Jul 112011
 

ROCKING IN ROTTERDAM WITH THE LEICA M9-P

Hello to all! Happy Monday morning! I am now back home in Phoenix AZ after spending the last 4 weeks on the summer Seal tour. The tour is still rolling on, so be sure to check the tour schedule if you want to go check it out but I had to get home early for some other obligations like my Son, my bills, and my upcoming workshop in Seattle (which I am soooo excited about)! The last show I shot was the Jazz Festival in Rotterdam Holland and what a cool show!

When I arrived to the front of the stage for showtime there were about 40 photographers all lined up and there was NO WAY I was going to be able to squeeze in so I let them shoot the 1st three songs and then I jumped in to shoot the rest. It’s always cool having an “All Access” pass :)

The stage was quite far from me though so there was no real way of getting any cool angles or perspectives but I shot away with my new black M9-P (ahhh, so gorgeous!) and 50 Summilux ASPH which may as well be glued on my camera! I also had a 2nd body with the 24 Summilux attached so a few shots were taken with that AMAZING lens. I have to say that if you want a superb 24mm, the Summilux has a way of rendering images that is just magical, especially when used at 1.4. I fell in love with that lens pretty quick.

After the show I had a few hours before catching a car to the Amsterdam airport for my flight home so I had to pack up, go through some shots and be on my way. Made it back home after 16 hours of flying and just woke up bright an early to make this post!

It will be a REALLY busy next couple of days for me but I plan on doing some new reviews really soon, so keep an eye out! Here are some of the shots from the Rotterdam, Holland show. Enjoy and as always, click the image for a closer look!

If you are looking for an M9-P you can check the usual suspects…B&H Photo, Dale Photo and Ken Hansen! Also, don’t forget you can rent anything Leica at lensrentals.com!

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and a portrait backstage after the show, natural overhead light, 50 Lux ASPH

Jul 092011
 

Wow, just woke up this morning on the bus as we pulled in to Rotterdam Holland. I was dreaming that I was drowning in a big pile of goat cheese…don’t ask me why, I have no clue why I would have a dream like that. Odd :)

Anyway…

I left Paris last night around 2Am on the tour bus headed towards Rotterdam. When I arrived in Paris on Thursday I was tired but also excited to see the city, taste the food, and see if what I heard was true…that French people dislike Americans! Woo hoo…an adventure was waiting to unfold…or was it?

As I arrived to the beautiful Park Hyatt I freshened up with a nice hot shower and shave and put on some fresh clothes. Being on a tour bus day in and out can really do a number on you in the body odor department as there is no shower or way to clean up on the bus. After a show I am generally all sweaty and then all I can do is hop on a bus to sleep.  After that you wake up feeling a bit…icky.

So it felt so good to be in a great city, and a great hotel. I have to say, it was the nicest shower I have ever been in. Period.

Visiting a local camera shop in Paris – Iphone 4 and Hipstamatic

I was ready to take on the day with a visit to a couple of camera shops, a yummy dinner, and I also planned to meet another photographer who I have known for a while through facebook, Helene Pambrun. Helene is very passionate about photography, as well as passionate about life in general and she was coming in to Paris for a couple of photo assignments and it just so happened that the timing worked out perfectly so that we could finally meet.

I always enjoy meeting new friends and other photographers who I have chatted with online. I think it is pretty amazing that we have this technology these days where we can meet anyone, in any part of the world, and things like facebook and even this website bring like minded people together. Amazing!

Having some tea in Paris :) Iphone 4/Hipstamatic

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Knowing that Helene was taking the train in from her home town of Toulouse I decided to see if I could set it up where she could get a pass to shoot the Paris Seal show. BINGO! Full access pass granted. I knew of her work as I saw some of her work she did at a Lenny Kravitz show so I knew she would do great shooting Seal :)

Helene Pambrun, See her website here and here

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So on Thursday I toured a bit of Paris and had some great Pasta with pesto sauce. Yummy. I did take my M9 out but also started shooting with my Iphone and hipstamatic because sometimes you can get really cool results with it. Hipstamatic is pretty fun, even after using it for over a year it is the one phone app I keep coming back to.

Legs, always an interesting subject…

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The beauty of Hipstamatic is that you never know what you will get..I usually shake mine before every shot to get a random effect.

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and a couple from the M9

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So after taking a walk on Thursday and seeing some cool sights I slept like a baby in my comfy bed and awoke on Friday feeling refreshed and revived. Amazing what a good nights sleep can do in a nice comfy bed huh? I ended up taking a quick walk to see what kind of shopping was around my hotel. Didn’t really buy anything but again, took along my Iphone in case I saw any cool photos along the way.

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I did not get anything really interesting on that walk but it was getting close to show time so I headed back  to my hotel and guess what was waiting for me when I got there? Yep my new Black M9-P…lovely! Now THIS is how the M9 should look. Stealthy, classic and with no logos on the front. Looks like an MP, just not as shiny. I have to say though, the chrome M9-P is also very beautiful, maybe more so than the black, but I wanted black after seeing both and am happy with my choice.

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of course I was smiling and had to get a shot using the camera..

We all headed over to the venue on the bus and arrived super early due to the hotel making us leave (they were sold out and needed the rooms).

I took a walk around the venue and this time brought along my M9 AND Iphone. I spotted this couple kissing and couldn’t resist a quick snap.

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I think this WAS the BEST Lasagna I have ever had in my life.

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The show started and away I went. I saw Helene shooting not only with her Camera but with her Iphone so I took a stab at it..

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But then it was right back to the M9-P :)

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and some color…

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After the show there was an after party where some of the fans were able to meet Seal. I even met a few more friends who visit this site on a regular basis, so that was pretty awesome. It was cool to see a few Leicas in the group :) After the meet and greet it was time to say goodbye to friends and head back on the bus for the trip to Rotterdam, where I am now sitting at 4:37PM in my hotel room. Paris was lovely and I will have to make sure I get back there soon for some serious photo taking. Maybe a workshop in Paris? Hmmm…anything is possible!

