Jul 262013

“In Praise of Film”

(…Yes, even for kids!)

Hi Steve,

Given all the recent posts regarding emulation software, I though it might be worthwhile to send you a bona-fide film post for all the “senseless die-hards” out there. About a year ago, I became one of them… Growing up, I had an EOS Rebel film body, and only pressed the shutter when I absolutely had to. Most of the pictures turned out poorly, and I had no idea why. I thought film was incredibly scary. (And expensive!) Thankfully digital came along…

Thirteen months ago, I was inspired by you and Peter (Thanks Prosophos!) to finally shoot and develop my own roll of B&W film. Thanks to the detailed instructions on his site, the process went flawlessly, and I haven’t looked back since.

I have now exposed about 900 film frames (some good, some bad ;) ) and have since learned to develop my color film as well. The process is incredibly easy, especially if you have the knack for B&W. I have posted a detailed guide on my site at http://iftimestoodstill.net

Included below are five quick picks from my recent favorites. I hope others are inspired to “keep up the art”. Once equipment is purchased, and your workflow is sorted out, it is actually not all that expensive or time-consuming (And yes, I know it doesn’t make sense…that’s why it’s senseless!) …But it sure is satisfying when they turn out well! For me, it will never replace digital, but at least it is nice to have a hobby that most people find somewhat intriguing.

Zeiss Ikon was used for all below; “Dandelion” was taken with Nikkor 8.5 cm LTM and the  Zeiss Sonnar 50 mm f/1.5 was used for the other two color photos. The Voigtlander 35 mm f/1.2 VII was used for the B&W images.

Thanks and best regards,

Mark Ewanchuk







Jul 252013

Using The Hasselblad X-Pan by Brett Price

Hey Steve,

I recently purchased a Hasselblad Xpan with the 45mm f4 lens and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on it for your website. Thanks again for making a site where people can do this. In light of their recent (laughable) offerings as a company I’m still optimistic they can change course and still make excellent cameras like they used to. Hopefully this semi-review/experience can breathe a bit of hope back into people, even if now its only nostalgia. I’m still hoping for a digital Xpan!

This camera has a cool story, I bought it from a teacher of mine who happens to be the Cinematographer of some excellent films such as Anchorman, Beetlejuice, and Jumanji and it was actually originally purchased while filming Anchorman. I believe he shot around 6 rolls through it total and has pretty much sat inside the original packaging until I purchased it from him. It’s as mint as it gets :)

I started shooting the camera as soon as I received it and I must say, in terms of build quality and feel, it’s as solid as a Leica. I honestly didn’t expect this only seeing photos of it online. For some reason the exterior looks very plastic-y which seems to throw off the conception of weight and build quality. Its pretty heavy for a camera its size but handles extremely well. I personally love shooting with it and its been my go to camera lately. I love cinema and movies and for some reason nothing makes a shot more cinematic looking that being in a near 3:1 aspect ratio. I don’t feel like my photos are all that different from what I typical shoot but this camera gives them a look that is extremely interesting and cinematic.

If you are interested in one of these cameras there are a few things I learned upon receiving it that I didn’t know (good and bad). There is actually a way to make the camera shoot normal 35mm aspect ratio as well as panoramic. There is a switch on the back that opens and closes a set of “blinders” inside the camera. I don’t really understand why this was done or why anyone would want to use it but ok, it’s there. The camera loads the entire roll into the take up reel when you first put the film in, this means if you accidentally open the camera, you probably just flashed most of your roll. I see this as good and bad, the good news is the shots you’ve taken are protected, the bad news is that you might loose a whole roll of film if opened. I doubt this will happen I just found it interested due to the fact it works almost totally opposite of any other 35mm camera I’ve used. There is no shutter speed indicator in the viewfinder (only on the first model is this a problem). So if you shoot on auto you have readouts as to what is being properly exposed and what is over and under. Much like a Leica you have — O + near the bottom of the viewfinder but this is always the case rather than on an M7 it would tell you the exact shutter speed.

