28 Nov 2012

French Le Mans Racing Blue

French cars have won the Le Mans 24 hours outright on many occasions -the last being in 2009 with Peugeot -but a French speciality in the 1950's and 60's was competing in and winning the low capacity classes and the Index of Performance -- a class which took into account fuel usage and distance travelled and which used a complex formula to determine an, invairably French,class winner.
The blue cars competing in these minor classes were very simple vehicles with fibreglass or aluminium bodywork over a simple space frame-- from small specialist French manufacturers such as DB -usually powered by two cylinder air cooled engines of under 750cc.
Imagine buzzing down the Mulsanne Straight in the middle of the night in one of these flimsy cars in the rain with plumes of spray behind you flat out at 120 kms an hour with just two tiny rear lights and Mike Hawthorn in a works D-type Jaguar or Karl Kling in an Mercedes bearing down on you at over 240 kms an hour.And in those days even the front running cars had very poor headlights .It was a receipe for disaster.Even in the last two years with no small slow cars competing and the speed differentials much smaller there have been three massive accidents due to faster cars clipping slower cars .
Many of the small French cars from the earlier era survive -surprisingly- and compete at the Le Mans Classic.I consider their pilotes very brave men and the cars are a really fascinating part of Le Man's history.And the cars are French racing blue with no sponsorship decals.
Leica X1 photos from July 2012.

25 Nov 2012

Hot German cars

Had a choice of car events this weekend.Historic racing at Eastern Creek Sydney on both Saturday and Sunday or Porsche breakfast and MB Club German Car Day in Newcastle on Sunday .Weather forecast for both days was hot and for my N hemisphere readers this means 30ºC-36ºC - say 91ºF-96ºF. Eat your hearts out.
I decided that Eastern Creek in the heat would be just too much and then made the wrong call to go upto Newcastle in the 2.2 911 whereas I could have easily have taken the 2.7 which has pretty effective aircon .Not sure what I was thinking.I just love driving the 2.2 long nose I guess.
The trip up was OK. Plenty of warm air getting through the car but it was bearable.The breakfast was great .Good turnout in a great venue -thanks Craig. But the car display was torture. The display area is in a natural bowl with no shade .It was like an oven.
I did not hang around to see if I had won a prize so all that polishing was wasted.By 12.30 Warren in his Targa and I were heading south and it was 90 mins of the hottest driving I have ever experienced .There was plenty of air coming into the car but it was very hot air.The road was hot ,the car was very hot and the sun was blasting through the windows.I nearly stopped at Wyong Hospital for a saline drip.The car ran well until we were caught in a beach traffic crawl approaching Terrigal and it then started to show some tantrums-spitting and losing idle but I made it home ok and a swimming pool and a cold beer have never looked so inviting.
Some photos from the day .Canon G9 photos.

The badge was on Crag Duthie's 1973 911E when it was imported from Hong Kong . It was in poor condition so he had the badge restored and the restorers ( in the US) have done a superb job of re-enammeling it.

Apart from the Porsches and the Kombis and a few beetles( the lowered rat look and patina are very fashionable for old beetles) many of the cars at the German Day are pretty boring.One modern Mercedes or Audi alone is boring but lots of them in a field are really boring .And would you believe some people collect Mercedes Benz buses? Each to his own I guess but that is seriously nerdy in my book .

22 Nov 2012

Mario and the US F1 Grand Prix

I saw the last 4 laps of the US F1 Grand Prix on Sunday-well Monday morning down here.I even saw a replay of a car overtaking another car.I hope that the very large crowd went home happy .At least they had a large crowd.I reckon it was about the size of the combined crowds from the Korean,Indian,Abu Dhabi and Bahrain Grand Prix .And it was a full field of cars unlike the fiasco of the previous F1 Grand Prix at Indianapolis 5 years ago.
The Austin track seemed to have some small undulations but otherwise was the usual slot car track layout designed by Hermann Tilke a man who seems singularly devoid of imagination.
It was good to see Mario Andretti doing the interviews on the podium after the race and looking very fit.
Below is a photo from Roger Putnam's archives taken in 1978 at a Lotus celebration in Norwich after Mario won the World Driver's Championship.Beside him is Colin Chapmanin wearing his John Player Special smoking jacket and behind him is Hazel Chapman looking as if she has just had words with Colin.Indeed both the ladies seem unimpressed by the proceedings and Mario looks as if boredom is starting to set in.Maybe the mayor was making a very long speech.Or perhaps Mario is upset that he misread the dress code on the invitation.

