Show and Shine People

It's all about practice, practice, practice.

On a blisteringly hot, cloud free day there was a Show 'n' Shine car meet at a local casino. I wanted to take the opportunity to capture the occasion as a learning project. I'd only decided one thing before heading to the show, that I'd shoot manual apart from focus. This was about thinking before releasing the shutter. Once on site it was obvious that I'd struggle with 'whiteout' as, even at 10.30am, the sun was busy bleaching everything it touched. 

Rather than capture cars as complete as possible I decided to shoot from one angle, around 45 degrees to the front, taking in a wheel and grille. Another set of images would be interiors from the nearside window, focussing on the steering wheel area. My final series would be street style and, that's what I'm showing here.

In terms of post, I've simply cropped and adjusted the jpegs rather than dive in to the RAWs. Learning is a gradual and iterative process and I wanted to keep things simple. The lighting was always going to be challenging, there's a lack of definition, the images are not as crisp as they would have been on a more overcast day. However, I stuck with manual to continue reacquainting myself with the shutter/aperture relationship. It's all good learning.

Changing the commute

I’ve recently changed the commute. The second car has gone and in it’s place is transit and a scooter. It’s been a mixed experience, but on the whole a good one.

After a year of driving to and from Richmond I decided that I’d have enough of the line-ups along the Mary Hill Bypass and to get across the Queensborough bridge. A change was needed. It’s amazing how quickly one’s perspective changes. My final UK job involved a two and a half hour each way commute, not getting home until around 8pm. After a year of travelling to Richmond, I’m fed up with travelling for around 1 hour. Actually, another factor in the decision was the cost of running a second car.

Kymco Frost scooter

The commute scoot. 175cc, good for 100kph (downhill, blah blah) and a great way to commute in the summer – a welcome break from transit. Despite the cost of fuel being around 2/3rds of UK prices, when the maintenance and insurance are added in, the whole 2 car thing becomes a financial drain, or maybe more of a dollar diversion as the funds could be spent, saved or donated elsewhere. However, I wasn’t expecting to make the change quite as soon as I did.

My employer is moving from Richmond to Vancouver in November of 2010 and this was always going to be the prompt to review my commute. One weekend in May I decided that I’d sell the 2nd car. As the car was a manual transmission (we were a bifocal family with black and silver Focus’s/Foci?) and let’s face it, manual transmission and North America are 2 terms that don’t sit together comfortably, my thought was that the car could take an age to sell. So, on a warm Saturday morning I took a few snaps, and the Focus was duly put up for sale via Craigslist.  I was not expecting to be car-less by the end of the weekend. First viewer, close to the asking price and that was it, no car.

So began a month of transit which became and still can be a slog. Life from Lesley to Loughheed or Braid Skytrain. Skytrain to 22nd St. Bus to work. The transit journey can be around an hour a a half, longer than by car, but at least I can sleep. During this time I developed a Plan B. Scoot.

Looking upstreamI’d actually ridden my Ducati to the office a couple of times and as much fun as it was, the journey home was very heavy on the clutch hand as traffic could be very busy through New West. Wouldn’t life be easier with a scooter, no clutch and very manoeuvrable. Having decided to go for it I found myself torn between a classic Vespa and the modern Kymco Frost. In the end, the Kymco won out as I couldn’t justify the Vespa price tag and I managed to find a year old Kymco for a good price.

So, I now have options. The scoot’s a real hoot and I’m smiling on the ride. Not only that, I’m exploring other routes to work to keep me off the highways. My recent find has been River Road in Richmond. On a sunny morning, or late afternoon, the ride along the bank of the Fraser is wonderful, peaceful, scenic and a word away from the bustle of Highway 91.

I’ve changed the commute and it’s actually for the better as I’m smiling more and I get the chance to stop and take pics like the ones below.

Rip off Canada

We recently had an issue with a door mirror on the car which led to a perfect example of how “rip off Britain” can be equalled by “rip off Canada”.

