May 032011
 

The British Royal Wedding with a Leica X1, M9 and Noctilux 0.95

By Edmond Terakopian

It’s not everyday that there’s a Royal Wedding and the last time there was this much excitement was when Price Charles married Lady Diana; actually, I think there may have been even more excitement this time round as Prince William is much loved and the nation seems to have taken to Kate Middleton rather well!

What all this meant was that pictures from the event would be sought after and the pressure was on. It soon became apparent that it was going to be a logistical nightmare; accreditation, the cost of some of the spots, geographical distance between locations and the hundreds of thousands of spectators meant that it would be impossible for one photographer to cover everything. The prime locations would be the domain of the papers and agencies.

I needed something different; I was shooting for Polaris Images and my pictures were headed more for the magazine market. I needed to find a way of telling the story. My decision was to photograph the reaction of the people and the atmosphere. I started my story with memorabilia, went on to the super dedicated fans who camped out nights before and then onto a good old fashioned British street party; all about atmosphere.

I was caught off-guard though! I had put aside an evening as i was invited to the World Photography Awards, followed by the exhibition, drinks and networking gathering. Halfway through the awards ceremony I saw an email from Polaris letting me know that campers had shown up at the Westminster Abbey and they needed material. I make it absolute policy to always have a camera with me no matter what. However, I was a bit worried if I could shoot a feature assignment properly on a pocket camera. Well, I must say that the Leica X1 rose to the challenge beautifully and I shot the entire set of night camping pictures on it. At 800 and 1600ASA it performed beautifully and I managed to get a few good shots.

I went back to the camp during the following day. This time I was properly kitted out. In my little Fogg b-laika shoulder bag I had my Leica M9, 21mm Elmarit, 35mm Summicron ASPH, 50mm f0.95 Noctilux ASPH and 90mm f2.5 Summarit. On my shoulder I also had a Canon 5D MkII with a 135mm f2L lens for the more distant and tight shots. Having worked the scene for around an hour or so I decided to leave and go to Buckingham Palace to see what was happening there.

Whilst at the Palace I shot a set of rehearsal type shots with the guards and also found more fans camping. It was wonderful; I had found fans from Zimbabwe, San Fransisco, Sweden, Australia to name just a few places. I made more pictures here and then shot off home to edit and file my pictures to Polaris.

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For the day of the wedding, after several weeks research, I had found what I hoped would be the perfect street party and it turned out to be so. This lovely small road had been shut with a pub at one end and a row of tables filling the street to the other end. Taking pictures inside the pub whilst people watched the TV screens to the party outside gave me a nice range of atmospheric imagery. After around five hours I was done and I went back home to edit and send.

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What surprised me about this assignment was just how much of it I shot on the 50mm Noctilux; I’d shot around 75% of the entire project on the Nocti. When I looked through my work, I realised that I could have shot the entire thing with just the M9 and the 50mm Noctilux!

On a technical note, I did all my editing, captioning and image processing on Apple’s Aperture 3. For the black and white images you see here, I also used Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2.

To see more of these pictures, please visit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terakopian/sets/72157626496350197/

and for colour:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/terakopian/sets/72157626629213070/

 

I also have a short blog post at:

http://photothisandthat.co.uk/2011/05/02/royal-wedding/

My website is at: http://www.pix.org.uk/

 

Lastly, you can follow me on Twitter – @terakopian

Apr 282011
 

M in the Mountains – A Beginner’s Experience

By Darell Miller

**All photos were shot with a vintage 1961 50 Summilux

I come alive in the mountains. The sense of silent power, crystal clear air, and hushed awe lifts all my senses. On a clear day the sky is a deep delirious blue that that you can almost drink in and just looking at it refreshes exhausted legs after a 2km thigh burning black diamond ski trail. Exhilarated and relaxed at the same time, I am in my element.

I have always longed to be able to capture some of that mountain magic I feel in my photographs but when using digital compacts had not really done anything more than point and shoot and failed. Things started to change last year when through an email conversation with Steve I took my first steps to serious considered photography I bought an Olympus EP2. Six months later after having used some M series lenses on the EP2 I signed up for Steve’s meetup in NYC and managed to pickup a secondhand M8 through the Leica Forum. Now I really stared to learn about the elements that produce an image and actually have control over it. My photos from NY weren’t fantastic but I was learning and loving the process. Now if i could just combine this with my great love of the mountains and skiing that would be great!

 

Sun, Snow & Wind

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The problem was that I normally go skiing with my teenage son who isn’t all that tolerant of my taking photos at the best of times, I slow everything up apparently, and not at all when there’s skiing to be done. This combined with all the kit I have to carry in my backpack for the two of us when we are skiing meant that the best I could hope for was some quickly snatched shots on my EP2, which wasn’t my aim. I was chatting about the problem with my friend Luke, a Canon user and a far better photographer than me, when he came up with a fantastic solution “How about a boy’s skiing and photography weekend in Cervinia, Italy?” Well that didn’t take much thinking about I can tell you! Once we had both obtained the vital green light from our wives it was full steam ahead.