I can't see that Colin Chapman would have enjoyed today's F1 environment.He would have found the the rules too restrictive and artificial .On the other hand he may well have got on very well "wheeling and dealing" with Bernie Ecclestone-birds of a feather and all that.

Roger took this great period photo on his then newly acquired Canon A1 which he bought back from a trip to Japan where it had just been released.At the time it was the bees knees of cameras-the first SLR with electronics in the form of a microprocessor.The start of a revolution.

Note that since posting the above a good friend has contacted me to say that he watched the race and that it was quite exciting and that the track is one of Herr Tilke's better efforts .That may well be but I like my tracks to be fast and flowing - like the old Silverstone and Monza and Spa not these wiggly slot car tracks .

17 Nov 2012

From the land of fush 'n shups

I've just spent six days in New Zealand - the land where fish and chips (or as the locals-Kiwis- say - fush 'n shups) is the national dish.I've been there many times but on every visit I find myself thinking that it is an extraordinary place- a new landscape around every corner and so empty with a small population spread over two large,rugged islands with fjords,glaciers,active volcanoes,amazing coastline,rolling pastures, vineyards,interesting villages and towns and some really dreary cities. Even some young boys doing the Haka - the traditional Maori war dance on a wharf and a dolphin lolling in a calm sea.

It's a wonderful place for driving .Oh to have had my early 911 as
the roads are brilliant,demanding,in excellent condition and are nearly empty once you are away from the cities.Joy.It's no wonder that Kiwis are very over represented in the list of great racing drivers.

I took few photos on this visit but tried to make those I did take count. Slow travel photography with a compact digital camera.Six photos from my six days.All Leica X1 photos taken on the N Island .

15 Nov 2012

Leica M9 HDR

A few months ago Patrick sent me a photo taken by his friend Michael Garceau on his recently acquired Leica .It is superb and really shows what can be done with HDR .Michael's story on the photo is as follows :-

The final photograph is a composite of three different exposures sandwiched together using HDR Efx Pro 2 by Nik Software. Lightroom was used to make minor local adjustments to color, contrast and a little sharpening. Not much since the Zeiss lens I was using has very nice micro contrast.

The photos were taken at the Grand Canyon this past July just before sunset. The location was a pull off just after Lipan Point heading west from Route 89. I used a Leica M9-P with a Zeiss Biogon T 2,8/21 ZM lens and the Leica 21mm viewfinder attachment. The camera was placed on a tripod to avoid camera shake due to the slow shutter speed and to ensure there was no shift in viewpoint. Before I made the photo I was already thinking about HDR because of the scene's broad dynamic range. I don't recall the shutter speed but the aperature was set to f16.

11 Nov 2012

George's Graflex

Whilst travelling in the US in September we were able to make a passing visit to friend George who lives close to Philadelphia. George is a guy who seems to have a lot of interests including photography and he has a fascinating collection of old vintage cameras and,yes,George does do digital too.
Sadly a tight travelling schedule and some very generous hospitality  prevented me from spending as much time as I would have looking at  the camera collection but I did manage to get a few photos of part of it.

George does not go for the mainstream-- the more unusual it is the better George seems to like it .He has owned his Graflex for over 50 years.
I'll let him tell the story:-

"The Graphic and Graflex names proudly represented American-built cameras and photographic equipment made by Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Company of New York and their progeny from 1894 until 1973.  While the names Speed Graphic and Crown Graphic immediately conjure up visions of the quintessential 4x5 press camera for most photographers, many have forgotten the wide range of large format single-lens-reflex (SLR) cameras sold under the Graflex trade name. The first of these was introduced in 1901 and the last was built in 1963.

Graflex cameras were built of straight-grained Honduras mahogany covered with Moroccan leather. The bellows and viewing hoods were made from fine French calf and the metal parts were predominantly plated brass. Every model exhibited fine carpentry and careful assembly craftsmanship as well as innovative design.

Various sized Graflex models were built to use sheet-film. Dedicated roll film SLR's first using film size 3A and later 120 film were also made. These cameras all used a focal-plane shutter released by a flip-up mirror. Each had a horizontal ground glass under a folding viewing hood. Many models featured interchangeable lenses, rotating backs and interchangeable film backs.
The last and most evolved of these cameras was the Graflex Super-D. This model was built in 3 x 4 from 1941 until 1963, and in 4 x 5 from 1948 until 1958.

