunnings Hardware store. The opening has been much anticipated. The entrepreneur -and he must be a very rich man-behind the project has amassed a huge collection of cars.
I went there yesterday and what a disappointment. There are quite a few very hohum old cars but many of the cars are superb-and they appear to be in excellent cosmetic condition and there certainly are a lot of them. But there it ends. It is just a massive car collection put on display. Each car has a small information board but you cannot see into the cars and no bonnets/hoods are open so no engines are visible. There are no interpretation boards or history on the cars-probably because many of the cars were just bought with no regard to their history or lack of history.
I have been very fortunate to have been to three excellent car museums in the past 12 months in the USA. They were all so much better than the Gosford Museum and yet they have nowhere near as many cars on display. Often less is more.
The Gosford Classic Car Museum is a golden opportunity missed. The Museum should have stored most of the cars and put a limited number on display in properly themed exhibitions which are changed regularly. That way visitors could engage with the exhibits and learn something and there would be a reason to keep revisiting the museum as the exhibitions changed.
Contrast the photos of the Gosford Classic Car Museum below with the photos of the Petersen Museum in the previous story. Chalk and cheese.
Even the name of the Gosford Museum is pedestrian. My suggestion "World of Cars"
Above all else the Gosford Museum needs some really experienced curators. It is not a modern car museum -it is one man's huge ad hoc car collection neatly but not imaginatively displayed. See it once and leave yawning.

21 Jun 2016

Petersen Museum

Whilst in LA a few weeks ago I visited the Petersen Museum. Petersen Publishing started out by publishing Hot Rod magazine-one my boyhood favourites. They went on to publish many other very succesful motor and hobby magazines. The success of the business allowed Robert Petersen and his wife to establish a motor museum in 1995 and this has gone on to become today's museum which is now administered by the Petersen Museum Foundation. In the last two years the museum has been completely rebuilt and is now a very striking purpose built structure on Wilshire Boulevard in LA.
I thought the building and the displays were superb but it was not what I was expecting. With LA being the epicentre of California's car culture I was expecting American cars and hot rods from door to door. When I visited the displays had a distinctly European bias with some quite exquisite and very rare cars on display including a superb line up of Porsche racing cars-see photo- and some of the most beautiful coachwork I have ever seen on cars in the big Rolling Sculpture exhibit.
I did not have time to take a guided tour of the Vault where the cars which are not on display are stored and this may have given me the American car fix I was expecting.
The museum is very highly recommended and on my next visit I will take in the tour of the Vault as well.
All photos by Leica X1.

20 Jun 2016

To finish first,first you have to finish.

Even the most committed Porsche fan would surely be feeling sorry for Toyota this morning. At the Le Mans 24 hours race over the weekend Porsche and Toyota battled for the lead for 24 hours-well actually 23 hours and 57 minutes. Porsche lost one car from the front runners early in the race due to a water pump failure. The remaining Porsche and the two works Toyotas ran head to head for the whole race which nowadays is run like a long sprint with F1 style superquick pitstops.
When it looked as if Toyota had the edge on the Porsche to take the chequered flag the leading Toyota faltered and lost power-3 minutes from victory. Porsche won and although the Toyota did eventually cross the line its final lap was too slow and it was not counted as a finisher. The other Toyota came home second.
By all accounts it was an extraordinary race and one can only feel for the Toyota team-always the bridesmaid never the bride.
So Porsche won the world's greatest motor race for the second year running but this time luck played a major role.
Meanwhile in Baku in faraway Azerbaijan a country most of us could not find on a map the silly F1 circus was rolling on with another so predictable win for Mercedes. Won't someone tell those guys that they are very,very boring.

On Instagram see @24heuresdumans for some superb photography of the Le Mans 24 hour race and aftermath.

17 Jun 2016

Aussie Grit

Photo from Google images

That's the title of Australian racing driver Mark Webber's autobiography which I have just read.
It really is an excellent read. Too often these sporting autobiographies and biographies are too glossy and hagiographic. In Aussie Grit Webber tells it like it is. He is often self deprecating and his ghost writer has done a good job of making it readable.
It's all there warts and all but it's far from all humble pie and modesty and you expect that from a top line racing driver. Of course I also enjoyed it because his views on the current state of F1 are very much in accord with mine and he is now a works Porsche team driver in the World Endurance Championship. He has very positive things to say about WEC sports car racing and Porsche management. I won't spoil it and say anymore. If you are into motor racing it is highly recommended.

I have had my own personal exposure to Webber's exceptional talent. Back in 1997 I was launching the MGF sports car in Australia. Now the MGF was/is a dull little sports car-nothing to get enthusiastic about and I feared that the local motoring media who were easily bored would be very bored by it at the media launch. So the media drive program was on the roads around Goulburn in Central NSW ending up at the Wakefield Park club motor racing circuit for a hillclimb competition up the circuit's hillclimb course. Now the hillclimb we put together was pretty tame using part of the back part of the circuit and then up a narrow winding track up a hill.
In those days the Aussie motoring journalists were a very competitive group and most were very good drivers so as soon as they saw the hillclimb spirits rose despite its short length.
Someone, and I am pretty sure that it was a journalist,invited along this very cocky local kid from nearby Quenbeyan who was doing very well in Formula Ford in Australia at the time. I clearly remember that he was very full of himself particularly at the media dinner that evening. After the journalists had each done a couple of runs up the hill in the MG the cocky kid was put in the car. The course was very short-it took just 36 seconds for the fastest driver-he had never even sat in the car before he drove it upto the start line,the car was a very modest performer and he had not even walked the hillclimb before yet alone driven it. He blitzed the field -he was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the fastest "hot shoe" journo. That cocky local kid was,of course,Mark Webber.
This was my one and only exposure to him in person and I was very impressed by his driving talent that day.

