Photoessay: Museo Alfa, part III

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Continued from parts I and II

In the early days, there really wasn’t that much difference between the race cars and the road cars; often one and the same would be seen at Monza, Le Mans or Spa or the other endurance road courses. The predecessor to Formula One differed a little since those were purpose-built single seaters. But for the most part, there wasn’t anything like the massive differences we see today – even a high end sportscar like a 911 GT3 is still quire different from the actual GT3s that go racing; to say nothing of touring cars, NASCAR and rally – those are basically completely different cars that merely happen to share a deliberately similar looking body. I found the machinery from the early days of racing absolutely fascinating and thoroughly frightening at the same time: notice the lack of seatbelts, tiny brakes, minimal cockpit enclosure, those thin bias-ply radials that would be small on a Prius, and the seat made up entirely of the fuel tank (!). The roll bar is your head, protected by a a very impact-resistant pith helmet. Things got a little better later on, but that spare tire looks to be an unrestrained projectile in the event of a crash. Motorsport is still dangerous today, but nothing near as binary as it used to be. Either you were the champion, or you became one with your machine – permanently. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Museo Alfa, part II

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Continued from part I

I think of this set as being full of very distinctive details of a particular era – yet there is crossover and overlap and transition between them. Even though the continuity is present, there’s a very clear looping back to the historical cars after the late 80s/ early 90s – at this point we see a divergence. The exotics retain the volume of recent vehicles, but gain the curves, lines and surfacing of 40-50 years prior. The mass vehicles just start looking a little melted and lose that sharp definition of the Bertone-era; where Alfa is in the present day is yet another mix of those two: more definition, larger volumes, but also more adventurous curves. As a designer, it’s interesting to see these particular details evolve and get re-referenced from other cars in their history; also to see what was kept and in doing so, signals a brand’s particular identity. Sometimes the most unusual or distinctive elements land up reused in the most unexpected places. Plenty of food for thought here… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Museo Alfa, part I

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I had the opportunity to spend a day photographing the cars at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo just outside Milan. It wasn’t just the famous cars that were interesting – there you already sort of knew what to expect, so it was more a case of finding interesting angles. The real treasures were the ones you didn’t know about – the lines, the curves, the detailing all speaking to a time when a lack of mass production and regulation allowed for a lot more variety. Can you imagine a car that wasn’t symmetrical left to right today, due to hand beaten panels? Or with red front lamps? Coming from a time when it’s getting increasingly difficult to differentiate between one brand and another…let’s just say it was a refreshing change, and yes, they really don’t make them like they used to (rust jokes aside). MT

Part one of several, probably.

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, mostly the 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: Driver’s seat

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As a person who can spend hours shooting a single interesting car – having an entire museum full of dozens (possibly over a hundred, I didn’t count) of them made me both more excited than the proverbial kid in a candy store, but also highly anxious about potentially missing something or not really doing a particular line or detail justice. There was just so much to take in – nobody does car design quite like the Italians, and outside of Ferrari there’s probably no better representation of the diversity of vintage to modern style than Alfa Romeo. Clearly, something has been lost in the modern production process – it is understandably impossible to beat aluminium panels by hand over formwork at an industrial scale – but whatever automated process has replaced this, the lines of modern cars just can’t seem to replicate the understand elegance that continued up to about the late 60s. The 8C came very close, but clearly had compromises engineered in for safety, limitations of metal pressing etc. Don’t get me wrong, there are huge advantages to the modern production methods – such as symmetry (most of these cars were clearly NOT symmetric left to right, visible when standing at the front or rear centrelines) and interchangeability of parts – but there really was something special about the metal on show here. I initially went as a petrolhead and spent most of my time looking at the lines and proportions as a designer; to figure out exactly what it was in the ratios, angles and curves that make an object visually appealing – and moreover, if I could somehow apply that to watch design. For sure, it’s a much smaller object with much less external detailing and complex curves are significantly more difficult to model in CAD than regular shapes, but I’m pretty sure there’s something fermenting at a subconscious level. Time will tell…MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and my custom SOOC JPEG profiles.

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Photoessay: 250 GTO, part II

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Today’s post is a continuation of the virtual photography described in the last post; it would be almost impossible to do in the real world, much less in the matter of a few hours. But in the unlikely even I had access to such a car, and these locations…well, I’m honestly not sure I’d have produced things any differently. Sure, there’d be a studio setup of the type I’ve done in the past with the Cayman R, M2 and Z4; but that’s as much me making use of the resources to hand as anything else. All I suggest when viewing this set is suspend disbelief, and subject and locations aside – if you weren’t told these were simulated: would anything stand out as ‘not real’? Even if so, does it detract from the visual enjoyment at all? MT

Images were ‘shot’ with Gran Turismo Sport on the Playstation 4, and lightly edited in Photoshop with Workflow III.