I am looking forward to getting home to loved ones and to get everything in order at home. Besides, I have been battling some rash near my eye for a week so a Dr. visit is in order anyway. It’s been a fun 4 weeks on the road and one more show tonight for me before heading back home to Phoenix, AZ. If anyone is in Rotterdam tonight be sure and say hi!

It was great to meet all of you after the show, and I also want to thank Helene for coming to the show to shoot and showing me around Paris. Looks like she posted an image or two already on her facebook so click here to check it out and if you like what you see, click “Like”. Of course you can also check Seal.com for all of the tour photos, including those that I do not post here.

Until next time (which may be when I am back home in Phx), keep shooting and make it a GOOD DAY, everyday!

Oh, and did I find the people of Paris to be rude or to dislike Americans? Not in my experience. Maybe you get what you give, and I am always nice to everyone :)

Ben at the after party last night…

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Seal with legendary producer Trevor Horn

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and Conrad the bus driver, the crazy Shoe-fu*@er.. looking for some available shoes – (inside joke)


Jul 062011
 

Having some Fun in Pula, Croatia! Behind the Scenes!

Wow, what a month! So many cool places and it just keeps getting better. Took some more behind the scenes stuff which is always fun.

Last night we stopped over in Pula, Croatia and I managed to squeeze in some time to walk the streets, have dinner and of course, photograph everything! With no internet on the bus, what else is there to do? Lol. I’ll just get straight to the images but if you want to learn more about Pula, you can click here.

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Right outside of my hotel! I took advantage and caught some sun for an hour or so. Gorgeous.

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Seal and the band played here, at an old colosseum which is now the Arena…and it was amazingly cool

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This lady was a lot of fun. When I approached her and her dog with my camera she smiled and laughed. She was wondering why I wanted her picture. In reality, I thought she looked cool sitting there with her white outfit, her white dog and black hat.

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When shooting in the streets my usual approach is to shoot first, ask later. This boy was wondering why my camera was aimed at him and I love the look he gave me when I fired the shutter.

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There seemed to be quite a bit of this going on through the side streets. People hanging out of their windows conversing with the people down below. It was a cool vibe.

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I waited for this girl to look my way and as soon as she did I snapped the shot. I then nodded my head and smiled, and she smiled back. I find that most of the time people do not mind getting their pictures taken.

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Back at the arena Seal was doing Soundcheck and sounding great..check out his shirt :)

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Steve Nimmer, the stage manager was sleeping in the sun as the night before he was putting together the stage during a HUGE thunderstorm.

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But he soon woke to get some finishing touches done before showtime…

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Back in the room Mark and Gus were rehearsing a new song…

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and SHOWTIME! I only used  the 24 & 50 Summilux for this show

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Steve (also an M9 shooter) is the guitar tech for Seal and Mark and keeps busy during the show as you can see here…

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The crowd getting into it…

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Jul 052011
 

The first Leica Noctilux Ever…the rare f/1.2 Aspherical

The Leica Noctilux is a hell of a lens…it is lusted after by almost every Leica shooter in the world and to date there have been a few versions released. We have all heard of the most popular version, the f/1 Noctilux. Most of us DREAM of owning the f/0.95 version but at $10k++, for many, it remains a dream. One version that you may not be aware of is the Mandler designed f.1.2 ASPHERICAL version of the magical Noct.

Not many have been produced and the reason this lens was discontinued and replaced with the f/1 NON-Aspherical version is because HALF of these lenses were trashed because back then Leica has no way of testing the lens until it was completed and assembled. They had a 50/50 success rate and it was a very hard and challenging lens to produce.

This was also the very first Aspherical lens.

I have read about and heard about this mystical beast but I have never ever seen on in person, let alone shot with one. When I visited Westlicht Camera in Vienna with Seal, we spotted this lens in the used shop. It was so small compared to even the f/1 Noctilux and I was intrigued by it. When I asked how much it was I knew it was way out of my budget but when we attached it to an M9 and gave it a whirl we were pulled in by it’s classical magic.

Seal ended up taking it with him and I was able to shoot it for an hour one day in the hotel. I really enjoyed the lens and I now I would like to share the test shots with you since I cant find any shots taken with this lens online. This lens is REALLY rare and hard to find so this is why samples are scarce.

All samples here were shot at 1.2, wide open. The first two shots were taken with a Fuji X100.

Two M9-P’s – Black and Chrome – with the first and latest Noctilux


Jul 052011
 

The Theyyams of Kerala – A Photo Essay

By Ashwin Rao

Ashwins FlickrAshwins Blog

Hi, my friends. It’s Ashwin, here with another article with a bit of a different spin. Many of my articles have centered on travel, and painted pictures of countries in broad sweeps. In the recent months, we have all seen what Steve’s been able to observe and capture at Seal’s wonderful concerts along the European and South American legs of his tour, and what’s he’s captured are stories of each concert, told intimately through the images captured behind the scenes, during the show, featuring the musician himself and the crowd reacting to Seal’s art. In essence, Steve’s been able to tell stories of each of these concerts, and now tell short vignettes of each of the cities he’s seeing along the way…little vignettes, told through images, so to speak. In his most recent tour stop, Steve decided to tell his story through a series of black and white images, and the result is a cohesive, unique, compelling take on concert. All of this got me to thinking about telling stories, and how I might be able to tell one, and in effect, how you all may be able to tell your own stories…

And so it begins…

Preparation…

Observing the Onlooker

First Steps as a God…

There are so many ways to imagine and capture a story. In my frequent re-visits to photos captured on my trip to India, one particular early morning adventure kept calling to me to tell it’s story. The events that I aim to discuss took place in mid January, shortly after my travels took me to the coastal southwest of India, to the state of Kerala. Kerala is well known for it’s beautiful people, placid beaches, and strong religious presence. Here in Kerala, Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism co-exist in thrive. If you ever get a chance to go to India, please put Kerala high on the list of “must-sees”…it’s far away from the hustle and bustle of the large northern cities. It’s a quieter, peaceful place of tranquil beauty.

