Mar 272011

What makes a photograph a “classic”?

By ~6

Email conversation between me and ~6 this morning…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mar 242011

I’m still recovering from Brasilia and right now as I write this I am back at the Hotel Unique in Sao Paulo where we flew back today for another show. Last night Brasilia was GREAT! The crowds just seem to be getting better and better and last night was insane and just flew by for me. When I arrived at the venue with the band I noticed the stage was VERY high..taller than me. Looked like trouble for Leica M photography but I had a plan…more on that later.

I will rewind a but to when we were in the airport flying to Brasilia from Rio. It was like Deja Vu as we were just in that same airport a couple days prior and was the one where I shot the image of Seal and the one of the little girl. I had the little 28 Elmarit on the M9 and just snapped a couple of shots.

Marcus and the girls…

I was sitting across from this man on his Ipad and it just seems like a great photo opp. Any excuse I get to take a picture I do it!

We arrived at our Hotel in Brasilia and I snapped one of the Tour Manager Steve with the Nocti.

Arriving at the Venue – Soundcheck

We arrived to the venue early and the band immediately started their soundcheck while I scoped out the venue  top to bottom. After I found my way around and the “under the stage” shortcuts I went up on stage to get a few shots of the band playing..all with the M9 and Noctilux…and yes, ALL wide open at 0.95.

So here I was…in a venue hours before the show with an Artist I have respected and enjoyed since the early 1990’s AND doing what I have ALWAYS wanted to do…shoot musicians and live performances. Back when I was in my early 20’s I would often try to get into shows to photograph them but never had any idea how to get into it. I was always a fan of Jim Marshall who used a Leica M4 to shoot concerts, sadly he passed away recently but he has made some iconic images over the years.

It’s not something one can do and get rich from but for me it’s about the satisfaction and excitement I get from creating images that I can look back on with great memories of my time “with the band”. I’m having a blast though I am tired and averaging 4-5 hours a night of sleep, mainly due to editing images after shows and waking up early to get packed back up for the airport travel. Still, it’s an adventure and for someone like me who has limited world travel experience it has been a learning experience. Plus, it’s also cool to not only hang with my friend Seal, but everyone else from the band to the road crew are SO NICE…it really is like one big family here and I respect this whole operation. It’s awesome!


30 minutes before showtime I devised a plan to plant myself out front in with the crowd and so I followed through with that plan. But within 15 minutes there were thousands of people behind me. I felt like I was crammed in like a sardine in one of those roll back tins but hey, it’s all for the photos right? I couldn’t risk getting bad shots due to me not being out front so away I went! While in the crowd I was approached by a few people who must have seen my “All Access” badge as they were asking me  to let them meet Seal, which of course is out of my hands, but everyone was great in the crowd. One thing I have noticed is that Brazilian people are warm, friendly and seem very happy which is quite the opposite of many of those you meet in America. Pretty cool.

The Show kicked off and me and the trusty M9 started clicking away. I did not want to repeat all of the other shots from previous shows on this tour so I decided to tackle this night with a different style if at all possible.

Enjoy the shots. Lenses used were the 50 Noct, 28 Elmarit, and 35 Summicron.


After each show Seal meet’s some of his fans in a meet and greet session. This is always cool for any artist to do as it gives the hardcore fans a chance to meet their idol. I walked around with the Noctilux and the M9 set at ISO 2500 and took some snapshots. Seal always has a great time during these sessions and one night I saw him spend about 25 minutes with one fan. The Brasilia fans loved every minute of it :)

On to the next…Sao Paulo Brazil – Show #2

As I type this I am in Sao Paulo…just arrived back here an hour or so ago and have another hour before we head to the venue for sound check. I’ll shoot this show tonight and then we have a couple of days off in Recife Brazil where we will spend almost 4 days before heading to Mexico City for two shows. Fun fun fun!

A shot of our cool hotel as we drove up from the van window…

If any of you are going to be at the show tonight feel free to say “Hey” if you see me walking around :) Until next time!



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

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

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Mar 242011

B&H Photo has listed stock of the Special Edition (and gorgeous) Silver Pentax K5..soon to follow will be a set of special edition silver Limited lenses. If you want the Silver Edition, better snag it quick. You can find it HERE!

More images can be found at the official Pentax site here. Also, just FYI, this is my favorite DSLR and if I owned a DSLR, this would be it!

Mar 212011

Just wrapped up shooting the 5th show on Seals South American tour in Belo Horizonte Brazil and it was a WILD one! The crowds seem to be getting wilder and wilder and tonight was the most amazing crowd yet in BH. Rio was fantastic as well, though these two shows were the most challenging to shoot yet.  I came away with 4 or 5 I really like regardless.

But yea, the crowds were intense!  As usual, I managed to get some very cool shots with just the big honkin’ zoom of course though I did see many in the crowd sporting 5 and 7D’s with huge zooms.

I’m sitting in my room now in Belo Horizonte and leave here in 2 hours to head back to Rio for two days so maybe I will enjoy the beach or Sugarloaf mountain. Lots to do in Rio, especially when your hotel is right on the Copacabana Beach!

I’m posting both nights here and the camera and lenses used were the M9, 50 Noct and 35 Summicron. Those two along with the 28 Elmarit cover just about all I need but it would be cool to have a 21 and 75 Lux with the 50 Noct….wow.

Be sure and visit the Leica dealers who sponsor my site if you are interested in some gear :) – B&H Photo, Dale Photo and Ken Hansen!

