Apr 152016
 

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Fine Art Portraiture with the Leica Monochrom

by Jan Hartmann

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What is FineArt Photography for me?

Beside my work on commercial projects I am still someone who needs a kind of artistic photography. In Short, Fine Art is only another word for artistic photography. Doing Fine Art Photography allows me to express myself and to get into a creative process. Within in this process i can realize my visions and ideas. What I like most about it that I can slow down and have more time to put the focus on composition, expression of the model and the overall impact of the emerging image. And one important element for this kind of work is the Leica Monochrom. The concept of the camera does not have big menus as other digital cameras and reduces everything to the basic parameters of photography – shutter speed, Aperture and ISO. That’s all you need. So you can concentrate on the main part of your work. The Model, The Moment and the Composition. That is where you have to be and not lost in menus.

 

Working with Models

I am not that type of photographer that is frequently looking for new models to work with. A decisive aspect is that I can establish an identical human level and good communication to the people I work with on a free basis. Consequently I prefer working in longterm corporations with a fine selection of models that share my philosophy of teamwork.

One of them is Amelie Lezcano Mendoza“ with who I have just worked 2 times before this project. We both love the timeless character of black and white photography and prefer a natural and authentic look.

The Location In the tradition of working in a Team Amelie was responsible for scouting locations and selecting one. She had chosen a very nice mansion in the architectural style of 19th century. The rooms had a really esthetic interior and big windows that are perfect for the work with natural light.

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The Monochrom in Action

So the Day came and we were drove to the mansion and went into it. While Amelie started to dress herself and have a final look on her makeup, I checked my to M Monochrom Cameras. Both of them are in silver-chrome.

On the first Monochrom a 50mm Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 is mounted and on the other I use the 50mm APO-Summicron ASPH f/2. You will wonder why the hell I use two 50mm lenses and indeed the most expensive in the whole leica lineup. I am 50mm junkie. The first I owned was the Noctilux, a dream of a lens, of which I had a lot of sleepless nights until I got it. The APO is truly another beast and renders totally different. I use them for different shots and situations.

But there is not THE SITUATION for each of these lenses.

My favorite lens is still the Noctilux. No other lens I used has this special rendering. It turns every scenery into a dreamy and aesthetic look. It is amazing to see these soft and natural skins of the models when using the Noctilux. The 50mm APO Summicron ASPH f/2 is more for the “real world“ shots. It renders like there is no lens. And in combination with the Monochrom the results have a look that tends to medium-format-quality. This is visible in the high amount of details and the areas from sharp and unsharp in the final image.

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When Amelie finished her preparations we just started on one of the windows. The first thing I always check is the right exposure. In this case the histogram is very helpful, because if you overexpose than the whites are blown out with no information. That is the Achilles heel of the Monochrom Camera. You just have always to expose and take care for the highlights. If you do so, the rest is just easy.

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To work with Amelie is a joy. She doesn’t need detailed instructions, only smart corrections. Her posing and facial expression happens very intuitive and natural. What always impresses me is here authentic expression.

This is something not many models have. That is a big advantage and influences the final results in a positive way. The big and bright optical viewfinder is something I like the most about the Leica Monochrom. I just see the whole scenery and so it is a lot easier to frame and make the composition.

The 1.4 viewfinder magnification enlarges everything and this help a lot to set the focus plane where you want it – especially with the extremely thin DOF of the Noctilux 0.95. That is much more precise than working with Manual Focus on DSLRs I used before I went to Leica. One general aspect that makes the Leica Monochrom outstanding is the richness of tones. Especially the middle grey tones are unbelievable. I am a fan of the CCD Generation. For my eye the rendering of the CCD is very much like film and does not look so digital.

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The Relation between the Leica Brand and Passion for Photography

Now it is nearly a year that I started to work with Leica. My initial reason to change was the fascination for the Noctilux. What i noticed when i had been working with Canon DSLRs before that there was no real relation to the equipment. You just used it for its function.

But with Leica it is another game. I really love the work with rangefinders and manual focus lenses. With the Leica Monochrom you just get the essential feeling of photography with the basic elements. And what makes Leica unique in this times is the mix of technical perfection, lifetime-built-quality and the simplicity. I am getting nervous when I can not work with my Leica cameras for some days. This is truly very subjective. But for me it is important to have the equipment that makes you passioned and inspired and this is definitely the case with Leica.

