Apr 202011
 

 

Is the Sony NEX-5 the poor mans Leica M9?

Testing the Noctilux on both!

Many of you have been asking me for a quick test like this, and since I have a Leica M9, Noctilux and Sony NEX-5 on hand I decided to snap a few shots in my backyard to see just how much difference there is between the two cameras, when using the same 50mm Leica lens. I spent yesterday and this morning grabbing some quick shots with the Leica Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 lens on both the M9, and the NEX-5 with Adapter. The big question…Can the NEX-5 give results equal to or even close to the M9 when using the same lens? Many think that yes, it can. Some feel that the NEX can do better and others will say NO WAY, not possible! Others will say “WHO CARES!”.  I would like to personally believe that the M9 would wipe the floor with the NEX-5 using the same glass because let’s face it, those of us with a Leica M9 have paid dearly for it and for some $600 camera to come along to match it would be kind of upsetting to some. Honestly though, It wouldn’t be to me as I love the whole RF shooting experience and the NEX doesn’t even come close to that experience when shooting with it. STILL! I have written quite a bit on the NEX-5 as it has been quite the popular little gizmo due  to the fact that you can use almost any lens on it, when using the correct adapter.

I have seen some lovely shots with the NEX with Canon glass, Leica glass, Zeiss glass, etc. But still, when I look at these shots they all have the Sony NEX “look”. I do not mean this in a bad way, just that the NEX-5 has a certain feel to the images it puts out. The color, and overall smoothness of the file always tells me what was shot with the NEX-5. When I shoot the M9 and nail focus, the files still make my jaw drop to this day. Gorgeous.

So what I wanted to do was take some random test/snapshots with each camera using the $10,495 Leica Noctilux lens. The Sony has a 1.5 crop factor so the 50 will become more like a 75mm. That means that these images will not be exactly the same in regards to the focal length appearance, but hopefully you can get an idea. I have to say that when going over the images I was surprised how well the NEX-5 did, but at the end of the day, the M9 pulled ahead and it is mainly due to the color signature, the lack of an AA filter and the fact that it is using a full frame sensor.

This also made me wonder if there is anyone out there who bought an NEX-5 and a lens like the Noctilux to use with it. IMO, it would be a waste as the NEX sensor can not take full advantage of this masterpiece lens. My money would be on something like a Zeiss 50 Sonnar or 50 Planar if I wanted to shoot M glass on the NEX-5.

Ok, onto the test snaps…

 

The first test snapshot – Just an image of a door handle. Actually, the NEX-5 did great here. It took me approx 3X longer to manually focus the NEX accurately than the M9 but it wasn’t so bad. Just takes some getting used to.

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and now the M9 image. See how it looks a bit more dreamy and with what appears to be more shallow Depth of Field? This is the full frame sensor at work and we see some vignetting of the lens as well. Shot wide open as was the Sony shot above.

What I see in the two shots above is the NEX-5 shot is very sharp and looks like a crop sensor image to me. The M9 image is showing me the classic 50mm focal length and has the Nocti signature where the NEX really didn’t have it. BUT, the $600 camera did quite well I think! Some will probably even prefer the NEX-5 shot here with the more clean rendering. Hmmmm.

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Here I had my friend Mike do a quick pose so I could shoot both cameras. First the NEX-5, pretty much straight out of the camera, converted from RAW…

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and now with the M9. In this set, I much prefer the look of the M9, Just has that Nocti look and glow IMO. Again, straight out of camera RAW conversion.

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NEX-5, shot at f1.4. Testing for color and DOF…CLICK IMAGES FOR LARGER

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and now with the M9. Both are very good…which do you prefer the look of, or do you even see a difference?

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More DOF – The NEX-5…

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and the M9 – both shots were at 0.95

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Here is an F2 snap and this one seems neck and neck. If you click the images you will see a larger version with a 100% crop. The NEX-5 seemed to equal the M9 here for detail…

The NEX-5

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and now the M9

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one more..NEX-5

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M9…

So even with these silly test snaps from my yard we can see that the NEX-5 does fairly well when shot in good light against the M9. Still, for me at least, the M9 holds the edge with its full frame sensor and color signature and most of all, the shooting experience. When shooting the Noctilux on the NEX-5 it was sort of a pain due to me having t o magnify the screen, dial in exact focus, then un-magnify the screen so I can compose and then finally take the shot. It’s a lengthy process where you can forget about ANY sort of action shot when shooting like this. Even the M9 is slow when compared to the AF monster DSLR’s BUT I CAN get some action shots with the M and Nocti.

Also, the RAW files seem much more hardy from the M9 meaning I can push them farther before they turn in to a digital mess. The NEX files seem to break apart pretty quickly when pushed to the extremes. With test shots such as these some will say the $600 NEX-5 does just as well as the $7000 M, but in real world shooting I found the M9 to be much better for me and my style of shooting. But with that said, you can’t really argue about the results that the little Sony NEX can pump out. It’s more capable than I previously thought though it is cumbersome  to use with manual lenses. Then again, it all depends on what you are shooting and your personal style. If this little NEX had a full frame sensor I think the results would be pretty damn similar to the M9. So imagine…a pro level NEX with a FF sensor and no AA filter coming in at $1199. Now that would be SWEET.

One more, out of camera JPEG. ISO 1600, B&W.

NEX-5

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M9


In the shots above, both were shot as in camera JPEG, ISO 1600, B&W mode. To my eyes they look pretty similar except for the fact that the M9 is using ALL of the lens. if  you crop the M9 shot, the results would be similar to the NEX-5! Interesting!

Check back in the next day or two as I will be reviewing the Sony 18-200 Lens on the NEX-5. Think I will take a stroll to the Phoenix Zoo today and give the lens a workout. If any of you missed my NEX-5 review, you can take a look at that here. As always, thanks for stopping by!

Steve

 

Apr 172011
 

Be Inspired! Photograph Your Home Town…

By Ashwin Rao – Ashwins Blog

Hello, friends and followers of Steve’s site. Many of you have read my articles on travel. Stretching my legs in far off corners of the world has brought me inspiration for my photography and challenged me to find creative ways to express myself. Furthermore, Steve’s own travels with Seal on his tour through South America, South Africa, and Switzerland have clearly shown what a talented photographer can achieve with a camera and a few lenses in his or her bag, the world stretched out in front of him.

Sure, I’d love to travel the world all of the time, but the reality of the matter is that most of us may not get to venture far from home all that regularly. In fact, I spend most of my days photographing the places in which I live, the friends with whom I share my daily life, and the little secrets that my hometown shares with me. It is our hometowns that become so intimately intertwined in our lives, and this poses both the greatest strength and the most daunting challenge of photography: How does maintain photographic inspiration in their own home town

Here in Seattle, Washington, my hometown of 8 years, I have found a photographic nirvana. Having grown up in Ohio, I came to Seattle with the eyes of a tourist, always excited to explore and ready for the next adventure. It’s this approach that I have used to discover the city over the past 8 years, and it is this city in which I discovered photography and the excitement for creating pictographs of the world around me. For me, the city and its surroundings are a playground for inspiration. I can wander into the cities oldest corridors and find fascinating graffiti and shadowed murals. I can wander down to the pier in the evening, and find myself alone watching a serene sunset over the Olympic Mountains, lining the horizon to the west. Or I can gaze towards Mt. Rainier in its morning glow as I bike to work. I can stroll the countless city’s farmers markets, camera in hand, and capture life in action, wander into a quiet jazz club and use my Leica glass to freeze the talented musician in front of me who’s creating a different kind of art….Maybe I am lucky, but if I am guessing right, many of you have enchanting places to capture that are within your reach. The trick is to find the inspiration around you. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful in honing your photographic craft close to home

Mist over the Ballard Bridge

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Parade Procession

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Roller Derby Girls…

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Guitar Man


 

The Photo Stroll

For me, finding the inspiration begins with the “photo stroll”. Basically, I make it a point to get out of my house or work place regularly to photograph the world around me. My gaze is always looking for the next photograph, and walking about the places in which I work, live, and play is a great way to renew and reinvigorate one’s spirit. In my time in Seattle, I have made it a point to get around town, discover new haunts, hidden alleyways, and locations, which I may not have previously explored. I keep a running tally of places that I have seen and others that I hope to get to one day. I call it my “Seattle Bucket-List”, a set of places, which I hope to capture via my camera as time permits. My photo strolls have included day trips with friends, meet-ups with fellow photographers with whom I wish to share thoughts on gear, stories, and inspiration, and solitary strolls through the city in search of a poignant moment. For some of you out there, you have achieved a similar goal through photo-a-day projects. For me, its more-or-less a once a week thing, where I make sure to get out, regardless of weather conditions, to use my M9 around town. Regardless of how you do it, getting out of the home, stretching your legs, and bringing your camera along will surely be enough motivation to take a few happy snaps, and who knows, inspiration may be close to follow…