The images you get from the camera are sharp. very sharp in my opinion. I don’t really see the tell tale 3D rendering I’m used to with my 501cm but its got a nice unique look to it regardless. Its stiffer to use than you would think, which is a plus in my opinion and its pretty easy to focus with the rangefinder patch being brighter than my M7.

Anyway I bought the camera on a whim and its quickly become one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy the photos. I constantly update my tumblr account with new work if you want to check out more in the future as I update. Its: BrettPrice.tumblr.com

Happy Shooting,

Brett Price



AddieConnor_Crestidge (2) copy-2

AddieConnor_Crestidge (5)-2




Jul 022013

A discontinued look of Sapa with APS film

by Minh Nghia – Blog is HERE

Today we will be looking at something that is going to be forgotten.

In 1996, Kodak introduced APS film (Advanced Photo System) with smaller size than the popular 35mm: 25.1 x 16.7 mm vs 24 × 36 mm. The crop factor is about 1.44x. It has some advance features like recording aspect ratio, the date and time that the photograph was taken, exposure data such as shutter speed and aperture setting, more or less like EXIF in digital files. Most interestingly, the film comes with 3 image formats: Classic 3:2, High-Definition 16:9 and Panorama 3:1.


Nonetheless, APS has been discontinued completely in 2011, mainly because of economic reasons (film production/developing cost). Rarely you hear people talking about it, even in film community.

Below are some pictures that I got from a trip to Sapa (highland in Vietnam) on a roll of expired Kodak Advantix 400 APS film using the Canon ELPH LT. It is a very small size Point-n-Shoot (PnS) camera using APS film that I got from my Dad. Some specs of the forgotten camera: fix lens 23mm f4.8 (equivalent to 35mm field of view for full-frame), 1-point autofocus, Program meter, 1/650 – 1/2 sec and weight only 120 grams.

There are only 25 exposures in one roll and that’s all I have for the trip. My favorite setting is High Definition 16:9 ratio, not only the image is more “panorama” but the viewfinder changes as well. That makes a whole difference of how I compose the image – horizontally. The camera is extremely light and small so that I can bring it with me everywhere. Knowing its limitation (fix aperture), I don’t expect much of “creamy bokeh” or alike, but the image quality for landscape shots is quite impressive. Lastly, it feels much enjoyable and special for each shutter count since I was capturing a beautiful landscape of Vietnam – my homeland, on something old & expired with a “discontinued” look. The reddish look with a bit of vignette on foggy days in Sapa becomes a part of my memory.








May 312013

Friday Film! The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical: The secret little gem

by Mattia Giovanni

Hi Steve,

Thank you for your great work of divulgation about photography!

My adventure with range finders began unexpectedly in a beautiful autumn sunny day of the 2009. I was exploring an interesting flea market, when I saw an old Leica M3. It was love from the first moment, and my photographic style and philosophy was strongly influenced ever since.

I was already enough expert about photographic techniques and instruments, both analog and digital, but I never used a rangefinder camera before. Was a real revolution! What a great find: I discovered an easy and lightweight stealthy camera, with a precise focusing system for any kind of lighting, at long last!

This camera came with the much-discussed Leitz Summarit 50mm f1.5 in screw mount, adapted for the M system. It was a great combo in my opinion: I really enjoyed the character and the classic output of this old couple, but they wasn’t appropriate for my photo ethnographic and reportage work.

I needed to have a camera that made my work more comfortable with TTL metering, and a lens with a wider perspective. Something like a 28mm or a 35mm, and at the same time a suitable for lowlight situations. To find a new camera wasn’t very hard: I went for a Leica M6. I was excited also by the Zeiss Ikon ZM, but finally the matchless charm of Leica Red Dot kidnapped me completely.

For the lens wasn’t so simple. My dream was the Leitz Summilux 35mm pre-Asph. An absolutely perfect lens for its dimensions, weight and performances, but too expensive for a poor student with only a poorly paid job.

Another possibility could be the Zeiss Biogon 35 f2, but again: no way with its price. At this point, because I did not want to bet on rare specimens by Nikon and Canon in LTM, with a bit of fear I began to explore the unknown shores of the Voigtlander continent.