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Aspects in my Fine Art Portraiture Work

The most important thing in my work is the emotional aspect. That means the final images should transport a certain feeling. When I work with models I don’t want to see a program of studied poses performed like a machine. My pictures should get an authentic and natural character. In the interaction with the model I try to bring them to be as they are. So when I look at the image I want to get an idea of the person and the character.

Communication is the base of a successful portraiture project. If I have not the right communication, I don’t get the results I want. And these are important requirements that I can go into a creative process, looking for light, the right framing and composition.

At the end I just want to show you some pictures from the Fine Art Portraiture Project with Amelie.

Web: www.janhartmann.photo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/janhartmann.fotografie
Email: [email protected]

Mar 272016
 

Digital, Optical and Fixed. The Harinezumi 4.0

by Darek Meyer

Nothing changes here, in Indonesia, very much. Traffic also with no improvement, “horrible” is very polite expression to describe it. I`ll not make a deep dive into topic of safety, we all hear what is happening around, also in Europe. Unfortunately, Indonesia is not free from dangers, either. Rainy season is coming to an end, no serious flood this year in Jakarta. Bit of free time to refresh the webpage; update from Robert and me is already online, and as usually you can check it on http://where-were-we.com.

Luckily, camera manufacturers give us always something new to talk about. And, as result, to check how deep our pockets are. New gear from Fuji (oh, how tempting X70 is), Q (I treat it still as new camera, as availability is so poor), also lovers of DSLRs will have new beasts from Nikon and Canon very soon. As my trusted Ricoh GR died recently, there is new camera coming. But this is something for a post in future.

These days, digital camera with fixed lens, like 35mm, and optical viewfinder, does not sound any exciting anymore. Right??

Well…
Till time you realize, that among all these heavily branded cameras, with tons of functionalities and millions of ISO, you can also find tiny gem, which in addition will not force you to break the bank. I do not know whether you`ve already seen it, the tiny cam with hedgehog logo. You can be really surprised when you receive the box… Well, here it is: Harinezumi 4.0.

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One can ask: why the hell bother with a camera, which has 3 (yes, three) megapixels? if you happen to have 10 years old phone somewhere in the drawer, probably it will have better resolution.
The truth is, phones are for making calls, and cameras… just kidding.

I`m not really about to write an extensive review of this camera. All technical data you can find in the net. For the ones who would like to give it a try, couple of points to remember:

– it`s all plastic. As such, it is squeaking and cracking when you just keep it in your hand, pressing the shutter makes the sound even more interesting
– shutter lag is around 1 (one) second. So think before you frame and shoot, unless you are into slow mo, like continental drift
– battery / memory card cover is very weak. Rubber part covering USB got separated from the camera at first use. Bit of super glue keeps it in place; still possible to get to slots via plastic cover
– optical viewfinder – well, it`s just plastic frame. Unless you get experience, do not count on it to help you to frame
– rear screen: if I tell you that compared to it, Leica M9 has excellent screen, then you have the picture
– ISO 100 is great, other option available is 800, which , well, for BW can still be ok
– macro mode is great
– there is no flash
– BUT it does make movies, at 1, 8, and 30 frames per second! If you have seen a movie „Begotten”, then you can get very similar look for your productions
– there is no RAW… and 16GB memory card (micro SD) will hold for you almost 5,000 shots
– battery (installed and not possible to exchange) will last for about 100 shots; charging can be done from power bank and takes 2 hours.

After reading this, you can ask – why to bother? Answer is very short: FUN!

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This camera is tons of fun. Yes, it even brings attention when you try to use it on the street, BUT no one will have anything against. it simply does not look any serious. And the look of picture, already OOC, is, well, unique.

Below are some examples of what to expect. BW of course, as I`m this type of person. As a bonus, two in color, taken in small market in Jakarta. And especially here you can see, why some people call this camera “digital Lomo”.

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Of course, it is not camera for everyone. But I`m not surprised, that it exists on the market, and have so many fans. Harinezumi 2+++ (older brother) has cult status among many people; and I can tell you – it can be addictive.

Enjoy the pics! Bit more from this camera on http://darekmeyer.com/LOFI.html

best regards
take care

Feb 212016
 
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Vancouver Moments with the Fuji X-Pro 2 and ACROS film simulation

By Olaf Sztaba

The mission was simple: take the Fuji X-Pro2 with the XF 35mm F1.4 and head downtown to capture some Vancouver moments using the latest ACROS film simulation from Fuji.

