29 Mar 2014

On the road again

If all goes according to plan by the time you read this the Rolling Road editorial team- me- will be in Hong Kong for a niece's wedding over the weekend and then onto Guilin in China for a few days.I will have my Leica charged and ready to shoot and hopefully I will return with some interesting photos.The blog has plenty of material in hand and so I have set it up on autopilot for the next week so there should be no interruptions in the posting of new stories.

25 Mar 2014

Barry Sheene Festival of Speed-some photos.

I went to the Barry Sheene Festival of Speed at Sydney Motorsport Park on Sunday.A great vintage motorcycle racing meeting.Some wonderful machinery, more than a few characters,some people who were certifiably mad -sidecar racers- and a terrific atmosphere and as far away from the poseurs and wannabees of F1,V8 Supercars and Porsche Carrera Cup as you could get.
I took my camera  and concentrated on trying to capture the atmosphere -not much chance of action shots with the fixed 35mm lens but everyone else was taking those with their Canikon DSLRs and kit zoom lenses anyway.It's very easy to take a load of rubbish photos at these meetings -as I know from previous experience- so I tried really hard to be discerning.Here are my efforts - all with the X1.And the last one is my favourite by far.And for those who are interested this was a DNG (RAW) file which I have adjusted in Lightroom.I bracketed the exposure and this one was the optimum or perhaps that should be the best compromise although I would have liked to have had the man on the rh side in a better position as he was in one of the less acceptable exposures.

23 Mar 2014

A Porsche 911 anniversary.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Porsche G series or "big bumper" 911 models.The big bumpers were introduced to meet US market 5 mph collision rules.These were part of a package of car safety rules mandated after the public response to Ralph Nader's book-"Unsafe at any speed" which took the US motor industry to task for its unsafe products and in particular the very wayward handling of the rear engined Chevrolet Corvair.Sadly the rules were hastily conceived and executed and in particular the 5 mph collision requirements.
The G series cars were fitted with shock absorbers behind the bellows on the bumpers on US market cars but these were not fitted for other markets to save weight.
One can only imagine the angst the 5 mph collision requirements caused Porsche as they had to corrupt the beautiful flowing lines of the 911 with these ugly devices.It must have been the cause of much handwringing and teeth gnashing.The task of redesigning the car fell to new chief designer Tony Lapine who had come to Porsche from GM after Butzi Porsche had left in the Porsche/Piech family "shakeout".
The G series were not that well received when shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October 1973.Press comments at the time were very polite but that was characteristic of the times anyway but beneath the politeness you can detect a distinct feeling of disappointment .And the reception got worse when significant price hikes and a rather disappointing engine line up was revealed.The switch from the lusty mechanical fuel injection and carbs to the new emissions friendly Bosch K-Jetronic (CSI) fuel injection was also a factor.Just over 5000 911s were sold in the US market in 1974-a very poor sales performance.
Part of the problem was that the G series marked a change in the 911 philosophy.Previously the 911 was a lightweight,svelte and rather edgy sports car.The new safety laws and emission requirements in the US and  European markets meant that the 911 had to change to a more refined,heavier and less edgy product.Also the 1973 oil crisis had meant that for the first time there was a realisation that petrol supply was a major concern - so it was not a good time to move to bigger engines particularly for the European markets.
Gradually the market accepted the G series -- more powerful engines helped this process and fuel supply anxieties faded -and the big bumper cars became a sales success through the 1980s.
Seen above are three examples of early G series cars photographed by me last weekend.On the left -a 3 litre-in the centre my 2.7 and on the right a very preserved 3.2 SC.

21 Mar 2014

From the Hasselblad

I bought my Hasselblad outfit nearly two years ago.I have not used it for months.It is way too heavy to carry far and it has been so hot and sunny for so long conditions have hardly been conducive to film photography.This afternoon I rescanned a photo I took soon after I bought the Blad.I have a better handle on the scanner and Lightroom now and I am much happier with the photo of "Snowy" -the first shot below.This was taken on Kodak Tri-X film.