Rio Brazil – Saturday March 19th 2011

I always go for a soundcheck shot to test the lenses, exposure, colors, etc…

The set list is displayed…

Steve (Syd) Sydelnik prepares for the show minutes before showtime…

and the Rio show begins with “If I’m Any Closer”!

Flying to Belo Horizonte – March 20th 2011

Just a few snaps from the airport in Rio…

Seal and Mark waiting to board the plane for the one hour flight from Rio to Belo Horizonte

This little girl kept looking at me and smiling because she saw that I had a camera. I snapped this one and she was excited that I did. Very cute. To the left is Steve Brumbach, the tour manager.

just a shot from the van window on the way to the hotel

Belo Horizonte – March 20th 2011

The road crew sets up the stage…


Seals Manager, Rick Salmon looks on from off stage

Mar 182011

Seal in Sao Paulo Brazil – March 17th 2011

Shot with the Leica M9 and 28 Elmarit, 50 Summicron, 50 Noctilux, 90 Summarit

**I started writing this 14 hours ago and just now was able to post it..I am now in Rio!!**

I have 30 minutes before I have to head down to the lobby to hop on a bus and head to the airport here in Sao Paulo Brazil. Yep, I’m traveling with the band and we are heading out to Rio which is only an hour flight. Damn, the van ride to the airport will take 2 hours so the flight is much shorter.

I managed to get in 3 hours sleep last night but I’m really enjoying this whole experience which is actually pretty laid back compared to most tours. Last nights show in Sao Paulo was THE BEST YET in regards to Seals performance and the crowd interaction…YES, IT WAS AMAZING SHOW!!!

We all arrived at the venue around 5PM for soundcheck (well, I do my “camera check” while the guys do their sound check) and then we had a 3 hour wait until the show started so we all hung out and just relaxed before showtime. I always wondered what it was like backstage before and after a show and I have to say that Seal and his band are 100% class. The days of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll are long gone but it’s funny how many people think that going on the road is one big party. Maybe back in the 80’s and early 90’s but these days it is quite the opposite really, and that is refreshing.

These days the band warms up, has some snacks, watches TV, laugh and enjoy themselves before a show. After the show there is a meet and greet where the fans get to meet Seal and get a picture taken with him. After that its back  to the hotel for relaxation and sleep.

Soundcheck is always nice. This one was shot with the 50 Summicron

Marcus Brown in the dressing room laying down a bass track.

After the 3 hour break the guys headed to the stage for a 2 hour set that got everyone on their feet within 20 seconds. The crowd in Sao Paulo was so amazing. The kind of thing you like to see when you go to a live show like this. I’m expecting the same of RIo so it should be fun to shoot and get in there with all of the fans (which is where I shoot, right in the thick of it).

When Seal came out on stage his red jacket just POPPED! Then I remembered I was shooting digital and reds have a tendency to get blown out. The Noctilux with its rich color signature really made his jacket pop but didn’t get too overblown (though it is on the edge)so that was cool. Having a full frame sensor helps in that regard as you just get that richness and higher dynamic range to hold it all together.

This show was loads of fun and FLEW by for me but it was also challenging as I am trying to not repeat myself with the same shots over and over. There are 7 or 8 more shows and I am not wanting to just be generic and shoot the same kind of angles so you may see some experimenting over the next few days. Looking forward to Rio tomorrow night.

A week has already passed by since the tour and it is just flying by as it is so jammed packed with travel and shows. Yes, this is my adventure of a lifetime and I am having a blast :) Everyone with the tour has been so nice..It’s incredible :) Looking forward to more over the next two weeks. Tomorrow I will have a street shooting in Rio post up and the day after that the Seal Rio show report with loads of pics! Enjoy!

Mar 142011

March 13th – Seal Tour – Buenos Aires Argentina – Day 3 – OFF DAY

Yesterday was a day off for the Seal tour in Buenos Aires Argentina so I spent the day with the band walking around the areas near the hotel. We walked past what seemed like miles of street vendors and crowds and eventually ended up in a very unique little restaurant for dinner where I split a steak with Seals drummer Steve. It was delicious and well worth the walk if I must say so.

Mark Summerlin, the guitar player for Seal treated all of us to a great dinner and drinks. The atmosphere was really special and so laid back. The service was superb and we all had a great time (and a few beers).

Mark at dinner  – M9/50 Cron – ISO 2500 – This is the only pic I snapped while we ate!

On the way to dinner I only snapped a few photos here and there as I was just taking it all in. When you have very little travel experience under your belt like I do it is a treat to visit a place like Buenos Aires. It can be a little scary at times because you do not know what to expect, and it is hard to tell the bad areas from the good but that is part of what makes it so interesting.

In Chicago, where I was born, I know the areas to stay clear of. In Buenos Aires I had no idea, but it was an adventure and it seemed like there was a photo to be found around every turn…

It was pretty nice to be feeling the old Leica M9 street vibe again. I’ve been spending so much time lately reviewing other cameras that the M9 has been neglected so it was nice to have one strapped around me.

At the end of the day in the never ending world of digital cameras, when it’s all said and done, there just is no other camera like the M series camera. PERIOD! From the moment one picks up an M, wether it be an M6, M7, MP or the M8 or M9 you just feel this confidence (once you have gotten your focus down and used the camera for a while of course) and the camera inspires you to be your best. Work or play, my images with the M9 have always stood out above the images that were shot with other cameras.

Why is that? I think it’s a combination of the great glass, the body shape and the manual nature of the camera that help me to work really well with it. It’s my thing so when I shoot with the M9 I really enjoy it and have a good time and I always KNOW when I nailed a shot. After using an M for a long period of time it seems like you can just instantly find shots wherever you go. It’s not BS when people say it becomes and extension of them.

