Jul 192011
 

This video seems to be making the rounds online and gave me a little laugh :) This guy is out and about using his Leica M6 and Noctilux but he forgot ONE THING and he can not seem to figure out why the camera is not metering correctly. Can you see what he is doing wrong?

 

Lesson on how NOT to use a Leica:

Here is a video I found that shows you the POV through a Leica viewfinder while street shooting…not my style but VERY interesting…

It’s funny because I recently picked up a GOPRO HD cam to mount to my M9 for the upcoming workshop in Seattle (This weekend!). I will record as I am out and about shooting with everyone so you can see how I shoot on the street. Hope you enjoyed these!

Jul 182011
 

The Power of the 50 Summilux ASPH

As if you didn’t know!

Ok, so last week I had a Power of the Polaroid thing going on, and these past few evenings I was messing around with my Leica M9-P and 50 Lux ASPH, shooting the lens wide open to see just how well it performs. Shouldn’t I already know how it performs? I mean, I have owned this lens a gazillion times right? Well, in the past I have had a couple 50 Summilux ASPH lenses front focus and some have back focused. I have also had an M9 body (or two) that was not spot on (including the very 1st one I had in Sep 09, direct from the factory) and one sure fire way to test is to shoot a fast lens WIDE open at close, mid and far distances.

I did all of that with my new M9-P and new 50 Lux ASPH and at every distance the camera and lens were PERFECT. In fact, this may be the best performing 50 Lux/M9 combo I have ever owned! I decided to post a few pictures with a 100% crop embedded so you guys can see just how sharp this lens is wide open at 1.4 when all is calibrated perfectly. I do this because I seem to get so many e-mails asking me about lens sharpness and some will tell me their 50 Lux or Summicron is not sharp which leads to disappointment for them. All I can say is that if the lens and body are correctly calibrated then they are insanely sharp, even at 1.4.

To see the images and crops below in the right way, you MUST click on the image to see the full 100% crop in the. Now of course 98% of you reading this do not need any convincing from me, as we all know this is the hardest lens to get in the Leica line up. A year waiting list is what I hear for this AND the $10,495 Noctilux f/0.95.

But it is a pleasure to own this lens again, and it helps that I got somewhat of a deal on it in Vienna at the Leica Shop. After the Euro to $$ I think it cost me $3300 US which is damn good as these are selling USED for $4500 – $5000 these days.

Can’t wait to use it more and more and guess what? I have a Canon 5D MKII and 50 L 1.2 lens ON THE WAY right now to do a “Just for Fun/Crazy Comparison” shootout with the M9-P, 50 Lux and Noctilux ASPH. Should be interesting! So many of you have asked me about that Canon combo, and it just so happens the 50 L 1.2 is my favorite Canon lens along with the 85 1.2. I will keep you guys posted on that one. It has been a while since I shot with the 5DII but recently handled one again, so got the itch to do this comparison. Basically a $4000 top end Canon combo against a $12-19,000 Leica combo. Just for fun of course! (For those who asked, I am also working on getting the Sigma SD-1 in for review)

I plan on making it a bit different this time.

At the end of the day though, no matter what happens I am still in love with my M9 for its size, manual nature and overall simplicity. For all of you who are on the fence about the 50 Lux and weather you should place and order and wait, Id say go for it as you can’t lose. It is the one Leica lens that will hold its value over time and maybe even go up like it has continually done so for the past few years.

Check out the images below so you can see what to expect from the quality of this lens. You can also see more on this lens with the M9 HERE, HERE and HERE!

For those wondering where you can get on a waiting list for this lens, I know Ken Hansen and/or Dale Photo may accommodate that. You can always check the B&H Photo page and see if you can GET LUCKY and find one in stock, but don’t hold your breath.

 

 

My friend and fellow photographer Helene from France. This was a quick shot in full sunlight, so not the ideal light but if you click the image  you can see the 100% crop. Pretty nice huh?

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My best friend Mike at 1.4, some wind light coming in mid day…

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One more test shot I snapped to check if focus was spot on…and it was. 