Now the The Rolling Road hasn't gone soft and lapsed into "frogs on logs" photography but for something completely different here are some flower photos which I took because I had grown the plants - which makes them more interesting -and because close ups with a Hasselblad are technically challenging.The photos are of hibiscus flowers in my garden and were taken on Kodak Portra 400 film using the Hasselblad with the 80mm Planar lens on an extension tube which I bought in a clearout sale by a camera shop in Perth about 12 months ago.Modern digital camera have a macro close focus setting.On an Blad it is much more complex.A very different sort of photography.

20 Mar 2014

What happened to windsurfing?

I recently found this photo of Terrigal Beach,NSW,Australia taken on New Years Day 1989.I've not put it up because it has any photographic merit and anyway it is scratched and faded.
No, two things stand out.Firstly the same scene today would have dozens of little tent shelters on the beach - not just the umbrellas- and secondly today you would be very lucky to see one windsurfer in the ocean -yet alone dozens.I did see a lone windsurfer on Tuggerah Lake a few months back but I have not seen one on the ocean for ages.Why have they disappeared? Was windsurfing too expensive? Was the gear too cumbersome? Was it too difficult? Was waiting for the wind too tiresome? Or is there another explanation? Or has it just declined in Australia and it is still strong elsewhere? I'm curious to know.

Bernie's true colours.

In last Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald there is a long interview with F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone.The interviewer starts the interview by asking Bernie who is the man he most admires and his response is"Stirling Moss".Fair enough you cannot take exception to that answer but then it gets interesting.He is then asked "and who after Stirling Moss" to which Bernie replies-"Vladimir Putin".
Yes,you read that correctly.That Vladimir Putin.That answer tell us a lot about Bernie -but maybe nothing we probably did not already know.Remember the old adage-"birds of a feather flock together".Nice one Bernie.

16 Mar 2014

Reflections on the Australian Grand Prix

After a great run-342 km -roundtrip to Bilpin in the 2.7 Porsche and despite a ferocious thunderstorm on the way back I made it home in plenty of time to sit down and watch nearly all of the Australian Grand Prix in an effort to reengage with F1.It was pretty processional and I would hardly call it riveting.There were some high points.Firstly the ever obnoxious Sebastian Vettel retired very early in the race with engine problems.Sadly the cameras did not record his dummy spit when he came in but I am sure it was world class.Kamui Kobayashi continued the great Japanese F1 driver tradition by making a kamakaze move early in the race - in his case at the first corner - and managed to knock Massa in his Williams out as well as knocking the front wheels off his own car.Daniel Ricciardio ,the ever smiling Australian driver,finished second in his first ever race for Red Bull and finally the Finnish driver,Valterri Bottas,driving a Williams Mercedes finished sixth after a  spirited drive which would have really pleased Frank Williams and his new partners Martini.If Bottas had not kissed a wall and broken a wheel and had to pit he would have finished on the podium.Although it should be said that he kissed the wall because he was driving so spiritedly.
The cars sound like junior formula  cars and all the hype and technical twaddle was as wearing as I had anticipated.Obviously I do not have a photo of the race but dug out this old one of Frank Williams and his F1 "team" a very long time ago at Silverstone as a counterpoint.A very long way from today's hoopla.I love the fuelling arrangements particularly the cloth fuel filter.And how about that tool box? Even I am tidier than this when I work on my cars.

Which was the most exciting part of my day? No doubt about it - driving the Porsche very hard down an empty Wiseman's Ferry Road on a beautiful clear morning and particularly the rapid descent down Mangrove Mountain with the bark of that aircooled engine echoing off the cutting walls.I'll take heel and toeing over pressing a paddle any day.

Since writing the above late yesterday Ricciardio has been disqualified for a technical infringement of the rules relating to fuel flow rates.Rules are rules and even in the good times of F1 drivers were disqualified for tecnical infringements but F1 now seems only about the rules and the racing does not seem to matter.It has become a gigantic cash cow and the thousand who make a  good living out of it -- and many make a very good living out of it-like multimillionaire good living- don't care about the racing or motor sport or the spectators and it's just a case of "I'll keep playing Bernie's game as long as you show me the money."