So yea, I’m still loving the Leica M9 even though I am hearing some say it is outdated already. To me, the M9 is a classic much like the M6, M7, and MP and IMO the classics are never outdated :)

March 14th – Seal Tour – Santiago Chile – Day 4 – OFF DAY

Tonight as I write this I am in a GREAT hotel room at the “W” in Santiago Chile. We flew in this morning to Santiago and I am now lying in a nice cozy warm bed. Ahhhhh.

I had a long day of walking about and once again enjoying some great food with the band members Steve (Drums), Gus (Guitar) and Marcus (Bass). Mark (Guitar) had to do some work today so he stayed behind.

We walked out to grab some lunch at a nice little cafe where I ate an amazing club sandwich and then went back to explore the hotel. We ended up on the roof where we checked out the amazing view and of course I snapped a few pics. Seal also snapped some with his Ricoh GXR and posted them HERE.

Marcus & Sid (Steve) doing the Iphone thing…

Seal and his Manager Ric joined us up on the roof for an hour or so. A fan spotted seal and enjoyed a brief chat with him which was cool to see.

Ric and Steve checking out the dreary skies.

Seal shooting his Ricoh GXR

Santiago Chile at night…

My eyes are heavy and this bed feels TOO good. It’s now 1:28 AM and I have to get some sleep. Long day tomorrow and it’s a show day! More posts coming soon and I will also be trying to write my Leica 90 Summarit lens review in the next week or so! Until next time!

Mar 142011

From Fuji today…

PRESS RELEASE: Press statement following recent earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan

14 March 2011 — Following the recent earthquake and tsunami in Northern Japan Fujifilm can confirm that its Taiwa-Cho factory, 20 miles from Sendai city, has been affected.

Fortunately, none of the workers at the Taiwa-Cho factory are reported injured but inevitably some damage has occurred to the factory building, causing a temporary halt in production for the FinePix X100. To this end, Fujifilm is expecting a delay to market for the X100.

Fujifilm is currently considering all possible options to minimise the delay and the disappointment for the many consumers who have given the X100 such an incredible reception.

The rest of Fujifilm’s range has been unaffected, due to manufacturing being based outside the region.

I’m sure you will also want to join us in extending our thoughts and condolences to everyone affected by these terrible events in Japan.

Mar 122011


It’s 2:19 AM and I am in my hotel room going over images I shot tonight at the 1st show of the Seal South American tour in Buenos Aires Argentina. As most of you already know, I am on the road with Seal for the next 3 weeks. There will be 10 or 11 shows and I will be shooting at all of them with a Leica M9 and various lenses. For tonights show I planned on using the Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 along with the 135 telyt but the 135 was a bit too slow (in regards to Aperture) so I ended up shooting with a 28 elmarit and of course, as mentioned, the king of the ring…the fantastic NOCTILUX ASPH.

I missed focus on this as it was dark and I grabbed it VERY quick. Upon entering the Venue this little girl and her father were waiting to meet Seal and even though the image is OOF, you can see the smile on the little girls face as she gets what she wished for…an autograph on her shirt.

What I wouldn’t give to own this beauty of a lens. Seal is letting me borrow it for the tour and I have to say that if I believed in the past that the Nocti and the M9 made a great concert shooting pair, tonight I believe it to be THE BEST. Yes, above the Canon 1d’s and the Nikon D3’s…

I have written about it before but I would say that 98% of all photographers who shoot concerts and live performances shoot with Nikon or Canon. Not that this is a bad thing as Nikon and Canon make FABULOUS and highly capable cameras. BUT if one wants to be original and make their work like this stand out, a Noctilux attached to the M9 is a magical thing, even today.

If I had to use a DSLR for shooting live performances such as this it would probably be a Canon 5D (I or II) or Nikon D700 but my preference will always be with the Leica M9/Nocti combo. The mix of full frame, Leica glass, and manual focusing make it fun, challenging, AND rewarding when you see  the results.

Tonights show was awesome. Of every Seal show I have seen, this was by far my favorite as the band was tighter than ever and Seals voice was about the best I have heard it. The set list rocked as well. I had a BLAST watching and documenting the show and even the little 28 Elmarit did really good. It surprised me. That lens is sharp, contrasty and sort of a super deal in the land of Leica glass.

Being that it is so wide on the M9, with the 28 I was right up against the stage and at one point I went to move further to the back and realized I was surrounded by hundreds of people. I ended up staying at center stage for the last 1/4 of the show :)

So without further ado, here are a few more images from night #1. I won’t be posting ALL of them, just my faves. ALL shot with the 50 Nocti ASPH and the 28 Elmarit. The color in the Nocti shots just POP!

It’s now 3AM here so I need some sleep and tomorrow I may walk around Buenos Aires to do some photography and sight seeing. If I get anything interesting I will post them here! Also, Seal is posting some personal pics to almost daily. You can follow him HERE.


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

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

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

Mar 102011
Disappointment at Dealey Plaza
By Donald Barnat

I have to admit to being a pretty cocky photographer. What I mean by that is that if I’m pleased with the images that I make, I’m not particular vulnerable to the negative criticism of others and that includes photographers. Of course, I don’t always make myself happy.  And what I’ve learned about failing to make images that I’m happy with is that it most often happens because I was unwilling or unable to do the hard work of seeing and capturing the great images that were there to be had.

I think good photography is challenging and difficult. I’m not sure it’s as hard as writing something interesting or playing jazz, the latter of which has been compared to changing the fan belts on your car while the motor is running.