Initially I found the interesting Nokton 35mm f1.4. It seemed to be a perfect lens: cheap, but small and unobtrusive like the old Lux 35 moreover! My road seemed to be written, but what about the focus shift? Argh! Sadly many sources on the web diagnosed that problem to this lens…

Of course, I could never love a lens with this defect.

Solutions on the horizon?

…maybeeee YES! another Voigtlander: the Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical in LTM!

The only problem was that there wasn’t review available on the web, so I decided to risk and I at the end purchased it.

Ultron 35 - Kodak Ektachrome 64T - 01-2

Ultron 35 - Ilford FP4 125 - 01

Ultron 35 - Fuji Velvia 50 - 02-1

What I found?

The little Ultron it’s an hidden treasure. I’m not a pixel-counter and I don’t care laboratory tests, charts and strange artificial reviews, but I’m someone that loves take photos.

And in real life this lens shows formidable skills. With a maximum aperture of f1.7, this lens is suitable for almost every light situation: this is a fundamental characteristic for me because I really love shoot in natural dim light.

Ultron 35 - Kodak UltraMax 400-3

Its 8 elements in 6 groups, with one aspherical surface, produce shots with a great sharpness and seem to show every detail. Even wide open it’s a razor, with only a negligible loss of quality in the extreme borders. The Aspherical surface also protects from the focus shift and avoids distortions: I often use this lens for shooting architecture without perceiving any alteration of the field lines.

The color rendition is neutral, and respectful of the natural tones of subjects; also the saturation is well balanced and without any excess. Its yield, especially in black and white, allows to the films to express the best of their dynamic range also when contrast is very strong.

Ultron 35 - Fuji Velvia 50 - 04

Ultron 35 - Fuji Velvia 50 - 03

Furthermore the Ultron shows a nice smooth and buttery bokeh, without distracting elements, though it is not fully comparable to Leica results. Its dimensions are almost excellent, unfortunately is not small like the Nokton 35 or the Summilux pre-asph 35, but not much more, and then it intrudes only a bit in the viewfinder in the lower right corner. Nothing to worry about in short.

The only downside of this lens is the ergonomics. Why? It lacks the focusing tab, and though the focus ring is silky smooth, can be slippery sometimes. Be that as it may, I’ve taken great shots with this lens, and I found a perfect companion for my Leica M6.

Ultron 35 - Ilford HP5 400 - 01-4

If you have the opportunity, you have to try it!



May 202013

“Leaving Your Comfort Zone”

by Brian T Adams

Hello everyone. My fiancée and I recently went on our first trip to New York City. What a fantastically chaotic place. From all the sounds and sights akin to those in the movies to the chaotic guy on the subway yelling to the cosmos some sort of declaration that scared the hell out of everybody, New York was nonstop. And we loved it.

I wanted to seize the opportunity to photograph a new and foreign place. Yet, this time I wanted to do something different. I almost exclusively find myself trying to photograph landscapes and the occasional structure; sometimes with success, many times not. The more I am consumed by photography in general, the more I realize that a great many of the most iconic photos ever made are of people. For me, the idea of shooting a photo of a complete stranger, up close and personal, couldn’t have been more uncomfortable and awkward. Despite experiencing mild to moderate nausea at the thought of sticking a camera in the face of a stranger, I was determined to come away with some photos of people.

Within the first five minutes of being off the subway in Manhattan, I realized it was not going to be as easy as I had somehow convinced myself it might be. Perhaps I was just initially overwhelmed with it all. Eventually I concluded the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So, my first bite would be with street performers. I figured I’d give them a little dough and I’d take a couple of photos in exchange…I couldn’t have been the first person to have done this. Looking back, this was the perfect approach to help me get comfortable confronting somebody with a camera.

