Sep 262014

Pahoa Lava Flow

By Tom Niblick

Every year my wife and I close our studio for a week or two and go to the Big Island (Hawaii) to house-sit a friends cabin while he visits friends and family on the mainland. Our friend’s home is about halfway up the slope of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. The cabin had just survived Hurricane Iselle last month with only one casualty, an albizia tree. He was lucky. A few miles away Iselle cut a swath through the forest downing countless thousands of trees, power lines and closing roads, leaving the Puna district (southeast) without power and water for several weeks.

A second natural disaster is slowly creeping down the volcano and in less than two weeks will sweep across the main highway and isolate thousands of homes and farms. The Puu Oo lava flow, which started on June 27th, has moved towards the sea at a rate of 250 – 400 yards every day. We could not see the hot lava while we were visiting Puna because the lava was moving through inaccessible forest land and near access was blocked to all but local traffic. All we could see was smoke in the distance. All of this has changed two days later, as the lava has enter the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision, putting countless homes in danger.

Around September 24th as the lava will cross highway 130 and, unless the flow changes direction, will probably destroy the town of Pahoa. This has happened before when a similar lava flow closed the highway at Kalapana, burning homes and isolating hundreds of residents. The current flow promises to be even more dramatic.

The town of Pahoa is a charming place with several nice restaurants, coffee houses and markets. Inhabited by young and old hippies, it is a tropical paradise where nature’s children go to escape civilization and live a simpler life. Land was (and still is) inexpensive and living off the grid is common. However, there is a reason why one can buy land in paradise for less than $10,000 per acre – lava. Black lava is only a few inches beneath the surface with a sprinkling of moss and decayed forest litter for covering. The subsurface lava is also why so many trees went down in the hurricane, the tree roots were close to the surface and with no dirt to hold them down, tipped over in the wind.

Nothing is being done to divert the flow as native Hawaiians consider this disrespectful to Pele, the volcano goddess. In fact they are all busy cleaning their homes and cutting their lawns in preparation for “a very important guest.” Doing these simple tasks often spares houses and property. We took a day and did the same. Our friend’s house is now clean, cut and ready for Madam Pele, should she decide to shift her flow.

Should anyone want to see this once-in-a-generation event, they should get to Hawaii soon. Once the lava closes the highway, only local traffic will be permitted on the dirt road by-pass now being plowed. Even this emergency road lies between the lava and the sea. Disaster is inevitable. It may be many years before the flow stops and this corner of the island becomes accessible. Rooms and lodging will be scarce in Hilo which is about an hour’s drive from Pahoa. Arnotts is an affordable combo hostel, camp and lodge. A real treat would be to stay at the Volcano House inside the National Park. Bring a tripod if you want to shoot the lava at night and good shoes!

We would have loved to stay to witness this once-in-a-generation event but had a backlog of studio work and our own house sitter had other engagements. Ten days was all we could spare.

Of yes, I used my ever-present Leica M9 with 21 SEM, 35 type IV Summicron and 50 Summicron (Tiger Claw) lenses while Debbie, my wife, used her favorite camera, an Olympus OMD E-M1 with 12-40 and 60 macro Olympus lenses. She loves her little camera!

1) Debbie shooting what is left of a bromeliad garden after host tree was uprooted in hurricane. Leica M9 with 35 Summicron.

1 Debbie
2) Bromeliad. Olympus OMD E-M1 with 60 Macro.

3) Roads are closed except for local access. Leica M9 with 35 Summicron.

3 Road Closed
4) Lava is burning the forest about 1 mile from road. Leica M9 with 35 Summicron.

4 Lavainforest
5) Pele’s Kitchen in Pahoa. It is considered bad luck to name a business after Pele. Leica M9 with 35 Summicron.

5 Pahoa
6) Kaleo’s Restaurant in Pahoa. Leica M9 with 35 Summicron.

6 Pahoa
7) Kalapana Lava Flow. There was a road here once upon a time. Olympus OMD E-M1 with 12-40 zoom.

8) Kilauea Iki Trail. This 4.5 mile hike takes you across a hardened lava lake which is still steaming from the 1959 eruption. Leica M9 with 21 SEM.

8 Kilauea Iki Trail
9) Kilauea Iki Crater. Ohia tree and ferns dot the crater. Leica M9 with 21 SEM.

9 Kilauea Iki Crater
10) Land for sale… cheap! Leica M9 with 35 Summicron.

10 Land4sale

Jun 102014

Tibet with my M9

By John Kurniawan

Hi Steve/Brandon,

I am a frequent visitor of you side after I got my first M9+cron 35asph. I have not using rangefinder type of camera for 20+ years since my FM2 rest inside the drawer as I am busy building up my business.

Around 10 years ago when I got a second daughter I start to get D300 and shot occasionally not seriously yet till last Jun we are on a vacation trip where I have to carry bag pack, a DSLR+zoom lens and for sure shopping bags…..

Leica M9 has been my dreams since it launch but back and forth hesitate to get one as have the mind-set difficult to focus, everything else must be manually set, so last August I took the plunge and get a pre-owned M9 from a friend. The first 2 weeks quite frustrating to get use to it, but I determined must get over it and since then every where I travel only one cam and one lens to off some of the load.

