Friday, May 21, 2010

It's the Little Things

I like it when I find an answer to a question I wasn't really asking, and it's happened to me twice in the last couple of weeks. It's usually something that I'll wonder about when I have no way of finding out the answer, and then forget about by the time I'm sitting in front of a computer with the whole internet in front of me, just begging to give me some answers.

Wayne Patterson warming the rear tyre on his Ducati at the Perth Motorplex

The first time, was when I was browsing an American hot rod forum, the HAMB, and came upon a thread discussing desmodromic valve actuation and it's applications. I had been wondering for some time, just why it was that Ducati motorcycles had such a characteristic rattle at idle, and it turns out that they use a desmodromic valve system. That is, instead of a spring to push the valve closed, they use a second rocker arm that pushes it closed in much the same way that it is pushed open, just that it pushes up instead of down. In earlier days, these systems were much more prevalent than today, as early valve spring materials did not support engines running at the high rpm's that we now expect from performance motors. Desmodromic systems of the time had their own pitfalls, but offered enough benefits for them to be fairly widely used in the performance and motorsport arena. Today, the only major manufacturer still using a desmodromic type valve actuation system is Ducati, who seem to have ironed out most, if not all, of the bugs in the system.

The second time I had that feeling of "oooohhhhh.... so THAT's what that's all about" was yesterday, as I was sitting at my dentists waiting for an appointment. I don't normally read the magazines in waiting rooms, as there's usually not much that grabs my attention, however yesterday I decided to have a rifle through the pile and see what was on offer. After pushing the gossip rags to one side, and hunting around some more, I found an issue of Sophisticated Traveller, the Australian Financial Review's travel insert, that contained an article on California's Mission Trail. Hidden in that article, was the answer to my question "What is so special about El Camino Real?" We had noticed last time we were in the USA, that one of the street names that keeps popping up in a number of different towns was El Camino Real, and we weren't sure why, however, at the time, while intriguing, it wasn't intriguing enough for us to actually type the words into Google and go looking for an answer, but now I've got one, and I intend to share it with anyone who's gotten this far.

Babe's Muffler Man stands tall on The Alemada, part of the current Route 82, the designation for El Camino Real from San Francisco to San JoseAs you may already know, long before California was part of the United States of America, the Spanish pushed north from Mexico and established a series of 21 missions each approximately 1 days ride apart, at the same time, the Russians headed south from Alaska, as far as San Francisco, but that's another story. The Spanish missions spread from San Bruno in the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico, up to Mission San Francisco in Sonoma, California. The track that joined these missions together was known as El Camino Real, which translates to either The Royal Road, The Royal Highway or The Kings Highway, depending on who translates it. From 1683 until 1912, El Camino Real was an unpaved road, initially marked by yellow flowers from mustard seeds sprinkled along it's length by the padres who traveled it, but in 1912, the state of California decided to start paving this historic roadway. Over the years that followed, El Camino Real has become one of Calfornia's busiest non-Interstates.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Perth at Night - The Haunted House

On Friday night, a group of us went out to take some night photos at an abandoned house north of Perth.

Well, Hello There

There are a couple of stories about this place that suggest it may be haunted, but we didn't see any evidence of that this night. It is however, fairly well run down and there's a fairly constant stream of visitors, some just wanting to look around, some wanting to skate in the empty swimming pool and some come to paint on the walls. Of course, there are some who come to drink, take drugs or trash the place, but we didn't encounter any of those while we were there.

There is literally no ambient light here at night, except for the moonlight. that means that all of these shots were taken with longer exposures, with the camera mounted on a tripod. They also all used off camera flash for additional lighting, varying from a couple of low powered pops for the close up work to running around firing flashes from a number of different angles trying to illuminate every nook and cranny (and even then, still missing some).

Twenty Eleven with Star Trails

We're already planning more visits to this location, as the constantly evolving nature of the artwork is going to ensure that there will be new, interesting things to photograph for a long time to come.

You can check out the full set of photos from the night shoot at the Haunted House in the galleries over at LandBarge.com.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Without a doubt, when it comes to movie cars, some of the coolest cars come from the Batman franchise. The latest in this line up is the Tumbler, from the Christopher Nolan directed films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

The Tumbler on display outside Armadale Auto Parts in it's last official public appearance

Only four full size vehicles were built for the movie, but at least one collector from Japan was determined to get his hands on a Tumbler. In order to do so, he enlisted the help of a couple of guys from Perth, Western Australia, best known to many for their replicas of the Interceptor from the Mad Max films and if you head over to their website, you can check them out for yourselves.

The nose of the Tumbler is reminiscent of the star of the Predator moviesBuilding this replica has been a four year project for Grant Hodgson and Gordon Hayes of Mad Max Unlimited, and now that it's almost over, they have no plans to make another Tumbler. While they've certainly proven it's possible, the complex panel work involved has been a lot more time consuming than expected, although not without it's rewards. The Tumbler replica has already been featured in one national magazine, and will soon be featured in one of the biggest modified car magazines in Australia. It's too late to catch a glimpse of this car on Australian soil, as it's leaving for Japan very soon, but it will be on display in a privately owned museum over there, along with some of Grant and Gordon's other work. If you speak Japanese, or just want to look at the pictures, here's the website of the museum that commissioned this replica.