We have already had a chance to experiment with this new film simulation w and we really liked the new ‘weak’ grain effect (there is also the ‘strong’ grain option).

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For those of you who would like to read more about the ACROS film simulation and its inner-workings, you can find more information here

www.olafphotoblog.com
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Sep 212015
 

A night of Post Processing

By Dirk Dom

What a night!

I did ten black and white shots of my San Francisco trip.

At first, I got all crazy about printing big and I wanted drum scans made. Since that, and printing four feet would see me bankrupt, I used my own scans and enjoyed these.

I’ll print 12 x 18 inches, 30 x 45 cm, on Baryta paper. With my own scans I can go to 24 inches, 60 cm at 300 DPI.

This was a night of calm creativity and intense concentration.

Ansel Adams, the greatest printer that ever lived, said: “the negative is the score, the print the performance”. I performed tonight.

I’m deeply grateful I can do this.

The tools I use would make any Photoshop specialist laugh so hard he’d get cramps, but I use them until I can’t make the print any better. I do burning and dodging, a little bit of levels, mainly to check if I reach the black and white limits (ALT key), that’s all. Of course the images need spotting. Photoshop is as refined as you want, no limit.

Usually I have a very vivid idea about the potential of the print and what I want it to become, getting there is usually not difficult but takes lots of time.

Well, here they are, I didn’t include shots of the city because buildings don’t fit in this series.

This one I made very high key to offset the jet black charred stump and the rest of the Redwood forest.

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Here I think I got the range of light in the forest.

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Another jet black stump.

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The bank of a creek in Ukiah. This shot is so sharp you see every thread of moss on the trees. It screams “Enlarge me BIG!!!”

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My son.

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One afternoon, the clouds were just magic in Ukiah. I was out for hours watching it all evolve.

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Yummy…

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Finally, I include this city shot, because of the nice sky: San Francisco from Bernal Heights. I think that’s the best view of the city.

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I’m so glad that last year I decided to go for film and not for digital black and white. There are always beautiful structures in the negative, often totally unexpected.

Like the cloud in the San Francisco shot:

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No way you can get such a thing digitally! (Does Nik software emulate this? I’d like to know) Such structures make a print glow. A print shows this sort of detail, to discover and enjoy.
I think there is nothing more beautiful in photography than fine black and white.

Well, enough.

And,

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If it doesn’t look good as a thumbnail, it’s no good.

Bye,

Dirk.

Sep 032015
 

Peru In B&W

By Roman

Hey Brandon,

I spend some time in Perú this year realising that it’s really difficult there to put away the camera for a moment: such a great landscape, such impressive building, for a European like me such an adventurous mixture of Europa (especially of course Spain) and South America and so many interesting people, expressive faces, fascinating moods. I send some of the faces (and people) I met with this email. (All images were taken with Sony A7 oder A6000 and prime lenses.)

Regards from South Germany,

Roman

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Jul 132015
 
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Fingers Crossed: Leica Q Landscape Impressions

By David Nash

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I have to come clean: despite happily sticking with the wonderful Nikon D800e since it came out – and having no wish to change it in the forseeable future – I’ve bought and sold so many “small” cameras over the years that I’ve never settled with. To rub it in they’re all still there to remind me, listed every time I open in my Lightroom metadata tabs. Mmm.

Then along comes the Leica Q and seems to tick so many boxes: weight, size, IQ, DNG, fast sharp lens, full frame, fast autofocus, real dials, build quality, and very important for me with varifocal glasses – a really good built-in EVF (not an ugly plastic one to stick on top!).

Oh, and there’s one more key requirement for a walkabout camera: I have to be able to take photos one-handed while holding leads for to 25kilo poodles in the other hand…….

But like many I was initially slightly put off by the 28mm as opposed to 35mm which seemed about right for a general purpose carry around camera – and also by the emphasis in reviews on street photography (Not my comfort zone. I prefer trees – they don’t move so readily). Then I thought it through – I can easily crop to 35mm and still easily print A3+ and larger, and I can zoom with my feet.

So I took the plunge. Below are some of my first shots. A little work in Lightroom for the black and white images, and I’ve included at the end a color landscape, more or less as shot.

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Touch wood, this really does seem to tick all the “small camera” boxes for me. Your needs might be different. Your dogs might be smaller and lighter than mine. You might not wear varifocals and be happy without a viewfinder.

