30 Oct 2016

A day at the races

I went to the big Muscle Car Masters historic race meeting at Sydney Motorsport Park yesterday.
I did not see much of the racing and I hardly took any photos-I spent so much time talking to friends and people I knew including some people whom I used to know well but whom I had not seen for years. It was that sort of a day.

I did come away with just one good photo -this portrait of Doug Barbour who races a Porsche 911 Carrera in Group S. Shots of drivers wearing their helmets nowadays are often very similar with a small squashed part of a face peering through the aperture but this one is better because Doug wears an open face as opposed to a full face helmet. I caught Doug just as he was about to climb into the car to go out for his qualifying session.

For those who are interested the photo was taken with the Leica Q at f1.7 and is a jpeg shot with the settings at low contrast and low saturation.

28 Oct 2016

Audi pulls the plug..

The winning Audi R18 TDI at the 2011 Le Mans 24 hour race.Photo taken with a Canon G9 with a tele extender.

Audi has decided to pull the plug on its World Endurance Championship (WEC) commitment after 18 years, choosing instead to focus on Formula E from 2017 onwards. The change reflects a renewed focus on electric power – both in production and racing – for the Audi brand.
The World Endurance Championship has been a happy hunting ground for Audi for nearly two decades, with 13 Le Mans wins coming in that period. It was the first brand to win at Le Mans with a turbocharged petrol engine, the first to win using a diesel engine, and the first to win with a hybrid.
"After 18 years in prototype racing that were exceptionally successful for Audi, it's obviously extremely hard to leave," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Audi Sport Team Joest shaped the WEC during this period like no other team. I would like to express my thanks to our squad, to Reinhold Joest and his team, to the drivers, partners and sponsors for this extremely successful cooperation. It's been a great time!"
As the WEC door closes, another will open in Formula E. Audi has been involved with Team ABT Schaeffler since it joined the fledgling race series, and recently announced it will be increasing its commitment. Eventually, this should lead to a full factory-backed Audi team lining up on the Formula E grid.
Should it commit to the series it will join Jaguar, Renault and Mercedes.
Source Audi Motorsport

Audi along with Porsche are part of the VW Group and with the massive financial pressures on the group as a result of the appalling diesel emissions cheating scandal this move should not come as surprise. Audi have been incredibly succesful in the WEC and really they have nothing else to prove. Their departure from Le Mans means that the race in 2017 will be solely between Toyota and Porsche.
Manufacturers seem to be lining up to be involved with Formula E - the electric powered single seater formula but so far the fans don't seem to have been switched on by the electric racing. Personally I find the idea of watching virtually silent racing cars swooshing around a grown up kart track totally unappealling. Racing cars - particularly single seaters-for me have to be noisy,smelly and goose bump inducing -not politically correct swooshers.

24 Oct 2016

Chromefest 2016

It was the annual Chromefest hot rod festival at The Entrance on the Central Coast of NSW last weekend. The last few years the organisers have struck lucky with the weather for all three days of the festival but their luck ran out this year. It rained a little on Friday but Saturday was a washout and cold with it. Fortunately it cleared for Sunday so all the spectators who were going on Saturday turned up to augment the huge crowd who only go on the Sunday.
I have been for the last few years which means that many of the cars I had seen previously. However this year I went with my eldest grandaughter,Ellie,so we spent time watching the rock and rollers and the 50s and 60s fashions on display and we had a few good laughs.
I took my new toy -the Leica Q - see previous story. I came back with a few good photos. I am very impressed with it although I am yet to warm to the digital zoom frame feature where you can crop the jpeg size at the equivalent of using 28mm,35mm or 50mm lens by pressing a button on the camera. The actual lens on the camera is 28mm which in itself takes some adjustment after all the years using the X! with its 35mm equivalent lens. The autofocus is superb as is the electronic viewfinder and the image quality is stunning. A full frame sensor with a Leica lens delivers the goods.
However I can still see myself using my faithful X1 frequently because it is smaller,lighter and much more discrete than the Q.
Here are my photos from the day.

Elvis keeps his phone in an unusual place

No shortage of jivers from the moment the group started.

A totally naked Triumph.Motorcycling at its most basic-for those who only ride short distances in daylight.Very well done though.

Running rusties are all the rage. Many are hybrids-rusty bodies found in fields put onto later chassis and running gear.