15 Mar 2014

I tried and I tried

It's the weekend of the Australian F1 Grand Prix down in Melbourne.I used to go to the Grand Prix every year but 2006 was the last time I went.Since then my interest in F1 has waned.
Today I made a big effort.I told myself that I was becoming a grumpy old man about F1 and that I should get back into it this year.I sat down and watched this morning's free practice session on Channel 10.Well I tried to watch it but it was not a success.The cars all look the same,I don't recognise many of the drivers and the new cars sound like noisy Formula Fords.Most of the commentary seemed to be preoccupied with discussion about systems and data monitoring and technical details and discussing the overly prescriptive rules-did you know that even the tyre warmers have thermometers built in as the rules prescribe the max heat they can put into the tyres?The steering wheels look like a section of the flight deck instrument panel from an Airbus A380.And the pit crews seemed to be in continuous contact with the drivers as they lapped.Who's driving the cars -the drivers or the race engineers or some server in the Midlands of the UK?
All the cars seemed to have even more sponsorship logos on than ever before.Even the ads in the frequent commercial breaks were for IT - Microsoft Cloud running Lotus etc,etc.It was like watching an IT convention not motor racing.
I tried the watching qualifying late this afternoon but it was no better.The format for qualifying has been changed again and the cars hardly have any time on the track.After 20 mins I was bored and went downstairs to talk to my wife and watch the news on TV.
For me F1 should be very brave men with very big balls driving very fast noisy cars around a track very quickly.That is not what I saw on TV today.
I will try and watch the race late tomorrow afternoon but the signs are not good.
Before that I am doing something much more engaging driving way across country-hopefully on very empty roads to go to the Classic Porsche pie and coffee meet at Bilpin in the Blue Mountains.I was planning to take my 2.2 as it is such a great car to drive on the winding roads but have opted for the 2.7 as the endless summer continues and with 30ºC plus temps and high humidity forecast I fancy the aircon for what will be a tiring but fun five hour round trip.At least the Porsche only has a steering wheel,a gear lever and the minimum number of instruments.And I don't have to have someone on the pit wall telling me on the radio when to wipe my nose.

Lotus tragedy

Friend John,who lives in Victoria, recently had a major bushfire come through his farm.Luckily the farmhouse was saved but the outbuildings were destroyed along with all the fencing.In the buildings were John's records from over 40 years practice as an architect and tragically his very original Lotus 7.

12 Mar 2014


What else is there to say?
A work of art.Leica X1 at ISO 3200.A small section of the original photo.No flash.

10 Mar 2014

New racer,old racer

 Porsche have announced details of their 919 LMP1 hybrid sports car which will compete in the WEC including the Le Mans 24 hours.All the pundits were expecting the new car to be powered by a version of the evergreen Porsche flat 6 as part of a hybrid drivetrain.Porsche have caused quite a stir by revealing that it is powered by a 2 litre petrol turbocharged V4 motor.The motor is only a few degrees off being a flat 4 so it's back to the future for Porsche whose first car was the 356 powered by a flat 4.
The motor drives the rear wheels and electric motors drive the front wheels and the car is fitted with energy recovery systems and a very high tech battery arrangement.It is very innovative.Contrast this left field thinking with the rigid rules imposed on F1 which completely stifle innovation.

Whilst Porsche are about to,I'm sure,start winning races again I have recently removed the harness bar from my 2.2 911 as I am sure I won't be competing with it again.Over many years I have competed in many motor sport events-rallies,hillclimbs,regularity runs,motorkhanas and supersprints and even the Targa Tasmania.Along the way I have collected a few plastic trophies as well as one coveted Targa Plate.Sadly I have decided that the car is now just too valuable to risk on the track and motor sport has become just too costly.And I have become much more conscious of the risk of running even in soft events on a track in a car without a full roll cage.If anyone wants a harness mounting bar for an early 911 please contact me.Sadly my crash helmet is out of time (10 years under CAMS rules) and the harness has only a couple of years "life" left.The race wheels and tyres have long gone to good homes.The racesuit will be retained as a keepsake.