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Yes there are quirks. I don’t get why there are no tabs on the menus so you have to scroll through them all, why you must have jpegs whether you want them or not. The auto white balance seemed strange at first (7500k in sunlit scenes??) but it does actually seem near enough right. And yes it is very, very expensive.

But the bottom line is so easy to use casually, and fantastic IQ from a fantastic lens. For once Leica seem ahead of the game and listening to potential users. So maybe, just maybe, this one won’t be going on eBay in a month or so…

Thanks for reading and thanks Steve for your great site!

David Nash
Edinburgh, UK

Jun 172015
 

Houses of the Holy

By Steve Parker

Hi Brandon and Steve,

I’ve been a long time reader of your site and having read and learned so much from yourselves and other contributors to the site I thought I would stick my head above the parapet and contribute a few images from my ‘Houses of the Holy’ project.

I have long been fascinated by the incredible architecture of places of worship around the world and stand in awe of the craftsmanship that goes into the design and construction of these buildings. Wherever I am in the world I find myself being pulled first toward the churches and cathedrals and so, from that pull, decided to turn it into an on-going project.

The three images here are taken in my home country- England. Two are of them are of Winchester Cathedral which is to be found in the county of Hampshire. It is one of the largest cathedrals in England. The smaller, less ornate building is Quarr Abbey a monastery located between the villages of Binstead and Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight in southern England. The name is pronounced as “Kor”.

As you can see, I tend to favour B&W with a dark look and feel to them but I also like to selectively ‘light them up’ a bit; sometimes to accentuate what is already present but more often than not, I just put light where it shouldn’t be! A few people have criticised me for that and have taken the time to tell me about the laws and nature of light. Whilst I do understand these laws, I don’t particularly worry too much about it. To me, it gives them a bit of a different look and, as photography is all about creativity, I’m happy with that.

With regards to equipment used, I don’t have a particular allegiance to any brand (although I am a bit of a fan of Fuji’s to be honest). Because I manipulate my images so much, it doesn’t matter too much to me what camera I use. If I recall, Quarr Abbey was shot with a Fuji XA-1 and Winchester Cathedral with a Lumix LX7. All are hand-held using available light and processed either in Lightroom or Photoshop (likely both!).

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I hope you like them and if you want to see more of my B&W work I can be found at www.steveparkerphotography.com or on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrsteveparker/

Thanks for the opportunity and for all that you do with this site. It’s a rare gem.

Regards

Steve Parker

May 162015
 

The New Leica Monochrome Typ 246 has Arrived!

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Just arrived! My new Leica Monochrom Typ 246! Above it was after I shot 10 frames on it. Attached my JB Grip, a 50 Summarit lens and it’s a stunner. A beauty. A unique Niche camera that many do not understand, and I admit, even I do not understand it fully but for those who crave, live, eat and sleep B&W, this my friends is state of the art in B&W photography when it comes to digital.

After an hour of checking it out, I have already noticed an extended DR over the previous MM, a richer file, no blown highlights (as the old MM had a tendency to do) and high ISO is on another level, even y 25K iso shots, that are pushed, look very very good. ISO 12,500 is pretty clean.

The files from the new MM 246 are creamier, richer, deeper, and to my eye, nicer. Not as harsh or crisp. But many will prefer the older rendering of the previous M9 based MM. To me, this MM 246 is MUCH improved as the body is the incredibly good M 240 body which has a much better feel, battery life, LCD, etc over the old M9 style.

I will have a 1st look video and photos on Monday, and will start with my long-term review as I use the new MM 246 for the next few weeks. Oh, and yes, this one is mine, not a loaner. It came from Ken Hansen, who is a legend when it comes to Leica dealers. E-mail him if you need anything Leica related. [email protected]

More soon!

Two quick test shots right after unboxing. The 1st with the 75 Summarit at 2.4, 2nd with an old 1930’s Elmar at ISO 12,500. CLICK for larger and to see 100% crop!

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May 132015
 

Oregon Landscapes with the Leica M9 in B&W

by Kirk Williamson

Almost a year ago my wife and I made a trip out to Oregon to visit our twin sons who have moved out there to find work in their field (3d animation). Knowing that the landscapes out there are really something compared to the East Coast I was really in a conundrum as to what to bring for gear. I am a newspaper photojournalist and carry Canon pro stuff all day every day and there was no way I was going to travel with all that heavy gear. I kept looking at my M9 wondering if it were really possible to travel with just that and my Canon G15. I know people travel light with the Leica gear all the time but they usually use it for street shooting and the usual tourist stuff. So I finally decided to go for broke and break away from my comfort zone and went with the M9 and the 35 f2 Summicron, 50 f 1.4 Summilux and the old bear 90 f2.8 Tele-Elmarit from the late sixties.

