Jul 222011
 

 

My First Trip with the Leica M9

By Ricky Cheong

Intro:

Hi Steve and fellow readers, my name is R.C or better yet just by Inzite and I’ve been a viewer of this wonderful site for quite some time already so I thought I should also chip in my thoughts regarding shooting an RF and how it fairs against a SLR. I have been shooting for about 6 years or so with DSLRs from both Nikon and Canon, only recently this year or so have been really using my m bodies. DSLR is fine, and probably great for what I shoot and my shooting style, however there are times when I just want to go out and have less or a burden (especially when going out with the lady). This spring, I decided to only take the m bodies with me for our trip in Asia. Our destination: Macau, Hong Kong, Sanya and Phuket.

The Gears:

M6, M9, 35 Summicron, 15 Voigtlander.

Being new to the m system I don’t have many lenses for the bodies, I actually end up buying the 15 Voigtlander in Hong Kong while we stopped there. I left Toronto with M6, M9 and a 35 Summicron all inside my Crumpler 6 million dollar home. It was quite a change from lugging around a d3, 14-24, 50 1.4 in the same bag, or a 1dm3 or 5d, 24-70 and 70-200 in the same bag. The bag no longer felt like a burden and I no longer get harassed by the flight attendants regarding having too bulky of a bag beneath the seat.

The Trip:

On the way to Hong Kong, packed plane as usual.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/8 | ISO 800

Flight was long and tiring from Toronto to Hong Kong, with babies going off every 30 minutes or so, amidst the chaos on the plane, I did manage to fire off a shot that I was very happy with. The 35mm summicron + M9 is such a small package, great for shooting in close range with people in tight space. Had I try to shoot it with a d3 + 50 1.4, I would probably catch the attention of the woman sitting beside me because I would probably spend a good minute or so trying to yank my bag out from the seat in front, then followed with pulling the camera out of the bag, and not to mention the bold, fierce sound of the shutter going off.

Riding the ship from Hong Kong Airport to Macau. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/50 | ISO 800

I do have to say, shots coming from the combination of M9 and 35 IV (I’ll use IV as the short form of summicron here on) is pretty 3D compared to similar shallow dof shots done with a 35L or 85L or 50 1.4 G. So carrying my dead tired drained body, I hopped onto the ship that will take me back home to Macau. I rested for a few days in Macau before flying off to Sanya to meet the lady. The short first part stay in Macau was not bad. Carrying a lighter camera in typical Asian humid climate can really enhance the travel experience. Back when I used to lug around a bag full of Nikon or Canon, I would be feeling so hot and tired that I would be really inclined to stay in doors as much as possible. Now with the m bodies, I can spend more time shooting outside and less time enjoying the ac.

Koi watching in a garden surrounded by cement buildings. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/500 | ISO 160

So I met the lady in Sanya and we hit up some tourist spots there, it’s a nice and interesting place there, some call it Hawaii in Asia. I find it quite relaxing as all we did everyday was go out and have fun, all on our own schedule. Weather was nice, typical island climate. If you find your self in the area of Hong Kong or Macau, hop over and spend two or three days there. It is as close as it gets to Hawaii without leaving southern China. The M6 stayed in the bag at our room as a back up body, I took the M9 + 35 IV out every day, every where, bag less, free. It was a good start for the remainder of the trip with regards to the pleasure of shooting. 35 IV works great for an all purpose lens, prior to this trip, I have always wondered if a 50 would serve me better.

