Traveling in France with my Leica By John Ferebee

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.

Eiffel Tower in the Clouds (1 of 1)

The Arc at Night. Used a light pole for stabilization.

Night Arc (1 of 1)

The Red Hat. Took a few street shots but it isn’t my thing but Paris is a terrific place for it

2014-07-03-16 France-83-Edit-Edit

Loire Valley Morning. Camera was on the window sill of our room using the timer

Loire Vally Morning (1 of 1)

Rue St. Jean in Bayeux. Set the camera on the street and used the timer

Rue St Jean Bayeux (1 of 1)

Loire Valley countryside

2014-07-04 France_Normandy_Lorie Valley-76-Edit

Omaha Beach monument honoring soldiers who pulled wounded to safety

Omaha Beach Monument (1 of 1)

The American Cemetery honors 9,387 and is impeccably maintained

2014-07-03-16 France-359-Edit-Edit

If any of your readers have an interest in seeing other photos from France they can visit My Photo Site

Thank you!

John Ferebee

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22 Comments

  1. Nice work John, especially the Loire valley. I knew about the mamiya, but didn’t realise you were a leica user as well. We’re off to Paris (and Bruge) soon, can’t wait.

    • Brendan,

      If I had the money and time to visit France several times there would be nothing better than taking the Mamiya 7 and a bunch of Velvia 50. Enjoy your trip.

  2. i really like the Bayeux street – shows the whole point of really wide-angle to a 50mm’er like me! And of course I go along with the other comments, too.

    • Tim.

      I appreciate the kind comments. I’m looking forward to going back some day but have a lot of travel catching up to do. Italy or Ireland is most likely next year.

  3. Never been to France but have seen lots of pictures….your pictures are inspiration for me to go there and do my own photos too. i have an M9 with a 24mm leica lens, my only lens for it. so i can relate to your equipment decisions when traveling. did you do any software touch up? if you did, what did you use and how much? i did go look at your other pictures on france. very well done. thank you for sharing.

    • Rob,

      The 24MM is equally as good and I demoed one from Ken Hansen but opted for the wider 21. I use Lightroom for organizing, spot removal, cropping, and other routine things. When I want to give a photo a little pop I like Topaz Detail 3 or Adjust 5. They have some presets that most often give me the look I want without making the photo look over edited.

  4. Those came out great John. Your developing a good eye for placement of subjects in the scene. Loire Valley is breathtaking to look at. Thanks for sharing. Ry

    • Hi Ry,

      Thanks for the comment. It would have been fun having you there looking over my shoulder. Still trying to find a time to come back to see you in the Palouse. I’m off to the New England in Oct so maybe later in the year. Your “snow” shots are so good.

  5. We spent ten days in Paris last May. I now wished we had gotten out of the city after looking at your excellent photos. Maybe next time.

    • Thomas,

      It is a dual edge sword as they say. There was so much more I wanted to do and see in Paris I will go back. For the first time traveling in France I wanted to get a little taste of everything.

  6. Well.. I’m french: I believe you could have shot better pics to present france…especially if the trip was years saving.all that saving for these pics? Did you really captured was france has to offer? For the readers: appologies for being honest.

    • Ton.

      No worries. If someone isn’t willing to take criticism they shouldn’t post in a public forum like Steve’s. Your country is fantastic and the 10 days there seemed like 10 hours, the time went so fast. I have hundreds of photos and suspect that I could present a series that you’d like better but these we a few I’ve had time to edit. Many more to come on my photo blog site.

  7. Hi John.

    Interesting post. I always looking out for articles on the subject of down-sizing in combination of travelling, planning my future long-trip (a year) away from home. And I am always reading up on different cameras and other equipment to fit the one bag one world – philosophy.
    Working as a pro photographer using a d800e from Nikon, I have tried to go by with one body + 50-glass on recent private trips. But I would like to have something smaller, but with the same image quality.
    Still looking for the ultimate compromise.

    Jan

    • Jan,

      There is no ultimate compromise. Since returning I’ve sold my M6 and bought a used M7. I missed several shots with the 6 and decided I wanted an “A” setting when I didn’t have time to set up manually.

    • Roy,

      Thank you. It is very special for me too. When I showed it to the owner of the Chateau he liked it so much I’m having it printed and sent to him. He was a photographer as well and I had fun looking at his work.

  8. Lovely photos and I like in order of preference 2,4,3,6 and 5. Very impredssed with the 21mm lens and it was ideal for your journey. Regards Alan

    • Alan,

      Thank you for commenting. I like 2 also but the Arc is photographed so much some people get bored with it. From my perspective seeing it and the Eiffel Tower for the first time gave me goose pimples.

  9. Very brave move to take only one lens and a pretty wide one at that..! But it definitely works in giving the images a sense of coherence so ‘chapeau’ (hats off) to you for that. Only (tiny) criticism – I would like to have seen all the shadow on the bottom left of Omaha Beach monument picture. Or maybe that’s just my OCD tendencies coming out (!)

    • Yes you are correct about the shadow. I excluded people in my shots if possible unless they added to the photo. In this case there were a group of people standing just at the top and left of the shadow and they kept milling around. I finally gave up waiting and moved on with what I got. There are so many people visiting all these sites (including me) it takes a lot of patience and my wife has only so much of it. 🙂

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