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I had no idea what I was in for when we got off the plane in Portland. It being June made me think that the weather was going to be ok but it is Oregon and rain is part of the equation, but really, all the time! So on the first day out we drove to the usual places involving beautiful waterfalls and tricky driving along the old road above the Columbia River Gorge mostly in the rain. The sun would peak out of the rain clouds from time to time giving me fantastic opportunities for images involving landscapes and clouds.

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I found myself using the 35mm and 50mm all the time for these scenics with clouds. I just put the lens at infinity, no focusing involved (old school auto focus). These two lenses did the bulk of the work and they were a joy to use. The 90mm was almost as much and the images were spectacular. I only wanted my 21mm a few times but all in all the travelling light thing was great, the Leica excelled at landscape shooting. Now I do have to say that I was not very well prepared for shooting waterfalls as I did not bring a tripod and cable release. I was able to get around it using the Canon G15 or shooting at around 1/30s some even at 1/90s to slow down the larger water falls.

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The Canon G15 made it out a few times but mostly on a hike of Silver Falls State Park which has ten waterfalls along a hiking route. What a great camera to hike with! Two of the shots I have included were taken with that camera – two of my favorites. The waterfall shot made with this camera was done holding it down on a post at 1/6s so it is a bit soft which adds to it’s other worldly look. The macro leaf shot was made with the G15 as well.

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Very quickly I noticed that this was going to be a mostly B&W conversion right from the start. The colors were muted with the gray skies and rain so I converted some right way after loading them into my iPad. The result was wow! The clouds just popped. So I knew when I got home that post processing in Silver Efex Pro would be warranted. Boy was I right the results were fabulous.

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Needless to say my small kit was a big success. I have upgraded my M9 to the M-P 240 and plan on bringing that along for this years trip. We will be going to the coast so I will be including my 21mm Super Elmar as I know I’ll need it. This time the G15 will be staying home as my Sony Nex-7 will be tagging along to use with my Leica glass.

My website is www.krwphoto.com and my blog is www.krwphoto.com/blog

Thanks,

Kirk

Apr 232015
 

Film Friday: Hasselblad 500C Love

by Massimilliano Farinetti

My photographic evolution brought me back to the roots and after the Leica M2 (daily inspiration #736) I traded it in for a very nice 1961 Hasselblad 500C with three CZ lenses (50/80/150)

It is almost six months I shoot only film, only medium format and only black&white (self processed) and I am enjoying it like a kid in a toy store.  Why? Because I am re-discovering the pleasure to experiment, the slow decisions about framing, playing with exposures…

In a word: photography.

I like to shoot long exposures, from some seconds to minutes with an accurate calculation of reciprocity failure time correction, using ND and GND filters on low-speed films

But the whole process doesn’t end up with film processing and scanning: analog photography is a chain from exposure in camera to exposure of paper in the darkroom and so it went. I live in Genova, in the north-west of Italy on the Ligurian Sea, so my favorite winter scenes are at sea either when it is calm or when the waves are strongly beating the shores: long exposures will turn the latter in a “time suspended” surreal atmosphere.

Here I enclose some of those scenes I like most, film I used for them are either Ilford FP4+ (exposed at 80 asa) or Fomapan 100 (exposed at 50 asa), Hasselblad 500C with Planar 80/2,8

Thank you again if you will admit my photos to your always stimulating website

Cheers!

Massimiliano Farinetti

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Apr 152015
 

West Coast Monochrom

by Phillipp Wortmann

These are photographs taken along the California West Coast during a trip in march 2015. The route was roughly LA – San Clemente – Joshua Tree – Morro Bay – Big Sur – Santa Cruz – Point Reyes – San Francisco.
As I like to keep it simple I brought only my M6, 35 Summicron IV and a bunch of Kodak TriX film. It doesn’t matter if it’s cameras, lenses or film – if I bring more than one I can never decide what to use so limiting myself in that way actually gives me a lot more peace of mind.

For the past year or so I have been almost exclusively shooting 35mm color film but for this trip I wanted to give the black and white another go. This decision was actually made a couple of weeks prior to the trip when I went through my archive and rediscovered some of my older black and white film photos. You can check my little user report on that HERE.