I don’t think photography is quite that hard. But at 53 years old, the truth is it’s sometimes more of challenge to take great pictures than I am physically or mentally up to. And I probably wouldn’t be admitting that if not for the shots I’m going to present here.

I don’t consider this to be a strong set of images. They are far from it. I’m disappointed in them and, of course, myself. My excuses are that it was very cold in Dallas, I’m from Los Angeles and not used to that kind of cold, and after watching the Pittsburgh Steelers lose the Super Bowl the evening before, I was pissed off, burnt out, hung over, and completely over the entire Texas experience.

I’d taken my Leica M9 to Dallas thinking I would come back with tons of great pictures. That was not to be the case. Photography is hard and you have to want to take good pictures, and then you have to be willing to do the work to get those pictures. I wasn’t and I came back from the trip with very few images that I ever want to look at again.

Nevertheless, Dealey Plaza, the location where President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, is something else entirely. It is, almost by some kind of natural or unnatural energy, one of the most eerily amazing places I’ve ever visited in my life.

But the strangeness of the experience of visiting there is compounded due to the ghastly and unacceptable way in which this historical site has been allowed to deteriorate, and also because of how it is presented to those who come to this place to try to absorb something of the terrible events that happened there.

The vibe of Dealey Plaza is so thick that the first thing you may notice upon arriving there is the atmosphere of mayhem and disorder that permeates the place. Remember the moment in Oliver Stone’s JFK when the pigeons bolt from the roof of the Texas School Book Depository? It’s just like that moment.

Dealey Plaza, it seemed to me, is a vortex of negative energy. Soon after we arrived and were standing near where Abraham Zapruder shot his incredible film, up at the bend from South Houston onto Elm, the last corner that President Kennedy would turn in his life, there was the wild screech of brakes and a violent collision. Minutes later there was the sound of an ambulance. Someone had been injured, apparently seriously as it wasn’t long before the ambulance sped past us, right up Elm Street and over the spot where the president was shot. There is an image here that shows that moment.

It’s a bizarre place, and there’s no other way of saying it. And a serious traffic accident was just one of many things, the very real sights and sounds of 2011, which contribute to setting the eerie tone in Dealey Plaza.

The lion’s share of negative vibe in Dealey Plaza, however, isn’t generated by happenstance or traffic accidents. It comes from the fact that the place is in such a miserable state of disrepair that it amounts to a disgrace for the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, and the United States of America.

I live in Los Angeles. In what’s called the slums of Beverly Hills. But what I’m about to say goes for virtually everywhere in Los Angeles. There is more attention paid to the grounds keeping and upkeep and beautification of EVERY apartment building on my street, every street in my neighborhood, and just about every building, house, park, intersection, center divider or median strip, car wash, parking lot, and public restroom than there is at the site of the assassination of the 35th president of the United States.

Paint is chipping badly. Rust stains are everywhere. The grass is trodden over, smashed down to dirt and mud under the feet of visitors. Graffiti covers key components of this historical site including the picket fence behind the Grassy Knoll where some say a second shooter may have fired shots at the president’s motorcade.

But there’s one thing even worse than the disrepair at Dealey Plaza and it is an insult to history and everyone who visits the place as well as to the memory of the slain president and of the events that happened there.

The entire principle roadways, including the spot where Kennedy died on Elm Street, is still open to automobile traffic and there is an almost macabre and dangerous scene played out minute by minute as visitors who have come to this spot to try to reconcile, understand, or simply just absorb the events of over 40 years ago are forced to DODGE honking automobiles as they impatiently speed by on the three lanes of Elm Street. It’s outrageous.

In Los Angeles, we close off busy sections of key streets in Santa Monica multiple times a week for a farmer’s market. They’ve permanently shut down five blocks of 3rd street in Santa Monica and turned it into an outdoor shopping promenade.

It is OUTRAGEOUS that the city of Dallas, the state of Texas, or the federal government of the United States, hasn’t as yet sealed off Dealey Plaza to car traffic and turned it into the historical mall that it should be. It is a TINY place in what is certainly a small section of the grand scheme of things in modern Dallas. Yes it would require permanent rerouting of traffic but nothing that doesn’t happen every day in every city in America.

Texas, however, is a still yet a very strange place politically, and this situation is evidence of that which rises to the level of being a disgrace for that state and the city of Dallas.

So the bottom line is that, even though I’m very disappointed in my own photography from this trip, I’d hope that the images show some of the problems that I’m talking about. The graffiti. The people trying to stand on the spot where Kennedy died while traffic bears down on them. The general disrepair.

But I hope that my pictures also capture to some extent the weirdness and the aura of mayhem and negativity that hangs over the place. It’s a place where harsh shadows and mysterious figures are still juxtaposed by a fierce blue sky and glaring sun. Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository are haunted, maybe not by real spirits, but by real history. It’s a cursed and, unfortunately, still dangerous intersection of clashing forces and cross purposes.

Five decades ago it was a young president whose motorcade happened to pass in front of the building where a raging loner name Lee Harvey Oswald worked.

Now it’s people trampling and marking up and slowly destroying a place of incredible historical significance to the United States while they themselves are threatened by the danger of distracted drivers trying to negotiate through their midst.

In Washington D.C they manage to balance the needs of a functioning government with the influx and presence of millions upon millions of visitors every year and it is carried off with dignity and safety. Dealey Plaza is not much bigger than the cafeteria at the Smithsonian. Its importance in terms of traffic and logistics to the city of Dallas is or very easily could be next to nothing. But its historical importance to our country and to the world is off the charts and it should be preserved and presented with the respect and dignity it deserves.

