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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OT review: the 2018/9 BMW M2, midterm

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I make no secret of the fact that I’m a bit of a petrolhead; at least to the extent possible in Malaysia given the heftiness of our taxes and limited market affordability leading to a fairly uninspiring range of choices for the motoring enthusiast. That’s partially offset by affordable petrol and lax speeding enforcement, but given the state of traffic in Kuala Lumpur – the opportunities to enjoy it are few and far between. Nevertheless, I’ve often made my transportation choices emotionally driven rather than rational; the last time I did the latter, it was competent but not very fun. My options boiled down to either something completely impractical but fun (like a Lotus Elise) but cheap enough to afford a second family car where I would spend most of my time (and thus itself have to be tolerably interesting) – or something that could do double duty and have four seats (but not necessarily four doors). Some of you may recall I had a Z4 some time back. It turns out the limits of the car weren’t that high, no matter what one did to the underlying oily bits – there remained this delayed feeing to the steering that felt too indirect and vague for my liking. And whilst the 2.0T motor put out a healthy ~300bhp at the crank after tuning and on the right fuel, there was always a feeling of fragility given how often it would knock if not on RON 98 or RON 100. Fast forwarding a bit though several sensible diversions, I arrived at the M2 after a) waiting a very long time for a manual transmission and giving up, and b) somewhat regretting the F56 Mini Cooper S I purchased previously.

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Photoessay: Carflections, Lisbon

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This post is probably going to read as odd to a lot of people, and I apologise in advance if any local Lisboans are offended by it.

During the week or so I spent in Lisbon, one thing kept nagging at me: what is the ‘essence’ of the city? After a lot of walking around, I came to three observations: firstly, there were a lot of cars – especially for an ‘old’ city with narrower streets and lots of elevation changes. Secondly, ornate architecture, some in good repair, some not. Finally, a surprising absence of people – I’d expected more inhabitants, but as it turns out, population contraction and economics issues have meant that there is far more real estate available than people to fill it, let alone people to buy it. If Lisbon were viewed from space by another species, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that more than many other cities – except perhaps LA – that the dominant species was the car. And here we have the genesis of this photoessay, which I personally feel was quite representative of Lisbon. Visually, I feel the juxtaposition between classical/hard/strong/colorful buildings and more organic, curved and ‘cleaner’ cars is quite interesting; there’s a sort of flow between them that is suggestive of water and progression of time. MT

This series was shot with a Hasselblad H5D-50c with various lenses, a Leica Q 116 and processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III

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Photoessay: People and cars, Havana

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In the modern age, the car is a machine, a tool, something utilitarian. Features are added to meet regulations or to make you spend your money on something slightly better than what you had, or so Brand A can win a spec sheet comparison against Brand B. There’s very, very little soul; whatever little there is has to be engineered in. I don’t think this is the case with cars that are 50, 60, even 70+ years old; even if they had no soul to begin with, over the years they’ve certainly acquired patina, and with it, a history.

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