While I enjoyed this approach, I needed to get a little deeper. Eventually, I just started walking up to people and asking them if I could take their picture. The first couple times I did this, I could hardly keep the camera steady I was so nervous. Oddly enough, though, nobody ever said no. In fact, some people’s reactions were down right hilarious if not absurd. A couple of guys thought I was joking, one looked around in nervous fashion as if caught up in a prank and then fixed his hair when he realized I was serious. Another person, who was sitting on a bench at the time, quickly stood up and immediately got ready; clearly this wasn’t his first rodeo. Eventually, I was taking pictures of random people without saying a word. They weren’t necessarily portraits or even up close, but many times the subjects knew I was taking photos of them and they didn’t seem to object.

To be fair, I have to admit, my nerves got the best of me many times. A lot of the close up pictures I took – even after asking – didn’t come out. Most were because I miss focused (shallow DOF) or had a poor composition. For some reason, I tended to want to put people’s heads in the lower half of the frame instead of the upper half. At least I found out something I need to work on. Keep in mind that I would usually only take one or two of a subject and then move on without looking at the image and some others were shot with film. I didn’t want to waste people’s time so, either way, each shot was a commitment. If nothing else, though, it helped me get more comfortable wielding a camera in public.

Ultimately, I left New York with some photos I like, some epic memories, and a new outlook. I absolutely want to get better at people photography. I had serious doubts about trying a whole new approach to photography. If anybody has been thinking about trying something different with their approach to photography, from my limited experience, it’s worth. If nothing else, it helped me interact with many people I wouldn’t normally have had I not taken their photo. Go out and get uncomfortable.

The gear:

Fuji X-E1 with 35mm f1.4, Canon 5DMKII with 24-105 f4 (great all around lens, nice bokeh on the long end, and I wanted a wide lens for buildings and stuff), and Canon AE-1 Program with 50mm f1.8 FD mount (a $28 powerhouse of a lens). I shot a roll of Acros 100 and a roll of Ilford Delta 100. Most shots with the Fuji and AE-1 Program had a B+W 2 stop ND so I could open the lenses up. I know that’s a lot of gear, but I don’t have a wide lens for the Fuji and I’m not totally ready to commit an entire trip to film (I also wanted to see how airport Xrays would affect film). There was never a time where I was carrying all that at once. I usually only had one camera at a time with me.

Wishing everyone happy shooting,

Brian T. Adams



The first group is from the Fuji X-E1






This second group is from the Canon 5DMKII






The third group is from the Canon AE-1P





May 172013

Friday Film: The Leica M Monochrom vs Leica M6 on a wedding

By Joeri van der Kloet – see his website HERE

Let me start with explaining what I do for a living. I am a documentary wedding photographer, based in the Netherlands and a little more than two years ago I switched from a DSLR to the M-system. I work with one M9 and one M9-P and a couple of lenses. Being a documentary photographer, my approach to wedding photography is to capture real moments, without interfering in these moments. For me, and for my clients, this approach really works. The Leica M fits perfectly in this approach, after lots of practice though. During a wedding, things are happening fast, so focussing and exposure have to be adjusted continuously. Manually of course. I have trained myself to focus my lenses within an instant of a second.




A few months ago I was asked by Transcontinenta, the company responsible for Leica in the Netherlands, whether I would be interested in testing the Leica M Monochrom on a wedding. Sure, I was interested! However, I didn’t feel like ‘testing’ a new camera on one of my clients, so I asked my friend Vivian, who is a wedding planner, if she had clients that would be interested in having a second shooter on their wedding. She came up with two couples and because I was available for those dates, I decided to shoot both weddings. The same day my contact at Leica called me and told me he had made a mistake. The Monochrom would only be available on the second date. Vivian however had already promised her clients that I would be there as a second shooter. I told her I’d come anyway, bringing another black and white camera: my trusty old Leica M6. The couple was excited and I was scared to death. Why on earth did I just say that?

I started in photography with manual film cameras: the Minolta XD-7 and XD-5. However, I had never covered a wedding with these things. When I started doing weddings, I had already switched to (D)SLRs. I don’t use my M6 that often. For professional work, it is not very usable. For fun photography, I also take the M9.