Cherry Blossoms and Children – University of Washington

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Injury, 70,000 watching- UW Football Game, Fall, 2010

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Ferry Ride at Sunset

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Discovery Park Military Road

 

Get Involved with Friends & Make Photo Friends

Over the past 6 years during which photography has become an increasingly passionate hobby of mine, I have gotten to know many people in the community, including some of you who keep up with this site regularly. For those of you out there whom I have met through Steve’s site, thank you for your friendship and communication! I often find photography to be most enjoyable when it’s a share experience. I have had the good fortunate to meet and make many close friends who are as enthusiastic about photography as am I. It’s been a great joy to go on walks, camera in hand, and learn about a photo partner through their stories and through the images that they make. Oftentimes, how your friends and fellow photographers see the world can serve as inspiration to your own photography. For example, a good friend of mine, Brandon, is able to see patterns in the world in a way that I often miss, whereas I tend to see the world more organically, with less pattern. Yet, during our strolls, were are often in the same place, shooting similar subjects, and the differences that we bring to our own creativity can serve to challenge and inspire each of us as we move about the city. It’s exciting to get out there with friends, share in these moments, make and take photos, come home and share them with each other. Photography, like so many other hobbies, can be ever more exciting, even more inspirational, when you can share it with your photo buddies and your friends.

Even when I don’t always have friends to photograph, all of my friends now know me to be someone who nearly always has a camera with him, and someone who can get “cool” shots of their families or themselves. My friends have become willing participants in my own photography, and I have been able to document intimate moments in their own lives (i.e. weddings, babies, childhood memories, fun hangs at the clubs) in a creative fashion, and this has enriched both my lives and theirs. It’sgreat to have such a group of willing participants for my own photography, and I have to give a shout out to my friends for being so wonderful in allowing me to have them be my inspiration. With time, patience and practice, you can find your own friends, your own community, and be able to enrich their lives and yours through your photos.

Peter Schmeeckle on Drums, Egan’s Ballard Jam House, Seattle, WA

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Space Needle and Ferris Wheel

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Breakdancin’ at the Water’s Edge

 

Get to know your camera.

We all have different camera gear. Different cameras, different lenses, different bags, different flashes, different tripods, diffent wrist & neck straps, yada yada. Yet, a common ethos among Huffites is a love of photography. Sure, many of you readers own Leica gear, while others now NEX systems, GXR systems, or m4/3 set-ups. My camera of choice, as you all know, is the Leica M9, and before it, the Leica M8. I find the digital rangefinder to be a near perfect match for my photographic vision. The M9 is a discrete tool, compact and unobtrusive, yet capable of capturing the highest quality image. Because it is so unobtrusive and compact, I nearly always have my M9 with me. In this way, should inspiration strike, my camera isn’t far away. Despite my love of the M9, I’d propose the camera doesn’t really matter, and the best camera is the one that you bring with you. For some of you, that may be the iPhone. For others, it may be a GXR or NEX camera. For me, it’s the M9, and it’s a constant companion. Over the past 3 years, I have gained an intimate knowledge of the workings of my camera. I know how my lenses behave on my M9. I know how it meters. I even have a sense of how the aperture clicks respond, how long or stiff the focus throw seems, and balanced each of my lenses behaves when mounted on my camera. I know where to find most-used settings on the buried menus of the camera’s LCD. I guess what I am saying is: I know this camera. If you don’t know your camera intimately, aspects of its use can serve as a barrier to inspiration and creativity. For me, the Leica M9 has become nearly invisible. It’s the tool that I put in front of my eyes, and it sees the world as I hope to see the world…through some expensive glass, nonetheless, but in a way that inspires me to bring the camera along for the ride day-in and day-out.

Regardless of your system, the more you invest in understanding its eccentricities, the more you will come to understand whether or not it is the right tool for you, and if so, how to coax the most out of the camera for your own satisfaction. Bottom line: get to know your camera….

Lighthouse Point, Discovery Park

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ICU TV, Fremont, Seattle

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Big Four Mountain, Cascades Mountain Range, WA

Maintain a manageable kit

Okay, admit it. Most of us readers have GAS bad…and by GAS, I am talking about “Gear Acquistion Syndrome”…So here I am, guilty as sin for owning a bunch of camera gear, preaching to you to keep your kit manageable. So what the heck does that mean? Well, for each of us, that means something different.

Many of us are limited by budget. We can only own so much costly year. We have bills to pay, loved ones for whom to care, and other important costs to account for. But nearly all of us lust for the next great lens, camera, or such eccentricity. Yet, I firmly believe that it is impossible for the gear that we own to make us any better as photographers. In contrast, it seems that the less gear that one owns, the more focused she or he can become in honing his or her craft. Instead of being busy fumbling for lenses, try to bring only 1 or 2 lenses with you on your next photo outing. This will force you to focus on making photos with the gear, rather than focusing on the gear itself. When I travel, I typically bring 3-4 lenses with me, to cover all of the photographic circumstances that I may come accross when far away from home. In contrast, when shooting at home, I often limit myself to a one-lens kit (often a 50 mm lens) or a 2 lens kit (35/50, 50/90, or 35/90), so that I can focus on seeing the world through one perspective. By limiting lens options, I have learned that I can really get to know my kit better. This way, when I travel, I am well versed in my kit, from all the practice that I have gotten at home in using this kit.

Some of you may find that you only need 2-3 lenses for your photography. Others may find that you can comfortably limit yourself, on any given day, to a smaller kit and get the most out of each of your lenses and/or cameras.

 

Explore the world around you

One of the benefits that I found myself as a resident in my town was that I came to the town as a adult, seeing it in many ways as does a tourist. So heck why not be a tourist in your own town?!? Find places that you have have otherwise ignored. Move about these places without assumptions. You will be rewarded by new perspectives on your home town. If there’s one thing I can tell you, explore your home town….even places close to home can be just as inspirational as places far away, as long as you are willing to see them…

 

A Night out on the Town, Lucid Jazz Club, Seattle

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The Burke-Gilman Path at Fall Time

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A Tender Moment atop the Space Needle

 

Practice makes perfect (or closer to perfection, at least…)

Practice…Practice…Practice….that is the key, my friends. What better place to practice than your own hometown, your own back yard, or among your closest friends and associates. I am always practicing, and I am always trying to hone my craft. I have begun to see the world as a series of photographs waiting to be taken. With a camera in hand, and with experience borne of such practice, you and I will be better prepared to capture that winning shot. Good luck to you all in this. I’ll conclude with a bit of cheesy advise that I heard or read somewhere, which seems an appropriate conclusion to this little article: There’s magic in every moment, inspiration at every turn, and many treasures in everyday life. It’s all out there, waiting for you.

Now stop reading this blog, grab your camera, and take some photos. Your hometown beckons…

Best,

Ashwin

P.S. To those of you who wish to visit Seattle or may be coming here shortly for Steve’s next photo work shop , the images here were all taken in and around Seattle. I hope this whets the palette for anyone of you who will be visiting my hometown soon…

 

Graveyard of local heros


 

Skatekids takin’ a break to take it all in…

 

Fourth of July….Liberty Head


City at Night- Kerry Park

Sun Sets Over the Puget Sound


Totem

Graffiti Wall Kids


College Life Among the Blossoms

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Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Apr 152011
 

Seal In Zermatt Switzerland with the Leica M9 and Noctilux f/0.95

Hello  to all! The last two days have been full of travel for me as I headed home after being on the road with Seal for the past 3-4 weeks. I am now home, well slept and re-energized. I am hoping to get a hold of an X100 now that I am back so I can put it through its paces, so stay tuned for that! It feels good to be home and back at my desk. Updating on the little 13″ macbook pro was OK, but not as nice as sitting at my huge desk with my 27″ Imac. Speaking of my Macbook Pro (the one I bought just a month ago), I just took it out of my bag and noticed the screen has cracked during my last flight home! ARG! I did drop my entire camera bag once at the airport, and seeing that it weighed in at around 40lbs the little Macbook screen didn’t survive the fall. Hopefully my M9 did.

