11.18.2012

Saw these things on my way to work last night.

So, I was working the evening shift for the Visual Science Lab last night. I checked into the lab, took an iodine tablet just in case I'd been exposed to any random radiation during the course of the day (the Homeland Security people are flying planes filled with radiation detectors over the city to  try to measure pinpoint hot spots that may be linked to terrorism aimed at the big event) and then grabbed my job sheet from the dispatcher's desk. I drew hazardous duty. My assignment was to brave downtown with the projected 300,000 Formula One guests and then do photography for a private investment bank. I left the studio an hour earlier than I usually would because I was concerned about traffic and parking. I needn't have bothered because there was no traffic, plenty of parking and a number of half empty restaurants and bars right in the middle of downtown. The hordes? Many fewer than a typical day at South by Southwest. The one thing that was different was all the cool little cars being displayed at some of the local venues. This one (above) is kind of round-y and reminded me of a Volkswagen Bug. I might look into getting one as a run around or delivery car for the Visual Science Lab. I haven't seen a dealer yet in Austin so I'm a little hesitant about committing----but if they're a bit cheaper than a VW I might just get one. And maybe one for Ben as well. They are really cute.

I didn't think I'd be able to get in the door at Caffe Medici since all I'd been hearing for weeks was that 300K people would be arriving into the downtown area with bags of money ready to spend on everything from coffee to mink lined, diamond studded cowboy boots. According to the owner of Austin's premier coffee shop it had not been a particularly busy day. Most of the seats and tables were open even though the day's festivities at the big track had been over for hours. The few out of towners were huddled outside huffing and puffing on their cigarettes.

I photographed these artfully arranged flowers in front of the W Hotel. Yes, the Formula One Grand Prix is tomorrow but there are still vacancies today. Just give them a ring. Whatever. The flowers were nicely arranged over an array of LED panels. They looked cool. And stayed cool.  I made the photos (Above and Below) with a Sony Nex 7 camera and an older, Olympus Pen FT 40mm 1.4 lens. I think it's a lovely lens. I've stopped believing in the magic of focus peaking for wide open high speed lenses and prefer to confirm focus by hitting the magnify buttons a few time....

I finished my assignment before 10pm and headed back across downtown to the area where I'd parked the VSL staff car. Many of the streets were blocked off. I expected (based on the press speculation that the elite of EU car racing would be in attendance) that I would see dazzling glamorous beauties in the latest fashions accompanied by men who dressed more like James Bond than Homer Simpson but it was not that way. The whole milieu resembled mostly the 1990's street carnivals in San Antonio that spring up around that city's Fiesta. Lots of Kettle Corn and vendors selling cotton candy. An impromptu outdoor beer garten with the usual assortment of wide characters wearing ubiquitous car oriented Members Only style jackets over their XXL logo'd white t-shirts.

I headed back to my car, less than a quarter mile walk from downtown, and was pleased to find both that it was still there and intact and, that it was on a street with dozens and dozens of open parking spaces. I'm sure the race on Sunday will be a lot of fun for those attending. But downtown was comparatively a ghost town. If you want to see what crowded looks like you need to come to a home grown event like any Halloween evening on Sixth St.

Added to on Sunday evening: Here's the first news story about the economic impact of the race on local, downtown businesses:

http://www.statesman.com/news/sports/f1-boon-and-bust-for-businesses/nS9SF/

It was my intention to spend part of all three days downtown documenting the crowds but after my direct observations on Friday evening it was pretty clear to me that the only excitement was at the track and that the expected boon to the local economy was anything but. I chose to stay home and read a good book.  So this is the European version of NASCAR? Right....

36 comments:

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Hmmm yes, that small orange car looks nice. I wonder if it's also as reliable as a Beetle, or as my Toyota Corolla? Might get one for Mitchie, my wife, for when I take the Toyota to work.

I watched the race on TV, hoping to see a bit more of Austin. But no, cowboy boots and Ennio Morricone music was pretty much all the TV staff could associate with "Texas". Austin? I don't think that any of them even really knew where they were. "This is good for Austin", said some American celebrities when interviewed, but it's horrible to hear that even that is not the case.

Forgive us the dumb ones - not every European is like that.

Alex said...

