Traveling in France with My Leica
By John Ferebee
Bonjour Brandon and Steve!
After planning and saving for a couple of years I was able to travel to France for 10 days in July. I wanted to travel light with no checked baggage. The summer weather made clothes selection pretty easy. No checked baggage wasn’t an issue of cost but one of convenience. Once arriving at De Gaulle you’re traveling isn’t over. There are several ways to get into Paris and they all involve long walks to taxi stands, the train station, or shuttle. One rolling bag makes it easier. If you plan to leave Paris and travel by train to other parts of France one bag is also much easier.
The harder decision was what photo equipment to take. Point and shoot, 35MM film, medium format film, digital full frame, lenses, filters, etc. I guess we all go through that unless it’s a driving trip. That one is easy – everything goes. I have read Steve advising “one camera one lens” and as hard as it was I almost did that. I even left the tripod home knowing that there would be some shots missed.
After thinking it over, my kit was a 21MM Super Elmar, Leica M6, M9 for Paris, Normandy, and the Loire Valley. Although there were times when I wished I had this or that, it worked out just fine. I chose the Super Elmar because I was interested in landscapes and the wide-angle would work well with streets, bridges, rivers, valleys, and the beaches in Normandy. The quality of the lens is so good I could crop if I needed a close up. Being able to use one lens with both cameras was another factor.
I experienced several rainy days and used the M6 with TriX for B&W and I didn’t worry as much about getting it wet. Some might want to know about a wide-angle view finder. I don’t have one but if you use the 21MM regularly you don’t really need it. One of the nicer things about this simple kit, or one like it, is you see more of the country because your head isn’t in your camera bag all the time. I did learn a few things. I’m going to buy a light-weight travel tripod that will fit into a carry-on bag. The Seine River at first light, Paris streets at night, and Chateaus along on the river Cher cried out for long exposures. That being said, there are creative ways to deal with low light. Increasing the ISO is the obvious one but you can use all kinds of things to stabilize your camera like chairs, window sills, lamp posts, and car hoods for example.
I took four 8G Raw Steel SD’s for the M9 and rotated them during the trip but I wish I’d taken my MacBook Air. I could have done some basic editing, weeding out, and labeling of photos during down times on the trains, hotels, and the 14 hour plane ride home. It would have saved a lot of time after my return from France. The Air would have fit in a slightly larger bag. I took the Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 30i and it held cameras, lens, film, batteries, passport, tickets, kindle, iPhone, chargers, and adapter plug (don’t forget one of those) but it wasn’t big enough for the laptop.
Here are a few photos with brief commentaries from the three areas I visited.
Eiffel Tower in the rain. Lightroom spot remover took care of all the drops.
The Arc at Night. Used a light pole for stabilization.
The Red Hat. Took a few street shots but it isn’t my thing but Paris is a terrific place for it
Loire Valley Morning. Camera was on the window sill of our room using the timer
Rue St. Jean in Bayeux. Set the camera on the street and used the timer
Loire Valley countryside
Omaha Beach monument honoring soldiers who pulled wounded to safety
The American Cemetery honors 9,387 and is impeccably maintained
If any of your readers have an interest in seeing other photos from France they can visit My Photo Site