Oregon Landscapes with the Leica M9 in B&W by Kirk Williamson

Oregon Landscapes with the Leica M9 in B&W

by Kirk Williamson

Almost a year ago my wife and I made a trip out to Oregon to visit our twin sons who have moved out there to find work in their field (3d animation). Knowing that the landscapes out there are really something compared to the East Coast I was really in a conundrum as to what to bring for gear. I am a newspaper photojournalist and carry Canon pro stuff all day every day and there was no way I was going to travel with all that heavy gear. I kept looking at my M9 wondering if it were really possible to travel with just that and my Canon G15. I know people travel light with the Leica gear all the time but they usually use it for street shooting and the usual tourist stuff. So I finally decided to go for broke and break away from my comfort zone and went with the M9 and the 35 f2 Summicron, 50 f 1.4 Summilux and the old bear 90 f2.8 Tele-Elmarit from the late sixties.

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I had no idea what I was in for when we got off the plane in Portland. It being June made me think that the weather was going to be ok but it is Oregon and rain is part of the equation, but really, all the time! So on the first day out we drove to the usual places involving beautiful waterfalls and tricky driving along the old road above the Columbia River Gorge mostly in the rain. The sun would peak out of the rain clouds from time to time giving me fantastic opportunities for images involving landscapes and clouds.

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I found myself using the 35mm and 50mm all the time for these scenics with clouds. I just put the lens at infinity, no focusing involved (old school auto focus). These two lenses did the bulk of the work and they were a joy to use. The 90mm was almost as much and the images were spectacular. I only wanted my 21mm a few times but all in all the travelling light thing was great, the Leica excelled at landscape shooting. Now I do have to say that I was not very well prepared for shooting waterfalls as I did not bring a tripod and cable release. I was able to get around it using the Canon G15 or shooting at around 1/30s some even at 1/90s to slow down the larger water falls.

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The Canon G15 made it out a few times but mostly on a hike of Silver Falls State Park which has ten waterfalls along a hiking route. What a great camera to hike with! Two of the shots I have included were taken with that camera – two of my favorites. The waterfall shot made with this camera was done holding it down on a post at 1/6s so it is a bit soft which adds to it’s other worldly look. The macro leaf shot was made with the G15 as well.

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Very quickly I noticed that this was going to be a mostly B&W conversion right from the start. The colors were muted with the gray skies and rain so I converted some right way after loading them into my iPad. The result was wow! The clouds just popped. So I knew when I got home that post processing in Silver Efex Pro would be warranted. Boy was I right the results were fabulous.

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Needless to say my small kit was a big success. I have upgraded my M9 to the M-P 240 and plan on bringing that along for this years trip. We will be going to the coast so I will be including my 21mm Super Elmar as I know I’ll need it. This time the G15 will be staying home as my Sony Nex-7 will be tagging along to use with my Leica glass.

My website is www.krwphoto.com and my blog is www.krwphoto.com/blog

Thanks,

Kirk

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20 Comments

  1. I love these photos and BW conversions. I shoot an M9 and am always impressed by how well the files convert to B&W.

    As Clint says, above, you may want to look at pushing your highlights a bit – it looks like your histograms will tend left and have room on the right. Which is perfect for exposing digital files, so your whites don’t clip — but might benefit in PP by a little push, expanding your dynamic range.

    But excellent work. Enjoy your new M.

  2. Hey Kirk,

    Very good images. I like the leaf especially.

    When you go back you will find the Oregon coast offers even more exciting photo opportunities. Having grown up on the US East Coast, the topography of that part of Oregon is very enticing. Start at the Columbia River estuary and work your way south. Lots of state parks and hiking trails right on the coast. Great scenery. Surprisingly, there are areas of broad sandy beaches and dunes among the cliffs. Be sure to hit Canon Beach, about 75 minutes west of Portland.

    Look forward to seeing your next set.

    Cheers, Dick

  3. Nice shots with great detail, but everything is too grey and muddy IMO. A good example is the snow…it should be white, not grey.
    On a side note….I love Hood River it’s one of my favorite getaways.

  4. Nice Images. But the M9 is used by many for tavel/landscape work with great success, so it comes as no surprise that you find it a joy to shoot with. I have travelled with a 28,50,90 combo for years and i was always satisfied with the results. As much as i like b&w shots the M9 is one of those cameras where i absolutly love how it renders color. Maybe with bad weather it was still the best option to go for b&w. If you dont need or want to print real big, those 18mp are enough for incredible Details even on a 27″ Monitor.

  5. Nice shots.
    Travelling light? My M-setup is 24, 50 and 75 plus a V-LUX 3 as backup and a Digilux 2 at base camp.
    Forgotten the cable and tripod ? Use the self timer instead and find a solid surface or a pole… problem solved! The self timer will keep the shutter open on ‘B’ too. Just put your cap over the lens when exposure is done…

    Good text too: great to learn from your experience …

    Enjoy life!

    • Paul – I did some of that with the G15 (did not bring the M9 in the woods) at 1/6s they were just a tad soft because I was shooting vertical with it held firmly on a post. But hey it has an otherworldly look to it.

  6. I have to say nice pics and you never had to worry you brought along the right “jack of all trades” in probably each prime category lenses in a 35 2.0, 50 1.4 and a 90 2.8 you had all the bases covered so great work.

  7. Love the pics thanks for sharing. The best part of the article was you describing how much fun you had taking them.

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