The camera shown here is my 3' x 4' Super-D built in 1946 and purchased in 1962 while I was a college student. It was my first serious camera and has always remained my favourite. One reason for this was its marvelous 152 mm f/4.5 Kodak Ektar lens. Wide open, it was a lovely soft portrait lens. Stopped down, it became razor sharp. Having such a versatile lens (on a $25 used camera) was a blessing to a student. However, sheet film, especially 3' x 4', was becoming difficult to find in the sixties and you were pretty much damned to process it yourself

Fortunately, I was able to acquire a Graflex 23 roll film back for the camera. This allowed the use of 120 film and produced eight 2' x 3' frames on a roll. (A 12 shot 2' x 2' Graflex 22 back was also manufactured.)
The sheet film magazine that came with my camera held 12 sheets of film. While you could advance the film in daylight, the magazine needed to be loaded in a darkroom or changing bag."

George sent me two photos-one taken for this post- both taken with the Graflex and I will let his caption tell the story -

"One camera, one photographer, two images half a century apart: the painter was captured by my Graflex and its 20 year-old owner; the same pair captured my seven-pound-Shadow sunning herself in 2012."

Here are two (low resolution) results from a recent experiment. My Lana was taken on the back porch in open shade last week using Ilford XP2 Super (ASA 400) film. This shot was taken at f/4.5 and 1/200 second. I used my Olympus e-520 in manual mode as an exposure meter and got a very similar reading from an ancient Weston Master III reflected-light meter. Note the film expired in 2005 and had just been in my office closet since before that. I took the older shot nearly 50 years ago at a Milford Camera Club meeting. This was done on 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 sheet film (Kodak Safety Film type 414) and the exposure data is long forgotten. My eyes were much sharper when I made the earlier exposure! Seven of the eight catographs I shot last week were out of focus. I had a terrible time using the Graflex's ground glass. Still, the shutter speed seemed to be reasonably good - I was afraid my exposures would be wrong due to slow operation of the old shutter mechanism (it sounds slooow).  

Great photos and a great story.It is good to see that the problems I am experiencing focussing my Hasselblad are shared by others with other cameras.I put it down to a combination of old eyes and old cameras. Thankfully they invented auto focussing.


7 Nov 2012

Rally of NZ 1985

I'm off to New Zealand for a few days tomorrow and this has prompted me to dig deep into the box full of negatives and find these photos from the Rally of New Zealand in 1985.This was the era of the amazing Group B rally cars .They were absolute weapons-lightweight,turbocharged ,4wd and spectacularly fast and incredibly noisy.What more could you want?.
In 1985 it was a battle between the Audi Quattros and the Peugeot Turbo16s.This was the start of Audi's emergence as a performance car manufacturer and Peugeot really had their mojo- which they have sadly lost nowadays.The Group B era only lasted 3 years until following a tragic accident the cars were banned on safety grounds.
The Peugeots took first and second places in the NZ Rally and won the 1985 World Rally Championship.
I went over to NZ with a group of Australian motoring journalists .It was a great trip as we had helicopters to transport us between stages.The scenery was spectacular and the weather was fine.I used an Olympus OM2 to take these shots on colour negative film.I took mainly slides on the trip but on the last day I ran out of film and had to grab some print film from a little village store in the mountains.I loaned my slides to a motoring magazine for use in an article on the rally.It was only last year, 26 years later, that I discovered that they had duped my slides and returned to me very second rate copies and kept the originals! That's life.
I just count myself very lucky to have seen these amazing cars in action in such spectacular country.


5 Nov 2012


Two takes on shots from the seashore .The first, a traditional seascape, from Aldeburgh ,Suffolk in the UK taken on a Leica X2 by Roger Putnam and given the HDR (high dynamic range) treatment in Photoshop.HDR seems to be the current flavour of the month in automotive photography and elsewhere probably because the software has made it so easy.Many examples are OTT but I reckon that here it lifts an otherwise predictable shot .
The second by me taken yesterday morning at The Entrance,NSW,Australia on a Leica X1 and processed in Snapseed.

3 Nov 2012

Lunch in Paris

Dipping into my Paris archive for the last blogspot has proved popular so here are four more images .All Leica X1 photos.

1 Nov 2012

Thirty years of Paris

A non Porsche post .Went to see the widely acclaimed "The Intouchables" on Tuesday. A superb,very touching film beautifully acted .It is set in Paris and the dialogue is in French with subtitles.Dubbing would spoil it but the French do speak quickly and although I tried to "tune up" my French trying to understand even some of the dialogue as opposed to reading the subtitles was very hard work.
Seeing Paris and hearing all that French set me reaching into my Paris photo archives for this collection of B&W photos taken over a 30 year period -1982 to 2012-on a variety of Leicas -M4P,M6 and X1- on film and digital with a couple of Canon G7 shots thrown in.