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and just a few more random and recent shots with this beautiful lens…all wide open at 1.4

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While in the Leica Shop in Vienna Seal was posing for a portrait – I snapped this one “behind the scenes”, 1.4 

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ISO 2500 – This is a great portrait lens and would shine with some great natural light. The shot below had no light, was in a dark restaurant after a loooong travel day and yet the lens still produced great results, even at 2500 ISO.

Jul 152011
 
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USER REPORT: The Fuji X100 vs the Leica M6? By Frederick Ogez
I can hear the angry comments already, “This is ridiculous! These two cameras were never intended to be matched against the likes of each other… A viewfinder camera with a fixed lens and an interchangeable lens rangefinder??!” And, “Not another FILM AGAINST DIGITAL article!” Before angrily slamming the laptop screen down, please read on!

Working at a small family owned since camera shop in Minnesota, I was recently able to bring a copy of the Fuji X100 home for testing, and a wild idea popped into my head, my primary camera being a Leica M6… “What if I pitted these two wonderful cameras against each other? What would I find I liked and disliked about each, which would I find I liked better as a small concealable walk-around camera?”

Alright, let’s face it. These cameras can never really compete directly against the likes of each other. BUT let’s also face another fact. A used Leica M6 can be purchased for about the same price as a new X100, of course throw in a piece of Leica glass and your talking a difference, but this is undoubtedly a decision many are considering at this interesting time in photographic history as many are again calling for a pure photographic experience. My decision was made. The Leica was loaded and the Fuji was charged…

My first goal was to get the Fuji set up in a way that best fit my shooting style. I turned in-finder image review to off, the rear LCD to remain off unless in playback, and the battery saving auto-off feature to completely off. I was beginning to feel at home already! Next I held the “display” key until the camera went into silent mode. My jaw dropped. Fuji’s shutter actuation volume made my Leica sound like a revolver. Of course this is an exaggeration, but it is outstandingly quiet. If you are a fan of candid style photography, and would rather have your subjects remain in their natural state unknowing that you photographed them at all, you must try the Fuji in a shop. If it’s a bit noisy in there, you may need to press playback to see if a photo was made at all. It’s just that quiet, and much more so than a Leica M. I set out with both cameras strapped around my neck, photographing in my humble town of Forest Lake, MN. But so much for my suburbian Fargo accented small talk ey, let’s get down to sharing real world opinions. That’s what this here site is about der anyways don’t-cha-know?

One thing I found out about the Fuji right away was that manual focusing was not going to be an option. The optical viewfinder is gorgeous and bright, in my opinion a far superior experience to using the electronic one (something I would hardly use) but it can be quite difficult to see the information in bright light! The frame line remained fairly easy to see, but exposure information was difficult if not impossible for me to see, and most disappointing was not being able to see the color of the focus box. This is inside the frame line, and where you place the portion of the frame you want the camera to focus on. It turns green when an accurate focus is attained. One thing I noticed was that indoors, the Fuji did have a very difficult time focusing in certain situations, and that little square would quite often be red, indicating an unattained focus, and I would have to half press the shutter again, sometimes having to recompose to an area of the subject with higher contrast. Now to address the Leica’s finder…

A photographer friend of mine and I were once discussing this very topic, and he did say that when going out into the street he desired a finder that displayed shutter speed and aperture value, which of course my M6 does not show! I have blown this off as unnecessary. Pure necessities! Isn’t that what a camera should be? Two dials, one for shutter, one for aperture and you’re done. But I must admit, it was a welcome addition to be able to quickly fly from f/2 to f/8 or 1/1,000 to 1/30 and know exactly how far I had gone, all without taking my eye from the composition. I now realize that this can be invaluable in situations with varying light levels, and mean the difference between an intelligently exposed great photo, and a missed opportunity. That being said it seems that there is no experience quite like a manual focusing rangefinder experience. In darker situations where the Fuji sometimes took three tries for the auto focus to succeed, the Leica is easily focused in a fraction of a second with its consistently bright and easily viewable coincident rangefinder. For setting a zone of focus, the lenses are intricately engraved, giving you a precise and intuitive way of doing quick reportage style photography. This of course can be done with the Fuji, but to me the in viewfinder bar that indicates a distance from “here” to “here” on a LCD scale labeled either in meters or feet is simply less available, less intuitive and less clear then markings on the lens.