Okay. Have I succeeded yet in distracting you all from the bad pictures? All taken with the M9 and the new 35mm Summilux ASPH. Ernst and Oskar forgive me.

One note about a few of the shots. We managed to walk right into a part of the Texas School Book Depository that was not for tourists. It is still functioning as an office building and courthouse. We sat there literally six floors under the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald fired from for about a half an hour as people came and went on their way to conducting business.  The indoor shots were all taken from the first floor of that infamous building.

The railroad tracks. There’s a raw and archaic American visual at the famous railroad tracks that wind behind the School Book Depository and the Grassy Knoll. That image has been post processed to try to imbue it with the jaundiced appearance of that setting.

Thanks for looking and listening.

Donald Barnat

Mar 082011

I’ve been busy organizing and packing!

Lots of you have asked me to list what I am packing for the Seal tour this week so I decided to post my list! I will be out for three weeks with one goal in mind..kick ass photography with my Leica gear! Well, I am actually packing a medium sized kit (by photographers standards) believe it or not. Besides one huge suitcase with 3 weeks worth of t-shirts, clothes, and hygiene necessities I am taking along a few cameras.

First off, I am bringing my Pelican bag to hold all cameras for the plane ride. This bag is pretty nice and has been with me for years now. It will hold TWO Leica M9’s, a few lenses, and my X1 along with all cables, chargers, and accessories. It’s so cool to be heading out and shooting this tour and packing so light (well, not really that light). No need for a DSLR and huge lenses. Nope, give me an M and a 35, 50, or 90 any day!

I want to thank Leica Camera for sending me some equipment to use for the tour, also Ken Hansen who came through for me last minute and Dale Photo who also helped me out for this trip! It is so cool to be associated with such great people! Of course, thanks to Seal for having me shoot this tour and B&H Photo for shipping my new Macbook Pro out so quickly. I think I am ready to rock…

Here is my UPDATED checklist of what I am getting together and bringing with me to South America!

  • Big Suitcase to hold my clothes and hygiene necessities. :)
  • This Pelican camera and laptop bag to hold all cameras, lenses, and my laptop/cables/chargers and snacks. I have had this bag for three years and it always does its job well. It holds SO much!
  • This Macbook Pro 13″ – Latest model which is awesome! It will be nestled inside its cool green leather sleeve. I just bought this laptop it to replace my 4-5 year old Macbook Pro. I always buy my Apple computers from B&H. Cheaper and no tax!

I always get my Apple computers through B&H Photo. You save quite a bit as they sell cheaper and you do not pay tax. They also offer free shipping! This is the latest 13″ model…

  • Two Leica M9’s – Thanks to Ken Hansen and Leica Camera! One is mine, one is a loaner backup courtesy of Leica.
  • Leica 28 Elmarit, 35 Summicron and 90 Summarit (Thanks to David at Dale Photo for hooking me up)
  • I will also be shooting with the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 once I meet up with Seal.
  • Four Sandisk Ultra 16GB SDHC SD Cards
  • External Hard Drive for backup!
  • Jawbone JAMBOX for my hotel stay music listening and movie watching.
  • Snacks for the long plane rides..have to eat! Hmmm…nuts, jerky, granola…all sounds good.
  • My passport of course.
  • My Iphone 4 and Mophie Juice Pack Plus.
  • This cool photo vest to hold all of my goodies while shooting! Well, maybe the vest is a bit geeky but will come in handy when shooting.
  • This BEEP, and M9 screen protector from Popflash Photo to help out my grey M9.
  • and Cash – Oops, I am all out!

So, have I forgotten anything?

Check out the tour schedule and if you are going to these shows be sure to look for me or even e-mail me and let me know which show you will be at. Would be great to meet some of you if I can! I will be updating the site as often as I can with tour updates and of course loads of great photos. Three weeks of shooting a tour, awesome. Am I dreaming or what?!?!? If you missed my report on the week I spent with the tour last year you can read about it HERE at the official Leica Blog.


Mar 082011

I just crossed day 600 of my PAD project, so I figured I’d send you some photos for Daily Inspiration :) All with M8 and either the Zeiss 35 f/2 Biogon or Voigtlander f/1.5 Nokton. Exception is “Rays of Light”… that was with GH2 + Leica 50 f/2 Summitar.

Hope you enjoy!


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Mar 072011

Let us all welcome Ken Hansen as a site sponsor!

OK, all of my site sponsorships have been filled up! Today I proudly welcome Ken Hansen, Leica dealer extraordinaire to the list of those who support this site. There are many choices out there in Leica land but my dealers of choice has always been Ken Hansen, B&H Photo and Dale Photo. Three top choices for Leica cameras and lenses. I have dealt with and bought from all three of them and received nothing but the best in return in regards to speed and service. Ken has been around since 1958 selling Leica and has also owned and operated a nice photo shop in NYC for many years. He has since retired from Retail but now sells Leica from his home office and usually has stock on hand of everything Leica (well, besides the elusive 50 Lux ASPH though dealers do get one or two a month it seems). He even usually has the film classics like the M6’s or M7’s in stock as well as the little film cameras like the CM and Minilux.

Ken has been with me and my site since the first days, loaning me lenses or cameras to review. He has been a great supporter of this site and I have been happy to send him business, as he has always provided stellar service to me and others that have raved about him to me via e-mail.