The Finer Details

The Calm Before…

Applying the Headpiece

One of the most famous ceremonies that is unique to Kerala is the Theyyam, essentially a Hindu “possession” ceremony. In this performance/ritual, an individual becomes possessed and assumes the personality of a revered deity. Some Theyyams are large gatherings featuring “major deities”, full of lavishly dressed figures performing elaborate dances. Other Theyyams are far more intimate affairs, occurring in roadside churches, which only are meant to be seen by local townspeople. In both cases, these ceremonies allow its attendees to have a closer bond to the gods that they worship, to seek advice, have questions answered, and dilemmas solved. The Theyyam tradition dates back several thousand years, and to this day, many Hindus seek blessings from these ceremonies.

The Ceremony Begins

Possession….

Assuming a Pose

The actual performance of the Theyyam is very much similar to an elaborate dance. The anointed figures are painted elaborately, often for hours prior to the ceremony’s formal beginning. There is typically no stage, nor curtain to separate the audience from the performance. In essence, the Theyyam takes place in the open space of the temple. Performances, once begun, may take several hours to carry through completion. Drumming and music often accompanies the dance and ritual songs, and many myths and legends are told as part of the performance. Throughout Kerala, there are approximately 400 different types of Theyyam, in essence 400 different ceremonies. While I travelled to the region, I had the privilege of seeing one such ceremony, which I share with you through these images and words.

Fully Adorned

The Possession Dance Follows

Our group left our home-stay around 4 AM to attend the ceremony. Theyyam preparation is often elaborate, and worth watching. Thus, bleary eyed and all, I hauled out my Leica M9, 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE and 50 Summilux Asph, both must-haves for early morning, low light shooting. I dialed up my ISO to 800, and in some cases, 1250, in order to capture images in the low light fluorescent-lit temples and early dawn light….

The Theyyam that I attended was a smaller, more intimate affair. Other than I am my group of 5, there were approximately 10-15 local attendees who attended the ceremony, in addition to 5 or so attendants who actively participated in the ceremony.

Seeking Advice

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Wish Granted

As for telling the rest of the story, I employed a strategy of processing my images consistently to attempt to achieve consistent tonality to my images. I also only employed 2 lenses to capture all of the action. Both the 35 mm and 50 mm aspherical Summilux lenses possess that critically sharp, nearly 3D Leica “aspherical” look….let’s call it the “Peter Karbe” look in honor of Leica’s genius lens designer….Images were all uploaded to Lightroom 3, processed using Kodachrome pre-sets, with adjustments made to insure a consistent look of slight underexposure. I did this to achieve the darkened mood and look of actually attending the ceremony.

The images walk you through the early, middle and later portions of the ceremony. In the first images, the deities of this ceremony are prepared and begin their transformation through painted form and color. Slowly, but surely, through a series of actions, they assume the identities, becoming possessed. Here, we witness the motions and gyrations that take these individuals from human to god-form, through their possession. Finally, once fully assuming the role and completing the ceremony, each deity is freed to answer the questions of the townspeople, who line up, in time honored fashion, and ask many questions…

The Line Up…

I will let the images tell the rest of the story. Hopefully, the images transport you to a place, standing next to me, where you feel that you are a small part of the action. I hope that this story, told through history, images, and recollections, inspires you to seek your own stories, in lands close to home and far away.

Thanks, as usual for reading, and I hope to see you down the road!

Best,

Ashwin

Ashwins Flickr – Ashwins Blog

Jul 032011
 

Meeting with Leica in Vienna

It’s Sunday July 3rd and here I am in my hotel in Budapest after a 4 hour drive on the tour bus from Vienna. While I did not have time to walk around Vienna we did go back to the amazing Westlicht camera, the most incredible camera shop, used shop, museum and gallery I have ever seen in one spot.

If you have not ever been to Westlicht camera I HIGHLY recommend it for all Leica fans. Peter who runs and owns Westlicht is super passionate and has extensive knowledge of everything Leica. In fact he let us see and touch the Leica camera that just sold recently at Auction for 1.3 Million…amazing!

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Seal giving the 1.3 million Leica a kiss

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Seal picked up some goodies at Westlicht but I couldn’t let him have ALL the fun. As you guys know, I have been shooting my Noctilux 0.95 but the weight does start to get to you day in and day out so I managed to pick up a 50 Summilux ASPH to use as my daily #1 lens. I have owned this lens several times but could not pass up the opportunity to get one since there is a 9-12 month wait to order one these days.

As with all of you, anytime I get a new lens, even if I have owned it before, I want to use it immediately so I put away the Nocti for a while and used the Lux as my lens cap :) All images in THIS post were shot with the 50 Summilux ASPH.

While at Westlicht Camera I was able to Meet Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, head honcho at Leica camera. Was so cool to meet him as well as all of the others I have been in contact with for the past two years.

The man himself, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann

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Steffen Keil with Seal, probably the coolest guy at Leica who has some GREAT ideas for their future. Cool shirt huh?

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We had lunch while there and check out this lovely M3…it was AMAZING and would have bought it on the spot if it were for sale. I love the look of well worn Leica black paint cameras. In person it was a true  thing of beauty. Being at Westlicht was like being a kid in a candy store, for me and Seal both. Look at the rendering of the magical 50 Summilux when wide open. Click image for larger version.

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Riding up the elevator to the 2nd floor..ISO 1600, no NR

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saw this woman  in the gallery and looked like a good shot…

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Here is the girl who was in charge of the Polaroid store. In case you didnt know, Westlicht is home of the IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT. Some of the Polaroids in the gallery were some of the best photographs I have ever seen in my life. Made me want to buy a Polaroid and some of their new black frame film. It was amazing.

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We spent a few hours at Westlicht and had to then head to the venue for the show at the Opera House, which was BEAUTIFUL! I decided to shoot the entire show with the Summilux to see how it compared to the Nocti in this setting. I was NOT disappointed. I’m only posting a few here and if you want to see them all you can do so at Seal.com.

Enjoy the latest shots! I will be posting more articles tomorrow and getting to all of my e-mail as I have a day off in Croatia. Looking forward to a day of relaxation and getting caught up! I am also looking forward to Paris where I will have a day off and I plan on doing some street shooting, which has been something I have always wanted to do ever since I have seen the work of Yanidel. Until next time!