So I decided to keep it very simple. I packed ten rolls of Kodak T-Max 400, my M6, a 35 and 50, a three-stop ND-filter, my Gossen external meter and drove all the way to the venue. During the day I shot seven rolls of film and only used the external meter occasionally. I trusted my internal exposure computer – my brains – and even left out the battery of the M6. I had to shoot at long shutterspeeds – 1/8th – and at very fast shutterspeeds, but it didn’t bother me at all that I was stuck to 400 ISO. Since I’m not exactly a machine gun shooter with the M9, the need to take ten pictures of the same moment is non-existent. Compared to a normal M9-wedding, I had to wait and anticipate more with the limited amount of frames that I had. On the other hand, it was quite fun and I enjoyed being able to work with the M6. Also, I loved the inconspicuousness of the M6, which I prefer to the M9 because of the shutter that is way more silent. Because the depression of the M6-shutter is quite big, I used a soft-release, to prevent camera shake.


After the wedding, I mailed the films to a specialized company of which I was quite sure they’d do a good job. A little nervous, I opened the package a week later. Within one minute I knew that my internal exposure computer was still working great! All frames were perfectly exposed! Not a single one was ruined. A week later, when I had some time on my hands, I started camera scanning the frames. I needed a fast and cheap method, since the job was completely unpaid. Using my 5D2, a speedlite and a 90mm macro, I worked my way through the frames. It still took me more than a day to scan them all and I hadn’t even started selecting and editing yet. From the first frame on I decided to go hardcore: I would scan the edges of the frames and not crop the final image. It meant I had to throw away quite a few pictures that otherwise would have been good. Framing can be a little hard in the heat of the moment. Also, tilted shots, that otherwise would have been cropped, became unusable. Was I being too hard on myself?


The more time I worked on the frames and files, the happier I became. Although the files are far from clean – TMax is pretty far from clean either – they have a unique feel and character. Maybe I fell in love with these pics, because I put so much effort and time in them, but to me they are pure and authentic. It is just one camera, two lenses, a few rolls of film and loads of work. Of course, I would have preferred to make some very nice fine-art prints in the darkroom, but I don’t have one and my dark-room skills are rusty.

The Monochrom

A few weeks later I picked up the M Monochrom and I couldn’t wait to see the results of this much praised camera. Having countless hours of experience with the M9, the Monochrom wasn’t hard to get used to at all. Even the post-processing wasn’t that hard. I only used Lightroom and was satisfied with the results. Compared to the scanned files from the M6, the Monochrom files are easier to work with, since they are so much more flexible. The toning is amazing, as is the crisp sharpness and the ability to use high ISO. After getting used to the camera I shot a wedding as a second shooter. While driving to the venue I thought it might be a good idea to make a comparison between the two cameras. Lots of things have been said about the Monochrom and one of the things is people saying: “I already have a Monochrome. It’s called Tri-X and my M2/3/4/5/6/7”.




During the wedding, I found it hard to resist picking my M9 from my bag just to take some shots in colour, but I figured that would blur the experience. The wedding was one big party with many, many kids, lots of colours everywhere and there I was with a black and white camera.

I can’t say it felt different from shooting with the M9. The shutter is the same, as is the sound. The only noticeable difference is the high ISO capacity and that was useful. I even left my 35/1.2 at home for that reason. The biggest difference is during post-processing. There you’ll notice that sometimes black and white just doesn’t work, or sometimes just rocks! Also the files are more flexible than the M9 files and that is a good thing.


Would I take the Monochrom or the M6 to one of my own weddings? No, unless I was asked to do so. In my work I use roughly 60% color and 40% black and white and that works. However, I like to be able to decide afterwards which picture will be converted to black and white and which picture will be in color. This is obviously not possible with the MM. With the M6 I would only use it with a couple of extra film bodies. One for high ISO film, one for color, etc. I would also have to invest in a high quality scanner and even then I would have to spend more time on each wedding, meaning my price would increase. Even though I would like that idea to work, I don’t think I can sell it. So if I, as a professional, had to choose between the two cameras, I’d go for the Monochrom. However, besides being a professional, I still have a passion for pure, raw documentary photography. And for me, the M6 just adds to the sensation of documenting reality. Despite the technical limitations of these pictures, I think I prefer them to the far better M Monochrom output. Maybe I even prefer them BECAUSE of the technical inferiority. I don’t know.