The waitress dispenses free cupcakes at the interval.

Street fashion. My favourite shot from the day.

Really cheap shoes. Glad to see that they still sell them in pairs.

This is why it is called Chromefest. A very polished exhibit.

Ape hangers. It looks as if not everyone enjoyed the day.

Fabulous rendition from the Q

Very 50s

The Q excels with shots such as this. Great skin tones,very fast autofocus and F1.7 lens wide open isolates the subject.

This line of the Pinup Doll Princesses charity competition was a spoof. Sadly Donald Trump ,who had been invited,had to decline as he was too busy being nasty to nearly everyone in the US.

22 Oct 2016

A cat on Q

I have a new camera.  I did not need an new camera-my X1 and XV are really more than adequate for my needs but  I had a windfall from a photo competition win so I thought what the hell I want one of these hotshot Leica Qs that all the online photo experts are raving about.
A reasonable question at this point would be to ask why buy yet another Leica which will produce the same style of photos as my existing cameras? Why not go and buy say an excellent M4/3 camera like a Panasonic GX800 and a bagful of lenses and still come away with a lot of cash compared with the Q? Well I do have another camera system already - the Sony a7- and despite trying hard I just cannot come to love it. For me there is something special verging on magical about most Leicas and as soon as I have a Leica in my hand I seem to take better photos. Maybe it's in my head but if that is the case it's still relevant. And I have had a very long association with Leicas- I bought my first one, which I still have, in 1968. There have been quite a few since and hopefully there will still be time for a few more.
So I phoned up Photoco Camera House in Adelaide -2000kms away -and they had a Q in stock . I am sure I could have bought one a few hundred dollars cheaper online if there was any stock but Photoco is a little camera shop in the city market hall in Adelaide. It is run by Luke the third generation of the Bully family associated with the store. His grandfather was in the Royal Marines posted to Hong Kong after the end of the war and he developed an interest in Leicas and when he emigrated to Australia he opened the shop in Adelaide. It is a little gem and I used to visit it whenever I was in Adelaide on business. Luke's father,Peter,ran it for many years and I bought my M4 and M6 Leicas from him and also my X1 as well as many lenses and other accessories over the years. He once sold me a superb Durst enlarger  -formerly used in the darkroom of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper. They have an big stock of used gear.
As we have nearly lost all our real expert camera shops and this one deserves to be on the National Heritage Register and I have always been treated so well by them over the years I wanted to support them. So I gave them the order and a big pile of cash and late Thursday afternoon a big brown box arrived by courier.
 After unboxing and then charging the battery it was too late and dark to try it but I did sit down and read the very thick instruction manual whch must be a first for me.
Yesterday there was maintenance work going on in the house so I was too busy to really try it out but I did manage a first shot and it had to be one of my favourite subjects the little 16 year old Himalayan one eyed  Zoe or Zo Zo as we call her. This is a jpeg straight out of the camera. It was shot with the lens wide open at f1.7.
First impressions of the camera is that it really deserves all the hype. It is sophisticated but very easy to use-once you have read the manual. It's a marked contrast to the Sony a7 and its convoluted menus and scattered buttons and dials.
I decided that the front lens element is too protruding for me to use the camera without a protective filter. The filter is a 49mm filter and I have quite a few UV filters either on lenses or in my camera cupboard but usually they are not the size I need. This time I struck lucky - a very high quality 49mm filter was fitted to an old Minolta lens so off it came and onto the Q. Now all I need is some extra batteries, a screen protector which Photoco do have in stock and the handgrip-on order-and I will be fully set up.
So a camera sale is coming up and the underutilised and unloved Sony is going as well as the too much hassle Hasselblad. Details to follow.

21 Oct 2016

Paris Motor Show 2016

The European Motor Shows used to be a really big deal. The UK,Paris,Frankfurt and Geneva shows were the stars. That's where the new model announcements were made,the concept cars revealed and where the industry heavyweights strutted their stuff on press day in their Armani suits.
The Paris and Frankfurt Shows used to be huge. I went to them many times in the 1980s and 90s for new model launches or with dealer and press groups.Those were the days of junkets and lavish launches and a tight knit local press group the majority of whom could write well,drive well and knew what they were talking about.
In comparison to the big European shows the local Australian motor shows were very small beer and the fact that there were annual shows in all the state capital cities for years was ridiculous and a significant cost to the local industry. The local manufacturers-Ford,Holden(GM),Toyota and Mitsubishi were very keen on all the local shows -the importers wanted them reduced. Now it has all changed and the local shows have gone and soon the local manufacturers will all be gone too.