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Jul 012011
 

My last 48 hours… in photos…

by Steve Huff

Wow, I have been one busy guy these last couple of days! It seems like the tour is now picking up steam and there are more and more shows with less days off. In the past 48 hours I have arrived in Moscow Russia, toured the Red Square, shot the Moscow show, shot a 2nd show in Moscow that went all night log until 6:30 AM this morning, caught a flight to Vienna Austria and traveled all day, arrived at my hotel and left 20 minutes later for dinner and a visit to the coolest Leica Shop EVER, Westlicht Camera in Vienna, Austria.

Whew!

Lots of stuff packed in these last 48 hours and luckily I had my M9 with me for most of those hours!

Since I do not have a few hours right now to sit down and write a killer article I decided to just post and share my last two days with you…in photos!

When it’s all said and done, it is always about the photo anyway right?

Enjoy and hopefully I can get more work done on the site next week (all depends on wifi availability as we start the busses tomorrow).

So let’s start off with the train ride to Moscow…

After leaving St. Petersburg Russia we boarded a train for a 4 hour trek to Moscow where Seal was performing not one, but TWO shows in the same night. One at a great concert hall, and then a private show in the evening. It was going to be a long day and night but the train ride was great. Smooth, relaxing and a teeny bit of fun as well.

Another M9 shooter and Seals guitar tech, Steve McDonald. We had a great table with window seats to check out the view as we made our way towards Moscow..oh, and the grain and BW conversions were done with SIlver Efex Pro II.

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The new Drummer for the band, George Johnson..always being the funny guy…

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When we made it we all got off the train and headed for the vans to take up to the hotel. Looks like some of the guys were tired of the train experience.

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Our bus driver decided to take a smoke break after we all loaded in the van, so Gus joined him.

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By the time we arrived to the room it was already late so I went to sleep and then woke the next morning for some breakfast and a trip to Red Square with some of the band members. It was bright and sunny so it was tough to get any good shots, but it was still fun to visit and see the sights.

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I had the exposure wrong with this one and it was hard to get right as the sun was shining right towards me…so the HDR look is not my preferred way to process but in this case it saved the image.

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By the time we got back from Red Square we had 40 minutes to get ready and be down in the lobby for sound check. Here is George with his drum set at that sound check.

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Showtime! decided to go up top for a different perspective. Click for a larger and better view…

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A group watching the show from above…

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…and it is always fun to shoot by the stage…

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after the show a fan came backstage and Seal tried out his old medium format film camera.. a Pentacon 6 TL…

A couple that was dancing while Seal sang “Loves Divine”…M9 and 24 Summilux

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After the show we had to go right to another show, which was a private concert in a club that started at 2AM. We ended up staying until 6:30AM.

The next two images were shot at the club, in near darkness. I wanted to sort of test out how the Nocti would do wide open, ISO 2500, crazy low light, and slow shutter speeds.


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f/0.95. 1/30s, iso 2500 – JPEG B&W

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the show started and it was pretty cool as it was very scaled down and intimate…AND DARK. So dark that I was wishing my Nocti was a f.050 lens! lol! Slow shutter speeds meant most shots were soft. All were ISO 2500 and wide open.

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how about some color at ISO 2500, 1/25s?

After the show we hung out for a while and it was soon time for some food…we ate and then headed back to the hotel at around 6-6:30 with just 3-4 hours to go before heading to the airport for Vienna.

When I arrived in Vienna I had about an hour to get ready as we were going to head to Westlich Camera in Vienna which is an AMAZING out of this world Leica shop. Here is Seal with the all new, extremely limited edition M3-P and chrome Noctilux f0.95! Only 20 made, just for Westlicht Camera.

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as I roamed the rooms of the Leica Shop I saw a stack of lenses…and guess what they all were..yep, 50 Summilux ASPH lenses all ready to be shipped out…wow. There were about a dozen sitting there which was a cool sight to see.

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how about a chrome M9-P with chrome 50 Noct?


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After the Leica shop, the owner took us to a delicious dinner. This one was shot with the M9 and 50 Lux ASPH at 1.4, ISO 2500

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It is now past 2am and I am ready to just crash and sleep. Tomorrow is a show day and will be hopping on a bus right after to drive to Budapest. Should be an interesting next few days!

Jun 292011
 

The Leica M9… for Sports? by Peter | Prosophos

Hi Steve,

Sometimes, when I read the commentary on the various fora, I get the sense that many people view the Leica M series cameras as great for “static” scenes like portraits, landscapes, and bowls of fruit.

Yet, as you have demonstrated with your concert photography, Leicas are great tools for capturing dynamic moments, and I know of at least one person who shoots racecars with his M9!

Despite this, Leicas are not often linked to sports images, so I thought this would make an interesting “just for fun” posting for your fine website.

OK, so the “sports” I’m referring to involves kids, but this still qualifies as action, and it’s not typical of the usual photography most people associate with a Leica camera.

Would I recommend a Leica M as a sports camera?

No, not really. The various “pro” DSLR bodies in existence are weather-sealed, have great high ISO performance, lend themselves more naturally to shooting at telephoto distances, and can be machine-gunned for crazy high frame rates.

Yet, what would I choose to photograph sports (or anything else I shoot)?

Hands down, the M9.

My reasons?

That’s a long story, perhaps long enough for somebody else to write an article about it. For now, I’ll just say that an M camera allows me to shoot the way I want, and to anticipate the action better than any other kind of camera I’ve ever used.

Here are the images, and thanks for doing such a great job with this site!

Peter | Prosophos

www.prosophos.com

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Jun 282011
 

The Seal tour in Brussels, Silver Efex Pro II & Creating moods with Black & White

By Steve Huff

Here it is Tuesday morning and I am in St. Petersburg, Russia and ready to head out to the next Seal show.

The Last  show was a blast in Brussels, Belgium and I had quite a bit of fun shooting it! There were between 25-26,000 people in attendance and it was one hell of a night with an amazing music loving crowd who were singing, dancing, and just having a great time the whole night. The energy was certainly there and to capture it I decided to go B&W with a little bit of a gritty feel.