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Another reason for going with black and white was that I had already been to do southwestern US the year before where I shot all Kodak Portra 160. So to avoid ending up with very similar photos from two different trips using Kodak TriX 400 made sense. If you like you can see the color shots from last year here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/sets/72157648794789646/

So overall the trip was a blast and although I didn’t shoot as much as I had hoped/planned/anticipated I’m really happy with some of the shots I got. I will probably need to find a darkroom to do some prints soon.

The entire album can be viewed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derphilipppp/sets/72157651692347201/

You can also see more of my photos here: lifeon35.tumblr.com and instagram.com/derphilipppp/

Best regards and thanks for the opportunity to showcase my work!

Philipp

Oct 202014
 

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Portraits from the Pub with an Olympus E-M5

By René van Wijck

Hello!

After many years of making photographs I got a little bored by it and I lost my inspiration.

Two years ago I bought myself the Olympus OMD-EM5. This little machine changed my life! It was and is such a pleasure to work with that I have it all the time, wherever I am with me.

I work as a bartender downtown Rotterdam in Holland and started to make pictures of my guests. They all come alone to the pub, and most of the time leave alone.

I gave myself a few rules: no color,no flash,no drinks in the pictures. Most of them I shot with the 45 mm 1.8. I’ll hope you like the results!

You can see more of it on flickr.com/photos/renevanwijck

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Sep 172014
 

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The Fuji Monochrom

By James Conley

A major impediment most new photographers face is that color is the default mode of expression. Not only are we inundated by color images in every possible medium, but digital cameras presume color as the chosen palette. The tragic fact of these defaults is that it interferes with the development of seeing subjects and places emphasis on the impossible task of trying to capture a color reality which makes little natural sense in two dimensions. The result is a great deal of frustration when the captured image doesn’t match the experience of color.

Few cameras are available that address this problem. The Leica Monochrom is one of few. The Monochrom only records in black and white, and only displays its menus and previews in black and white. It’s the gold standard for capturing black and white—after film. However, the Monochrom body alone costs about $8k. That’s a lot of money to get rid of color. There are cheaper ways.

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The cheapest way to shoot black and white, of course, is to switch to film. Using a film rangefinder is one of the fastest routes to improving the composition and content of images, and you don’t even need a darkroom if you shoot Ilford’s excellent XP2 C-41 process film.

But I’m unable to buy into a Leica Monochrom. The next best thing is the Fuji X100s. The X100s contains all the elements needed to work strictly in black and white. To wit:

• A rangefinder, with an electronic viewfinder which can be set to display only in black and white.
• A fixed lens with a 35mm field of view.
• Small and light.
• Silent. (More silent than my Leica M6.)
• Monochrome JPEG modes with yellow and red filters.

All the images in this post are JPEGs shot on the X100s.

Learning to see in black and white is the process of evaluating the luminance of an object instead of its color. Simplistically, luminance is how much light is reflected from an object. People are often surprised when converting a color image to black and white because a bright color often has more or less luminance than expected and doesn’t appear as one would expect. Through the practice of reviewing the monochrome images you make, you’ll develop your luminance sense and start to better anticipate how a tone will translate into black and white.

A way to speed up that process is by using a monochrome viewfinder. When set to capture monochrome JPEGs, the Fuji X100s will switch its LCD back and EVF displays to black and white. This makes evaluating the scene much easier, and will helps to quickly adapt and recognize luminance values.

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Photographers are blessed with a nearly infinite variety of camera bodies and lenses, which can be shuffled into various combinations to address very specific needs. Photographers are likewise cursed with all those options. Options are choices, and choices are decisions. Having to make decisions is an active process in the consciousness, and it leads to a lot of distraction from the subject. In discussing the thought process behind a “decisive moment,” Henri Cartier-Bresson said:

It’s a question of concentration. Concentrate, think, watch, look and, ah, like this, you are ready. But you never know the culminative point of something. So you’re shooting. You say, “Yes. Yes. Maybe. Yes.” But you shouldn’t overshoot. It’s like overeating, overdrinking. You have to eat, you have to drink. But over is too much.

Making choices about lenses is just as distracting as making choices about color. One lens is enough, and your body can be the zoom. Having to move within space and time to frame your subject makes for far better pictures than standing in one place and letting a variety of lenses do the work of seeing for you.

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The X100s’s f/2 Fujinon lens would be fantastic on any camera. Fuji has a storied history in making high-end lenses for a variety of camera makers, and Fuji glass is world-class. The X100s can use autofocus, or a very smooth manual focus. It also has an excellent macro mode.