With the internet and immediate circulation of news/photos and manufacturers timing their new model annnouncements to suit themselves and not the show timings the international shows have lost much of their relevance nonetheless they are still big events and people are going to them although not in the numbers they used to. Certainly the media are much less interested in them.

The Rolling Road's European correspondent,David Young,visited the recent Paris show and sent back a folder of photos from which I have picked just a few for their entertainment value.
Surely the gross Mercedes Vision Maybach is a shoo-in for the ugliest car of the year award?
 David included a few photos of batteries and electric motors because they there were lots of them at the Paris show. I don't find them at all fascinating so I have only included one and seeing them makes me glad that I went to motor shows when all cars were powered by internal combustion engines.

Stylish Renault stand although it looks as if to reduce costs they kept the lighting down-bring your own torch if you want to see les voitures.
Russian oligarchs please form an orderly queue.

It's gross. Who signed this off?

Gross from all angles. It's so vulgar even Donald Trump would probably hesitate before placing an order.

This is an electric car battery in fact un nouvelle batterie. Fascinating eh?

19 Oct 2016


                     Phoebe,my beautiful old Himalayan,just staring into space thinking about life as old cats- and old people- tend to do.

17 Oct 2016

Hey Fatty

I took a run upto the Hunter Valley today with Craig and Colin so there were three silvertail 911s in convoy. The run up the Yarramalong Valley and the Wollombi Road was dry and almost traffic free so we had a really good fast drive but the last few kilometres to Cafe Enzo were wet and the drive home was a shocker. There are two places you do not want to be in an early 911 on a very wet day-on a motorway full of speeding trucks and SUVs or in very thick traffic and I had both. Enough said.
Whilst Colin and I were filling up in Cessnock on the way back a late model 911 pulled upto the pumps. Take a look at it. The early 911s carry two people and two small children and some luggage . The convertible late model carries two people and probably less luggage. Automotive obesity.

How did it come to this?

How did the US Presidential election campaign come down to this vile,tawdry,vulgar slanging match? How in a country of over 330 million people can the political parties only find one candidate who is a hate filled,vile,sleazy ignorant,lying thug and the other a candidate with so little personal charm and so much personal "baggage"?
I just read that Iranian TV broadcast the second Presidential campaign debate live because the Ayatollah wanted to show Iranian citizens what the much vaunted American democracy was really like. They would have been as disgusted as I was.
This whole tawdry episode is doing so much damage to the image of the US in the world. How did it come to this?

15 Oct 2016

Portugese paws

I love cats -big cats and small cats-kittens to lions. For me home is where the cats are and the only downside to travelling for me is that I can't take our cats with me. Happiness for me is Phoebe,our 16 year old Himalayan, jumping on the bed first thing and coming to say hallo and demanding that I make a fuss of her.
I like both cats and dogs but I'll always take a cat ahead of a dog so let me share  these cat photos from Portugal. The first is of a stencil cat taken in Alfama - the oldest part of Lisbon. It just caught my eye.
The second shows an English guy with his cat companion named "Zero" who I spotted on the street in Coimbra. The photo was taken with the X1 and I was anxious not to get too close in case I spooked Zero so I took a couple of paces back to take the photo and then cropped it.
The third photo was taken in Obidos. The picturesque but overly touristy village was seething with daytrippers mid afternoon on a sunday and I had written off the chances of getting any worthwhile photos when I spotted these three children with a local cat. I had to move very quickly for this one as the cat looked as if its patience was being tested and it was about to take off.
The next shot was taken up a very dilapidated street in old Porto. These two little cats were not strays because when I came back they were eating from a bowl of cat food left out for them.
The final shot was taken in Lisbon early morning-man being chased by black cat- a total chance shot. A second later and I would have missed it.
All the photos were taken on the fly with the Leica X1.

12 Oct 2016

The lone surfer

After a stunning day on Wednesday-see previous post- the weather switched back to winter mode yesterday. A cold wind,a leaden sky and rain squalls. The sea was not rough and the surf was modest but there were dangerous rips around. The beach was closed to swimmers but this lone surfer braved the elements on an empty Terrigal Beach.
Leica X1 photo.