Now came the vexed question of kit. Lenses were easy, my 28mm Voigtlander and my vintage 50mm Summilux were the obvious choices, but a Billingham Hadley Pro is hardly the ideal bag for skiing with. A backpack is more practical but makes it difficult to get at your camera quickly. Here Luke came up trumps again as he uses the Lowe Pro Slingshot as a light weight quick access bag for his Canon and a lens. This is a single strap backpack but with aside strap which holds the bag more firmly in place which can be unclipped from the sling in front of you. This means the whole bag can be swiveled around your body and opened up from the side entry zip with no chance of your camera falling out, even on a ski lift! If you are into active sports and want to take your M this is definitely a bag to consider. With an M8 and two lenses it still has room for a spare sweater in the main compartment, vital when the temperature gets down to -27 degrees Centigrade.

So one Friday evening in we found ourselves touching down in Turin in the north of Italy. For those who haven’t been there Turin is one of the major industrial cities in Italy, the home to Fiat cars, and is located in a bowl literally surrounded by mountains. For a skier it would be heaven to work here as your are no more than an hour and half drive from some serious ski resorts. Oh and if you want to know what it looks like then just watch the original 1960’s Italian Job movie as the whole robbery sequence is set in Turin, don’t get me started on Mini Coopers.

Early Saturday morning we are up and ready to drive form our hotel to the slopes, and I mean early, the Moon hadn’t even set yet and the Sun was barely peeking over the top of the surrounding mountains.

Early start for the slopes

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Cervinia itself is right up on the Swiss/Italian border where you can ski down into the Swiss town of Zermatt and both resorts play host to one of the most iconic mountains in Europe, the Matterhorn. This really is mountain straight form your childhood imagination, especially when seen from the Swiss side. A perfect pyramid of rock, snow, and ice towering over everything else, it punctures the sky like an exclamation mark. Needless to say there were many attempts made to capture its extraordinary beauty and I hope I have done it some justice here and in the first photograph.

 

Majestic Matterhorn

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Complementing the Matterhorn is the seemingly endless Aosta valley. A sinuous, winding corridor of snow clad peaks reaching down from the border with many wonderful ski resorts along its sides.

 

What followed was two and a half days of bitingly blue skies (it really did get down to -27 at one point!), fantastic skiing, great food and wine (well we were in Italy) and lots of photography. Here are a few more of my favourite shots from this amazing weekend.

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Matterhorn Towering over Cervinia

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Last of the day’s Sun

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Luke and his Canon

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Luke carving a turn in front of the Matterhorn

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I thought I’d finish in the style of Steve’s & Seal’s M9 contest with two images that for me define why I love the mountains.  Thanks for reading.

 

Heaven is a place on Earth

 

Apr 262011
 

So last night I start getting e-mails flooding my inbox about this Leica i9 concept camera that has been posted online by Black Design Associates. I took a look and it appears there has been quite a bit of thought put into this thing! The i9 would combine your Iphone 4 with a fixed Leica lens rangefinder system.

Just sliding the phone in to the back of this camera body would activate it and you would be ready to rock with dedicated aperture dials, a light meter, and a flash. The camera back opens like a film door and is interchangeable, so when a new Iphone is released, a new back would be as well. Interesting idea with a target price of $1200, but again, this is all fantasy and concept. Fun to see someone putting some work into this though. Besides, this could be the future of cameras! Who would buy one of these if it were available? I have to admit, it looks gorgeous!

Be sure to read all about it HERE.

Apr 222011
 

Some cool used Leica deals!

Was browsing the used section at B&H Photo this morning and noticed quite a few “new” used Leica items…so tempted to pick up that Zeiss Sonnar myself! B&H is closed for the holiday but are accepting orders that will ship when they re-open on Wednesday. I’m guessing the Zeiss lenses will go quickly, so if you are itching for one of them, act quick. I’ve seen these go fast and the Sonnar has been a tough one to find lately.

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GET IT QUICK! Used Zeiss 50 Sonnar 1.5 for your Leica M, under a grand! This is one of my fave 50′s ever – SO classic!!!


Used Leica M6 Mania – Here, Here, Here and HERE! – There is also a black classic in the classifieds here on this site for $1200!


Another great Zeiss ZM – The 35 F/2 Biogon, great deal!


LEICA 90 ELMARIT 2.8, Used Deal!


Used – LEICA M7 TTL, .85, Black 8+


A used Leica M8 with Handgrip, black – $2449

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Dale Photo has a few cool used items as well…

Leica 90 Macro f/4 – GREAT little lens guys! $2000

Leica 50 1.5 Summarit – Old school chrome! – $700

Used M8 with a black dot!

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BTW, the classifieds on the site here are rocking with some great gear…check it all out if you are looking for some great deals!

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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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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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!

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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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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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.

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