Visting Yanoda Natural Reserve, I have never seen so many parrots in one place in my life. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/350 | ISO 200

Nan Shan Temple in Sanya, viewing it from the beach gives it quite a unique feel.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/4000 | ISO 160

The lady trying on a hat, we end up buying it for 45 RMB. Love the colors.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/1500 | ISO 160

Elder people give great subject sometimes. He was an old kind man.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/1500 | ISO 160

After our short stay in Sanya, we arrived in Macau along with my future in-laws. My second part stay in Macau is basically to act as a tour guide for the future in-laws. However, I did manage to fire off a shot or two that I can actually use for this report. Again, in warm weather like Macau, the less you bring out doors with you, the better and happier you will feel. I once carried a D3 with a 200 F2 VR lens for shooting once and despite the amazing result I got, it was a nightmare. Then of course when people ask you if it’s hard work carrying such equipment you usually man up and say it’s no big deal but deep inside us SLR folks all know that the freaking thing is big heavy and a pain to carry. Since I didn’t take much pics this time in Macau that is worth sharing, I will also attach a few I took before that I feel it will give you a glimpse or Macau and that being there is all it takes, the type of camera doesn’t matter really. (well, it does if you light to shoot natural light in dim lighting like me, and honestly, the M9 is definitely not there yet in the high iso department, see below)

Scanning Macau from on top of the Macau Tower, the tallest building in macau.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/1500 | ISO 160

Waiting with tickets to see “The House of Dancing Water” at City of Dreams. Yes, it’s a nice name for a hotel, but it’s true that you do feel that you are living a dream. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/30 | ISO 800

Inside the MGM Macau VIP lobby, beautiful is understating it, it’s GORGEOUS! D3 | 14 | F2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 2800

Wide angle Venetian style. Yes, it’s in Macau and you can enjoy the famous meat jerky and eggrolls right after! D3 | 24 | F2.8 | 1/60 | ISO 2000

Moon lit Guan Yin by the shore, Macau, where the east meets the west.  D3 | 24 | 1/40 | ISO 8000

Hong Kong, the place where anything is possible as long as one has the cash. It is the place where you can buy multiple M9 in store. (at “fried” price, as locals call it). It is also the same place where you see more people carry LV bags more than plastic shopping bags. It’s a fine city. I dropped by a famous camera store in TST to pick up a 15mm Voigtlander and off I go in wide angle rf land. Framing through the external view finder and focusing or metering through the internal finder proved to be easier than I thought, it is miles ahead of the D3 + 14-24 combination in terms of weight and portability. However, based on the firmware of the M9 at the time, it did have the color shift corners issues, doesn’t bother me much but its there.

Small and portable, image quality is quite decent, I like. 

Look at the wide-ness of that! I really like this shot because it’s quite odd to see no one on the streets in Hong Kong.  M9 | 15 | F6.7 | 1/750 | ISO 400

We met Mario at an arcade place in Mongkok, Hong Kong. M9 | 15 | F5.6 | 1/8 | ISO 800

I got to try a 50 F1.4 Summilux in store in Hong Kong, it is definitely a mighty fine lens. I look forward to getting one soon! M9 | 50 | F1.4 | 1/45 | ISO 1000

Getting away from the heat in underground AC cooled pass way.  M9 | 15 | F4.5 | 1/125 | ISO 1600

Finally we arrive in Phuket, Thailand. It is basically a foreigner’s heaven, everything is cheap! The food was excellent, our resort was excellent and the weather was excellent. It was a good opportunity to test out my new wide angle! I was really glad that I did not bring a D3 + 14-24 because it was incredibly hot during the day and I simply cannot imagine carrying such heavy gear under the scorching sun. The M9 did an incredible job in the intense heat and humidity. It’s certainly weather sealed “enough” for my usage. I even took the M9 into the pool with me to get some nice shots. All in all, the results from this final leg of our trip solidify my belief in the possibility and results of the M system in terms of the practicability for traveling. It can certainly match what I can get with my DSLRs at home and if not exceed them by allowing me to shoot with less of a burden.