Maitland Bay

I don't take landscapes or seascapes very often. I am not good at shooting them and perhaps illogicaly for me they are far less interesting photographically than people and the things I usually shoot. However I am making this exception as I went for a good long walk today on the coastal path in the Bouddi National Park from Killcare Beach to Maitland Bay and back with friend Peter who does shoot seascapes and landscapes really well-see Landscape
It was a perfect day for a long walk-crystal clear,warm but not hot.There was very heavy swell running to add drama.The whole walk is spectacular - surely one of the most beautiful walks in NSW just 80kms from the Sydney CBD and only 20 minutes drive from home.
By way of a change I took out the Sony a7 fitted with a Zeiss Biogon 28mm lens. I took only a few shots and I was not surprised to find that nearly all of them were very ordinary-just records of great scenery. However I did feel that this one is perhaps worth putting up -I junked the rest.

10 Oct 2016

More Portugese stories

More photos from my recent road trip through Portugal. More photos which hopefully tell stories from Viseu and Coimbra..
Viseu early sunday morning. It was foggy and eerily quiet.The sun soon burnt off the fog to a beautiful day.

Two African students early Sunday morning Viseu. Probably returning from a night clubbing. Very friendly and lively guys who spoke excellent English.

Sunday morning mass ,Viseu Cathedral. Portugal is a strongly catholic country and church attendances are still high.I took two photos in the cathedral-the other one would have been a better photo but was ruined by camera shake.

A quiet beer.Coimbra. One thing about Portugal is that I noticed that many older people still practice the gentle art of sitting and thinking about the world without the distractions of needing to talk to someone,reading or looking at a phone.

Magnificent Coimbra University. J K Rowling the author of Harry Potter worked in Porto for 3 years a a teacher and the Portugese academic dress was the inspiration for the black capes in the Harry Potter books

Listening to the audio during a tour of the magnificent Coimbra University buildings. I took an audio guide like this woman and it was very useful.I would not have appreciated the buildings properly without it. With an audio guide  you get as much info as you want to hear and you can go at your own pace .

Some last minute revision for the final exam in the faculty of law Coimbra University. The 400 year old examination room is behind her. I glimpsed inside. The exam papers were set out on the ancient wooden desks. It looked very intimidating and it bought back distant memories. It seems odd to hold the final exam at the start of the new academic year.

Frozen yogurt seller outside the University,Coimbra. With the hundreds of sightseers on a hot day she was onto a good thing. I caught her just as she opened up.
This charming girl was not smiling solely for me,sadly. She was as she explained, laughing nervously as she was also waiting to go into her final law exam.

7 Oct 2016

More Portugal

Some more photos from my recent Portugese travels-taken in Porto and up the Douro Valley- the main wine producing region in Portugal and the home of port.
I was really surprised and sceptical when I heard that many small wine producers in the Douro Valley still crush the grapes by foot. Yes really. If I had not seen them scrubbing out the troughs for myself I would not believe it. Sadly not able to take a photo to prove it.
Whilst I was in the Douro the grape harvest was just getting underway so the producers were flat chat but two of them still found time to talk to me including the amiable winemaker with the bottles in the photos who is the fourth generation producing wine from the family vineyard. And great wine it is too-port and an excellent rose and a white.

I really like Porto -it's an elegant city with a great buzz although an area of the UNESCO world heritage listed old port area leading upto the cathedral is in urgent need of renovation and a really good clean up. It's not just an issue of money as the planning controls on renovations are strict and drawn out to protect the world heritage listing. Also the city authorities are anxious to protect the existing long established residents of the area and to ensure that it does not become over gentrified. They are certainly suceeding on that score. Maybe time for a change of policy folks.
 So here are some pictures from the Douro Valley and the good and the ugly parts of Porto and some of the city's friendly residents.

Fourth generation of the family producing wine from this vineyard high above the Douro

First grapes of the harvest

Four generations and rightfully proud of it.
Porto portside at night.

Sandiman's port warehouse,Porto.

A riverside nap,Porto.

Buskers on the street, Porto.

My favourite Porto photo.
Alley cats, old Porto.This street is barely 100 metres from the main tourist strip beside the river.

Old Porto.Bring on the clean up squad and the builders.Soon.