25 May 2015

Early morning light



Two photos taken at dawn on the outskirts of Mandalay in Myanmar.I was an unusual sight for the locals-a westerner out so early with a camera in his hand.
For me it's a no brainer.It's the best time of the day to be out and taking photos. The light is soft.It is very quiet.The monks are scurrying off with their alms tins to prayer and a few men are wrapped up standing in the middle of the road having a quiet chat.I can almost smell the smoke from the wood fires.





More early morning photos from Myanmar-firstly a local market in full swing and the soft,golden light coming from the side gives highlighted edges to objects and people and transforms what would otherwise be an ordinary scene.Secondly a herdsman moving his animals along a dusty track.I was lurking in the trees feeling very conspicuous and waiting for the herd to get in the right position.


And in total contrast on the other side of the world in the old part of Salzburg in Austria -another early morning shot.
All photos Leica X1.

22 May 2015

Admired


A Porsche 356 Carrera-as rare as rocking horse droppings down here-being admired at Australian Rennsport  2013.

18 May 2015

Climb every mountain-the Schafberg Bahn



I'm really not into trains except cog railways that do the apparently impossible and climb very steep mountains.One of the best of these has to be the Schafberg Bahn which climbs the Schafberg from St Wolfgang on the Wolfgangsee near Salzburg in Austria.The little red train was apparently featured in The Sound Of Music-a film I have so far managed to avoid seeing in its entirety.
The view from the top of the Schafberg at nearly 2000 metres is  stunning.I have been up it twice-16 years apart -and luckily both times the weather was crystal clear and Julie Andrews was nowhere to be seen. If it was all smothered in cloud it would be a very different story I'm sure.
Whilst I was at the top of the mountain last year two Red Bull Dornier Alpha jets from the Red Bull Hangar 8 aircraft collection at Salzburg Airport flew past.When I say flew past they flew round the mountain and so I was looking down onto them.They were going too quickly and were too small to photograph.
The locomotive featured in the photos is steam powered and a relatively recent build and the boiler is oil fired which is much more convenient than coal.It still smells like a steam engine but without the soot and smut and all the hard work of shovelling coal into the firebox.There is still one original coal fired heritage locomotive on the railway which does a run once a week.
If you are anywhere near Salzburg the railway is really worth a visit but it is very popular so your best option is to catch the first train of the day as I did. Photos taken with a Leica X1-June 2014.





17 May 2015

The Australian Cabinet in wood

 I took this photo in Hanoi in 2005 on my Leica M6 and Ektachrome film.It was in a mouldering antique store and the figures are rather rough but I now realise that the carver had amazing prescience because he has in fact carved the 2015 Australian Government Ministers - the Cabinet.
Australians will immediately recognise the Prime Minister,Tony Abbott,by his signature red speedos and big ears standing in the back row on the right -where else?The childish Education Minister Christopher Pyne is also easy to spot. What a motley wooden mob they are.

14 May 2015

Up the coast




I have just spent a couple of days up on the mid N Coast of NSW visiting friends.The first,Peter,lives in the oddly named but beautiful Tea Gardens.
Peter is a F1 follower and in support of the previous story told me that he watched the Spanish Grand Prix at 10,00 pm last Sunday night but fell asleep after a couple of laps. He woke up later to find the leaders circulating in exactly the positions he had last seen.He surmised that he had fallen asleep for a lap or two. He was very surprised to quickly discover that the race only had two laps to run. He had been asleep for 90 odd minutes and not missed a thing.
From Peter's I drove north about 100kms upto another friend who lives in an equally beautiful but isolated settlement called Bluey's Beach. Blueys is set in the Myall Lakes National Park and is surrounded by national parks and lakes and spectacular scenery but it really is isolated. There is virtually no mobile phone reception-just a very weak signal from one network,Telstra.The permanent population is very small and it is a ghost village of holiday homes outside the holiday periods.
The first two photos were taken at sunset on the nearby Wallis Lake. On the eastern seaboard of Australia there are few opportunities to see the sunset over water but the Myall Lakes area is one of them. I try not to do these cliché shots but I could not resist these two.
 Now the bottom photo is pretty ordinary except that you can clearly see the outline of Australia's favourite bird,a kookaburra,sitting in the tree. It was waiting to see if I was going to open a bag of chips or cookies so it could make a raid. It was disappointed.
The kookaburra is a member of the kingfisher family and is a fat friendly looking bird with a total unique call- a cackling laugh. Sounds like a fun bird? Well not at 4.30 am as happens around my home when whole groups of them start their maniacal laughing.
The last photo was taken yesterday afternoon and shows Bluey's Beach.There are literally hundreds of kilometres of similar surfing beaches along the coast of NSW.