Fresh fruit to welcome us to the suite, mmm.. beachfront bliss.. M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/60 | ISO 200

Explosion of colors, tuk tuk rules here! It’s hot there!  M9 | 15 | F6.7 | 1/125 | ISO 200

With some practice, spontaneous shots are possible with a range finder. We caught eye of this street vendor pass by us rather quickly, we turn and ran to catch up with him.  M9 | 15 | F6.7 | 1/750 | ISO 800

Hand held over the pool water, it turned out better than I expected.  M9 | 15 | F5.6 | 1/90 | ISO 160

A rare shot done by the 35 IV, I was really addicted to the 15.  M9 | 35 | F2 | 1/90 | ISO 200

Great sunsets to conclude everyday in Phuket.  M9 | 35 | F4 | 1/500 | ISO 200

Post Trip Conclusion:

The M9 performed wonderfully through out the trip, even though it is one expensive piece of equipment but maybe because of its small size and low profile, I actually felt more comfortable bringing it to difference places, simply because it attracts less attention. The 35 IV proved to be quite a versatile lens, but there are multiple times that I simply wanted to focus closer than 0.7m, however that’s the limitation of the Leica m system. The 15 was probably one of my best buys in recently years because it was so small and so wide, it really got me getting creative and I guess the result shows. I didn’t find going manual focus was that bad of a thing, but it does certainly take some time to get used to. The large file size from the M9 did force me to get a total of 3 16 GB cards by the end of the trip but the quality is there right in the raw files. All in all, in the future when I’m going to a paradise I’m taking the M bodies and before that I need to get my self a 50. I hope you all enjoyed this write up and my experience with the M on this trip and the results I got from it. Thanks!

Feel free to drop by my flickr to see my other works

http://www.flickr.com/inzite

Inzite.

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Jul 212011
 

Seattle Meetup – THIS WEEKEND! 

It’s almost Friday and that means I will be heading out to Seattle to meet up with about 20 of  you who signed up for this weekends series of photography events! Hosted by Ashwin Rao, we have a full jam packed weekend ahead of us! I can not wait as this will be GREAT! I will be posting updates as things happen including photos from all who attend. To those attending, I will see you Saturday for fun, food, photography and GOOD TIMES!

To everyone else, check the site all weekend for the updates as they happen!

There have been THREE Cancelations in the last 24 hours so there are a couple spots open for anyone who wants to join us! E-Mail if interested.

Saturday July 23rd

9:00 AM: Everyone arrives (time at 9 am at Ashwin’s)

–       Top Pot Donuts (on of Seattle’s most famous donut spots) with coffee will be waiting for all.

–       9:15ish: Steve’s intro & welcome

–       9:15-10:30: Group Introductions

–       10:30: 10:45: Ashwin’s intro and comment on photography/slideshow

–       10:45 – 11:15:  Guest speaker intro: We will have a couple of guest speakers at the event (still being finalized). Tim Issac of Thumbs Up fame will also be there to talk about his products for Leica and he will have some on hand as well to demo and possibly even sell.

–       11:30- 1:30: Morning street stroll – downtown at Pike’s Place for some street photography.

–     1:30-2:30 Lunch (down in Pike’s Place- Pikes Place Chowder or the like – (Lunch is included and paid for)

–       3:00- 4:00 pm Head to Glazers Camera for Leica Demo (tentative, need to confirm on demo); We will do a Glazers stop either way with a possible talk by Ashwin on setting up your own photo show/exhibit.

–       4-6  pm Return to Ashwin’s for critique, comments, editing from our morning stroll photos

–       6:30 – 8:00 evening photo stroll – Sunset at Kerry Park  or Golden Gardens

–       7:30- 9 pm Dinner and evening cap (Rays Boathouse near Golden Gardens, The 5 spot, near Kerry Park, or similar restaurant in upper Queen Anne – DINNER is NOT included)

–     9:30-10:30 pm? Optional later night, low light photo stroll for those interested.

 

Sunday, July 24th

–       9:00– Breakfast: Mighty O Donuts and Coffee

–     9:15-10: Steve’s presentation of shooting The Leica M in challenging conditions.

