Tibet with my M9 By John Kurniawan

Tibet with my M9

By John Kurniawan

Hi Steve/Brandon,

I am a frequent visitor of you side after I got my first M9+cron 35asph. I have not using rangefinder type of camera for 20+ years since my FM2 rest inside the drawer as I am busy building up my business.

Around 10 years ago when I got a second daughter I start to get D300 and shot occasionally not seriously yet till last Jun we are on a vacation trip where I have to carry bag pack, a DSLR+zoom lens and for sure shopping bags…..

Leica M9 has been my dreams since it launch but back and forth hesitate to get one as have the mind-set difficult to focus, everything else must be manually set, so last August I took the plunge and get a pre-owned M9 from a friend. The first 2 weeks quite frustrating to get use to it, but I determined must get over it and since then every where I travel only one cam and one lens to off some of the load.

Herewith I attached some shots of my recent trip to Tibet, hope all of you enjoy the colorful Tibet.






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  1. Hi good news first your compositions are nice and I am sure you produce good images which is the most important thing. Your post processing is a bit hard to understand. You have with the M9 and 35mm summicron lens a superb tool that produces images which need little or no post processing -ie they are normally excellent out of the camera.
    I have an M8 and use two crons 35 and 50 and always use the camera set up on low ISO and set to underexpose by 1/3.
    I always use the camera set to DNG raw as this is native to Lightroom and photoshop.
    I frequently set camera on Auto keeping an eye on shutter speed so as it does not go too low -so I can freeze action.
    Of course you can take multiple exposures or use an incident light meter for complex exposures in Landscape or portraiture but for street and documentary -keep it simple !

    Keep shooting as you have a good eye -I’m sure if you get the time to spend on photography you will be soon writing to us telling us about new methods you found and I am looking forward to that.

    Best Wishes

    • Thanks Fergus for encouraging “keep shooting”

      Same here mostly I will set to A for speed, preset F and ISO as you said suitable for street as we need quick decision to catch nice moment.

      Now I have Heliopan ND attach all the time which IMO is good to shot under harsh condition.

      Please check out some of my work here : https://flic.kr/p/ntyEF3


  2. Excellent compositions spoiled by horrible digital noise.
    My Kodak Z990 small sensor digital compact could do and has done better than this M9 has.
    I wouldn’t have posted these, as they need work. But then again, I’d have expected to be able to come back from Tibet with photographs which required zero work with an M9 and digital LCD feedback.

    • Forget the lcd feedback Ibraar. If you know your camera, you don’t need that. The only reason I chimp is to find out if I got the focus where I wanted it, and if the composition doesn’t totally suck. That chimping just serves to get useless files off your card. The rest is done in pp. 10% keepers is allright 😉

  3. I been dreaming of getting a Leica too! Can you elaborate on the difficulty of using your Leica? BTW, I haven’t been to Tibet but did visit Myanmar and Yunnan. Many considered Myanmar a very photogenic country and the locals are very friendly and love to have their pictures taken. I’m just glad to have seen it before McDs, Starbucks and 7-11s flooded this beautiful country.

    • Hi Mel,

      At the beginning the thing most people not use to the manual focus, once you overcome this, it should be quite fun and simple as no need to remember so many different type of setting.

  4. Great images from a great country. The Leica is a really perfect travel companion, especially with the 35mm.
    It is all you need for almost anything. I am not shure wether it is your way of pp or a technical problem but as beautiful as those first images are, i like the last one best because it looks most natural. thanks for sharing.

  5. Amazing to be there and to be able to photograph those impressions. But unless it was done intentionally (don’t think so), there’s something terribly wrong here. The image of the people praying in the square is the worst example. Unsharp, noise full of artifacts, blown highlights, bleached colours. I hope the original files (RAW? Jpeg?) can be treated to better effect than this.

    These reminded me of the time, early 2011, when I came home from a trip to New York, first time in twenty years, and found out when processing the hundreds of images I took with my D700 that some iidiot (me? some family member or friend?) had put the camera in spot metering, and I never noticed of course. Those files were saved easily though, and the images came out pretty normal. That experience made me check that little dial more often though.