Why go black and white for a concert full of life and color? From the stage lights, to the buildings surrounding the venue, color was everywhere! In fact, the photos look great in color but to me, this particular set looked better in B&W. I feel that in some situations going black & white can add a bit of drama and soul to your photos, and when presented in an entire B&W set, that is even better/stronger. Creating a theme/mood can always help to set apart a set of photos so for this entire set, I used Nik Silver Efex Pro II to convert, add grain and I think the results are fantastic. “DARE TO BE DIFFERENT” is what I always say. Breaking away from the generic norm can be good from time to time :)

It also goes to show a photo does not have to be technically and digitally perfect to pack a punch. Give me imperfections, broken rules, misfocus and grit and grain any day. Sometimes, these types of photos can be the most powerful.

For past B&W conversions I have been using Alien Skin Exposure 3, and I really enjoy its ease of use and simple presets. I have had a few people ask if I have used the new Silver Efex Pro II so I decided to download it and give it a try. Once I started using it I was enjoying its complexity and control points. With Silver Efex, I feel I get a little more control than I do with Alien Skin, though it can be slower and more involved.

So after going through the photos from the last show I converted a couple of them and liked them so much I converted the whole set over. If you did not yet give Silver Efex Pro II a try, you can download the free demo here and it will work with Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. B&H Photo also sells Silver Efex Pro 2 if you want the hard CD copy and box.

This is not really a review of SIlver Efex Pro II as it is best to just download the free demo to try it for yourself. What I will show you is the images I shot at this huge show in Brussels and every one of them was converted using Silver Efex. Dare I say it? I find some of these pretty film like, so it seems to be doing its job. Hope you enjoy the images as  these are without a doubt my favorite images I have shot of Seal performing to date!

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Jun 262011
 

Walking in Brussels Belgium with the Fuji X100 and M9

Brussels Belgium, what an interesting and beautiful place. I have been here for about 4-5 days now and it is starting to feel like my home. I’m even heading down the street to a laundromat to wash some clothes, lol. Every day that I have been here I have taken walks but almost every day it has been rainy and grey outside. I am looking forward to getting some sunshine soon on this tour…maybe Italy or France? Maybe Russia? Who knows, but I am looking forward to some sun!

With the new firmware update loaded on the X100 I have been motivated to take it out for a spin, so I did just that yesterday and today. The camera still operates the same, but Fuji did add some new features and sped up the menu screens a bit. I also brought along my M9 because there was no way I was leaving it behind in the room to be lonely.

I will be leaving Brussels tomorrow morning but am looking forward to the next stop in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Oh, and to Ernie, it was great meeting you last night! Your book is AMAZING and I will have it back to you in the AM before we head out. Thanks!

Before I left for my walk I snapped this from my Hotel window. Fuji X100 – I converted it to B&W using Silver Efex Pro II

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Another couple of X100 shots where I used Silver Efex Pro , which is a great B&W converter plug in.

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This is part of a shopping mall, with storefronts on both the left and right sides.  X100.

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The town Square has some beautiful architecture. This is the stuff I have only seen in movies, and now I am actually here!

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All of the rest of the photos are with the Leica M9 and 35 Cron, 50 Nocti or 24 Lux

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Jun 222011
 

Know your camera and you can do great things…

By Steve Huff

So last night I was shooting the Seal show in Vilnius Lithuania and upon arriving to the venue I realized it was going to be my biggest challenge yet for shooting. Why? Well, the arena was sort of drab, dark, and dull AND I was sort of forced to shoot SUPER close to the stage, like, right up against it. To add to that, the stage was VERY high up, almost as tall as me, so I knew any shot I took would be from a bad angle. What to do? How about throw on a 24 Summilux to the M9 and hope for the best? Yea, thats it. Luckily I had a 24 in my bag.

I decided to use the 24 because I KNOW my camera, and I knew exactly what kind of results I would get from slapping on a 24mm lens in the situation I was in. I also knew how the 24 Summilux would render and how I could get away with slow shutter speeds due to the M9’s capabilities with a steady hand.

The fill in temporary drummer Obed at sound check.  24 Summilux at 1.4 on the Leica M9

For most shows I shoot the 50 Noctilux 90% of the time but last night I shot the 24 Lux 90% and the results are quite different, but I like it. I liked it so much that after the show I was inspired to write yet another article, this time on “knowing your camera”. How many of you really know your camera? I mean, really know it? I know I do, and that helps me out more than you know!

Do you know what settings give you the best results for different situations? Do you know what lens will give you the best result for a given circumstance? Do you know its ISO performance max limits and the way to get the best images you can from it? Have you “bonded” with your camera? Yes, BONDED.  It sounds strange but I know there are many of you reading this who do indeed have a certain bond, a certain “oneness” with your camera. I know I have this with my M9, and I am actually starting to get there with the Fuji X100.

Shooting the 24 meant I had to be CLOSE, and since I was stuck up next to the tall stage I knew I could get some dramatic shots and great audience interactions.

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Once you have this “bond” with your camera you can shoot without stress, without worry, without hassle. You go by instinct and by “seeing” and “doing”. When I walk around the crowd or near the stage I am always looking for the next shot, and at the same time I try my best to not repeat myself every single night. The last thing I want is to stress about settings or lenses or whatever. By having this bond with my Leica, I do not have ANY worries when the night starts as I know that as long as my camera is working, I will have many opportunities to capture the spirit of the performance.

The 24 Lux ROCKED last night in Vilnius! As always, I shoot these lenses as they were meant to be shot, wide open!

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My job on this tour, if you can call it a job (I don’t as it’s been my lifelong passion..a dream come true) is to document this tour while I am along for the ride. Concert shots, video, behind the scenes stuff..whatever I can capture. Seal is not really my boss, but rather a great friend who puts ZERO stress on me and gives me 100% creative control on what to shoot. With that said, I always strive to do my best every show even though when I look at my photos I usually only end up really liking one or two shots. But as may of you know, as photographers we are always overly critical of our own work.

But as I said earlier, by really KNOWING my camera gear I can let my mind be free and just shoot organically. Does that make sense? I hope so.