It has been an amazing month for me. I have been able to see parts of the world I would have never seen, fly in a helicopter through the swiss mountains, meet some amazing people and make some great new friends, eat at some of the most amazing restaurants ever, finally get a hold of a VAJA Iphone 4 case that I have been wanting,  and shoot my ass off at all of the Seal shows. It has been a month of fun, adventure, photography and also moments of sadness when you sit back and miss your family.

It has truly been a blast and what is really cool is that I may be doing it again this summer during Seal’s upcoming 7 week tour. While I am home I will spend my time with my friends, family and special loved ones as that is what life is all about really. :)

My last post here featured some snapshots I grabbed while going up to the Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt. Todays post will feature some images from the last Seal show in Zermatt at the “Zermatt Unplugged’ festival. I have to say, Zermatt was an amazing place to visit. It’s a ski town but probably one of the most beautiful in the world, if not THE most beautiful. I’ll go back at some point, just as I will re-visit Cape Town again one day. But Zermatt just has that vibe, fresh mountain air, and even some very cool happy locals.

The show was a bit different than the shows on the South American tour. It was held inside a tent and the chairs were all lined with sheepskin, how funky is that? It was an intimate show and the fans were a little more subdued here as usually this event is ALL unplugged performances, which at times can be a but mellow and dare I say…boring? Seal and the band started off with an acoustic set and then launched in to their normal “plugged” set. Was a great show, and a great time though it was tough to shoot due to the odd angles up close. This was also the first show where there were other photographers, and there were SIX of them with huge DSLR’s just blazing away at 7 frames per second for the first three songs (which is what they were allowed to shoot).

I was there with my M9 and firing one shot at a time, when the moment was right and no joke, most of these guys probably shot 300-400+ frames during those first three songs. I shoot 200 or less during an entire show. I guess that is the technique with a DSLR. Fire away and hope for the best.

In any case, I had a blast as always and am looking forward to the next run. Here are some of the images, all shot with the Leica M9 and 35 cron + 50 Noct.

As always, click on any image for a larger and better version

Before the show – You can see the sheepskin lined seats and the cool atmosphere of the tent..

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and the show starts with some acoustic versions of classic Seal songs…

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then the show was ramped up a bit and the fun REALLY started :)

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After uploading all of these shots I sort of already miss it! Wow. I have to say though that after a solid month of use and abuse on the M9 and Noctilux both have performed flawlessly day in and day out. They have some scratches and scuffs on them now but that makes it even better :)

I also got to shoot with Seals Titanium M9 while we were on this trip and HOLY SHIT that thing is absolutely incredible. A thing of beauty. It just feels so good and looks so nice in person. The LED frame lines are very cool IMO. Whoever was able to obtain one has one sweet camera, that is for sure. What is cool is Seal actually shoots his and he brought it to dinners ,lunch, shows, walks…very cool to see someone using it instead of putting it on a shelf.

Once again I’d like to thank Seal (thanks so much for the amazingly generous gift and bringing me along), Ric (thanks for the great food, good times) and everyone else who I spent time with over the past month. I feel like I have an extended family now..well, I guess I do :) See you all soon.

Steve

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Apr 122011
 

In Zermatt Switzerland with the Leica M9 and NEX-5

By Steve Huff

WOW. That’s about all I can say right now. In the past 4 weeks I have been all over South America, spent a few days in Mexico City, MX, flew to Cape Town South Africa after sitting in the very cool Terminal 5 in Londons Heathrow Airport for a few hours. Then yesterday I flew in a freaking helicopter to Zermatt Switzerland, home of the Matterhorn Mountain! Yea, like the one at Disneyland but this is the real deal. Being on the road with Seal as tour photographer sure has its perks. Sure, it is exhausting at times, but days like this make it all worthwhile.

When we left Cape Town we were all just BEAT. Jet lagged out of our minds from the previous journey, many of us just dragged our feet at the airport..

Marcus Brown, Seals Bass player. Here he is after a day and a half with no sleep…waiting to board the plane to Geneva from South Africa which ended up being a 15 hour journey.

Once we landed in Geneva it was a three hour van ride to Zermatt for the band and crew but I was lucky enough to hitch a ride in the helicopter with Seal, his manager Ric, and a few others. My 1st time and it was really interesting. It’s an all different experience than flying in an airplane obviously..almost like you are hanging by a wire and being pulled along. I brought along the Leica M9 and 28 Elmarit and the NEX-5 and 16mm lens for the ride.

Getting ready to board…NEX-5 and 16mm

Me and Mike (Security) in the Helicopter…NEX-5 and 16mm

from the window as we flew over the mountains…Leica M9 and 28 Elmarit

Ric, taken with the NEX-5 and 16mm

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Upon landing in Zermatt I headed straight for my room and relaxed a bit with lunch and some TV. I couldn’t call back home as it was still the middle of the night in Arizona so I waited for the rest of the crew to arrive, along with my bags. Once the gang all arrived we headed out for a walk around town for some sightseeing, some beer and some dinner. Everyone seemed to gather at this bar called the “Hexan Bar”. There was a cool vibe going on and we had some beer, pizza and I ordered some of the guys a round of Absinth, which they (almost) made the proper way with water and sugar.

Absinth being prepared – M9 and 35 Cron, ISO 2500

Mark and Marcus hanging out…M9, 35 Cron, F2, ISO 2500

After a few drinks and with our bellies full we all went back to our rooms for some much needed rest. We had a big day ahead of us as a few of us were heading up to the Matterhorn Mountain to take some pictures. Seal went up to Ski but since I never had a pair of skis on in my entire life, I decided to play it safe and just do some sight-seeing.

Left to right – Mike, McBob, Marcus, Sid and Chris with the Matterhorn behind them in the distance. M9 and 50 Noctilux ASPH

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Sid – NEX-5 and 16mm

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Planning out our route…NEX-5 and 16

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On the lift headed for the Mountain, which took just under an hour to get to – NEX-5 and 16mm

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Me and Sid on the lift having a blast. NEX-5 and 16mm

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The little NEX with the 16mm is great for small spaces

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Marcus as we approach the mountain – M9 and 50 Noctilux ASPH

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M9 and 50 Noct…The M9 files look much less digital with more DR (to my eye) than the ones from the NEX.

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and another from the M9 and 50 Noct – WOW…this is what the Nocti was meant for. This was inside the glacier and it was extremely cold and the air was very thin. Some of us had a hard time catching our breath.

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But how would the NEX-5 and 16mm do in the same tunnel? I used the twilight mode which works great in low light and helped bring out the mood and color. Not bad…

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Sid in the Glacier Palace – NEX-5 and 16mm

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Mike in the Glacier Palace – M9 and Nocti ASPH

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We were tired from the walking, the heavy breathing and also pretty hungry so we decided to head back down to the village for some lunch. I snapped a few more shots along the way…

M9 and Noctilux

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M9 and Noctilux

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NEX-5 and 16mm

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Cloud coverage all day so no really great shot of Matterhorn Mountain…M9/Noctilux ASPH

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one more…

So far this little Ski town,  Zermatt, has been awesome but for me very hectic. It seems like I have been on the go since I stepped foot off of the helicopter, but hey, I’m not complaining! I have to see and do as much as I can while I am here because who knows if I will ever be here again, right? Tomorrow night is the show where Seal plays the “Zermatt Unplugged” festival and it should be a great night overall. We all leave to head back home at 4AM the night of the show so I’ll soon be back home in AZ and will probably sleep for two days straight :)

Some of you have e-mailed me asking for me to post a full size file from the M9 and Nocti (even though this combo has been out for quite a while now). Today I snapped a shot from our cable car as we were heading up the mountain and for some reason, my focus issues that I had with the Noctilux were no longer there today! Maybe the cold Swiss air healed the lens, lol. Anyway, below is a full size image, just click on it to open it up in another window. I love the M9 files and the Dynamic Range which beat out the NEX-5 sensor in my experience of real world shooting.

Also, here is a quick shot that I happened to take with each camera. One with the M9 and one with the NEX. I did not do this to make any kind of comparison but rather so I could have one with more compression (M9 and 50) since the 16 was so wide on the NEX. BUT one thing I notice is how much more richer the M9 files look, and hell, they should be since the camera costs 10X as much but I see many people who do not own an M9 and they say the NEX has better Dynamic Range than the M. Well, from everything I have shot with each camera I can easily say the DR of the M9 exceeds that of the NEX. I’m sure someone will come along telling me the numbers say differently, but I go by real world photos.