As a postscript I did have my camera with me at that event but the negatives which probably contain photos of cocky young Mark Webber are not easily located.

15 Jun 2016


Patina plus. Seen at SMSP over the weekend. A real Italian Ducati service Kombi van? Surely too good to be true although it is LHD. I reserve judgement.

13 Jun 2016

A winter weekend

It was historic motor racing at Sydney Motorsport Park over the weekend so a good opportunity to introduce 3 year old grandson Otto-seen with his dad above-to motorsport. Being a very laid back event there was plenty of opportunity for Otto to have a really good look at the cars. Less photos than usual but taking Otto around was more fun than taking photos.

9 Jun 2016

Californian Road Trip-Part 3

After Carmel it was on the road again north to San Francisco with a diversion to Santa Cruz on the way to take a look at the venerable Boardwalk amusement park. It was a quiet Tuesday morning and it was barely open so there was no chance to ride the roller coaster. I would love the opportunity to do some photography there when it is in full swing and thronging with people. Perhaps another time-if President Trump does not bar us foreigners from coming to the US.

The SF base was in Sausalito across the bay from the city and just around the corner from the Golden Gate Bridge. Sausalito is a really laid back and attractive place thronging with tourists during the day but quiet in the evening. Most of the tourists come from the city across the Golden Gate bridge by rented bike-they cycle out to the redwoods at nearby Mill Valley and then back to Sausalito and catch a ferry back to the city in the late afternoon. So Sausalito is full of young and not so young cyclists during the day and it has a good vibe.
The ferry ride across the bay past Alcatraz is bracing and San Francisco is a very attractive city if you stay away from the very tacky tourist trap of Fisherman's Wharf. I despair when I see all the tourists massing around all those tacky shops-many of the visitors coming from faraway places. Do they really come all that way for that? Our one visit to San Francisco landed us at Fisherman's Wharf and I managed to get a few photos in all the tat although to be fair Boudin's sourdough bakery is worth looking at .
From Sausalito is that it is very easy to drive to Sonoma and up the Napa Valley.The area is is very touristy but is not tacky touristy. Even better is the coast road-Route 1- upto Bodega Bay via Point Royes Station-a very attractive little town.
One of the best things about the US nowadays is the beer. Not so long ago the US was a beer desert. It was Miller Draught (yuk),Budweiser (yuk,yuk),Coors Light ( yuk,yuk,yuk) or nothing. Now it seems that there is at least one craft brewery in every town and they are turning out some really great beers. I had some of the best beer I have ever drunk on this trip-it's that good. The beer's fixed -now they need to fix the coffee.

After 4 days in Sausalito it was off down south on the Saturday of the Memorial Day long weekend .I had planned to drive down on Highway 101 but the first hour out of San Francisco was a traffic nightmare and I figured at that rate of progress it was going to take 24 hours to reach our destination so I dodged across country to pick up Highway 5 and drive down the Central Valley. This very straight freeway goes through flat, irrigated,agriculatural land for over 600 kms. The Californian water crisis is being felt most actutely in this key farming area which produces more than half the nuts,fruit and vegetables grown in the US so the whole way we were subjected to roadside banners and billboards extolling the benefits of farming and blaming poiticians for the lack of water. It was a very tedious drive.
Not that the farmers should really be that worried as whilst we were there Donald Trump held a rally in Fresno in the Valley and told the farmers that he would give them water. Thank goodness that's fixed although it is a little worrying that he gave no detail on exactly how this was going to happen.

The final night's stop before catching the flight back to Aus was in Port Hueneme near Ventura. What a weird place. It's a beachside town with a naval base and a big car import handling port. Along the beachfront are blocks of very dull looking low rise apartments and a short pier which on the evening I was there this was full of Hispanics fishing and pulling fish in by the bucket load. The whole atmosphere in Port Hueneme was just odd. It reminded me of a beachside resort on the Black Sea in communist Bulgaria which I stayed at in the mid 1960s.
After Port Hueneme we spent the Sunday afternoon in Manhattan Beach south of LAX before boarding the late evening flight. The sun was shining,the place was humming and it was a great place to finish the trip.

All photos from the Leica X1. I have been asked twice in the last few days how I achieve the consistent colour on these photos. I invairably keep the camera settings on auto for white balance,ISO and shutter speed and aperture. I use DNG (RAW) files and convert them in Lightroom 5 using a set of adjustments which I have developed over time by trial and error and which I now store as a preset. I apply the preset and then fine tune each photo.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Alligator sourdough at Boudins,Fishermans Wharf.

Obese bear sourdough bread at Boudins

Bored and charming Lily at pearl store on Fishermans Wharf

Tourist acting strangely on Fisherman's Wharf. It has that effect on people.

Local at Point Reyes Station.

Local colour.Hardware store Point Reyes Station

San Francisco from Sausalito at dawn

Weird Port Hueneme

 Port Hueneme Pier.