So how does one bond with their camera? First, you have to really like your tool of choice. You have to enjoy holding it, shooting it, controlling it. If you do not even like your camera then it will be very hard to get this bond. The most important thing for me is to really enjoy USING the camera. This is why I am such a HUGE fan of the Leica M series. Film or digital, the usability factor is HIGH and once you know it inside and out you can shoot quicker and more effectively with an all manual M9 than even an auto focus blazing DSLR.

The 24 Lux with the M9 sitting on the stage captures Gus Isidore  – love the rendering of the 24 on the M9. Gorgeous.

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Again, the 24 Lux wide open. We met this Mother & Daughter the day before while street shooting and here they are in the front row.

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Of course I did slap the 50 Noct on every now and then…

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Knowing my camera allowed me to get this shot of Seals silhouette.

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To bond with your camera you also have to know its menu system. Learn it, know it and set it..them FORGET IT. I never change anything in my M9’s menu, ever. It is set the same as it was months ago. This way I know EXACTLY what to expect from it. No surprises. Again, when you know what to expect, you have that freedom to capture without the stress of technical details. Stress free shooting equals better images IMO.

In order to really connect with your photographic tool, you also need to be passionate about photography. If you have a true desire to shoot and create then you are 90% of the way there.

Once you have the passion along with a camera you really enjoy using, and you know its menu system and have set it up to your liking, then it is all about SHOOTING as much as possible. Before you know it you will have that connection with your camera.

Also learn all of the characteristics of your lenses. For this shot I knew the Noctilux would give me this amazing flare, and IMO it adds to the atmosphere of the shot.

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Also knowing your depth of field – what will be and wont be in focus is key to creating images that match the vision you have in your head.

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Carol Jarvis rocking out during “Amazing” – check her out on facebook HERE and press like!

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I get asked all of the time how I create these photos with a manual camera. How they are so sharp, focused correctly and capture the feeling of the show. I’m not any kind of photography master, far from it. I chalk it up to really knowing my gear and my passion for what I do. SO stick with your camera and learn it, live it and take it with you everywhere. Before you know it, you will have that same bond with it and your photos will improve dramatically.

Hope you enjoyed the post! I am leaving for Brussels Belgium in 2 hours so have to get packing! I’ll leave you with a few more shots from last nights show…

Paul Summerlin, a new and awesome addition to Seals band as well as guitarist Mark Summerlins brother!

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How about a shot from the Fuji X100? Here ya go! f/2! BTW, the title image at the very top of this page was also from the X100. Seems to do quite well but I can focus my M faster every time.

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after the show its all about winding down, having fun and hanging out for a while

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Jun 222011
 

 

A Photographic Road Trip with the Leica X1 by D.J. De La Vega

This is the story of a photographic road trip with the Leica X1. Like any journey, I will start at the beginning:

Everything was now in place for a road trip of ambitious proportions. The logistics: I would be leaving my hometown in the North East of England to head off to Edinburgh, Scotland. From there I would fly to Newark Airport in the USA. Over the next four days I would drive over 1000 miles to Alexandria Bay, Oswego, Webster, Niagara and all the back to Manhattan for three days of Street Shooting. This was a deliberately photogenic route, mainly following the Great Lake Seaway Trail, a stunning byway that hugs the shore of Lake Ontario.

Here at the start of my voyage lay my first challenge: What camera gear to take? Approximately five years ago when I went on a slightly more modest trip around the Highlands of Scotland I took a Nikon D200, 12-24mm, 18-200mm, 50mm, 60mm macro and 70-300mm. I was prepared for every possible eventuality. With this in mind however, a wise man once said “If you aim at everything, you hit nothing”.

This time around I was seriously considering leaving all my equally extensive kit at home and only carry my unassuming Leica X1. With no huge telephoto, no super wide angle and a mediocre macro mode, it is on paper not necessarily cut out for such a diverse photographic expedition. However as my DSLR gear was now gathering dust after sitting in a bag, rendered obsolete by more than a year spent exclusively shooting with the little Leica, I went with my gut and decided just to take the X1.

So there I was packed and ready to leave with the X1 in hand. This was my first shot of the morning waiting to get on the train to Scotland. Instantly this photograph put me at ease with my decision to leave the DSLR and plethora of lenses behind. The prospect of being limited to such an iconic focal length now excited me. It would be my photographic skills I would be exploring and not the effectiveness of different lenses for different situations.

Upon arrival in Edinburgh a world of picturesque opportunities were unfolding and presenting themselves exclusively for me and the X1. At this stage of my article I will point out how difficult it has been to edit down the photographs I have taken as I have got so many shots I regard as “keepers”. Even though I eventually took slightly more than 10 GB worth of photographs over the week (I shoot RAW), the number of camera actuations was far less than I ever imagined. Historically with a DSLR I would shoot and shoot and not stop: and why should I? Instantaneous shutter response, full automatic setting with a gazillion auto focus points, million area multi matrix metering and unlimited space on Compact Flash cards. It was the equivalent of wielding a photographic machine gun!

It only took a few hours of shooting the street in Edinburgh to dawn on me that I take far fewer photographs with this camera. Was it a conscious effort as it is a slower camera and shooting fully manual takes more time and creativity to get a good shot? Or was it a sub conscious side effect of shooting in a simpler, more traditional, historic style? Whatever it is, I do it and I like the results. I no longer shoot endless photographs of the same subject. I spot a moment take a shot and if I miss it, I move onto the next opportunity.

The next morning it was time to hop on the plane and embark on the biggest leg of the journey. Once I safely landed in New Jersey, there was no time to lose. It was straight in the car and drive approximately 350 miles north to the beautiful town of Alexandria Bay. Arriving at dusk I was greeted by a spectacular sunset over Heart Island.

Over the next two days I was immersed in stunning nature and beautiful scenery travelling down the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. I was enthralled by the local architecture, mesmerised by the iconic landscapes and enamoured with the more intimate secluded bays and forest trails.