I would have loved to keep the MM for a couple of weeks, but I had to return it. The M6 however will stay with me. Although I only shoot a few rolls each year, the amount of sheer happiness it delivers makes it impossible to part with it.


May 102013

The Friday Film: How a 51 Year old Leica made me leave the digital world by Rikard Landberg

See his Flickr HERE

Hi! Steve, great and inspiring blog you run!

I just wanted to tell a story about how a 51 year old camera made me leave the digital world. I have been shooting both digital and analog for some time but my film Leica was the only camera that made any sense to me.

Like so many others I started with a SLR film camera in the late 90´s. It was a Canon AE-1 with a 50/1.8 lens. I loved being out on the street trying to catch that golden moment that would turn out to a great picture. Mostly in black and white.

I jumped on the digital SLR camera train and sold all my analog gear in a second without even thinking it through. I went from a Canon 350d (rebel xt) to a Canon 40d to a 5d in a short time.

I never really liked the digital cameras so I bought a cheap film rangefinder and I loved it! I told my self that I was going to save up to buy me a Leica M film and here I am! Proud owner of a Leica M2 and a Summicron 35. For a long time I had a Fuji x100 as a backup since I felt I had to have a digital camera. Going all analog was for crazy people! :P. But in early 2013 I sold my last digital gear and bought a dedicated film scanner and have not looked back!

It was a hard decision but it really felt right! I use my Leica M2 as i would with any digital camera. I shoot what i want to shoot but i think more before hitting the shutter. To make good pictures you need to be one with your camera no matter what camera you use. Buy the one you like and never let it go. Go out and shoot and just love it!

shoeman Empire state rock Valentine Central girls WTC crossroads Central Man Brooklyn Bridge MAn BB 8517196663_1e2170108c_b

May 062013

The grail

Holding the holy grail. A Nikon S2. By Daniel Schaefer

Hello Steve

Growing up in LA, there was a camera shop two blocks from my house, I would pass it and it’s blinking flashbulb sign day after day, for years I would duck in every now and then with my father or uncle, both avid photographers to pick up a chip, or a filter or some small accessory, but for years I just tapped my fingers on the counter and waited patiently to be lead to the toy store two doors down.

Everything changed when I was twelve years old. Sitting there one day twiddling my thumbs waiting for my father as he compared one UV filter after another, my eyes wandered around the shop, and finally came to rest on a leather case sitting quietly at the used counter, next to an elderly gentleman who had just sold his equipment and with a satisfied but solemn look, folded his money and waked away, leaving his well worn gear glistening on the counter.

I wandered over and started staring at the glisten of the old silver gear, I had only ever seen my fathers black plastic behemoths with heavy lenses and six point harness straps. I had never before seen the shined chrome of an old camera, used hard, but loved well. My eyes flitted across a few old F bodies, and a well brassed black rangefinder of some unknown origin, but something made me freeze, my eyes widening. Sitting behind the rest of the pile, it’s leather case peeling, it’s rangefinder sporting a sharp scratch, and a deep gouge in it’s steel face, right across the word Nikon, sat an S2. I reached out and picked it up, it was heavy, it felt solid in my hands, I could see where the hands of the old man had worn the leather and steel over time, patina marks where his fingers had gripped the black lens, and rolled the razor toothed focus wheel.

I was in love. I had never held something in my hands that felt like it, it felt solid, it felt like it was meant to be used. At that point my father walked over, I showed him the camera, I begged him for an early birthday gift, I honestly didn’t care if this was every gift for the next three christmahanukwanzika’s combined, I wanted that camera, but when the salesman told my father it was all mine for just barely over a thousand dollars, he took the camera out of my hand, said thank you to the salesman, and walked me over to the toy store and bought me whatever the latest lego was.

I remembered the number, I remembered the name, the Nikon S2 was the first object I ever fell in love with, and i wouldn’t forget it. I did somehow forget about photography for a while though. I would pick up my fathers camera on vacation, task some snapshots of friends, or some selfless in photo booth, but it wasn’t until eleventh grade I picked up a camera with any seriousness again.