–       10:00-11:00: Recap of the previous day – question/answer

–       11:00 AM – 1 PMPhoto Telling stroll – Space Needle/ Seattle Center – Tell YOUR story!

o   If people have interest, we can take a ride up the needle. It’s a fun place to photograph from above as well, both the people and the city!

–       1:30-3 PM: Lunch at Dad Watson’s or similar pub grub place (Paid for by Steve!)

–       3-5 pm: PM stroll at Discovery Park

o   Beautiful nature site worth spending some time at

–       5:30- 7:30 pm: Return for critique and discussion of story telling

–       7:30: Prize giveaway – Someone, at random, will win a complete camera system with all accessories (NO it is not an M9)

–       8:00 pm: Send off Dinner – (Bastille in Ballard, Rays)

 

Possible Photo Strolls

–       Downtown stroll (Pikes Place, Pioneer Square)

–       Seattle Center (space needle up close; up the needle, waterfountain)

–       Discovery Park and waterfront images, Gasworks Park, Travel through Discovery Park

–       Kerry Park (early AM or sunset)

–       Graffiti wall and urban walk

–       Alki Beach

–       Seattle Public Library stroll

–       Sculpture Garden and waterfront

–       Out of Seattle, into nature

–       Golden Gardens at Sunset (beach, mountain views)

–       Ferry trip to Bainbridge island

–       The Piers where the Ferries take off

 

Jul 202011
 

Just saw that this lens is in stock as of today at B&H Photo!  The 12mm f/2 Zuiko lens seems like the ideal lens for your PEN series camera coming in at $799. When mounted it will be the equivalent of a 24mm. With its fast f/2 aperture, it should be a GREAT lens. I have not yet had a chance to review it but do have one on the way with an E-P3 (soon). I did get a chance to mess with an E-P3 and my 1st opinion is that it may be a downgrade in some areas to the E-P2.

Sure there is the new 3″ OLED LCD which is AMAZING, but the image quality seemed to be not as good as what I would get from an E-P2. The build also seemed a bit more plasticky and the camera felt more like an E-PL2 than the E-P2.

I was also not happy to find out they used the same sensor from the E-P2. Camera operation seemed much quicker and they added a built in pop up flash but still, I would not be in a huge hurry to update my E-P2 to an E-P3…at least until I get to use it more and dig into its options. Hopefully I will have a review up soon of this camera but as of now, it seems the Fuji X100 is THE camera to have if you want old school charm, great quality, and a large APS-C sensor :)

But the 12mm f/2 lens seems like a pretty sweet piece of glass, one I would own if I was still invested in the PEN system. In stock now at B&H Photo!

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 162011
 

Dear Steve,

First of all I have to mention, that I’m not a professional photographer and I even do not have semi professional gear. Although I love it to take picutures during I’m in foreign countries or in special circumstances. Last year I travelled to Shanghai in China for work issues and one day I took the image with the man on the bicycle I send you with this email. I found it some days ago while I was stumbling through some pictures and memories and was surprised that my camera (please don’t laugh because it is a low budget Panasonic DMC-FX8 with limited and rough manual control) was randomly able to shoot such a nice picture. At home I just used a black and white filter for the first image and the second filter I didn’t remeber, maybe some sepia.

According to the images: They were taken in the middle of summer at the nanchang road on the west side of Shanghai. The west side is affected by a lot of old buildings especially the road where I took this image. The special thing in this city is that opposites are close together. For example modern things (for instance elevated roads) are combined with old fashioned ones or the poor and rich parts of the city are close together. I think both images are unusual ones for this city because most of the people think of bright lights and a skyline with with great skyscrapers according to Shanghai however they are demonstrating the character of this city I have mentioned before.
Kind regards from Germany, Max

PS: Please excuse my poor English and way of photography. The intention why I send you this email is because I found your site some months ago and really enjoy reading it from time to time. Today I just spontaneously wanted to share these both images with you.

