20 Jul 2014

Le Mans Classic 2014-part 3

It seems a little trite to be putting up more Le Mans Classic photos after the horrific events of the last few days .Some readers have made the observation that it seems to have rained for the whole event going by my photos.Well they are a bit misleading in that the Friday,practice and set up day,was very hot and sunny but I restricted my photo taking that day as conditions were very contrasty and far from ideal for photography.Little did I know that bright sunshine was going to be in short supply on the Saturday and Sunday although the afternoon and evening/night on the Saturday were dry and most of the racing until Sunday morning was not rain affected.I actually think that the rain shots have more atmosphere than most of my Classic Le Mans shots-from this and previous years.

19 Jul 2014

A sombre note-MH17.Shame on you Russia.

I feel enormous sadness for the victims of MH17.Completely innocent people going about their lives and brutally murdered by evil and probably drunken thugs.Thugs who if they were not Russian technically were Russian in spirit.
I also feel enormous empathy with the passengers as I flew back from Paris just last weekend on Malaysia Airlines and we flew exactly the same corridor over Ukraine.
Malaysia is a good airline which has suffered enormous bad luck .I can only feel sympathy for the staff of the airline.
I cannot understand the appalling behaviour of Russia and the jumped up little ex-KGB agent Putin.A man who surely is suffering from a lack of self-esteem and/or serious mental health issues.
As someone who lived through the height of the cold war--I can tell you exactly what I was doing in October 1962 when the Soviet Union and the USA faced off over the Cuban missile crisis and it really did look as if we were all "on the eve of destruction" I had naively thought that with the end of communism Russia would emerge as a responsible world citizen whose people would want their children and grandchildren to grow up in peace.What have we got instead? A potential Hitler.A vile little vicious thug who has created a gangster state where the only law is the law of the gun and who does everything he can to disrupt harmony around the world.
The last 24 hours have established new lows in international behaviour.Not only is Putin denying what is bleeding obvious to the rest of the world-that Russia or its proxies shot down MH17-and making himself look like an even bigger liar and fool by doing so- but his proxy thugs-many of them drunk- are looting the bodies of the victims and not allowing rescuers to even access the crash site to recover the bodies.What hell must the relatives of the victims be going through?Full responsibility rests with Putin.
Australia's Prime Minister has had very tough words to say about Putin in the last 24 hours (28 Australians died in MH17).For once -and it a very rare event-I applaud Abbott's position.The big world talkfest ,the G20 meeting,is being held in Brisbane ,Australia in a few weeks.There is no way Putin should be allowed to attend.Russa has disqualified itself from a place at the table with civilised countries and all Russians should be ashamed of their country's appalling behaviour.Collectively they have blood on their hands.

18 Jul 2014

Le Mans Classic 2014-Part 2

The second batch of my Le Mans Classic photos.It really was rain and shine and in a few races cars were out on dry tyres when a storm cell swept in.They wisely red flagged a couple of races when this happened to allow the cars to make it back to the pits to change tyres for a restart.
As the Classic uses the full Le Mans circuit maintaining the marshalling and support services over the 24 hour period is a big logistics exercise.
For many drivers driving at Le Mans is the stuff of dreams but it is not for the feint hearted.Even with all the circuit improvements over the years -in particular the incorporation of big runoff areas--it is still potentially a very dangerous track because of the high speeds.
The car parks at the Classic are full of interesting cars.It would be quite easy to spend a few hours looking at the exotica in the car parks and it's definitely the same story with the paddock and club display areas.I am sure that some spectators at the Classic never saw any of the racing.
Even the local police entered into the spirit of the Classic this year with period police cars and period uniforms.That's the local polce chief below equipped with what I suspect may be a stuck on moustache but on the other hand it may well be real.Anyway good on him for being such a good sport and posing for photos.