Pic below shows my last ever track outing at Phillip Island Historics in 2010-four years ago almost to the day.Not a happy day as I was on road tyres and the car was all over the place on that very fast track.Coming down the long main straight at 180-200 kmh in a pack of cars and then feathering the brakes to go through the very fast rh Doohan Corner and feeling the car really moving about -at both ends - was a very scary experience.As it is a 2500km round trip to Phillip Island driving there on the track wheels and tyres was not an option which was a great pity.Photo thanks to Dino.
The bottom photo shows a much happier outing with me competing on the wonderful street circuit at the 2009 Speed on Tweed in Murwillumbah.Photo thanks to John M.That was a really great event - sadly no longer run - and if it was still going I could have been tempted to keep competing.

9 Mar 2014

Fishy photo

When I moved from a PC to a Mac about four years ago I plugged the hard drive containing the thousands of images I was migrating into the Mac and hey presto they all were hoovered up automatically by iPhoto-which at the time I thought was wonderful.About three years ago I stopped using iPhoto as my photo organiser and changed over to Lightroom.Since then I have from time to time accessed images from the big iPhoto library but much of the material appearing on the blog has been taken recently or has been scanned in from slides and negatives .
Somehow about 9 months ago I managed to corrupt the iPhoto library and I could not access many of the old images.
Now Apple being Apple it's not a question of clicking on the iPhoto library folder and opening it up and pulling out the images.Oh no-it's the usual Apple "walled garden" although it's more like a locked box which you cannot access other than through the iPhoto application.After visiting many help sites and forums and trying various repair fixes -none of which worked-yesterday afternoon I decided to reload the whole iPhoto library from the back up-Time Machine.So it reloaded 18634 photos-made up of an original and multiple copies-sometimes upto 12- of most but not all of them.Why this has happened I do not understand.Worse still all the classifications and sorting has gone missing-there are no"events" or "albums".I now have 18634 photos many of which are duplicates in one giant folder on iPhoto called "recent downloads".
Sorting them out again will be a massive task which if I am realistic I will almost certainly never find the time to do.Although fortunately they are in time order.I have made a copy of them all and put them into another folder well away from the clutches of iPhoto.
Looking through them again was good and I had forgotten how much interesting stuff there is there.
This little gem made up of photos taken on my Canon G7 in Tokyo's famous fish market a few years ago caught my eye.

Up close and too personal

Even the friendliest of us can look quite menacing if you get too close.Phoebe.Canon G7.

6 Mar 2014

The Lotus magazine

Roger Putnam sent me this photo of the September 1967 Lotus magazine showing him in the new launched Elan +2 in front of an Auster aircraft.Both Roger and I have reasons to remember Austers.He made a crash landing in the one pictured after it ran out of fuel due to a faulty fuel gauge (probably a Lucas made item)-and it landed safely in a cornfield-although looking at the photo they were lucky to have missed the power lines.I particularly like the fact that Roger has his jacket on and his tie is fastened despite having him just had a very scary experience.It reminds me of a story a Caterpillar executive told me years ago that Caterpillar company rules required that employees kept their jackets on during all flights when they were travelling on company business!
I wonder how they enforced this rule.Did they have a team of jacket marshals-like US sky marshals - travelling incognito on flights ready to leap up mid flight to check on jacket wearing compliance by any Caterpilar employees on the flight?And what happened if an employee removed their jacket?A yellow card maybe.What a ridiculous rule.I am sure that it is long gone.In the same era I once travelled from Sydney to London sitting next to an man who kept his jacket on and all three buttons fastened for the whole 24 hour flight.He must have been a Caterpillar executive.He never spoke a word to me either.
My Auster flying experience was happier than Roger's.I made my first aircraft flight in an Auster at the age of 9 from Bembridge Airfield on the Isle of Wight in the UK.It cost ten shillings which was a lot of money for my parents at the time and I can still remember that flight clearly.

