(my favorite) Car Photo of the Year.

Car Photo of the Year

I (try to) post a “car photo of the day” at least once a week 😉 through the year for all my car guy friends to guess, talk about, tell stories, whatever. I figured I’d use one of the last days of the year to post my favorite photo of 2007.

This is Philippe Reyns’ Jaguar XKSS.

Those of you that have followed along with my vintage rally stories over the years know that I am passionate about photographing cars, but I never really talk about HOW I do it. Here is a glimpse of what happens on the other side of the camera for a shot like this…

I took this photograph while hanging out the passenger door of the 65E on the fourth day of the Going To The Sun Rally last September. I have always had a serious attraction to D-type Jaguars and being in their presence is magical. I think I took a zillion photos of the two XKSS’ at the rally this year – most of them while sitting still. The morning we left Banff the light was just perfect and I prodded Shaun to drive fast and catch somebody so I could get some great pics. Shaun drives my car too slow. 😉 Thankfully Philippe & Francoise caught US as as we climbed a long grade out of Alberta and towards British Columbia. Through some frantic hand waving and gestures I made it clear that I wanted to “hopscotch” the cars… passing then re-passing each other while I took photos. Philippe instantly understood my intentions and performed wonderfully. In a series of two or three passes I was able to fire off a dozen or so shots. The light was better as we passed the XKSS, than when he passed us. I was really looking for a low & behind shot of the diminutive Jaguar, but in the end it was this close up frontal 3/4 view that provided the best image.

At no time was I able to look through the viewfinder when I took these photos. I set up the camera, and held onto it as best I could, and at full arm’s length operated the shutter while doing my best to point the lens at the subject… as we passed it. I knew the shots I was looking for even before a subject car arrived, so the camera was set up: wide-angle lens, set to auto-drive, strap wrapped around my wrist with enough slack to move the camera body around in my hand, but not enough for it to get away should i lose my grip. As we approached the subject from behind I would open the car door with my left hand, and slide my right hand and camera out the bottom, hold the door with my left hand and depress the shutter with my thumb as I craned the lens toward the car as we passed. As we slid back into our lane I’d pull my hand & cam back in the car and raise up to a kneeling position facing backwards. As the subject car passed us I’d shoot with my right arm held as high up as I could, with the camera pointing at the subject. I’d be holding onto the luggage rack with my left hand. I have the seatbelt wrapped around my legs and butt to keep me in the car. I’d sit back down then signal Shaun when I was ready for him to pass for the next shots.

I don’t have professional gear… just an old Olympus C-5050Z camera. I have a wide-angle adapter lens I bought that screws on the front. I’m not a gear snob really… I shot for years with a 1.3 megapixel little consumer camera. The primary reason I picked this one (back in 2003) is the ability to manually override the controls. I like a little blurring in my moving car images, and most digicams do their best to freeze the action rather than blur it. This image would be dull if that wheel were frozen in place like the car was parked! As it is, the knock-off is really spinning. The tire is a blur. With this camera I can slow it just a tad to get the look I want. Beyond that… who cares about the gear! Great images are about composition, light, and subject… the equipment used is irrelevant. The best photo I ever took in 1999 was with a cheapo, low quality 640×480 camera. (it has an almost impressionist painting look to it… I love that photo!) Your brain is the tool, not the camera. But I digress.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking these photos. I especially love this photo. Earlier this year I had an enlargement made of this and mailed it to Philippe & Francoise. This “webified” version is rife with compression artifacts, but trust me when I say, it looks great on paper.

It was a privilege to meet the Reyns’ and have them share this wonderful car with me. Truly a highlight of my life… a boyhood wish come true.

I can’t wait for 2008 an what photo opportunities await us all!

Sports Illustrated article from 1966: Steve McQueen reviews cars

The King of Cool in a really cool cat.

Have a look here.

Steve McQueen, the King of Cool, test drives eight of the best GT cars of the era at Riverside Raceway.

A Jaguar E-type 2+2 (now considered to be the ugly duckling of the series, but at the time a very popular car), an Aston-Martin DB6, a Ferrari 275 GTS, an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, a Porsche 911, a Mercedes 230sl, a Corvette Sting Ray, and a 427 Cobra.

It is an interesting read, and ironically not much has changed in 41 years! The Europeans still make better cars. Better handling, better looking, better driving cars… while America produces sloppy handling crap (with the sole exception of the Corvette.)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

Note that he also talks quite a bit about his XK-SS. An enjoyable read, and a fascinating glimpse into the past!

My Xmas Gift

Along with the analog-to-digital theme of the past few days, I received a USB turntable for Xmas. I’ve brought a box (one of many!) of old LPs to work and I’m running the conversion process in the background while I work. It is such a joy to hear all these old, obscure albums again! So far I’ve focussed primarily, and quite ironically, on my vast collection of early electronica. Very old Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre LPs.

Today I am finally hearing all of The Concerts In China again! It is as amazing as I recall. It is like I’m back in 1982.

In the height of the Napster craze I was able to snag a few tracks, and since then I’ve (re)purchased a few of JMJ’s albums off the iTunes Music Store… but TCIC and Rendez-Vous, two of my favorites have yet to be released there. (Obscure Chuck Fact: I traveled to Houston specifically to experience the “Rendez-Vous” concert… along with 1.5 million other people… to this day my parents thought it was to visit them… if they only knew. 😉 )

I’m listening as I capture, and right now is the sublime “Fishing Junks at Sunset”… I’m in heaven.

Family Treasures

Mary Adams, Oregon 1940

I’m spending a little holiday downtime taking a collection of my father in law’s old 35mm slides and making digital copies of them to distribute to family members. It is mostly pictures of Sue’s family life & adventures in east Africa in the late 60s when her dad was working for the UN’s FAO. Mixed in are plenty of photos of Oregon in the 50s and 60s. This one above caught my eye though as it is clearly different than the rest. It is a Kodachrome slide, but the mount is made of brown kraft paper and is very thin. One side has a red border around it with “KODACHROME” in Futura type.

Handwritten on it is a note, “Orluz, 1940”

From the position of the Three Sisters mountains on the horizon I’d place this photo somewhere west of Terrebonne in Deschutes County, Oregon. Somewhere around here… near Lower Bridge perhaps. But I could be wrong, who knows that could be Mt. Jefferson from the East… it has been a while since I was in central Oregon on a clear day. 😉

It is clearly the oldest photo in the whole bunch, and shocking to see a color image from that time.

SUV drivers are Idiots


There is a discussion over on the Jag-Lovers.org E-type mailing lists about SUVs and how much damage they can do to small cars. I’ve always said that I’ll meet my death under a GMC Yukon being driven by a latte-sipping, cell-phone yakking soccer mom who runs a red light. SUV owners think that by driving some hulking monster of a vehicle that they are somehow “safe”… in reality they are just shoving the risk down everyone else’s throat. What would be minor fender-benders become dream-destroying disasters for those around them. You can not change the laws of physics. Your SUV can not stop as well as a car. Your SUV can not corner as well as a car. Your SUV can not handle as well as a car. Your SUV will do shocking damage to cars when you are an idiot and think that somehow the laws of physics do not apply to you.

I don’t relish >$3.00 a gallon gasoline but if it gets morons out of these road barges sooner rather than later then bring it on.

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