In the hand, both feel phenomenal. The Leica is significantly heavier, but this is expected from a camera that is designed to last a century (with incremental tune ups of course). Both (depending on attached lens) are very small, and even pocket-able, and both are quiet! But the Fuji is simply more quiet. Almost totally silent, and part of its silence is due to its lack needing to advance… Oh I almost forgot about that… The Leica is a film shooter!

Ok, I know I’ve mentioned the shutter many times already, but this is the last time. A quiet shutter doesn’t just mean low volume, it means an incredibly gentle shutter. Now the analog Leica M shutter is one of the best available in this category as well, but the Fuji is able to be hand held like almost nothing else. I’m serious that in my time with it I’ve gotten perfectly sharp results at ¼ of a second, and believe one could go further and get acceptable results…It was very responsive as well, with no noticeable lag between fully depressing the shutter button, and the actuation occurring. Both were able to be swung to the eye, quickly adjusted according to the bright lines, and capture the decisive moment.

The Fuji was such an enjoyable camera to use, and for certain purposes is better than the comparably priced M6. During this test, I loaded the Leica with Kodak TriX, and set the Fuji to ISO 400. After scanning the negatives with a Plustek Opticfilm scanner, and processing the color files from the Fuji to B+W to my liking, I realized one thing. Digital is simply not film. Sure I can add grain and other effects to create a film like look in Photoshop, but the rendition is quite simply different! Famous Leica photographer Ralph Gibson was asked in an interview whether or not he used digital equipment alongside film loading cameras. He said he had tried using digital cameras, and that his close relationship with Leica allowed him the opportunity to test new products. He went on with his personal opinion between the two forms of capture… “Digital photography is about another kind of information…When I’m taking a photograph I imagine the light rays passing through my lens and penetrating the emulsion of my film. And when I’m developing my film I imagine the emulsion swelling and softening and the little particles of silver tarnishing…Digital imaging and photography share similar symbiosis.

I think it’s a mutual coexistence situation. I don’t think they even compare.” He says some very strongly opinionated things besides these in the interview as well, but these are opinions none the less! I find some of his views quite harsh, as you can all see from this excerpt that he makes an implication that digital imaging is NOT photography! I must say that though I find much of his work beyond gorgeous, and his photographic mindset unique and wonderful, I do disagree with him there. But I do find it inarguable that an image created on film, is not like a digital image. They are just different, and each person is going to have a different opinion as to which one looks “better”.

That being said, these cameras are both a joy to shoot! Fuji deserves acknowledgement for doing something so brave as the X100, and shooting it gives a rewarding feeling, reminiscent of a prior time. But a Leica M, is simply a Leica M. Simple, stunning, lovely, ready for generations of use. Chemicals do cost money, and processing adds up. How about a decent scanner as well? Not inexpensive in the least, and expense is the precise reason the M9 is not mentioned until this point in this discussion. But the texture, the grain, the form, the gradation of tonal values… all is different between the two, and this must be a huge deciding factor when looking at the Fuji, and a film loading rangefinder. Personally, the look of Tri-X is enough for me to justify the expense of the chemicals, and I really find the entire film process rewarding to a great degree. But I want to hear opinions of others! Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to hear many replies and much healthy discussion.

Thanks again Steve,

Fred

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Jul 132011
 

A Closer Video Look at the Leica M9-P

Hello to all! It’s bright and early in the Huff household and after going through all of my emails from the past few weeks I came across a few that asked me to do a short video on the M9-P camera. Many of you had a question on the black paint finish and were asking if it was more of a matte finish or a glossy finish. The M9-P in black has a matte finish and is VERY nice looking. It is not as shiny as the MP or the black paint M8.2 but it IS the most attractive digital M to date in my opinion.

But, the M9-P is the SAME as the M9. The differences are strictly cosmetic (and of course the Sapphire glass screen on the still substandard LCD). For your extra $1000 you get the good looks and un-scratchable screen. Basically, what the M9 should have been in the 1st place for an extra $1000. For me though, this is the M I envisioned since the M9 was released. For me, it was a no brainer to trade up as I am sucker for all black and plain. Beautiful!

Check out the video below to see more…there is even an appearance made by a think tank retrospect 5! Enjoy!

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!

X100

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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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© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
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