Herewith I attached some shots of my recent trip to Tibet, hope all of you enjoy the colorful Tibet.






May 152014

Thailand with my Leica M9

By Thomas Cassagne

My name is Thomas, and I am a French amateur – but passionate – photographer.

I began shooting with a Leica M7 a few years ago, mostly black and white. But processing the films took me too long and I could not spend enough time on the streets, which made switch – with some reluctancy – to a Leica M9, about two years ago. I also switched to color, mostly because I do not like the rendering of digital black and white, but also because I wanted to try something new.

Over the years, my interest in photography narrowed to two categories : family, which I keep to myself, and street photography, that I started publishing on a blog a few months ago. Most of my pictures are taken in my hometown, Paris, or during my travels.

Here is a small series of pictures that I took during a travel to Thailand last summer. It is a beautiful country, and traveling is easy even with kids. I strongly recommend it!

For those interested in gear, let me say that all the pictures below were taken either with an old Summicron 35 mm (version IV), or with a brand new Summilux 50 mm. I processed the images in Lightroom 5 – the best photo software in my opinion. Here we go!

First, a picture of Bangkok. I like this picture because it is representative of what I like in this city : messy, but colorful and strangely beautiful.


Scooters are a very important means of transportation in Thailand, and there is no limitation to the number of passengers : I found that this multi-generational scooter was a beautiful example of this.


Tuk-tuks are also part of the street landscape of the city – and an fun way to discover it.



Street vendors, and especially food vendors, are everywhere on the streets. The food is exceptionally cheap and good.


Waiting for customers can be long, which makes reading the news a very popular activity…


At night, Bangkok’s Chinatown can look somehow like NYC..


Monks are also an important part of the visual landscape, and it is always a pleasure to see their orange gown in the streets or – of course – in the temples.



When traveling around the country, you can meet some incredible characters, such as this boat driver, who was very nice and caring.


Even in touristic areas, such as old temples, there are always opportunities for interesting pictures.



The countryside and its rice fields are very impressive, and a good opportunity to meet different Thai people.


Finally, when you reach the islands of the south of Thailand, expect to be amazed by the beauty of the color of the sea…


I hope you enjoyed those pictures : of course I welcome any comments!



Mar 302013

Using the Olympus OM-D and the Leica M-E by Andre Ritchie

My name is André Ritchie and I’m writing from Macau SAR, China. I’m a regular follower of your site, I like to check what’s new and I really enjoy reading your Real Life Reviews and Daily Inspirations!

I’m writing to share my experience using two cameras: the Olympus OMD and the Leica M-E.

My passion for photography started 20 years ago with my father’s Canon AE-1. Eventually I started buying my own stuff and during the film years I embraced the Canon EOS system. So when digital photography arrived it was a natural decision to buy Canon DSLRs and keep using the same lenses. My last DSLR purchase was a 5D Mk I.

But then something happened in 2010 that completely changed my approach to camera gear: my son was born and dragging around his stuff together with a heavy DSLR + lenses became impractical.

Mirrorless was the way forward and I adopted the M4/3 system because it seemed right: decent IQ and nice body and lens proportions. Large lenses on tiny cameras feel strange to me… I went for Olympus and after a foray into the Pen series, I ended up with the OMD. Picture #1 was shot using the Olympus 75mm/f1.8 at f8. It was shot at the Macau Tower at 300+ meters height. (The Macau Tower is, among others, home to the world’s highest bungee jump…). The picture was converted to B&W using Aperture and enhanced by adding contrast. No cropping was made.

I love my OMD as is such a small and light camera, but it’s solidly built with a professional feel. IQ is very good indeed. My everyday lens is the Panasonic 20mm/f1.7. I have the additional grip attached at all times, but only half of it – never felt the need to use the vertical grip. I think Olympus got it right by creating this modular system. Handling is perfect with the grip.

My other camera is a recently purchased Leica M-E. Initially I used it with two Voigtlander M-mount lenses I previously bought for M4/3 (35mm/f1.4 and 50mm/f1.1), but soon after I bought the clinical Leica 35mm/f2 Summicron. What a perfect lens. I mean, I was happy with the results of the Voigtlanders and I think they have soul: pictures #2 and #3 were shot using the 35mm and 50mm, both wide open at f1.4 and f1.1.

But the Summicron introduced me to a different world. The remaining pictures I’m submitting were shot using the Leica M-E with the 35mm Summicron. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Many people criticize Leica – and Leica users – because of the price and lack of features. Not that I agree with their pricing strategy, but I think people who had never owned or shot with a Leica should not criticize because – when the conditions are right – the image quality is outstanding and absolutely jaw dropping.

Pictures coming out of my M-E have this unique look and special ambiance that make them extraordinary. So yes, there really is this thing called the Leica look and I think it’s worth the money.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your photography!

André Ritchie







Jun 212011

Vilnius Lithuania – My walk through this photogenic town

By Steve Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


X100 – f/2


X100 – f/4

X100 – f/4


Bring on the M!

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

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


and I did take the same shot with the Fuji though at 2.8 -

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

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

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

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

Terry at lunch – M9/35 cron



Rain Rain go Away, but bring good light!

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

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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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

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

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