Unfortunately, whilst backing out of the garage, a door mirror was snapped from it’s mounting by someone other than myself. The car, a Ford Focus, has exceptionally cheap door mirrors in the North American market. Whereas the Euro models come with a hinged fitting, locally, the door mirrors are just mounted in a single moulded piece of plastic, which of course makes them very vulnerable to any impact.

So, what would be the cost of a replacement fitting? It was time to trawl the web. Surprisingly, most of the on-line sources were from south of the border. However, with a price of $40 US, I wasn’t complaining, even after the exchange rate adjustments.

I then thought that I may as well try a local scrap yard as the prices for used parts must be even better. Imagine the shock of being told that a used door mirror would set me back the princely sum of $125 Canadian. The guy at Ralph’s wasn’t bothered that I could source them on line for around a third of the price – take it or leave it.

Having recovered from the shock I wondered what the price of a new part would be so I phoned my local Ford dealer. A brand new item would be around $175 including taxes. The used fitting from Ralph’s was obviously a bargain!

Time to head back to the virtual world. Things became a little more awkward at this point. A number of suppliers south of the border would not ship international, so no delivery to Canada. I did find a couple of places that had a work around that doubled the price, however, it would still be less than buying used from a scrap yard.

How about Canadian on-line suppliers? Having got fed up being on hold for ages and only getting through to voice mail I finally spoke to a person at one supplier who advised that the mirror would have to come from their US warehouse and would be $111 US. So, that would be $111 for the $40 part then. Great.

Hmm, back to the drawing board. I then thought about checking out UK suppliers as the replacement fitting would be hinged, but I then remembered that the concave/convex issue would mean the mirrors would be the wrong way around. Ah, we have friends in Germany, maybe that would be the way to resolve the problem – right mirrors and hinged. Prices were certainly higher than the US part, but still not as expensive as Canada.

In the end and despite thinking it wouldn’t work the damaged fitting was super-glued back together and amazingly enough it’s holding out. Should I need to replace the part, I’ll probably head south for the day as I can probably still save money even after fuel, food etc.

So, Canadian consumers, why are you letting yourselves be ripped off like this?

British Cars at Van Dusen

It’s been a holiday weekend in BC as we celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria (born May 24 1819), the monarch on the throne when BC became a Province of Canada. Now in it’s 23rd year, a show featuring British cars is held at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens on the Saturday of the long weekend. Being a lover of most things automotive (with the exception of the previously mentioned Pontiac Aztek), I dragged the family off to the Gardens for the All British Field Meet. Although my first love is still Alfa Romeo, having recently rediscovered being English I wanted to take a look at what Vancouver could offer – I was not disappointed

There must have been 500+ vehicles on display covering so many long forgotten British marques that have been lovingly cared for or restored in British Columbia.

The array of old Triumph TR2’s through to TR8’s, Morgans by the shed load, E types aplenty, Jensens, Sumbeams, real MG’s and Mini’s and so on, all set in the beautiful grounds of the botanical gardens which is named after a local lumberman and philanthropist W J Van Dusen. What a spectacular show in wonderful surroundings, even to the extent of being slightly surreal as I listened to a brass band play ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’, surrounded by old British cars with the spectacular North Shore mountains appearing like painted movie scenery in the background.

Finally, a non-grainy video. Here’s the All British Field Meet at vandusen

Outside the gardens I had another really pleasant surprise. Not one but two Alfa’s, including a stunning 2600 Spider. Until now I’ve only seen a couple of more recent Alfa’s, so this was a real treat for me.

The Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider

In some ways, what really made the day was the weather. After a number of false starts, spring hit Vancouver big time with the temperature rocketing to around 30 degrees, in fact, it was almost too hot. I’m certainly not complaining though, it was an excuse to finally break out the shorts.

Reflecting on the day as a whole, it was indeed a strange day. I decided that I’d get up just before 7am local to watch the FA Cup final, so I had a very English start to the day. However, the day finished with a distinct Gallic feel as the family attended a farewell party for friends moving back to Quebec. English speakers were definitely in the minority, but that’s what living in the Lower Mainland seems to be about, one of great cultural integration, and that’s why living here is so interesting and enlightening. It’s amazingly humbling when one realises that one is the minority.