This shot was in the sun, taken about 20 seconds apart. First one with the NEX-5 and 16…

and as previously posted..the M9 version shot with the Noctilux

These are pretty much straight out of camera shots here. IMO, the NEX shot looks more digital, has more digital color and the highlights are blown in several areas. The M9 shot is smooth, rich, and it was a much more robust file. Yea, the M9 sensor still rocks. Believe me! For those looking for an M9 in stock, Ken Hansen has some in each color – you can email him here. Also, Dale Photo has them as well. B&H Photo, at the time of this writing is sold out of the M9.

Check back in the next couple of days for the Seal show report in Zermatt as well as some new Daily Inspirations and Guest articles!

Steve

 

 

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Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

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Apr 102011
 

Here I am in my hotel winding down my two days in Cape Town South Africa. THIS has been the absolute best stop of the Seal tour over the past month, for me at least. HANDS DOWN! I mean, I could live here and be happy. The weather is gorgeous, the people are friendly and happy, the food is delicious, and the beach…WOW. The beach is incredible. Food and clothes also cost about HALF of what it would cost me back home in the USA. Yes my friends, Cape Town is a place to visit for a week or two, chill out and just unwind.

We only have 2 1/2 days here total so I am making the best of it while I can.

Seal and the guys doing sound check at the private show last night

Seal played a private show here last night so it was a very small group, and a small club style venue and stage. Even though it was a much different vibe it was still a blast! Not only did I meet yet another reader of this blog, who happened to be the paid photographer for the person throwing the party, I also met another awesome photographer who was shooting the whole event. I had a lovely time. After the show me and a couple of the guys went for a late night snack and beer, and the streets were hopping, even at 2AM.

But let me rewind a bit. Earlier in the day, after the guys did their soundcheck, we took a quick walk to the beach and I brought along the Leica M9 (In stock at DALE photo now) and Noctilux f/0.95 ASPH, as well as the Sony NEX-5 and Leica adapter.

The M9 and Noctilux on the Beach

Next 5 shots, the M9 and Nocti/35 Cron combo on the beach in Cape Town – click images for larger and better versions

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The next two shots are from the M9 and 35 Summicron


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and back to the Nocti…

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THE NEX-5 with Leica Glass…

We all know how good the Leica M9 and Nocti combo is, but how about the little NEX-5? I did not shoot it too much last night but did manage a few shots. I prefer shooting my M as that is what I am so used to, but the NEX-5, at $699, did a decent job. It will not..and I repeat, WILL NOT beat or even challenge an M9 file (I tried really hard) for sharpness, detail and snap but at 1/10th the cost of an M9, and being able to use Leica lenses on it, the NEX-5 is actually a tiny little masterpiece of a camera. The color can be gorgeous…

The next three images were all with the NEX-5 and Noctilux ASPH

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SHOWTIME with the NEX and the M9

The show last night was intimate, personal and was also a private show for a great guy who has been a HUGE Seal fan since day one. The crowd was small but everyone had a great time. I mostly shot the M9 and Nocti as this gig was low lights. No huge stage or elaborate lighting setup so I had to go with what worked, and the Nocti just works!

I did take a few with the NEX-5 and Leica 50 Summicron and I really like the results. One thing to note…I shot the M9 and Nocti combo at ISO 2500 in B&W JPEG mode. What you see here are all OOC JPEGS that I tinted with a Sepia tone. ISO 2500, low light…where is the noise?

My goal for the night was to capture the energy, emotion, excitement, sweat, grit, and passion of the show. As I already mentioned, there were two other photographers there and I am excited to see some of their images as I always love seeing how others “see” through the lens.

Hope you enjoy the shots.

First, the M9 images from the show…

The M9 and Nocti ASPH wide open…

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I always love the way the Noctilux renders every little detail.

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Even though this was a small private show, the guys took this on with full energy

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Sid tearing up the drums…

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Probably my fave shot of the night. I went behind the drums to get this one.

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Gus on guitar…

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Always love taking shots of the crowd. This is a direct OOC, JPEG. Again, as with ALL of the others, ISO 2500.

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This one was underexposed and I brought it out which is why there is noise in this one. With the M9, even in  VERY low light, if you expose properly you will get a semi clean file even at max ISO. Underexpose though, and you are in trouble. Even so, I LOVE this shot!

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One thing I learned from shooting Leica at live performances. You do NOT always have to be up close to get a nice performance shot! If I had a SLR and Zoom I would have been trying to zoom in here. Nope, just me and a 50 is all I need to cover a full show. Bringing the audience and surroundings in to the image gives the viewer a better sense of what it was like to be there.

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Audience Participation is always fun…

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Mark Summerlin was rocking last night…

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The friendliest, most cheerful guy I know…Steve (Sid) always has a blast when he plays..here he hams it up for me while playing.

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A happy fan snaps a shot of Seal…

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After the show Seal always meets with the fans.

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Some NEX-5 Shots with the Leica Summicron 50, all at f2

Ok, so some of you asked for me to shoot the NEX, with Leica glass at a Seal show. I admit, I BARELY used it and of the 20-30 shots I took, I really only liked 2-3. Here they are…

The NEX does great at high ISO as well though the files are not nearly as “Robust” as the M9 files. Also, these did not look nearly as good in B&W as the ones from the M9. Why is that?

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The rich color from the NEX-5 even at ISO 1600

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Focus was hit or miss with the all manual Leica lens. Using the LCD magnification would have solved that but man, it’s a slow process during a live performance that would lead to many missed shots. I can focus 5X as fast (and with 98% accuracy) with the M9 as I can manually with the NEX/Leica combo. Also, with the NEX sensor, there seems to be less “WOW” than with the M9 sensor…

Thoughts on the NEX-5 and Leica combo

The NEX and Leica combo can give better color and image quality over the two Kit lenses that Sony offer BUT spending the big bucks on Leica glass for your NEX will not get you into Leica territory when it comes to flat out IQ. It’s slower to focus than an M, has less sharp and dynamic files than an M, and in all honesty, the M9 does just as good as ISO 2500 as the NEX does in the same range. Still, for $600 the NEX is a little powerhouse that is one of the coolest buys at the moment (still) for those not wanting the bulk of a DSLR and for those who do not want to spend the big bucks on Leica.

Still, I can’t see myself going out with the NEX and Leica glass when I own an M9. If I did not own an M9, I do not think I would spend $2-$3000 on a Leica lens to use with my NEX camera. I’d probably go for a Zeiss 50 Sonnar in the $1000 range instead.

I’ve written several times about this little NEX but I still enjoy it. Also, don’t forget J-Tec! They offer some unique accessories for your NEX and they are a site sponsor!

Where to next?

We are leaving Cape Town in a few hours and heading to Switzerland for 3-4 days before heading home. I will try to shoot the NEX more with the Noctilux in the next few days. Also, the Matterhorn mountain is calling my name..should be fun. Stay tuned!

Steve

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Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new

 

Apr 042011
 

Just an update on the Seattle Meetup/Workshop coming up in July 2011. So far seven seats have been sold out of the fifteen available. There were a few of you trying to reserve a spot while I was away in Brazil but for some reason some of the emails were lost. If you want to attend and contacted me, but did not hear back then e-mail me again HERE. You can check out all of the details of the Seattle Event HERE. Thanks to all, and I can not wait! It will be a great time!

Apr 042011
 

Wow! I am now back home after traveling with Seal and his band for the past three weeks. It was an adventure I will never forget, getting to see all of the sights and sounds of South America, and it all ended with a bang in Mexico City, MX with TWO back to back shows. What a tour!

When I was asked to go on this three week journey I had an idea of what to expect since I toured with them in 2010 for a week on a bus tour through Europe. This time it was ALL about flying so there were many flights and bag check ins and even a delay or two. One late night in Miami, FL we waited 6 hours for a connecting flight to Mexico City, which finally departed at 1am.

All in all I had a blast on this tour and even though there were tiring moments, it was well worth it. Even when I threw up one hour before the first Mexico City show it was well worth it. Even though I averaged 4-5 hours of sleep a night, it was well worth it. The images I captured will always be something I can look back on and I may make a nice book out of the images from this tour (just for personal memories), as well as an upcoming show in Switzerland. Yea, it was well worth it.