16 Jul 2014

Le Mans Classic-2014 Part 1

The Le Mans Classic is run every two years .This year's was two weekend ago on the first weekend of July.It uses the full Le Mans circuit and takes place 4 weeks after the 24 hour race.The historic cars do not run for 24 hours.They run in grids-actually age classes- and have a series of 45 minute races over a 24 hour period which means that all the competitors see some day and night driving.
I have been to the last four Classics and despite difficult weather -it was hot and sunny on the Friday practice day and then wet and dry on Saturday and Sunday with a massive downpour on the Sunday morning- this year's was by far the best.It was much bigger than previously with an enormous number of spectators and many more car clubs participating in the displays .There were plenty of trade stalls selling automobilia particularly model cars which I have never collected or even really understood.There seemed to be bigger fields racing and it was much better organised and resourced.The hoteliers and restauranters of Le Mans and the surrounding towns must have loved it.They had two really big events within four weeks.
There were huge numbers of spectators from the UK- many arriving in classic cars.They obviously felt that a long weekend in France watching classic cars racing was much more exciting -and probably much cheaper-than watching the British Grand Prix at Silverstone which was held on the Sunday.
There are already plenty of LMC photos up on the web.Mine are dominantly static shots as the catch fencing really works against taking action shots from the spectator areas.The only good action shots I did get were taken from up on the spectator embankment at Tetra Rouge at the start of the Mulsanne straight where you can look down on the cars.The final shot  of the Porsche 917 was taken from this location.As usual I used my Leica X1-except for the action shot  where I used a new camera-more later- and the photos are straight from the camera jpegs.There are quite a few "arty" manipulated LMC photos out there and to my mind most/all of these are good photos ruined.In one case great photos ruined.
It was worth sitting in that little seat on that plane for 44 hours just to hear a Porsche 917 accelerating in the moist early morning air onto the Mulasnne Straight.Roll on 2016.

14 Jul 2014

La Belle France

Just back last night from two great weeks in France.Cycling in the Loire,the Le Mans Classic and then a week in Paris.Weather did not co-operate fully.Fine and hot for the first week but very mixed for the race weekend and really wet and quite cold for the week in Paris.The Le Mans Classic was superb-big and by far the best of the four I have been to despite the weather.Photos on the LMC to follow.
France was just wonderful but it always is.And I believe that it is getting better.I have visited it many times over the years and the old jokes about them being rude to foreigners and reluctant to speak English and willing to run you over as you crossed the street sadly used to hold true.But the French have changed and particularly the Parisiens.Now you can cross the street with confidence-but watch for those scooter riders-English is widely spoken-just as I finally have got a handle on French after all those years-and people are helpful,polite and even willing to have a chat.Quelle une difference!
And it was great to see so many smiling faces and so few ugly tattoos and studs and attitude.
I took quite a few photos-naturellement- but not as many as all those people killing millions of pixels at the Le Mans Classic and the DSLR toting tourist hordes in Paris.After another week there I am convinced that is now nigh on impossible to take an original photo of Paris.It's all been done before.Just look at the black and white postcards outside on the racks outside the souvenir shops.It's all been done-often in black and white and many years ago.
My humble attempt at an original Paris photo is above.That was the closest I came to originality in a week of Leica toting in Paris.
My trip was not all smooth sailing.Just when it looked like finishing without a hitch-apart from the weather that is-the complete check in luggage conveyor system broke down at Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1 on arguably one of the busiest days of the year.Result total chaos.It made Heathrow look like a monastery on a quiet night.Luggage everywhere and my A380 two hours late departing for Kuala Lumpur- not how you want to start a 22 hour flight- and as I write my luggage is still lost.
But I must say thanks to some of the wonderful French people I met and was lucky enough to photograph.
Starting at the top.Firstly the charming lady in the dressmaking shop in the little laneway in Chartres who mended the seam in my sweater which had come apart on the flight and who only charged me 3 euros.Madame you saved my life-I wore that sweater nearly everyday.
Secondly the very friendly Patron in a little bar Azey Le Rideau in the Loire Valley who served a very nice cold beer and who gave Patrick and I a great cycle route which we used.Thirdly the proud lady with her immaculate garden and window boxes also in Azey Le Rideau.Fourthly the cycle shop owner in Azey who rented us the bikes.It was a real old fashioned cycle shop which smelt of tyres and inner tubes and oil.And finally the wonderful man with dog having a smoke outside a quiet bistro in the heart of Paris a few hundred metres from the seething mass of tourists at Notre Dame Cathedral.
To you all thanks -- for the memories-and for letting me take your photos.
All Leica X1 photos.