Having a small camera means you’ll have it with you, which is the most important ingredient in making any photograph. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the more likely it will be with you. The X100s is smaller and lighter than my Leica M6.

Other than opera or a royal wedding, the best way to do things in life tend to be subtle. That’s especially true for photographers, who are dependent upon other people living their lives so that an image may be made. Unless you’re shooting in a studio, pay respect to your subject by being unobtrusive. Being silent is part of that respect, and an X100s shutter is quieter than my M6.

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Photography is about capturing a moment and then capturing the next . . . and the next . . . and the next. Spending time tweaking and playing with images is decidedly not photography—modifying an image is working with software. The goal of any tool should be to do work so you don’t have to. As my dad always advises about using a saw, “Don’t push so hard. Let the saw do the cutting.” If your camera is making you spend more time post-processing than you do taking pictures, it’s either not a good tool, or you’re pushing too hard. Since we can’t get Adobe to make decent software, however, we can use the tool better by putting the work back into the camera and let it produce quality JPEGs that we merely need to review. This not only speeds up the process of selecting good images, but it also lets you learn the capabilities of the camera just the way you would learn about the qualities of a particular film. This is vital knowledge that helps you see better when you’re out taking pictures, meaning you get better results, which sets up a lovely, positive feedback loop.

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With Fuji already announcing new X-Series cameras, ifyou don’t already have an X100s, you should be able to pick one up for a good price.

Once you get it, go to Shooting Menu 1 and select Film Simulation B with a yellow filter. (Red is another option, and will result in more contrast. Start with yellow.) Scroll down to Shooting Menu 2, and change Highlight Tone to +1, and Shadow Tone to +1. This will give you a decent starting place for your JPEG’s. They should require minimal development work after you import them into a computer. (**You can set the camera to shoot both RAW and JPEG files. This is a good crutch to get you comfortable with the idea of shooting only in monochrome. However, you’ll quickly discover that the Fuji’s JPEGS are very high quality and the RAW files are just a crutch.)

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Use the EVF. It will display in black and white and get you started on seeing the world that way. (Later, you’ll be able to take advantage of the X100s’s rangefinder.)

As you’re taking pictures, keep your thumb on the Exposure Compensation dial and ride it like you stole it. You’re shooting JPEGs, so work at getting the final product the way you want while you’re shooting.

With a few camera setting tweaks, you’re off to a better world in black and white! You’ll now:

• See luminance instead of color
• See shapes, forms, and shadows
• Cut down on development
• Spend more time working on your ideas and making stories

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The purpose of taking a photograph is to capture an image which conveys your impression of an event and tells the story. The purpose is decidedly not about tweaking, playing, collaging, and otherwise twisting the image into something unnatural. So, if you want to become a better photographer, you have to practice seeing what matters. Seeing what matters happens easiest with a rangefinder shooting monochrome images. Long live the X100s. (At least until those Leica Monochrom prices come down!)

website: fjamesconley.com
twitter: @Philatawgrapher

Sep 152014
 

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Black & White with the Sony A7s, Leica Monochrom and Cheap lenses!

There is a beauty to B&W that is oftentimes not seen in color. Sure, there is place for color photography as our own vision is in color, this is how we see but there is something classic about B&W that just pulls at the heartstrings for many of us. When I was growing up the big thing was Polaroid cameras and instant film. Even 110 cameras and those silly disc cameras with disc film were in. There was NOTHING quite like what we have today and photography, while well-loved by so many back then, was not practiced nearly as much as it is today.

The Sony A7s with the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. For ANY Leica Monochrome or Sony A7s shooter, his lens is a MUST own. It does well on color on the A7s as well. One of my faves. At $599 shipped, you can not go wrong for those times when you want wide-angle on your full frame. 

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With so many color filled images on Facebook and in all of the social circles I have become quite fond of pure, simple B&W photography.

Yesterday I went out to shoot some portraits of my (soon to be) stepdaughter Katie. I brought along my Monochrom, a Sony A7s and even a Mamiya 645 with Leaf Credo 40 back (have it for testing now) and the HoldFast Money Maker and Roamographer bag I just reviewed. I have to say, this Sony A7s just keeps on impressing the hell out of me. Seriously. It seems there is NOTHING it can  not do. From ultra low light to super bright light. From rich color to pleasing B&W. From using Sony FE lenses to using Leica mount lenses. It just seems to do it all, very well. I won’t even get into the video aspect, which is its main feature.