So when you need camera gear be sure to shop at the sponsors of this site as without their help this site would not exist! You can e-mail Ken Hansen anytime at [email protected] and ask about what he has available in Leica (I have bought an MP, M8.2, X1 and varous lenses from Ken). You can visit Dale Photo HERE and browse their online shop. They sell Leica as well as Artisan & Artist cases and bags for your Leica (I have bought 2-3 Leica lenses from David at Dale, super fast delivery and top notch service). Let’s not forget where you can RENT Leica lenses! No need to spend thousands up front. Try them out 1st! I think lensrentals may be the only place to rent Leica glass and even the M9.

For all of you Sony NEX shooters, J-Tec provides cool accessories for your NEX-5 so check them out if you haven’t already. Of course there is also B&H Photo who I have been raving about since the start as well. I have spent probably over $200,000 with them in 10 years and never had one issue. B&H is great for Leica as well as ANY other brand of camera or accessory. They sell just about everything and when you buy from them using my link I get a small percentage that helps this site go on! They also usually have a nice supply of used Leica.

So thanks to all of my sponsors and for those who were asking about sponsoring the site, I am now all filled up! I only planned to offer four spots and only to those whom I know and trust and easily recommend. I had some shady sites trying to pay me pretty good $$ to advertise here but I turned them down. Nope, what you see here are the best of the best IMO for Leica and everything else photographic!

Mar 052011

Seal South American Tour 2011

Woohoo! Looks like I will be heading out on tour with Seal at the end of next week to join him on his three week tour of South America. I will be shooting the shows and updating the site from the hotels every chance I get. Last year I was with him for one week during his European tour and had a great time doing what I love to do most. This time I am in higher spirits and very excited to not only hang with a great friend but also to be the “tour photographer” and having a blast documenting the tour! Like last time I will be shooting an M9 with a Noctilux but also may expiriment with the Leica 135 as well. I’ll also have  the little X1 on hand AND the CM and some film for some snapshots and behind the scenes stuff.

I also have to pack up my Macbook Pro, some SD cards, and three weeks worth of clothes. How is the weather in South America this time of year? I love adventure :)

I did contact Fuji to see if they would send me an X100 so I could review it on the road/tour and they kindly declined my offer saying they don’t  have any to ship out yet to reviewers. Hmmm. Would have been great promotion for them and the X100 if it performed well. Anyway, I leave on March 10th so maybe one will show up via Fed Ex before then? Ha ha.

To see the show schedule you can click HERE. It all starts on March 12th in Buenos Aires Argentina. I can’t wait! Updates to the site may be on and off, depending on where I can get internet connection but when I can get online I will! Just wanted to announce the news and if any of you will be attending the shows, let me know! Updates from the road will start as soon as I leave!

Mar 042011

First Impressions of the Finepix X100 from a rangefinder shooter.

By Pieter Franken

Hi Steve – first of all thank you for inviting me to share my first impressions on the Fujifilm Finepix X100. It went on sale here in Tokyo on Thursday and I was lucky to get one on day-one.

First a bit about myself – My name is Pieter Franken.  I’m from Holland and live in Tokyo. I love taking pictures and for the past 3 years have been hooked on the Leica M8 and now M9. I do love shooting with various gear, and have gravitated over time towards portable, high performance cameras to fit my shooting style. When the X100 was announced it got my strong interest as a ‘sidekick’ camera to carry around with the M9 to do snapshots, macro shots and just for fun shooting.

So here it is! I have been using the camera exactly one day, and these are my first, quick (and biased) impressions.

Overall impression The X100 is extremely well built, feels good and is the right size for manual focus handling. Especially the optical hybrid view finder is wonderful – its clarity is breath taking and allows for easy composition. It is easy to use and delivers good quality pictures, especially high ISO is impressive. The auto focus mechanism is not always easy to use, but when setup properly it delivers and allows for rangefinder style shooting. It is great fun to shoot with the X100. And of-course the X100 looks are great!

Lens – the f2 focal lens begs comparison with Leica glass. When compared to a modern 35mm summicron (ASPH or late non ASPH), the performance of the Fuji lens lags a bit – Wide open it is a bit softer, less sharp. Some people may actually like this over the razor sharpness of the Summicron ASPH. From f2.8 onwards, it is crisper and clean. The lens can be stepped in full stops only – it would have been nice to have half stops. As the lens uses an in lens focal plane shutter, there are some limitations to the maximum shutter speed. When shooting wide open, the maximum is 1/1000 – to counter this limitation there’s a built in ND filter that can be enabled and offer 3 stops extra. This is very neat and works very well. I ended up using it a lot when shooting outside to get nice bokeh in full sunlight.  This also removes the need to carry around any ND filters.

Shutter – one of the great properties of the X100 is the silent shutter. The menu offers an option to put the camera in ‘silent mode’ and when once set there’s almost no sound. The shutter button feels nice and gives good mechanical feedback, so it is easy to know when you have taken a shot. The shutter sound is much less then the Leica M9 (or MP) and is a great for discrete shooting. When shooting in manual focus mode (highly recommended) the shutter response is immediate and you can take pictures in quick succession. The shutter button can take a release cord.

High ISO – I was really surprised when shooting in high ISO. Performance is in the same class as my D700. Pictures taken at ISO6400 have nice grain and color information is not lost or smeared. Detail is for all practical purposes acceptable. Nice!