I will be leaving on Wednesday once again to Join seal and the gang for two shows, one is South Africa in Cape Town, and one in Switzerland. I’ll be gone for another week but will be updating the site at every chance I get. Lots of photo opps coming up and the M9 will join me once again. I may also bring a NEX-5 this time to shoot it with Leica glass..Hmm, interesting.

I was lucky for  this tour as Seal let me borrow his amazing Noctilux f/0.95 which I gave back to him yesterday morning. I may have shed a tear when I did that (lol). The lens is a masterpiece. Heavy? Yes. Large? Yes. Magical? YES! To those who own one, you own one of the most unique lenses ever made. One day….

Also, to those e-mailed me over the past three weeks I will be answering all of them on Monday :) While away I had limited time so did not get to all of the e-mails.

As for the final two Seal shows, it was a blast and I shot loads of photos of which I am putting up my favorites below. Someone asked me how many photos I take during a typical 2 hour show. I know some concert guys who take over 1000 shots during a 2 hour show. Me, I usually end up at 175-200 max. Then I get 20-40 I like out of that with the others either out of focus or just missed timing shots.

There was a couple of times that I wished I had a zoom as I could never get a decent shot of the horn section. Maybe in Switzerland I can think of something.

Anyway, a big thank you to Seal for letting me tag along and do what I love doing, I’ll never forget it! Thanks to Sid for providing the laughs and hanging out, thanks to Steve and Chris for the fun days shooting and hanging out, and thanks to Marcus, Mark and Gus for being amazingly cool and nice and also welcoming me to travel along with the band. I also want to thank the horn section, Carol, Sarah, Georgina, and Katie for letting me tag along to Sugar Loaf Mountain and thanks to Ric Salmon, Seals manager for the beers and dinners, and for running such a class operation. I’ll see you all next week in Cape Town!

On to the pics from Mexico City…

Looking through the entry doors during soundcheck. Noctilux wide open.

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Steve McDonald (Background) replacing batteries for Mark Summerlin (Guitar) during soundcheck. Noctilux wide open.

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From Night #1 in Mexico City. I loved this one even though I did not nail focus. The expression, composition and smoke all come together for a great performance photo. Nocti, wide open!

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Seal always finds a way to connect with the fans during his performance. Nocti, stopped down a bit, maybe f4.

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The Nocti stopped down to 1.4. I intentionally blew out the backgrounds on this one…

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Once again, no other Leica lens does color quite like the Noctilux IMO though the M9 in general has such deep and rich color potential. You just have to “coax” it out and I do this by adjusting the black levels and exposure during the RAW development. These are with the 35 Summicron and 50 Noctilux…

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But to be fair, the little Leica 28 Elmarit ASPH is also STUNNING on the M9! If you have an M9 and want a wider lens than a 35 or 50..the 28 Elmarit gets my highest recommendation. It is small, semi affordable (for Leica) and performs as good, if not better, than the 35 Summicron. The Elmarit is usually IN STOCK as well.

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With the 35 Summicron, Seal smiles as a fan yells out  “I Love You”..

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and some of the band from the last two shows..

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and a few more that I liked…

Even after 10 shows, some of these are my favorite inages from the tour. I hope you guys have enjoyed them and thanks for coming along with me on this photographic and musical journey :)

 

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Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new

 

Apr 022011
 

My Theatrical Adventure with Leica M9

By Greg Shanta

I live in Moscow, Russia and I am an amateur photographer. After reading all those fantastic reportages by Steve from his coverage of Seal’s South American Tour and enjoying his great images from those events, I decided to challenge myself and try and shoot a concert with my Leica M9.

My brother’s wife is a choreographer and she had recently invited me to see their new dance drama performance based on an ancient Indian legend called ‘Dasa-avatara’ (no relation to the movie). It’s a great tale of God Vishnu descending on Earth in ten ‘incarnations’ at different times in history.

They put together a colorful show that was showing last Monday at one of Moscow’s most prestigious theatre halls, The International House of Music. It’s a huge modern round-shaped structure appearing to be made entirely of glass. The main hall inside has excellent acoustics and often hosts various great performers from all over the world.

Unfortunately, I don’t own the legendary Noctilux 50mm f/0.95 lens. So, I couldn’t duplicate Steve’s setup in my challenge shoot. Instead, I took three lenses with me: my favourite Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/1.5, Zeiss Biogon 28mm f/2.8 and, just in case I would need an occasional close up shot, I also packed a Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 lens. In addition, I had in my bag a tiny Nikon SB-30 Flash with a spare battery.

Just prior to attending the concert I met with a friend of mine who wanted me to help her with a portfolio. I took some shots of her near the Theatre with my 50mm Sonnar at f/5.6. Here is one of those shots, just to open my presentation with a beautiful young face.

I just love the way my Sonnar draws portraits, so I couldn’t resist showing it to you. The girl’s name is Irina and she is a very nice and friendly person, as you can see.

After my little photo-shoot with Irina, which was just a part of our ongoing portfolio project, I went straight to the Theatre. My brother’s wife had secured for me a nice second raw seat right in the centre. So I was in a very good position for shooting and close enough to the stage.

As I had my Sonnar on camera already, I took some initial shots with it but somehow I wasn’t very happy with the perspective. So I decided to do some close ups and swapped the lens for the 90mm Lanthar. I liked it immediately! That particular performance, I reasoned, was ought to be shot with a short telephoto lens, due to the specifics of the setup on stage and my own position. So, I just left the 90mm on for the entire show.

My Lanthar, mind you, is not a very fast lens. The hall was quite dark and the lights on stage very dim. That was done on purpose, considering the nature of the drama. So, I just had to use my Flash (fortunately, as it turned) in order to keep ISO at 160, which was my initial intention. It wasn’t a native Leica flash and TTL was not an option, so I used it in Manual mode. The Nikon SB-30 has only three manual positions: 1/32, 1/8 and full power, plus a 1/2-stop compensation both ways. Not much to play with but it’s so tiny and its output is so strong for its size that I just love it and carry with me almost everywhere, just in case. It proved to be very handy at the Theatre that night.

Well, enough of my talking and let me show you some pictures.

As you can see, the pictures came out quite nice! Out of about 300 shots I had more than 50 definite keepers and about 10 to 15 frames that I was very satisfied with. Not bad!

Now, that you’ve seen the pictures, let me talk about my experience. There were a few things I wasn’t happy with and I want to get them out of the way before I move on to the ‘happy’ part.

First, I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t move around. I had to shoot the entire show from the same position from my seat. It was, as I said, very well situated, but you want to move around to shoot from different angles. I didn’t have that option. That event was very high-profile and I had Indian Ambassador sitting just a couple of seats from me and all kinds of important people around, too. So, alas, I was sort of chained to my seat.

Next problem was my Nikon Flash. It’s a marvelous little beast but the recharge time in full-power mode is slower than I am comfortable with. Besides, when the battery is not fresh the recharge time is getting really painfully slow. I missed many good shots due to this problem alone. Luckily, I had a spare battery, as I always do. Anyway, considering its tiny size, I think it performed beautifully. I shouldn’t be complaining, really.

That’s about it, folks. Another thing that could be classified as a negative experience, actually turned out to be one of the most positive ones. I am talking about manual focusing in difficult conditions. You see, the 90mm frame in a Leica is very small. It takes tremendous amount of concentration to nail focus consistently. Especially if you are shooting rapidly moving people in low light and you are 48 and slowly losing your once perfect eyesight.

Mind you, this was a dance performance. The dancers moved around all the time. It’s worse than shooting sports because sports activities are usually performed in good light and the main problem is to have a long enough lens to reach your subject. By the way, I have another exciting challenge up my sleeve, involving sports and a Leica M9. It may turn into a total disaster or a good article on Steve’s site. We’ll see.

So, shooting moving subjects manually with a slow 90mm lens in low light with a rangefinder camera is a major pain… Or, is it? Miraculously, it turned for me into a major gain, instead. Yes, it is difficult; yes, you get tired in the end; your face may stay deformed for hours afterwards; and yes, you will miss some shots. But the very fact that I had to concentrate so hard on my subject had allowed me to magically connect with the subject and become a part of the action. I totally forgot that I was sitting in a chair with a camera to my eye. I was on stage, dancing with all those beautiful people the whole time! My mind flew out of my body through my eye and then through the barrel of my lens right on to the stage. That feeling was unforgettable! I really enjoyed it. When I made those close ups of individual dancers it felt like an embrace (I seriously hope, my wife isn’t reading this!) And when I shot dancers in a group I felt like I was right in the midst of them, swirling away in an exuberant pirouette. And no, I wasn’t drinking that night… Amazing experience! All thanks to manual focusing and the resulting concentrated effort!