Even the 85mm f/2 Jupiter 9 that I paid $80 for is a fun lens. This is another Russian Leica screw mount lens and while it is a bit soft wide open it is well worth the cost for when you want a soft look. Sony A7s.

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For me, so far, the Sony A7s has been the best camera release of the year. Even with all of the new stuff at Photokina, so far, nothing has gotten me more than the A7s in 2014. I was shooting it yesterday with a $30 Jupiter 8 lens I picked up locally, which is a Russian Leica Screw mount 50 f/2. Yes, $30. How can ANY $30 lens be any good? Well, it may not be anything like a Leica or Zeiss 50 but it has its charms for sure.

Below is an image I shot with the A7s and Jupiter 8 lens, wide open at f/2. For $30 it can render a beautiful soft image. This was shot on the Sony A7s.

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As I mentioned earlier, I also brought along the Leica Monochrom, which for me is an instant classic. I feel Leica will release a new Monochrome in a year or two based on the M240 or whatever the next M will be. If they do, it will not be like the current monochrome due to the CCD sensor. Again, as with the M9 vs M 240, there will be fans of each model. The Monochrom has something about it that makes you just want to use it, shoot it and LOVE it. Is it worth $8,000? No. But it is a wonderful camera to own and use and it has results that can be superb, depending on the lenses you use with it.

The Leica Monochrom with Voigtlander 15 (cropped)

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The MM is simple in its design, it is an M after all. It has simple menus, basic settings, and is small yet very sturdy and solid. Many scoff at buying a camera that can only do B&W but if you love pure and true B&W imaging and have a true passion for it, there is no other alternative. For me it is like having a Leica film camera loaded with every B&W film type on the market and then some. You can dial in any look you want from Tri-X to Neopan to Delta.

The Leica MM with the Voigtlander 15 – cropped

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So how much difference is there between a file from the Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom when both are done in B&W? Well, the Monochrom will have much more fine detail for super large prints and a more subtle shift of grey tones throughout but the A7s is also very nice with B&W imaging. For the images here I used VSCO filters for ALL of the images so they will all have a similar signature and look. Without those filters the differences are more pronounced with the Monochrom giving a deeper range of grey tones to the image. But I have to hand it to the A7s. It rocks with color or B&W. Daytime or night use. But I still love my Leica MM! Also, use it with some great lenses and it will really strut its stuff.

You must click on these images to see them correctly and larger/better quality. This one is a full wide image from the MM and 15.

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For this shoot I used not only the Voigtlander and the Russian glass, I also use the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 which is a fantastic lens. Contrasty, sharp even when wide open and has Auto Focus so you do not have to be critical with your eyeball :) Both images below were with the A7s and 55 1.8 lens.

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So while B&W may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I love it. For me it pays homage to Photography’s past while also allowing a purity to come through. No white balance to worry about, no color shifts, no problems. Just pure. simple. photography. I would like to thanks my model, Katie Casey for her time and patience with me while I tried to manually focus those old lenses in the 100 degree heat :)

You will notice I did not include any images from the Leaf Credo/Mamiya system. I shot about 20 images with that setup yesterday and it was a BEAST. Heavy, cumbersome, large and loud.

 With that said, here is one from the Leaf setup though the shadow of my head ruined the shot:

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and again, the similar shot with the A7s and $30 Jupiter lens which shows the soft Jupiter signature:

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You can read my full Sony A7s review HERE or buy one HERE at Amazon or at B&H Photo HERE.

You can read my full four-part Leica MM review HERE, see my gallery HERE or buy one at Ken Hansen ([email protected]), PopFlash.com, Leica Store Miami or Pro Shop. Also at B&H Photo or Amazon.

Sep 142014
 

Concentration Camps with the Leica Monochrom

by Dan Bar

Hello Steve and Brandon,

It has been some time since my last photos. Anyway I spent a week in Poland intending to visit the two concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau. I decided to take the Leica Monochrom + 35 Lux 1.4 only. I first started with Birkanau ( first 5 pics) which was not easy to watch and certainly not easy to photo , yet still bearable. The long line of concrete with the holes in it is actually a latrine where they were forced to do their needs in front of the others. I then went to Auschwitz where I had to stop soon after starting my visit, simply could not face the horror . So I decided to put on only some of the sights I saw there. I hope these deeds will never ever happen again anywhere on the planet.

Thank you

Danny

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