The Lotus magazine has I am sure long gone but about five years ago the then owners of Lotus appointed an ex-Ferrari executive,Dany Bahar as CEO.His tenure there was an absolute and total disaster and after three years he was shown the door but amongst many weird things he did he launched a Lotus lifestyle magazine.Now Lotus being an enthusiast's sports car you would think that the magazine would have been a contemporary version of the magazine above.Well no.Dany had lofty ideas for Lotus - he wanted to compete with Ferrari and Porsche and Aston Martin and his magazine was a totally weird large format  magazine full of photos of skinny female models with expressions which suggested that they were sucking on lemons and pretty boys with gelled slicked back hair, wearing no shirts,suit jackets,bermuda shorts and canvas deck shoes with no laces.Accompanied by articles on ridiculously priced desert spa resorts in the UAE.All interspersed with ads for watches which cost more than a Lotus.
I actually came across the magazine in an airport lounge in the Middle East at the time and I could not work out what it was.I cannot remember its name but I do know that I thought that it was utter twaddle.
Anyway if you want to read more about the amazing short Lotus career of Dany Bahar read the excellent piece by Jamie Kitman Dany Bahar

4 Mar 2014

Let's go surfing

Two surfing photos.The first-above- a recent shot taken at Avoca Beach here on the Central Coast of NSW,Australia.How was it taken-have I abandoned my compact camera idelogy and invested in (or hired) a DSLR and a big lens? No,I took it from the rocks the far end of the beach on my humble Canon G9 at the maximum zoom - equivalent to 210mm on a fullframe camera.It was taken at 1/1250th of a second at F8.I have worked on it in Lightroom and slighly cropped it.It would be great if there was more detail on the surfer but there is not enough info in the jpeg to pull out more detail. Obviously I could do a lot better with the right gear but from an old compact camera worth very little nowadays I reckon that it's not so bad.
The second shot appeared on TRR in the very early days and was taken with my then brand new Leica X1 from nearly the same location.I love this shot.Very Avoca.And the Leica shows its class compared with the shot above but then I could not have taken the shot above with the Leica.As surfers would say "them's the breaks".

3 Mar 2014

Lost worlds- 2

On an earlier post see Korkula I posted a 1968 photo taken by my brother of a market stall in Korcula on the Dalmatian Coast of what was then Yugoslavia and is today Croatia.I have now found some early photos taken by me in 1967 when I went to the same area.The negative file says that they were taken on the island of Hvar.I have tried to verify this using Google streetview but I cannot be certain as it has all changed so much.
The photos were taken on my Leica 3A with a 50mm F2.8 Elmar lens-my only lens at the time- on East German (GDR) Orwo film which I had bought locally and which I developed myself.The film was certainly grainy.I used to have prints of these photos which I had printed on warm tone cream photo paper.Very period -but they have long gone so I have resurrected the look thanks to Silver EFX software.
I did take one whole cassette-36 exposures of Kodachrome 25 slide film on that trip but when that was gone I had to fall back on the local,very cheap,Orwo black and white film.
The Dalmatian Coast was very unspoilt at that time.No big hotels and apartment blocks and big panoramic view seafood restaurants,no marinas,no satellite dishes on the roofs,few shops,very few cars and not that many tourists.A lost world.

1 Mar 2014

The rider and his Honda CB175

Whilst driving south down the Old Pacific Highway a couple of weeks back (see previous story) I saw an early bike being ridden spiritedly in the opposite direction.The rider was crouched down and it was making a beautiful sound as he wound it up through the gears.As I was pushing on briskly I did not get a very good look at the bike as it flashed past .About 30 mins later he rode into the roadhouse and I was able to get this photo.It was a very original 1968 Honda CB175 twin.I have a strong personal affinity with these early Hondas  as I bought a 1984 model when Honda were just getting a foothold into the UK bike market.They were beautifully made and very reliable -qualities not possessed by British bikes of the same era.