I am a lazy dude. I don’t usually enjoy hard work (sorry, Mom). But in this case I found it crucial to success. It had helped me to get into a state that was very important for the final outcome.

The only thing that is valid in photography is the feeling, both on the creator’s end and on the viewer’s end. I see the photographic phenomenon as a bridge between those two ends: a delivery system that brings human feelings across time. All great photographs ever made by anybody were born out of deep, intense feelings. There is some unexplainable magic to it and you can’t make it work if you are detached from your subject. You have to be there, right in the middle of the action. And that’s where Leica comes in very handy. There is something special about rangefinder photography. It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated but the evidence has been in abundance for decades.

I was so fired up at the Theatre that night that I felt like allowing myself a little experiment with dragging the shutter (inspired partly by Seal in a recent conversation here on this site). I made a few shots using that technique and eventually came up with a triptych that I happened to like a lot afterwards. I called it ‘The Fallen Angel’. The angelic theme is indistinctly evident in some other shots in this series; so to me the ‘Fallen Angel’ was a culmination of the theme. Besides, the ‘Avatara’ concept that was dominant in that performance was of God’s descending onto the Earth to bring justice and peace. I like juxtapositions in Art, so I had my renegade angel falling from the sky in order to screw things up. Don’t take it seriously, though. It was just a mischievous artistic expression.I want to conclude my article with that triptych.

If you would be interested to see more pictures from that night, please visit my Flickr page. I must warn you, though: it’s a big mess and in serious need of some housekeeping. I am in the process of setting up my own web site now , so in the near future I’ll have my portfolio displayed there.

Thank you all very much for your time!

Greg Shanta

 

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Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Also, the new forums are NOW OPEN on this site so get involved if you like! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Mar 312011
 

As always, the Leica M9 has been by my side for the past 3 weeks and right this minute I am at the Venue in Mexico City where Seal will be performing his 2nd show here in about 2 hours. I’m blogging because they have a WiFi connection available so why not? :) I shot the show last night here in Mexico City and it was yet another high energy show. I will put up some of those images tomorrow after tonights show and mix them together.

Tomorrow afternoon I go back home to AZ and will have one week off before heading to South Africa for a few days. Lots of exciting things going on, and so many photo opps that I have been on photo overload! I love it!

This morning a few of us went out to get some shots on the street but we ended up having a great lunch instead. I managed to get in a few shots before getting on the van to the show.

While away on this tour I have been in “Photographer” mode instead of “Testing” mode so the change of pace has been good for me. Getting out and being able to take actual photographs instead of silly test shots has re-activated some passion inside of me, and it’s been great fun.

All shots below with the the Leica M9 and 50 Summicron

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My new buds, Chris and Steve shooting on the streets of Mexico City…

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I managed to capture this couple sharing a hug. He saw me but gave me a smile after I took the shot..

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Seal street shooting with his Titanium M7

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Mike the Bad Ass security guy with Seal while we waited for the restaurant to open up…

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I thought I focused on the food but somehow missed it :) The food was AMAZINGLY gorgeous and tasty :)

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After I made it to soundcheck the band wanted some shots of them but they decided to have fun with it. This is the last show of this short tour so everyone is in high spirits…The four shots below were all with the 28 Elmarit at 2.8, which seems like it was made for the M9.

At soundcheck just minutes ago..the band switched instruments to take this shot.

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From left to right: Mark Summerlin, Marcus Brown, Gus Isidore, and Steve Sidelnyk

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Katie, Sarah and Georgina

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Carol Jarvis – Master Drummer, faces and all…

The final South American Tour Report will be up tomorrow night, or at the latest Saturday. Then back to normal business for a week with guest reports and reviews. It will be good to get home tomorrow :) I have to say that the Leica M9 performed FLAWLESSLY for me during daily use on this three week tour. It withstood the bangs, the abuse, the humidity, and even some rain. To the naysayers, yes…the M9 can be used as a pro camera. Period.

I’ll leave you with one shot from last nights show…LOVE the color and the vibe in this one. It’s as if all of the Energy is coming out of Seal and exploding into the crowd…shot with the 35 cron at f/2.

Mar 282011
 

The South American Seal tour is winding down with only two shows left in Mexico City, Mexico. To some extent this is exciting to me. Shooting the last two shows of this short tour should provide some amazing images. The energy and excitement should be there 100%. The band feels it and I am sure Seal feels it as well. Also, with the anticipation of everyone going back home to their families and friends as well as the comfort of their own home for a little while adds to the excitement.

As you are reading this I am on a 8 hour flight heading to Mexico City, Mexico. I wrote this last night and scheduled it to post today. I knew I would have a long day of travel as we fly in to Miami, FL first and then from there we go on to Mexico City. After the drive to the hotel we are looking at a 13 hour travel day. I’ll try to sleep on the plane as much as I can so it goes by quickly.

Last nights show Recife was a fantastic show, though for me, as a photographer, the venue was a bit odd. Was very hard for me to get in position to shoot and with only a 28, 35 and 50 available to me last night getting tight close shots was tough.

But even with that I persevered and tried a few things differently…

Here are the shots from Recife Brazil! AMAZING AMAZING passionate crowd last night! EVERY image except the 1st were shot with the M9 and Noctilux. This lens continues to blow me away with what it can do in almost any light situation. The 1st was shot with the 35 Summicron ASPH. Enjoy!

BTW, all of the tour shots can also be seen at seal.com. Also, if you are in Mexico City, MX come to the show! It’s a great time and worth the price of admission. If you are there and see me, say HEY! Last night in Recife I met two people who are readers of this blog. Very cool!

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Mar 282011
 

NEW: LEICA ANNOUNCES FIRMWARE UPDATE FOR LEICA X1

Allendale, NJ (March 28, 2011) – Leica Camera, Inc. is pleased to announce a firmware update for its high-performance digital compact camera, the LEICA X1. Users wishing to benefit from the new offerings can download the firmware update from the Leica website and take advantage of new, improved features beginning Tuesday March 29, 2011.

The new X1 firmware offers the following features and benefits:

· Improved manual focusing, with the focus screen showing the image based on an open aperture

· More accurate manual focusing with finer steps, when scrolling slowly with the click wheel

· Two manual focusing speeds for more accurate and faster manual focus operation

· Manual focusing lock now available

· Enlarged manual focusing scale display

· Depth of field scale displayed in manual focusing mode

· Manual focus settings retained in memory when camera is switched off

· Improved autofocus speed in low light conditions and with low contrast subjects, in particular when shooting multiple images of the same subject

· ISO setting displayed in Auto ISO mode

· Improved JPEG image quality

For more information, please visit: http://us.leica-camera.com/photography/compact_cameras/x1.

About the Leica X1

The Leica X1 delivers the best picture quality among compact cameras. This elegant camera features a 12.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor in APS-C format, identical in size to those used in semi-professional DSLR cameras. Each individual pixel has a generous surface area and collects more light, therefore ensuring low noise levels, high dynamic range and accurate color differentiation. Expressed in terms of 35mm film format, the X1’s Elmarit 24mm f/2.8 ASPH lens has the same coverage as the legendary 35 mm focal length. While its numerous automatic functions make the X1 extremely fast and intuitive to use, its manual control options enable the photographer to maintain concentration on the creative aspects of the composition.

Mar 282011
 

Street Shooting in Recife Brazil

It’s Monday morning back at home, 6AM to be exact, but here I am in Recife Brazil with the sound of the ocean roaring from my hotel window, and I am in bed watching news while I write this update. Outside the sun is blazing, the humidity is high and I think I am staying in my room all day to get caught up on e-mails, photo editing, and some good old R&R. I may venture down tio the lobby for lunch and a snack because I am already feeling my stomach growl as it begs me for some breakfast. Who knows, I may get adventurous today and venture up to the pool on the 15th floor and enjoy a coconut water..mmmmm, sounds good.

The day we arrived here in Recife I went out with Steve from the road crew, who also shoots an M9 with a 50 Lux Pre-ASPH lens, and we had a great time shooting, talking, discovering the sights, sounds, smells and people of this part of Brazil. The people of Recife are friendly, and LOVE having their photos taken! We felt a bit more at ease here than we did in Rio so we just wandered around for 3 hours taking shots. It was hot as hell outside and I came away with a sunburn but also managed to get some great shots.