    Another example is the Nikon F3: 80/20 (nearly spot metering) instead of 60/40 metering, or the Contax S2: spot metering. I owned both, and couldn’t get used to that sort of metering, neither in aperture priority nor in manual. I was reared on the 60/40 metering of the FM2n, and that way of looking at the light is for ever in my head. The almost foolproof matrix metering (3D, full colour, blah blah) of the D800 makes one lazy though. It’s only the bias the metering gives to the AF point you select that can trip you, but even that you get used to.

    John, reading all these comments might be a tad disheartening for you, but they are not meant to be. Could you go back to the original files and see how they look. I’d be interested to learn how you look at them now.



    • Hi Michiel,

      As I mention above, that pix #2 was taken with ND set at 8 which coz the file way too underexpose. during post pro I did to brighten it and then with CEF use the detail extraction and play with it and come out with this result.

      While pix #3 Monk Debating in post pro I blur out the back ground to make cloth of the monk more stand out.

      I will look into the file again once I am back from my long trip, stay tune. I am pleased to have your valuable advice which I think lots of reader here will benefited and improve each skill sets, this is what I believe Steve and Brandon mission.


      • Ps: John, on the praying monk(s) image (which actually is pretty good): what do you mean by “blurring” the background? I can see why you would want to isolate the group of monks and accentuate the colour of their robes. Depth of field wouldn’t help a lot here because of the way the group is “lined up”, so a moderately wide aperture (5.6?), as you seem to have used, would be the right approach, but then the background would still be too sharp. Saturating the colour of the robes slightly and desaturating the colours in the background seems appropriate; is that what you did?



          • Hi John, you could send me the original raw file and the image posted here through WeTransfer. I’d be happy to have a look and comment, though there are many here that are more qualified than me.

            My emailaddress is [email protected]

  6. The colours are as vibrant as I remember them. You’ve done a good job of capturing aspects of the traditional lifestyle, without too many of the modern incursions

    • Ian,

      you are right, this place still “very close” to its original w/o much of the boring “food and drink”

  7. Hmm…how’s that saying go…if you have nothing nice to say than say nothing at all….yeah, I’ve never been good at that:) John, I like your subject matter; it would be awesome to travel to a place like Tibet….and your compositions here are pretty good too.

    That said…am I the only one who looks at these photos and is amazed at the amount of noise?? I’m going to hazard a guess here and say that you are not used to the spot metering on an M9 in aperture mode…likely you metered against a bright part of the scene in each photo and then were left with majorly underexposed photos that you tried to correct in post….right????

    I know the M9 is not exactly a state of the art sensor these days but it is capable of producing far nicer files than what we are looking at here. Sorry to be ‘that guy’….but my opinion is as valid as the guy who said, ‘beautiful colour’.

    • This is what I thought as well, pulled up the shadows two stops or more, and you said it in a nice and constructive way.

      • totally agree with you Clint … way too much noise … you could maybe do something about in processing ( lightroom has a great tool for that )

    • Clint,

      You are a season photog, thanks for bring this up on photo #2 which I did way too much underexposure plus the ND make it worst.

    • Looking at the full size pictures, I cannot see so much noise but a lot of compression artifacts, which is consistent with the small file size of the JPEGs.

      • you are right, but when you have too much ” compression artifacts ” you can then Denoise 🙂 … In fact, it’s like make up … Make up shouldn’t be there to hide defaults, but to reveal qualities

  8. John, these 2 things have been a dream of mine for quite a while (M9 & Tibet). You lucky guy to have both! Nice pics

    • If I were going to Tibet, or a similar place, with photography foremost in my mind, I’d be severely tempted to leave the D800 at home, and take my FM2n and FM3a, 24, 35, 50 and 85, some rolls of Tri-X, some rolls of Fuji 400 clour negative, and wing it the oldfashioned way. Severely tempted.

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