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So far I had not once missed the lenses I left behind. Without doubt, if I had a 12mm Nikon, I would have probably found use for it, but would it have made a better photograph or just a different one? I began to realise that historically I had probably spent more time chopping and changing lenses for particular applications than I did actually shooting with any one lens. By not having to decide which focal length to use, my mind was purely focused on capturing the opportunities that materialised before me; documenting them as I saw them with no distractions.

Eventually I found myself at the magnificent Niagara Falls. Sometimes I find it difficult to photograph such a famous, well documented landscape as I am constantly aware that millions of people will have taken the exact same shot from the exact same angle. I tried as always to look for unique perspectives and idiosyncratic moments, but also believe if I am somewhere with my camera, it is far better for me to create my own postcard style picture of such an iconic scene than buy someone else’s off a rack.

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Another lengthy drive was now required to head south to Manhattan. I was looking forward to finally getting to test the X1 in the area many people would either argue it was specifically built for or quarrel it just could not compete with its M siblings; Street Photography. How would this handy travel companion hold up in the city renowned for its street scenes? I’ll let you be the judge as to how successful the results are, but in practice, I’ve got to say the X1 coped admirably. This camera is a joy to use and because of its size and weight can be around your neck every waking minute of the day; at hand waiting patiently to be deployed as an extension of your eye at the presentation of something noteworthy enough to point a camera at. Its speed was more than adequate to capture pretty much everything I asked of it and if I missed a shot it was because I did not spot it early enough and by the time I had raised the camera, the moment had passed.

I quickly realised as I walked through the streets that I could very quickly drain my batteries with all the colourful characters and photogenic happenings at every turn. It was time to go old school and really test how good the X1 is at capturing the street as an unadulterated photographic tool. It was time to turn off the LCD and image review and rely solely on the 36mm Brightline Viewfinder. Shooting away at my heart’s content only to review the images that night in retrospect. No second chances, no reshooting the same scene over and over. I shot mostly in aperture priority mode and one spot centre weighted focusing. I would focus on the desired object and reframe the scene with my finger half pressed on the shutter. I found this to be a quick and efficient means of capturing the moment.

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I was beginning to realise why so many people shoot the street in New York. The people here are a diverse mix of too laid back and too darn busy to be concerned that people were brandishing cameras about. I felt a lot more freedom than in my native England to get close the action and throw caution to the wind. The 35mm focal length was absolutely coming into its own! As I explored the city I found Central Park to be a hub of extroverted characters and wondrous and quaint occurrences.

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As well as photographing the superb photographic opportunities that transpire with the people in NYC, it would have been a crime not to document the city itself. The architecture is so magnificent it has a personality of its own. Like at Niagara, I constantly tried to find a compromise between the iconic postcard views and more unique perspectives. Theoretically one could argue that there are no “unique” perspectives any more, but that would be quite a depressing, sombre philosophy for any photographer to subsist with.

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Of all the areas I ambled upon in Manhattan, possibly the most vibrant and rewarding was that of The Bowery and China Town. The people and ambience somehow felt more “authentic”. It was a long way from Central Park with the brazen street performers and therefore sometimes I had to work up the courage to lift up the camera to my eye. However I soon defeated my nerves and I found the X1 to be quite inconspicuous and my confidence grew allowing me to get closer to the action.

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Regrettably I had reached my last evening in Manhattan. I had loved every minute of shooting the street with the X1 and had not once bemoaned its ability to capture any given scene. I appreciate it is not as fast at focusing as a DSLR, and the viewfinder is only optical, no electronic information is transmitted across to reassure you as to what you are capturing. Yet it is specifically this simplicity that feels truly organic for me in using this practical, no-nonsense photographic instrument. I choose the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and then frame the glass through a glass viewfinder then shoot; fundamental photography at its best.

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Thanks for reading my article if you made it this far. You can check out some of my other Leica X1 experimentation and photography here:

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2010/09/03/daily-inspiration-142-by-d-j-de-la-vega/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/01/06/daily-inspiration-183-by-d-j-de-la-vega/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/djdelavega

All the best

D.J. De La Vega

The Leica X1 is available through Dale Photo, Ken Hansen and B&H Photo!

Jun 212011
 

News Update

The new Leica M9-P and 21 Super Elmar 3.4 lens

As many of you have known for a while now, Leica is getting ready to announce the Leica M9-P camera which is basically an M9 with Sapphire Glass, no Leica red dot logo or “M9″ engraving so the front looks like an MP. The one I have held and seen was chrome and it is flat out amazingly gorgeous. The top is inscribed like an MP with the Leica name. There will be no new features to the camera, just an M9 with cosmetic enhancements and sapphire glass. If I could swap my grey M9 with some cash for an M9-P I would in a heartbeat. It looks like an MP, and in chrome but with Vulcanite. It really is a gorgeous looking and feeling camera. I may see one of these in my future as THIS is what a digital M should look like!

Leica is also announcing the 21 3.4 Super Elmar wide angle lens. This lens is all about size and it is TINY. I have also seen and handled this lens already and it is a beauty. If you want a small 21 for landscape or architecture be sure to put this one on your short list.

As far as I know, that is about all that is coming from Leica today. I heard that the M9-P will also be available in Black Paint, which will also be pretty sweet. The official word comes from Leica later today in Paris!

UPDATE

ITS NOW OFFICIAL! PRESS RELEASE –

THE NEW LEICA M9-P: THE ESSENCE OF DISCRETION

Designed particularly for professional photographers, new ultra-discreet version of the Leica M9 added to Leica rangefinder portfolio

Solms, Germany (June 21, 2011) – Leica Camera AG is proud to present a new version of the world’s smallest, full-frame digital system camera: the Leica M9-P. This new model will sit alongside the Leica M9 in the company’s rangefinder portfolio. Providing an alternative, even more discreet and resilient design that further reinforces the classic nature of the M9, the M9-P specifically meets the needs of professional photographers. The new model is now available in a classic silver chrome or subtle black paint finish.

Featuring the compact size, full-frame, 18 megapixel 24 x 36mm sensor (35mm format), sophisticated image processing and robust construction of the highly successful Leica M9, the M9-P also incorporates features designed for professional users or photographers who prefer a pure, even more unobtrusive styling.