Jul 152011
 
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

Jul 142011
 

The Power of the Polaroid (and photos in general)

By Steve Huff

I have been home for 3-4 days and am STILL going through my e-mails so sorry if you wrote and did not get a reply just yet. One of the emails included a link to a story with some pretty powerful images. All shot with a Polaroid…

I remember seeing this story a while ago and I may have even posted a link to a story about it but once I started digging into the images I realized this should have it’s own post.

This story is about a man named Jamie Livingston who for 18 years, took a Polaroid photograph every day. From 1979 to 1997 he documented his life up until it’s short end at 41 years old when he died of Cancer. It is a tragic story and being a sensitive guy, one that brought a tear to my eye as I browsed through all of his images. You can see  them all HERE, and believe me, I sat here for hours looking at all of them. I am still jet lagged so my sleep schedule is all over the place right now :)

From 1995, Jamie even shot a few intimate moments at times..

Two weeks before his death he married his girlfriend, who can be seen in many of the previous shots he took

The last Polaroid. We do not know who shot it but it shows him just before his death in 1997. Age 41. My age. 

Again, you can see the whole collection HERE and it is worth taking a look at when you have some time. As I browsed through them I was reminded of the power of photography. The power of life, love, friends and family. Those we spend time with while on this rather short journey we all have on this planet. There have been a couple of events in my life that made me take a step back and realize I have to live life like every day is the last, because ANY day could be my last.

Photography, wether shooting stills or video/film is the one medium that will record our lives for our kids and their kids to see. Magic. Sometimes the stories will be happy, sometimes they will be sad. There will be challenges and there will be triumphs. But to remember all of these times we should all be snapping away every day! If you are reading this I KNOW you have the gear to do so!

I just created a folder on my desktop called “daily” and while I may not take a shot every single day, I am going to try and snap a shot of what is going on in my life at least every other day. I will use my Iphone and Hipstamatic and hopefully I will live at least another 20 years so I can look back at my life with a smile, some tears and even some laughter.

This story also was relevant to me because just recently I toured the Leica Shop in Vienna and was amazed to see the Polaroid Impossible exhibit. Getting to see Ansel Adams ORIGINAL Polaroid of his self portrait..how cool is that? When I was there with Seal he picked up a couple of really cool SX-70 cameras. I am kicking myself for not buying one myself but I may buy one online here really soon. The new films are pretty special but my fave is the black frame B&W.

You just gotta love Polaroids. My 1st camera was a Polaroid back when I was a kid and I LOVED that camera but the damn film was so expensive it was a rare treat when I was able to get a new pack of the magical instantly developing goodness. I used to burn through that film like mad, irritating everyone in my path. I think I have some of those Polaroids somewhere and will dig them up one day but in all reality, most of the photography in my youth was shot with a cheap 110 film camera :)

It’s funny, I always disliked when photos were shot of me so I would do silly things when my Mother or Father would snap one of me..

I have a bunch of photos from my teen years in boxes. Maybe one day I will scan a few and share them with you…some funny stuff. That is another magical part of photography. SHARING. We all love to shoot and share which is what really makes this hobby special. Facebook, Flickr, forums…these days PHOTOS ARE EVERYWHERE. I love it.

In Moscow with the backing band – shot by Holly Palmer on her Ipad with SHAKE IT!

So the moral of the story? Memories are priceless…shoot whenever you can. Shoot life. Shoot love. Shoot YOU. Until next time…

My only two looks. Mean or Goofy :)

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!

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

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

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…

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.

and a couple from the M9

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.

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.

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.

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

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..

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

and some color…

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…

Seal with legendary producer Trevor Horn

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


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

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!

Seal giving the 1.3 million Leica a kiss

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

A group watching the show from above…

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

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

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.


f/0.95. 1/30s, iso 2500 – JPEG B&W

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.

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.

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.

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


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

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!

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