13 May 2015

A Spanish yawn

The Spanish F1 Grand Prix was run last Sunday.Another procession.A long Spanish yawn.Again a Mercedes team one/two although this time Rosberg beat Hamilton.Vettel in a Ferrari came a distant third.The first six places were taken by cars with either Ferrari or Mercedes engines.The rest-Honda and Renault powered -were not even in sight.
Vettel definitely made the right decision to leave Red Bull and go to Ferrari this year.Alonso must be in despair that he left what was a dysfunctional Ferrari team to join McLaren only to see Ferrari get their act together and McLaren to be in chaos.
Ron Dennis, McLaren supremo, is a difficult man at the best of times.Now he must be impossible.The Honda power unit is way off being ready to race.He must have thought he had made a smart move enticing Honda back into F1 as they supplied the power for one of Mclaren's purple patches in the late 80s.But this time Honda is all over the show.I cannot help wondering whether Honda is just not the same company as it was then.It was sharp and at the cutting edge then but now it seems to have caught the Japanese disease- slow and conservative.
The atmosphere at Red Bull must also be toxic.They are not used to being backmarkers.Even Aussie Daniel Ricciardo must be finding it difficult to keep smiling as he qualifies way back on the grid.According to Mark Webber Red Bull pay Renault 17m Euro per engine.Gulp.Not good value this year.
The ridiculous rules on engine development /changes are restricting Renault's and Honda's ability to catch up Mercedes -even if they knew how.
Back in1984 McLaren dominated F1 winning 14 of the 18 races.It was another purple patch period.They were powered by 1.5 litre V6 turbocharged TAG Porsche engines.The engine was financed by the Saudi Arabian owned TAG group-who are still major shareholders in Mclaren-and designed and built by Porsche.The Porsche name on the engine is very small.Pictured below is one of the engines in the old Porsche Museum back in 2004.
Porsche did have their own total cock up F1 experience in 1991 when they designed a V12 for the new 3.5 litre rules for the Japanese sponsored Footwork Arrows team.The engine was designed by Porsche's engine guru Hans Metzger who had designed some of Porsche's great engines including the legendary flat 12 fitted to the amazing 917 sports racing car.However he must have lost his touch by 1991 as the V12 was a stinker-way overweight -45kg heavier than the competitors- way too big and way down on power.By mid 1991 Arrows and Porsche parted company.I could not find an example of the V12 in the old or new Porsche Museums but I guess that is not surprising.


11 May 2015

Myanmar in a flash


Time for time out from motor sport photos with a complete change of pace and scene.
I recently came across this photo I took in Myanmar. I had overlooked this gem amongst the many I took there.It was taken with the Leica X1.

I hardly ever use flash in my photography but this was such a contrasty scene with the dark faces in the shadow and the very bright sun on the stonework of the temple that no amount of exposure juggling was going to give me a usable photo. So I used the very small built in flash unit on the X1 to give me fill in light on the mother and son. The X1 flash has a very low output and even after using it the faces were still very dark so I have had to do some work in Lightroom to bring them up.