"(the Homeland Security people are flying planes filled with radiation detectors over the city to try to measure pinpoint hot spots that may be linked to terrorism aimed at the big event)"
You are kidding, arent you? Just checking, you never know.

And I must admit, outside this blog (and being not a f_1 fan), my associations with Texas in general are quite different, too.

Lanthus Clark said...

Those cute orange cars get terrible mileage and their after sales service sucks. I returned mine to the dealer after a week.

Anonymous said...

Kirk,

Do you have any idea how rare the Veyron is? VW used it as an engineering exercise and it is estimated by some that it cost the company something in the neighborhood of $5m to build a car that sold for about $1.5m. The final version was built for a run on the world speed record for production automobiles and was featured on the BBC show "Top Gear". A VW engineer drove it to a top speed of just under 270 MPH as I recall it. The tires, according to Top Gear, cost 20,000 Pounds and needed replacement after the speed run.

Here's the Wikipedia on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugatti_Veyron

Wiliam Walker said...

No, NASCAR is the American version of F1.... ;)

Craig Yuill said...

Kirk, your experience doesn't surprise me. I visited Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and live in Vancouver, which hosted the 2010 games. In both cases, in spite of fears of massive crowds and horrendous traffic congestion, you'd have never known there was a major international sporting event taking place. Everything pretty much seemed normal, except in areas immediately around venues where an event was taking place. I'm glad you were able to get about your business without too much hassle. I love the shots you posted.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog on a more or less regular basis, which I find quite enjoyable. But this is the first article you have written where I get the impression from your tone that you are an American through and through...an underlying distain of all things european, not quite Umerican!

Noons said...

Anonymous, here is a link to wikipedia that might help you grasp reality:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satire

Noons said...

Much more important than all that F1-related nonsense:
- why are you off focus peaking?
I'm still in two minds about going for a f-p or a magnify-only EVIL, all info is good!

Anonymous said...

+1

I generally really enjoy your blog, but this comment just doesn't sit right with me:

"So this is the European version of NASCAR? Right...."

Indy car racing is the American version of Formula 1, NASCAR is something else. And what you are observing is not European; it is American apathy in reaction to an event which is tremendously popular in many countries all over the world. If few people are enthusiastic about it in the States (or in Austin), then don't host it. Life is too short and all that. But don't knock something you don't get.

Kirk Tuck said...

Not Kidding. Reported on the local news.

Kirk Tuck said...

Yes, that part of the blog was tongue in cheek. Aware of the costs and attributes of the Buggatti.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea which alternate reality you are inhabiting.

Kirk Tuck said...

I love most things European. From smelly cheese to opera. I dislike all sporting events that are subsidized by taxpayers. All of them. Not at all Euro-phobic. Just hate the way this race was sold to local taxpayers by politicians on the take to benefit a tiny billionaire and his spoiled children. I'm sure the race itself is very fun. Sometimes principle IS important.

Kirk Tuck said...

The only time focus peaking seems to fail me is with fast, legacy lenses used wide open. Don't know why. But in those cases I'm learning to double check with the focus mag button.

Carlo Santin said...

I'm a huge F1 fan. I've only ever watched it on tv. I don't think going to see a race live would be all that enjoyable. Everything happens so fast that you really need tv replay to appreciate it...though listening to those cars whiz by would be quite a thrill. Toronto hosts an Indy race every year, I've been to that, enjoyed watching and hearing the cars scream past me, but I never got the sense that I was watching a race, it was just cars racing past far too fast for me to follow...the sound was enormous though, really unreal.

As far as focus peaking goes, the Samsung NX cameras have a version of it as well. I have an NX100 and I use the peaking feature with my Nikon glass. It's implemented differently on the NX but the idea is the same. I find it to be rather unreliable. At times the focus will be spot on, and at other times it gets fooled into confirming focus on something other than what I intend. I don't really enjoy manual focus on any of the mirrorless cameras I've tried, I find it to be very awkward and less than satisfying. I hate having to hit buttons before and after focusing.

Kirk Tuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Tuck said...

I would love NOT to host it and while the thrill of any car racing (outside of the movie, Telladega NIghts) is lost on me the anger and frustration of asking people (taxpayers) who are seeing school funding cuts, medical care cuts and all sorts of other life impinging budget shortfalls to subsidize, pay for, support something as silly as car racing so that two billionaires (one from Texas and one from the UK) can get richer from our subsidies seems very evil to me. If the race had returned additional revenue to the city and state (and at first glance that doesn't seem to be the case) then I'd be neutral but...... (and by cynically getting an agricultural tax exemption on their non farm property surrounding the race track they have actually reduced the effective tax base as well...)