Auto focus – The most critical component of the X100 is the hybrid view finder and focusing mechanism. The flawless switch between optical and electronic view finder is truly awesome – especially in bright sunlight the view finder excels. For focussing, Fuji has broken the focus range into two ranges – normal and macro. The camera needs to be put in macro mode when shooting objects closer than 80cm, though under some conditions I was able to focus up to 50cm without switching to macro. It helps when setting the focal area ‘square’ to the smallest size possible for precise pin-point auto focus.  In practice the AF range is a bit of inconvenient and I end up switching al lot between macro and normal. The speed of focus is not the fastest out there – it lags behind the Lumix GF1 with 20mm in terms of speed. Some improvement here from Fuji would help!

Manual focusrangefinder style shooting. The key is to shoot the X100 in manual focus mode. Once setup, you can compose with the optical viewfinder, and with one button switch to the electronic view finder to enlarge the focal point for precise focussing. The X100 has a control button that once pressed will auto-focus the lens, so you don’t have to spin the focal ring to much. You can then do micro focussing with the focus ring. The focus ring it self is very slow, which is great for precise focusing, but not good if you need to dial in the focal point fast. Some software accelerator would have been nice. This is not a real problem, as you can use the aforementioned control button to do a global focus and work from there. Once focussed, you can pretty much shoot in zone mode and have immediate shutter release without any lag due to AF. I ended up shooting most of the pictures with manual focus and found it easy to use.

Frame lines – as you shoot near or far, the frame lines in the optical vew finder change accordingly to ensure precise composition. Especially when shooting macro this is very handy. The frame lines are adjusted after setting focus, so you need to compose near shots after getting the focus right. When shooting manual focus, this works best. The frame-lines are conservative, and you always get a bit more then shown.

JPG output – JPG output is pretty good. What is nice here is that Fuji offers 3 color modes labelled Provia, Velvia and Astia after their positive film range. For B&W, it offer various modes with Yellow, Red and Green filters – this is much easier then most B&W in camera options I have used so far. I ended up using the Provia for most shots as I wanted to have neutral output for post-editing in LR. Another nice touch is that it has a RAW converter built into the camera, so you can create your own conversion settings without need for post editing.

RAW output – Unfortunately the X100 has no support for RAW handling in LR yet. It comes with Silkypix (windows and mac) for RAW conversion to JPG and TIFF, but not DNG. I’m not a big fan of Silkypix as it is very slow to use and not intuitive. TIFF files when converted are a whopping 36MB. Lets hope Adobe LR comes out with RAW support soon!

Compared to the Leica M9 – well Steve… don’t sell or give away your M9!  The X100 is not a rangefinder camera and is not an alternate for the M9. Comparison with the Leica X1 or other high-end compacts would be more meaningful. The image quality,  performance and rangefinder handling of the M9 are well beyond the X100. This is not a surprise and was also not my reason for getting the X100. What the X100 does well over the M9 though is close-ups, useable high ISO output, good auto white balance, clean JPG output, silent shutter and pocketable size. And, lots of fun!

I will be shooting the X100 next to the M9 over the coming days and hope to report more of my impressions after having spent some more ‘serious’ time.

For first snap shots please visit my Flickr page. All samples are available if full resolution, JPG camera output.

Sample Pictures:
– X100 versus M3 (taken with a Lumix GH2 with 20mm ‘magic’ pancake lens)


– High ISO sample at ISO 6400 (Marantz 8B amplifier)

– B&W conversion sample (vintage car)

– Close-up – (Japanese old pump)

– Street shot at f8

– Street shot at f2 with ND filter




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

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

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

Mar 042011




**14 OF 15 SEATS HAVE BEEN SOLD AS OF MARCH 09th 2011! Only 1 REMAIN!**

We are also adding to the itinerary for the weekend with new guests, photo strolls and other cool surprises!

The Seattle, WA Workshop/Meetup – July 23rd & 24th 2011!

“Tell your Story!”

Here we go! The next workshop/meetup will be in Seattle, WA July 23rd and 24th 2011 in the Fremont Neighborhood which is super close to downtown and all kinds of beauty, culture, and photo opportunities!. This will be a TWO day meetup/workshop and it will be filled with all kinds of fun and exciting photo fun, people, places, food and things!  This one will be bigger & better than the NYC workshop from October. Full of spirit, passion, and splendid photography opportunities! I guarantee a great time will be had by all. Ashwin Rao and I are organizing this event to be one to remember with special guest additions, evening photo strolls, Leica demos, and a surprise or two thrown in as well. Don’t miss out on what will become an amazing photo passion filled weekend!

But first, A History – My very 1st Meetup/Workshop in NYC – 2010

NYC Workshop – 2010 – Steve Huff

Last October 2010 I met 21 of you at the first official meetup in NYC and we had a blast. The weather was cold and nasty but we pushed through and came away with some new friends, new skills, and the opportunity to shoot in the hustle and bustle of NYC to create some memorable images! Some of us even had a great time at the pub after the event! I was thrilled to see so many passionate people attending the NYC event and also thrilled to meet everyone who attended. It was a great time but being the 1st of it’s kind for this site, it was a more laid back, take it as we go kind of approach. With that said, I have huge plans for #2!

Here are a few fun images from the last time around …


Mark Your Calendars! July 23rd and 24th 2011!

This time around Ashwin Rao, (who writes for this site quite often and is an fantastic Leica photographer) will be hosting the event at his home during the day and evening hours of the 23rd and 24th of July, 2011. This will be a weekend, and the weather should be nice so I am looking forward to a GREAT time. High Speed Wi-Fi will be available at the house as well, thanks to Ashwin!

UPDATE: Tim Isaac, the man behind the “Thumbs Up” most of us use on our M8 and M9 will also be in attendance showing off his products and to chat with everyone. Tim is also a passionate M shooter so it is AWESOME  that he will be attending the event! I own a thumbs up and soft release myself. Great products!