The small smudge of powder above the child's eye is the remains of an application of wood "dust" which is used as a sunscreen and a cosmetic.

I've found a few more overlooked gems from Myanmar as well as this one and I will put them up in the coming weeks.


8 May 2015

Long lens action



Three superb action photos from Peter taken at last month's Donington Historic Festival in the UK.
How does he take shots this good? He uses a full frame Canon camera, a top of the range long lens costing as much as a decent used car,superb framing and a lot of skill and presumably a Photographer's track access pass.
The Lotus in Camel livery may well be the same car I shot nearly 30 years earlier at the Australian Grand Prix -see previous story on wide angle shots.
Thanks Peter.

6 May 2015

Wide


Blog photo contributor Peter took this photo from the Tate Modern in London looking across the Thames to the City of London last week.It was taken on a Canon fullframe with Canon's new wonder lens the 11mm-24mm which has received rave reviews.The lens is seriously expensive-nearly Leica expensive-and Peter had a clearout of old Canon lenses to trade in against it.The price does seem justified as it goes really wide with superb sharpness.The distortion is not for everyone but it is much better than the effect from a fish eye lens which gives that weird circular look.I was surprised to see that fish eye lenses are still being offered by most lens manufacturers as you very rarely see photos taken with them nowadays.I had a fish eye lens long ago but usually cropped the photos to make them look less fishy.
Here are a couple of fish eye shots from my archives and finally a shot taken from the Bathurst 12 hours this year taken with another superb Canon wide angle lens at 20mm.







5 May 2015

Oh what a beautiful morning


After two weeks of awful weather including the Big Storm and torrential rain last weekend we deserve a break and today looks as if it is really going to deliver.A promised top temperature of 27ÂșC and sun will start drying everything out.Photo taken at Terrigal Beach 6.15am Tuesday. Leica X1 photo.

3 May 2015

Two wonderful films

It's been raining here for days.As if the big storm of two weeks ago was not enough we now have had torrential rain for days.The garden is waterlogged and everywhere is damp.I have been suffering from cabin fever.I hate being confined indoors.
However one benefit to this awful weather is that I have seen two superb films in the last few days.The first was a Russian film-Leviathan.It is very dark and sinister but the acting and photography are quite extraordinary.It has been widely acclaimed and I would say that it is one of the best films I have ever seen.It has only just been released here in Australia and it is not being screened widely but if you can find it go and see it.It will make you despondent about Russia and the Russians but you will leave the cinema in awe of the skill of the filmmakers and the actors.

The second film was Testament of Youth -a British film based on the memoirs of Vera Brittain describing her experiences in the First World War.Again this film is exquisitely crafted.The photography is superb and I believe that it was shot on film as it has a filmlike look about it.The director uses many close shots and a wide open wide aperture lens so there is very limited depth of field. The acting is wonderful - particularly the lead role played by a Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.The film is very harrowing and moving.It has received excellent reviews locally and I saw it in a packed cinema.As the credits rolled no one moved.The audience was numb and shaken by an extraordinary film.
It has just been released in Australia.I presume that it has already been released in the UK but I see that it is not due to be released in the US until mid-June.See it on a big screen if you can.

The Testament of Youth features Oxford University with some scenes around the Sheldonian Theatre.Sadly Oxford nowadays has become a sort of Disneyland Academia with streets full of tourists and souvenir shops selling T-shirts with Oxford University emblazoned across the front and all manner of Chinese made tat.
I used to live near Oxford and for a number of years I worked in Cowley-a suburb of Oxford.The city was still charming then but sadly I did not photograph it in that period.
Then when I moved to Australia I used to travel back to the UK on business very regularly.In those days all the flights from Australia used to arrive at Heathrow at daybreak.There's nothing like sitting on a plane for 24 hours and then arriving at a chaotic Heathrow first thing and then getting a rental car and heading off onto the M4.Harrowing best describes it particularly if it was raining and it was a weekday morning. In later years the company used to send a driver to meet me and so I could doze but when I was still driving myself if it was a Sunday I would head across country to Oxford and park in the centre and try and find somewhere selling a strong coffee-an almost impossible task- and I would take a walk and enjoy a wonderful experience.
On one such Sunday morning in 1989 I flew in on a Singapore Airlines 747-it was always Qantas or Singapore in those days -and picked up one of Mr Hertz's finest and was in the centre of Oxford just by the Sheldonian Theatre by 8.30am.It was a beautiful day and I had my Leica M4P loaded with Kodachrome (ISO 25) when I spotted this local cycling past the row of houses.It was a grab shot and I did not have time to adjust the shutter speed but to my mind the slight blurring of the cyclist adds to the photo.