I also don't get texting during movies, smoking in neonatal wards and driving drunk but I'll knock those things as well.

Finally, I think you confuse "apathy" with "common sense."

Corwin said...

Some ppl just dont get fun. :D

Btw. I would take Ferrari 250 GTO over it any day.

Or even Impala 67'..

Patrick Dodds said...

Olympic Games London 2012? Town was deserted. Not sure the organisers really ever believed it would be otherwise, though when pitching for it, it was a different story...

Anonymous said...

Well Kirk, I'm in full agreement with you there. To me F1 is nothing but an expensive circus.

Michael Ferron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Ferron said...

I have a decent shot of a Bugatti I spotted in Round Rock. Briefly talked to the owner and he said the car was worth almost 2 mil. Bout the same as VW I guess.

PS agree with you on taxpayer money being used to fund the track. Owners were also sleazy with their continued threats to halt construction if they didn't get their way, knowing that Austin was already in too deep to bail.

Kirk Tuck said...

We'll see how sales tax revenue pans out and then we'll see how much the city fathers really like hosting races.

David I said...

Walking around downtown yesterday, I was struck by how uncrowded it was. Maybe I was there at the wrong time. Amused to see a parking lot with lots of available spaces at $20 per.

Alex said...

This might be a bit over the top, IMHO.

Ted K. said...

i agree also, and would add that this isn't much different than a lot of sports stadiums (stadia?) that get built with taxpayer money. My tax money paid for Camden Yards and I don't get a discount on the tickets even with proof of residency...

Kirk Tuck said...

And free parking just a few blocks over...

Anonymous said...

COTA is no different than all the taxpayer-paid-for NFL and NBA stadia. How many Pro Sports Teams have left one town for green pastures in another town, all at taxpayer expense?? Meh!!

c.d.embrey, a BIG fan of USAC Midgets on dirt.

Gordon McGregor said...

I think it was _because_ of the fears of massive crowds and terrible traffic that downtown Austin was so quiet. The race was great, the after parties at the W were fun. I saw lots of money being thrown around and some really fast cars and gorgeous women. Overall I think it was a great weekend.

Fanfest on Sunday was a ghost town but I heard Saturday was busy.

Kirk Tuck said...

Downtown in the evening Friday was barren. And no appreciable money flew hither or yon then. Great race, great parties, bad civic economics? Rick Perry went on the air to tell the public that he had a really good time.

Anonymous said...

I did mean apathy, not common sense. I sincerely doubt that the majority of the people stayed home because they disagreed with the economics of the show. Very few people are that well informed. I am certain that people stayed home because they weren't interested.

In any case, I was not reacting to the very reasonable opinion that this was all in benefit of the rich. I would even support that. I was reacting to your snide remark about NASCAR (an event which is less of a sport for the drivers, but more fun watching in person, unless you get off on seeing cars rip by at 300-400km/h once a minute) vs. Formula 1, which as others have mentioned just sounded Europhobic as all hell, and was completely beside the actual point.

Btw, I expect that the various stadiums in American cities are visited only by a very small percentage of citizens on a regular basis, including a certain percentage of the very rich in their little boxes, yet are also supported via taxes paid by the common man, and even worse, many of these stadiums forbid bringing in outside food, i.e. all the economic benefit of the show they put on happens inside the gates. I don't think it is possible to take the high ground with one sport against another. Tar Formula 1 with the same brush as baseball and American Football, please.

Anonymous said...

Using my NEX 5N with a Canon FD 50mm at f1.4 I have to set peaking to low, otherwise it is too approximate. Unfortunately that often means there are no peaking pixels visible - specular highlights on eyeballs usually show up, which is handy.

Kirk Tuck said...

no high ground here. I dislike the idea of ALL spectator sports. Like a sport? Go play it.

Anonymous said...

Car racing is as stupid as camel racy and about as messy. Great if you are a sheik but pretty shitty if you're managing the camels.

Gary @ QMI Europe said...

No way! You'd be insane to turn down what is essentially a physical representation of the height of automotive engineering!