Fast forward to two weeks ago, I’m a part-time student in my sophomore year at parsons in the photography program, working for three different commercial photographers in NYC as an assistant and second camera, repairing and restoring vintage equipment in my free time for a little extra cash. I take a break from color correcting some shots for one of my finals and slide on to Facebook for a while, I check on my friends, make sure my fifteen year old brother hasn’t triggered the apocalypse yet, and make sure my farmville crops aren’t running dry. I suddenly notice a post by my aunt Julie, I recognize the telltale leather case of an old camera, and curiously click the link that declares, Pop Pop’s camera!

The image loads, and my jaw drops, an S2, sitting on my aunt’s kitchen table after being dug out of her closet after who know’s how long. I comment “you have NO idea how beautiful that is” and she replies, “well our resident photographer would be the one to know!”

I suddenly see a message in my inbox, and a few minutes of chatting with aunt Julie, she says “the camera deserves a good home! what’s your address?” my heart is practically beating out of my chest at this point, memories click back to the now abandoned camera shop and the feeling of that steel wheel rolling under my forefinger, watching the twin images line up, back then I had no idea what was in my hands, but now that steel and leather sculpture had gone from a pleasant memory to a Holy grail that I hunted for in every thrift shop and camera store I had ever walked past, and now, it was on its way to my doorstep in a priority mail box straight from Minneapolis.

When the camera arrived, opening the box felt as if i was opening the suitcase from pulp fiction, gold rays of light emanating from the silver machine surrounded by packing peanuts with its 50mm 1.4 eye staring back at me.

I wasted no time, I went to load the camera, only to find the rewind rolled when I took a shot, it was still loaded! I developed the roll the next day, only to find a picture of a pudgy little baby, later identified by my aunt, as my uncle! With the camera now empty, I locked a roll of Tri-X in, and stepped out into the big apple with my holy grail hanging around my neck.


I spent the next three days shooting anything I could, I always have a camera around my neck, it’s been a long time since I left the house without a lens around my neck, and the S2 with the 50mm 1.4 in all its hefty glory felt like the right kind of weight.

I’m a night owl, so I rode the 2 train down to canal street, and spent the night walking from the south street seaport, all the way home to ninety seventh street, zig zagging 14.5 miles across new york, shooting slowly and carefully, feeling the solid click of the release, the hollow thunk of the shutter,and feeling the smooth roll of the advance as I spent the roll carefully as I could.

I shot the roll both as a technical test, and as a photographer, I wanted to push the cameras limits but also take pictures that meant something to me. The camera was smooth, the rangefinder bright, the settings were accurate across the range, and aside from some slight blooming in the highlights at 1.4 the lens was so sharp it spit razors. It’s a rare privilege to hold something in your hand that you are truly in love with, to have a camera that truly feels like it’s simply a spare set of eyes, to be able to raise it to your eye and not have to think about anything aside from what to place in your frame.

For me, the Nikon S2 is my perfect camera, it is that extension that we all hunt for, it falls into my palm and I see everything i walk past during the day in frame lines. If you’re ever lucky enough to find your holy grail, I hoe you’re lucky enough to be able to sling it at your side and take it for a long, productive walk.


-Daniel Sawyer Schaefer.


1- Mug

2- Plot

3- Rub

4- Sizzle

5- heavy

6- hush

7- woof

My uncle!

Self portrait

Apr 242013

All Black & White to me……..

By Jason Howe

Hey Steve

Hope your well, I’m sure many will agree with me when I say your site continues to be an amazing source of inspiration and information and is the first website I browse each day.

Some of your readers may be familiar with my photography but for those who aren’t, every now and then I throw something Steve’s way from down here in Middle Earth!!! New Zealand is such a beautiful country and landscapes make up a large part of my photography, however……….