These images may not be to everyones tastes, or the street shooting “purists” who feel that if you are not copying HCB then you are not doing real street shooting. What we went out to do was to just shoot what we saw, as we walked, with our main focus on the people of Racife. Here are my humble attempts…a mix of color and B&W. All shot with the Leica M9 and 50 Summicron. Enjoy :)

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The next and last stop for me while on this tour will be Mexico City, Mexico which we travel to tomorrow. We will be there for a couple of days and I hope to get some shooting in there as well. Friday I will be flying back home to Phoenix, and as much as I am enjoying myself here I am happy to get back home..to my own bed..my own house, and to be back with my loved ones.

I will be posting a couple more guest articles this week along with the last Seal tour reports from the South American tour. When I get back home I will be working on getting the Fuji X100 for review as well as organizing the next SteveHuffPhoto.Com Contest, with another GREAT prize :) Stay Tuned!

Mar 272011
 

What makes a photograph a “classic”?

By ~6

Email conversation between me and ~6 this morning…

Steve- “TOO BAD I MISSED THE FOCUS……would have been a classic shot”.

`6- “No, no, no, no…..it is perrrrrfect that you missed focus! Also, the ‘dust/scratch/vignette’ pp is perfect for this photo. It looks so authentic and in my opinion you should post it as an example of what makes a, to use your word, “Classic” photograph. It is nothing about focus, nothing about digital versus film and it is nothing about the gear. It is about one thing…the photographers ability to ‘stop time’, to capture emotion! Alternatively, post it and let me say it as some people (there’s always one) might think you’re being self-praising, not that, that would stop me mind you. I could write an essay on this picture alone and it is perhaps my favorite of the whole tour because it tells me so much and leaves me to imagine even more. It is perfect Steve and I want a print.”

Above is a section of an email correspondence between Steve and myself.

I asked steve to let me write this for a few reasons. The first being that he sent it to me with the title ‘Shame I missed the focus….would’ve been a classic’. The second reason being that it may come off as being ‘self-praising’ if he were to use the appropriate words to describe what I feel is one of his greatest photographs ever. Lastly, it is a shining example of what makes a lasting ‘Photograph’ and not a ‘file’.

Without question, this will turn out to be the photograph that I will hang on the wall of my studio when I return home. Not only to remind me of this tour, but also to serve as a memory of this stage of my life with everything and everyone that was around it at the time. It is what I will look at when I’m old and grey (please God) because my feeling is that more than the incredible, best ever photographs that Steve took of the rest of the band, crew and myself, yes, more than those iconic images of me performing in my prime, this one photograph will perhaps be the one that draws tears, lament, joy and a sense of pride when I look back on my professional career.

It is sad and happy at the same time. It shows the detachedness that one has to have when being away from home for extended periods of time. Within the context of the whole tour series, it tells the ‘narrative’, the need to numb one’s-self with liquor, nicotine and fool-hardy behaviour in order to obtain relief from the distance of those loved one’s left behind. It conveys the humidity in the night air of Recife. It shows the tour winding down, the end of one chapter and perhaps the beginning of another, the complexity of a great musician and friend that is Marcus Brown. Yes, it shows all of this in one decisive moment…one photograph. I could go on and write a paper on this photograph but I won’t as the gym beckons and soundcheck is in about three, besides… it’s better left to your imagination.

Angels made of flesh and bone come in and out of one’s life at optimum moments disguised as people. They bring messages that are sometimes hard to see and other times…as clear as the sunlit day here in Recife. You just have to be open to see them.

Thanks for being an angel Steve, thanks for being my friend.

`6

p.s. a little less vignetting when you make my print please….Ha ha ha ha ha…….

(~6, thank YOU for everything and for being MY friend. True friends are not easy to come by these days, but since I have been on this tour I have already made some close friendships with some of the band and the crew. Thank YOU for having me shoot this tour as it is something I will always remember for the rest of my life. The food, the drink, the laughter, the locations, the experiences and continued learning for me has been mind blowing. So again, thank you for helping create these memories for ME to document. It’s been delightful. Steve)

Mar 262011
 

Keeping this one simple. The Noctilux f/0.95 is the KING of the night in the photo world. Yea it is close to $11,000, but damn, it IS one piece of magical glass that has been blessed and given the treatment by the Leica gods.

I took it out in the dark last night and came away with all of the following images. It’s ability to suck in and use up all of the available light is astounding. It’s what it does and it does it well.

Seal, the band, and myself went out for a stroll near the hotel and then headed to dinner to meet up with the entire crew from the tour. Seal was shooting with his Titanium Leica M7 and Titanium 50 Lux ASPH. I had his Nocti on my M9 and was amazed at what I was able to get at such low light levels and high ISO and using in camera JPEGS. Awesome!

Enjoy the images and if you want a Noctilux and are ready to shell out $11k for one, you are out of luck as NO ONE has one in stock! From what I hear there is a 3-6 month wait for one. Crazy huh?

Anyway, this is a typical day off for Seal, the band, and the crew. Food, drink and fun!

Enjoy!

ALL images are at ISO 2500 with the Leica M9 and all wide open! Enjoy!

Steve and Phay in the hotel lobby before we went out for the night.

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In the town Square there were dancers entertaining the locals…

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as we walked many of the people recognized Seal and asked for photos and autographs. Here he poses with a fan for a picture…

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After the market in the square we walked down the coast and I saw this couple and fired away…

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Mark Summerlin and Steve Sidelnyk from the band…

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Seal orders a coconut water (which tastes amazing)…the coconuts are cut fresh as you order…

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Steve on the beach…

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Gus on the beach…

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Steve…

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On the bus heading to the restaurant…

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Seals Titanium M7 that he has been shooting with every single day…

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pick your own crab for dinner :)

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The waiters…

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Georgina from the Horn Section enjoying her food and drink…

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Marcus Brown and Steve McDonald

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Catching a moment…

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We saw a roach at the end of our table and Georgina who was 50 feet away hopped up on her chair in fear. She thought it was a mouse we were all trying to stomp…

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A look from across the room…

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After dinner we all went to the beach and these girls were there playing guitar and wanted their picture taken. Everyone in Racife seems so happy and friendly…

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Then these guys wanted their pic taken and wanted me to email it to them (which I did)..

The M9 and Nocti at ISO 2500 and f/0.95 can do just about anything…love it!

Mar 262011
 

The Leica M9 – Travels Throughout India

By Ashwin Rao

Hello, everyone, it’s Ashwin Rao, here again to share my recent travel experience with you. I recently returned from a three-week sojourn to India, a land of grandeur, spectacular beauty side-by-side with harsh reality. While there, the Leica M9  served as a constant travel companion,  and I wanted to share my experiences with you in another travel journal here on Steve’s site.

Last year, in one of my first articles for this site, I discussed my experience with the Leica M9 while on travels in Egypt and Venice, Italy. At the time, the M9 was brand new, a relatively untested product, full of untapped promise. Over the past year, in not only my experience but in the experience of many other dedicated photographers such as yourselves, the M9 has proved itself time and time again as a reliable tool for photography in a wide range of circumstances. It is a discrete camera for street photography, where being unobtrusive allows one to nail the shot without provoking the subject been photographed. The M9’s relatively diminutive size also allows easy stow away, making it an ideal travel companion. Finally, while not being weather sealed, I have found the M9’s robust built to inspire confidence in photographing a wide variety of circumstances. I have used it in snow, dust, smog, fog, rain (okay, light drizzle), hot and cold climates, and the camera has not let me down.  While one may take pause to port around a $7000 camera with similarly priced lenses into more challenging shooting circumstances, I can guarantee you that most people would never know this camera for what it is. More often than not, people walk up to me and ask me what type of film camera it is that I am shooting, if they come up to ask anything at all….in this way, I feel that the photographer carrying around the M9 is less of a target than the photographer carrying the ubiquitous SLR that everyone seems to own these days…making it a target for thieves, scoundrels, and the evildoers of the world…

Weight of the world – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Up-close and Personal with Mahal – Leica 24 mm Summilux Asph

Despite its size and discretion, most of you know that the M9 yields uncompromised image quality. In fact, having shot with Leica M series cameras, Canon Full Frame SLRs, Nikon Cameras, the X1, Ricoh’s offerings, and Pentax SLR’s, I find that the M9, with aspherical glass mounted, offers the highest image quality of any system. Particularly, the Leica M9’s sensor really shines when used at ISO’s of 800 or below, which basically means 95% of photographic opportunities. Sure, the M9 doesn’t really do macro or super-telephoto photography, but for 80-90% of what anyone might want to photograph, it does the job handily, in a small package, using unparalleled Leica optics (Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses are great too….just not my flavor).