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OT: A tale of two Porsches

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Earlier in the year, I opened discussion to the floor for suggestions around the quest for a different, tactile driving experience – a sort of cathartic break from the increasingly numb efficiency of modern cars. Most of the responses suggested that as usual, the answer was Miata; Miata is unfortunately not an easily accessible proposition in my country, and especially not a manual. For that matter, there are few manuals available outside the truly woeful econoboxes so bad that the dealers don’t even keep demo cars in stock (think the cheapest cars from the local manufacturers; so cheap that airbags and ABS are marketed as headline features). Needless to say, these did not prove to be pleasant motoring. What I did manage to find, at around the price of a new Honda Civic for the former, and a base 3-series for the latter – were two rather interesting Porsches.

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OT: Hobbies and diversions

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Photography for me started off as a diversion – just as it probably did for many of you. It was the ideal hobby for a busy corporate person: without predictable chunks of free time, looking for something piecemeal that could be satisfying in a ten minute gap or stretched to fill an unexpected day. It combined elements of unpredictability, reward for improvement in skill, as well as instant gratification (between instant results and gear lust). As I developed my skills and found other things I wanted too communicate, it turned into a tool to let me express ideas in a way that could be understood by others. And then it became both a calling and a career. But at some point in the last couple of years, it also became all-consuming – to the point that there was no longer any boundary between work and not-work, and thus between photography for creative fulfilment and photography (and related activities) for a living. Photography used to be a break that forced me to refocus my thoughts and allow for creative experimentation; inspiration would flow between different kinds of photography, different approaches for different subjects (i.e. client-subjects and personal-subjects) and different creative processes – photography and non-photography. But without the break: how does one you find inspiration?

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Photoessay: Livery

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Some color and geometry studies in detail from a GT3 race I attended earlier in the year; it’s been a very long time since I went to one of these things without a press pass and a long lens from the end of the field. But I did have pit garage access, which was nice; and compared to higher formulas the whole atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and nobody minds you shooting in the garages too much since the setups are all pretty much identical and there aren’t big dollars spent or at stake (relatively speaking, of course). It’s interesting just how much of the aerodynamic and mechanical details is camouflaged by the team liveries, though – just like all forms of advertising, the endless race to stand out by having ever more striking colours has resulted in a surprisingly homogeneous field where it isn’t easy to distinguish between some teams. It’s even worse when you have to cram a huge number of smaller sponsors on the car instead of one or two large ones. More than once, I had the feeling that I was watching some rather exotic birds of paradise – which I suppose is not a bad analogy for race cars in general… MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-120/4 VR and SOOC with my custom Z7 Picture Control profiles. I elected to go with the 24-120 on the FTZ adaptor instead of the 24-70S and 70-200/4 for a more convenient single lens solution.

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Off topic: For the joy of driving…

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Not so long ago, we’d all have laughed if you’d said hybrid and electric vehicles were the way of the future. I know I did; infrastructure being the main stumbling block, the other one simple physical resource requirements and handling (think of all those batteries and limited lifespans). Technological development is much less of a headache whenever there’s large-scale consumer spending involved; look at how fast we’ve gone from phones with buttons to touch everything – though I can’t help but wonder why small scale batteries are still so rubbish given that market must still surely be much larger than electric vehicles. Long story short, given the current state of legislation, misunderstandings of technology* and social media hysteria – internal combustion’s days are numbered. Even the EU has legislated a halt in combustion engines from 2030. I make no secret of the fact that I like cars. And honestly…the vast majority of these modern-produced things are not cars. Where does this leave us enthusiasts?

*Remember diesel? It was cleaner/more efficient then it wasn’t and now it’s non-existent. All in the space of five years. I know I miss 1200+km/tank range and filling up my car once a month…

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OT review: a thousand kilometers in the 2019 BMW M5

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A thousand kilometres (or five days, one long distance trip and some regular urban use) might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t that much time to get to know a car as complex and layered as the 2019 BMW M5, codename F90. It’s like a couple of hundred shots with a Hasselblad, or maybe an handful of tracks with a high end pair of headphones. A taste, an impression, nothing much more. I’m not a car reviewer by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I have the driving skills of somebody like Chris Harris; I merely have some interest and probably a bit too much obsession. For reference, I’m coming from a 2018 F87 M2 as my daily driver, on which I’ve barely passed the 12,000km mark and feel like I’m just about getting to understand it to the point of late night friendship terms, but not quite familial contempt. A description of the character in question thus follows.

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