UPDATE: Just added! Seattle pro, Roger Paperno will also be there to speak!

UPDATE: Added guest speaker and presenter CHARLES PETERSON!


Riccis Valladares looking over images shot by Sori Gottdenker at the NYC workshop

No need to own a Leica to attend! ANYONE who has a passion for photography can attend this event so no matter what camera you shoot with, you can come and benefit from the days events! There will be presentations, street shooting, an assignment for all, critiquing, Q & A session with myself and Ashwin Rao, one on one shooting time with myself as well as a great lunch on both days fully included where we will visit some local eateries with great food.

We will even visit Glazers Camera in Seattle where a Leica rep will give us a Demo of the current Leica cameras. I may even be able to get a Leica S2 for the day as well and Ashwin and I both have a  50 Noctilux ASPH in case anyone wants to check them out on their own M. I will also have a Fuji X100 on hand as well as a few other cameras!

UPDATE: Also, there will be a special prize give away of a special camera and loads of accessories to one lucky attendee (random prize drawing)!

THE FINAL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS! It will be a busy weekend for us all!.

Saturday, July 23rd

9:00 AM: Workshop attendees arrive at Ashwin’s home

– Top Pot Donuts (on of Seattle’s most famous donut spots) with coffee for breakfast

9:15ish: Steve’s intro & welcome

9:15-10:30: Introductions of each of the conference attendees (5 min per person)

10:30-10:45 : Ashwin Rao’s welcome, introduction, & brief portfolio slideshow

10:45 – 11:15:  Guest speaker introductions: Tim Isaac, Roger Paperno

11:30- 1:30: Morning stroll at Pike’s Place Market – An introduction to Seattle’s “street” of memories. Pike’s Place offers the most street photography of any place in Seattle, with a wide variety of photo making opportunities

1:30-2:30 Lunch at Pikes Place Chowder (sourdough bread bowl and chowdah!)

2:30-3:00 travel to & arrive at Glazers Camera for a Leica Demo; Meet with Mark Vercammen, Glazers’ Leica guru extraordinaire.

3:00- 4:00 pm: Glazers Camera –  Leica Demo with Brad Weeks, Leica’s Pacific Northwest camera representative.

4-4:30: Walk over to Glazers Rentals for Rao/Tanabe Photography Exhibit & talk on “How to exhibit and promote your work”

4:30-7  pm Return to Ashwin’s for photo editing, critique, and sharing; concurrent “Thumbs Up”/Match Technical display & gear demo at Ashwin’s

– Snacks and food on hand

7:15– 8:15: Evening sunset “postcard” photo stroll at Kerry Park

8:30- 9:30 pm Group Dinner and evening cap at Rays Boathouse near Golden Gardens

9:30-11 pm (time and attendee desire permitting): Optional later night, low light photo stroll for any interested. Likely location will be Belltown nightlife (downtown)


Sunday, July 24th

9:00- Breakfast: Mighty O Donuts and Coffee

9:15-9:45: Steve’s presentation of photos (Seal tour  & Street photography around the world)

9:45-10: 15: Introduction & Discussion Lead by Charles Peterson

10:15-11:00 Recap of the day – Lessons learned

11:00 AM – 1 PM: Photo Telling stroll – Space Needle/ Seattle Center

–  Optional 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 Eastlake Bar & Grill

3:30-5:15 pm: PM stroll at Discovery Park, Seattle’s “nature preserve”

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

7:30-8 pm: Prize giveaway ( a complete kick butt camera system with all accessories )

8:00 pm: Group Wrap-Up Dinner at Tutta Bella Pizzeria


Workshop Host: Steve Huff

Workshop Local Host & Organizer: Ashwin Rao


Honored attendees and contributors

Tim Isaac of MatchTechnical, creator of the ThumbsUp Grip for Leica M cameras

Charles Peterson, Rock & Documentary Photography

Roger Paperno: Pro Photographer and local co-host

Brad Weeks, Leica Northwest Representative

Mark Vercammen, Glazers Camera Leica Guru


  • Dinner is not included, but attendance is encouraged
  • Itinerary is subject to change, pending weather and happenstance



You know you want to go! Here is how to Register!

As of May 26th 2011 there is ONE spot available.

The total cost for the two day workshop will be $525 per person which includes both days of the workshop, lunch provided both days at a local restaurant (food and beverage, no alcohol as we can head to a pub later for that), all presentations and critiques, assignments,  as well as the Leica demos and use of an M9 if requested (I should have at least two for use by those who would like to try them out). I am limiting this once again to 20 people and even possibly 15. The last event sold out quick and I had many others wanting to get in but they were too late! I will also be giving away a great prize to one lucky attendee!

It will be a weekend of meeting like minded passionate people with every hour of each day packed with something fun and exciting. Lots of Leica but again, even if you shoot with an Olympus you can attend this event! It is about photography, passion and getting out there and shooting! No stuffy “know it all” attitudes, just learning, sharing, and shooting! The way it should be!

I hope to see you there in July!

I can accept payment via credit card using google checkout or personal check/money order. Either way, if you want to attend this memorable event E-MAIL me HERE when you are ready to commit and I will e-mail you an invoice that you can pay. Once you do this you will be locked in!


For those flying in to Seattle for the weekend there are many hotels in the nearby area. The area we will be in is a neighborhood called Fremont and is just a mile or two from downtown. We will be super close by all of the cool areas to shoot, that is for certain! Clicking here will bring up a page filled with info on the area as well as hotels. This page will be updated as we fine tune the weekend events so check back often!

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