The Leica M9-P includes a scratch-resistant, sapphire crystal covering on the LCD screen. Produced using special diamond cutting tools, this screen is fashioned from one of the world’s hardest and most resilient materials. Extremely resistant to wear and almost unbreakable, the sapphire glass LCD cover offers many years of reliable use. Additionally, the anti-reflective coating on both sides of the cover improves the review of images on the display after capture, particularly in unfavorable lighting conditions.

Finished in vulcanite leatherette, the external covering of the body of the M9-P is particularly resistant to wear. This leathering features a more coarsely-textured finish that ensures a steadier grip when shooting, making the M9-P feel particularly safe and secure in the hand.

Fulfilling the needs of many professional photographers to capture the decisive moment as discretely as possible, the Leica M9-P’s minimalist styling highlights its most essential features. The Leica red dot logo and the M9 lettering on the front have been omitted and replaced with the Leica name in classic script form engraved on the top plate, making the M9-P the quintessential unobtrusive tool.

Since 1954, the Leica M-System has represented an unmistakable, individual kind of photography and a very conscious photographic style and allowed photographers to capture, document and interpret life’s fleeting moments in all fields of photography, from photojournalism, reportage and ‘available light’ to the capture of portraits and aesthetic, fine-art images. With a Leica M, the photographer becomes a ‘part of the action’ when capturing challenging, authentic and creative images. The frame lines frame precisely the shot the photographer envisages, while allowing a clear view of the scene outside the viewfinder frame.

The functions of the Leica M are consistently constructed for extreme durability and a long working life. The highest quality materials, intricate manufacturing processes and meticulous manual assembly at Leica Camera’s facility in Germany guarantee functional reliability for years to come.

The Leica M9-P will be available from Leica dealers in two different finishes, black paint or traditional silver chrome, beginning July 2011.

Jun 212011
 

Vilnius Lithuania – My walk through this photogenic town

By Steve Huff

So here I am today..another day of serious photo opportnities! I am in Vilnius Lithuania for the next stop on the Seal European summer tour and yesterday I walked around quite a bit snapping shots of this lovely charming town. Had my Fuji X100 (new firmware rumored to be coming within the week) and Leica M9 with me and both gave me wonderful results, can’t complain about either of these lovely cameras.

I started the day early morning as the weather was brisk, cool, and sunny. In other words, PERFECT! Back home in Phoenix it is 110 and sunny so I am really enjoying this weather while I can get it! As I looked out of my hotel window I thought “Perfect Photo Weather”!

BTW, I am also staying at a beautiful hotel here in town and had to snap a couple as I left my room. Love the old world charm of this place.

Next three shots, M9 and 35 Summicron ASPH – THE 35 Cron Character shines through here…

As I made my way down the stairs and outside of the hotel I started snapping the little X100 quite a bit as I started to become addicted to its ease of use and lovely EVF. Also, after shooting it so much, I have really learned its strengths and its weaknesses. As I have always stated,  It is in NO WAY like shooting an M9 but  it’s also a joy to use, and the output is astoundingly great at times.

CLICK for larger version – X100 at its sweet spot, f/4

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Even f/2 works well on the X100 and can be a sweet spot at the right distance. With a 35, you do have to get up close to your subjects! I thought the dog was gonna eat my X100…

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X100 – f/2

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X100 – f/4

X100 – f/4

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Bring on the M!

I then started to shoot with the M9 to see how the difference in usability and feel would be. Ahhhh, when the M hit my hands I remembered why I love rangefinder shooting so much. Not to knock the Fuji as it is THE camera right now but  the M and me just seem to “jive”.

Click image for 1200 pixel wide version – M9 and 35 at f/2 – colors…WOW!

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After a while I started to get hungry AND thirsty so I found a street cafe, picked a good seat to people watch and then ordered a beer. Was amazingly nice to just sit there and say to myself , “Wow..I am in Lithuania!”

So there I was, just me and my M9/35 Cron when a guy walks by and does a double take, looking at me. He asked if I was Steve Huff, and after a quick introduction it turned out he is a fan and reader of this web site! HOW COOL IS THAT!

He sat down and chatted for about an hour, had a beer and I enjoyed a pretty tasty pizza. Terry, it was great to meet you and THANK YOU for your company! I always enjoy meeting the readers of the web site and photo fans in general (and I can not wait for the Seattle meet up in July!!)

Terry mentioned that he recently picked up an M8 and 35 Cron, and from what it sounded like, he is enjoying it quite a bit.

Terry at lunch – M9/35 cron

 

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Rain Rain go Away, but bring good light!

While at lunch it started pouring rain horribly so I tried to wait it out a bit but it just kept coming down. I hung around the cafe and tried to find a photo but with everyone scurrying away from the rain, there really was nothing to shoot. I ran back to the hotel as my M9 got soaked, but it survived as did I :) Who needs weather sealing? Haha.

After an hour or two back in the room I heard from Seal via text and we ended up taking a photo stroll through the town, after the rain stopped. I attached the trusty Nocti to my M9 and I have to say…the Noctilux seems to just always provide crazy magic and YES INDEED it can be used as an everyday lens, as that is how I have been using it. This new version is absolutely stunning at any aperture.

Wide open – Seal enjoying some magic light time with his M9 and 90 Summarit, which he is loving.

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Lots of dogs in Vilnius – this little yorky was having a good old time while the dude was giving me a thumbs up

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Fashion in Vilnius – lots of cool people. This one was shot from the hip wide open at 0.95! Man I am SKILLED! Lucky!

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As we walked we met Sylvia and Laura who were hanging outside of a restaurant chatting.

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and as we walked further we started getting approached every 20 feet or so. These sisters were very sweet girls.

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EVERYONE we met was lovely and happy, which was so cool. Seal signed some autographs and took pictures with fans as we continued our walk..

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After a 3 1/2 hour walk and some dinner we headed back to the hotel. That is when I realized I had been shooting the whole day. It flew by though because taking photos is what I love to do most and I feel amazingly blessed to be here and to be able to fulfill my passion every single day. Sharing that same passion with great friends is even better!

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the photos from my day in Vilnius Lithuania!

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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