1 May 2015

Barn treasures



 At the back of a shed on a farm in deepest NSW I came across this once sporty Morris (?) Special sadly too far gone to be restorable.
I am still hoping to find a Bugatti in a barn or even a vintage motorcycle.A friend found a very valuable and complete Ralt racing car under rolls of chicken wire in a machinery shed in the bush so they are still there along with the redback spiders and the snakes and a helluva lot of dust.

Still crazy after all these years..

Q.How old does a grand old cat have to be before she stops doing silly things like climbing into an open kitchen drawer and falling asleep there? A -at least 14.

Meanwhile junior-by a few months -was quietly dozing in a sensible place after reading the latest Motor Sport from cover to cover

And talking of crazy things this week's silliest local story comes from yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald -Tech section-which reported that two Qantas passengers were annoyed that their new Apple watches did not fit into the Qantas scanner when they were attempting to scan their electronic boarding passes which were displaying on their watches. Poor dears.How did they get through the day? I presume that they had to exert themselves and take out their iPhones-iPhone 6s of course-and scan them.Such an effort. So thoughtless and backward of Qantas.
The passengers, of course, gave their names in case any of their friends did not know that they already had their Apple watches.This sounds like yet another reason -amongst dozens-not to own an Apple watch.
But talking of watches I have just had my very faithful watch serviced by the factory and it came back yesterday with a new and disappointing face and the service cost me more than an Apple watch! More on my loss of face another day.


30 Apr 2015

One man's junk is another man's treasure....

Photo by Patrick taken at  RetroAuto in Paris in January.Does anyone buy this stuff nowadays? I guess the answer has to be yes. Nothing surprises me.

28 Apr 2015

Formula 1 edging closer to the cliff edge



There will be no German F1 Grand Prix this year. So in the most automotive minded nation on the planet not enough spectators are interested in F1 and/or are prepared to pay the exorbitant ticket prices necessary for the race organisers to run the race and pay the F1 owners their licence fee.
If that is not bad enough the rumour is that there will be no Italian F1 GP next year for the same reason.There is already no French F1 GP.  Formula 1 without an Italian Grand Prix at Monza is like the Vatican without the Pope. Unthinkable.
How much longer can this go on?
Formula 1 is very close to falling off the edge of the cliff. It may well go over soon.
A valid question is whether big time, big budget motor sport is finished as a mass spectator sport. It's not just F1 which is suffering. NASCAR spectator numbers are also way down in the US.Yet the Goodwood Revival, the Le Mans Classic and Le Mans 24 Hours are drawing big crowds. The answer surely is that the spectators want a real show.They want to see the cars,they want to be entertained and above all else they want value for money. All three events are absorbing-there is lots to see and do. Watching them on TV is either not possible or not as absorbing. You can buy a quite passable mobile phone - even an iPhone- for the price of admission and a grandstand seat for an F1 race.Less than two hours of processional racing and it's over and you cannot get within a bull's roar of the cars or the drivers.
Photo above taken by me at Brands Hatch in 1968. The race was over and they were clearing up. You got really close the action in those days- that's the track on the other side of the paling fence- and you did not pay a fortune to see it. It will never be like that again but that is not an excuse to screw the punters.