All that being said, I recently ported my M9 and 4 lenses to India, and had a fantastic time photographing the country. I found the set up that I took to be entirely complete. I didn’t feel myself lacking for another camera, and in fact, I barely used the Leica X1 that I took as a backup camera. Further, when I got home, I was so convinced that I didn’t need the X1 and promptly sold it. The M9 is that good, that versatile, and that reliable.

Patterns in Red – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

The Watchful Eye – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph


Sun into the Sundial at Jantar Mantar -  Leica 24 mm Summilux Asph

After much debate and discussion, I concluded upon the following kit for my travel needs:

Camera and Appointments

1.     Leica M9, black (with black dot replacing the manufacturer’s red dot)

2.     Luigi Leather Half Case, in Rally Brown color with built in grip

3.     Match Technical Thumbs Up CSEP-1 with Beep Shutter release

4.     Electric tape to cover white “M9” logo

 

Lenses (all with Heliopan or B&W thin cut UV-MRC filters to protect the front element, hoods, and caps)

1.     Leica 24 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph

2.     Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph Version II

3.     Leica 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph

4.     Leica 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar  with detachable hood

 

Bag and Accessories

1.     Billingham Pola (Black) bag

2.     Microfiber cloth x 2 for cleaning lenses and camera

3.     Batteries, total of 4

4.     Battery charger, and approrpiate power adapter

5.     Black, ankle length cotton socks, to act as lens cases for stow away and protection

 

Computer:

1.     MacBook Air, 11 inch, for on the fly editing (I have the 11 inch model with 4 GB ram, 128 GB hard drive, and faster processor)

2.     SD card reader, to allow the Macbook Air  to read files from SD card

3.     Adobe Lightroom 3, with Nik Silver Efex and Color Efex Plug-ins loaded

4.     InCase MacBook Air Neoprene sleeve

That’s the entirety of what I brought with me. The entire set up, save a couple of batteries and computer, fits neatly into the diminutive Billingham Pola. The Pola and Air fit neatly into a backpack, along with my phone, music/headphone options, and Amazon Kindle, with plenty of room to spare for other travel accessories.

Speaking briefly of computers, the new 11 inch Macbook Air is tiny, less than 3 pounds, and quite full featured, allowing mobile computing and image editing and uploading while on the road. I highly recommend this to round out your kit, if you are serious about travel photography.

Varanasi Night-time Puja – Leica 35 mm Summilux Asph II

Sunrise Laundry Service – Leica 90 mm Macro-Elmar

You might ask, why did I choose to take the lenses that I took? For one, I have the luxury of having the option to take these lenses in particular. Second, I wanted a uniform “look” from my lenses, and thus decided to bring only modern, aspherical glass for the ride. Should I have chosen to take pre-aspherical glass, my images may have had different “looks” (pre-asph vs. asph), and I decided, for this trip, to have 1 look to my images.: hence, aspherical glass. Many of you can debate the merits or detractions of which lense focal lengths to chose. For me, I wanted to cover the side angle and near telephoto range. I typically favor a 35/50/90 mm kit, and adding the 24 mm summilux allowed me to shoot wide when needed. I find the wide-angle option  to be great for compressing tight spaces into a frame or trying to capture the scope of monuments such as the Taj Mahal.. The 90 mm option, which not the most used for my photography, allows for a bit of reach when I needed it. The rest, and the majority of the shots that I took, were taken with 35 mm and 50 mm lenses. In my mind,  you should take at least a couple of options for focal length when travelling. This allows you to have more flexibility in capturing the moments that you wish to see. Some moments require closer shooting, while others require you to be a bit more pulled away. Here are some focal length pairings that I recommend:

1.     4 lens kit: 24/35/50/90

2.     3 lens kit: 28/50/90; 35/75/135; 35/50/90, or 24/35/75

3.     2 lens kit: 35/75 or 50/90

4.     1 lens kit (not generally recommended by me, unless it’s all you have or want): 35 mm or 50 mm lens

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The bottom line is that most of you should take a reasonable collection of tools that you posses, and make use of the space that is available to you. The worst thing you can do is regret leaving a lens at home that you really wish that you had. The flip side is that the more that you bring, the more burdensome lens-switching and carrying becomes….so find  happy balance. Take photographs close to home, as you will  get comfortable with shooting from certain perspective. These perspectives and the principals by which you shoot on the road don’t change all that much…

Prayer by Light – Leica 50 mm Summilux AspH

Bull and Dog – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

My itinerary for India developed from the desire of myself and my travel companion to see the real India. We didn’t want to see the country through the windows of a tour bus or organized group travel plan. We wanted to see the people, the places, the moments, the UNESCO world heritage sites, the dusky back alleys, and meaningful religious ceremonies, and do all of this in a variety of settings through India. Along the way, we travelled the country by foot, by private car, by overnight trains, by boat, ferry, and flight. In many of the areas, we were the only “tourists” present. The Lonely Planet was our guide, along with the New York Times Travel section, and in this way, we saw much of the country during our 3 weeks there. I am fortunate to have a travel partner, Andrea, who’s interested in the same things that I like to see, who’s easy to get along with, and who enjoys taking photos as much as I do (and maybe even more than I do…she took more images than me).  Our itinerary for the country was as follows;

Reflections from the Taj – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph


Itinerary

1.     Arrive in Delhi, India

2.     Enjoy Delhi’s sites over 2 days (including Dances of India, Connault Place, Jantar Mantar, Mughal palaces, The Red Fort, Lotus Temple, Lodhi Gardens,  Gandhi’s tomb, and many more sites)

3.     Train from Delhi to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal

4.     Travel to the Taj, Fatepur Sikri, and other Agra religious sites over 2 days. Make sure to travel to the other side of the river, where there’s a beautiful park overlooking the Taj Mahal

5.     Overnight 13 hour train ride from Agra to Varanasi, home to the Hindu Faith and the crazy, alive Ganges River

6.     2 days spent in Varanasi, the place to see so much of the Hindu faith and a true melting pot of India

7.     Flight from Varanasi to Mumbai, where I was fortunate to visit with family

8.     Mumbai to Kerala, a southern Indian State known for it’s great food, beautiful beaches, Mountainous tea plantations, and beautiful backwaters. We spent an entire 9 days in Kerala taking it all in

9.     Flight back to Delhi, and back home

The Night Boatsmen – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Preparation – Leica 90 mm Macro-Elmar

The trip that I took represents only a small fraction of what can be and should be seen in India. Due to time limitations, we were not able to see so many places, such as Goa, Chennai, Mysore and its beautiful palace, Jaipur, Udaipur, the Himalayas and North most India, or the eastern Indian Seaboard. However, what we saw was remarkable enough to warrant many future trips. India is  truly a worthy destination, where you will see life at its grandest and its poorest.  By no means is it an easy place to travel. Trains and flights are often delayed. Traffic is often congested. The overt poverty can be sickening, overbearing, and saddening. The pollution can be hard on the lungs, mind, and spirit. Despite its challenges, India offers so much grandeur and beauty. It is one of the most colorful countries in the world. The dress code and palette is far wider than what we see here in the US and Europe. This makes for some fun color photography. India’s people are kind, generous, and caring. They will look after you and make you feel welcome. They are not used to western travellers, and we can be a bit of a novelty to them. Indians love to stare at others, so be prepared for that. Like anywhere else, if you meet their looks with courtesy and curiosity, you will be treated to great photographs that you can take back home and enjoy for a long time to come.

The Prayer – Leica 35 mm Summilux Asph II

Devotion and Documentation – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Along the way, I have shared many images with you. There are many more that remain to be discovered. What you see is my version of India, my interpretation of what the country presented to me. The Leica M9 served as both an inspiration and a reliable took for capturing these moments, and I suspect that it will serve you equally well on your own travels!

By the way, if you wish to see more images from my travels to India, they can be found on my blog, and via my Flickr site, so please visit there if you wish:

 

Bloghttp://photos-ash.blogspot.com

Flickrhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157625854404334/

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