At the start of the year I made a decision to try my hand at a few things I had not previously attempted, one of them was to arrange shoots with models. It’s very early days in this process but I thought I would share some of my initial images with you. I’m always looking to put posts together for my blog so I had several combinations of camera and lens in mind to shoot on this occasion, specifically these were –

Leica M9 and Canon 50/1.4 – I’m of the opinion that this lens is one of the best you can buy in the “inexpensive” ltm lens bracket and particularly suited to images of this nature. Leica MM and Konica Hexanon 60/1.2 – I was fortunate enough to acquire this lens just before Christmas, I’ve messed around with it but this was essentially the first time I’d used it at length. Contax 645 and Zeiss T Planar 90/2 – A recent addition, I’m still getting to know this camera but I wanted to at least shoot a roll or two through it, film of choice Fuji Pro 400H.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of B&W, it accounts for most of what I shoot, I am pushing myself to shoot more color this year though, honestly!! I had a specific look in mind for these images before I shot them, you can see those versions HERE. The truth is though, no matter what I do or how I attempt to view my subject matter it almost invariable looks better to me in B&W.

Here are a few of those images taken on the Leica M9 with Canon 50/1.4 this time converted in Silver Efex Pro 2 and LR4. I have always been happy with the B&W conversions I was able to achieve with the M9 files and they definitely are not inferior to the MM files when shot in these conditions, the MM for me is really about shooting at higher ISO’s, that is when it comes in to its own.

Model – Alicia Sim

Image 2

Image 1

Image 3

Image 5

In the next couple of weeks I’m going to be posting a full set of images taken on the Leica M Monochrom with the Konica Hexanon 60/1.2, here are a small selection of those. Again these images are converted in Silver Efex Pro 2 and LR4. The Hex is incredibly sharp at f/1.4 and equally superb in these conditions at f/1.2 with the edge just taken off the sharpness. I’m delighted with it for sure although I would never defend the purchase price I took the decision to buy this lens over the Noctilux because quite simply I will always be able to get hold of one of those.

Image 9

Image 7

Image 10

Image 8

Image 6

I did get the chance to use my Contax but despite liking the images shot on the Fuji Pro 400H I still could not help myself converting them to B&W, this may be sacrilege……..

Image 12

Image 11


Things really are “All Black & White to me” when it comes to processing, well mostly……..




You can keep up with my photographic journey down under here -www.aperturepriority.co.nz


Mar 182013

Visiting with My Father – Do You Print Your Photos?

by Amy Medina

Saint Patricks Day makes me think of my dad. Though auto parts and cars were his trade, he was into photography, and enjoyed taking photos. He unfortunately passed away in 2001, prior to my passion for photography taking full bloom, and I often wonder how he would view my love for it, especially in the digital realm.

Of course, like many kids who grew up in the 70’s, I have faux leather-bound photo albums of the family photos, showing their age and faded, filled with the silly shots and the out-of-focus posed family shots, where my dad handed his camera to someone and our heads are partially cut off. There are photos taken by him, by my mom I’m sure, and by other people with cameras who gave us their doubles. Many of us have these albums laying around or tucked into a cabinet… and I’ve only really come to appreciate their existence as I’ve gotten older.

And then, a couple of years ago, my brother discovered a box of my father’s slides in the bottom of a closet. I knew of them, but years ago; I remember curiously looking through them as child and teenager, squinting through the plastic magnifying loop and holding them up to a window. But I had forgotten about them over the years, in the back of my mind assuming they got lost when my father sold the house I grew up in, or even thrown away just to save space. When my brother found them again after decades of not seeing them, and years after my father had passed, it was like digging up buried treasure.

We sat on my living room floor looking through the mysterious photos that focus in mostly on my father’s time in the service, stationed in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. There are also early family photos, from before I was born and into my toddler years. What pops up are faces of family members long gone, and faces of dear family friends we’ve since rekindled relationships with, and photos of beaches and towns all the way around the world, during a very different era. There are only a few, but there are even photos of my dad himself, where his fellow soldiers and friends seemingly grabbed his camera a stole a shot, like the one of of him sleeping.

It was a renewed glimpse into my dad’s life, and something my brother and I could experience together, being reintroduced to the man he was — the one we knew and the side of him we knew less about. We talked about our memories and the shots that reminded us of his unique character. We made jokes about some of the things he focused in on. This experience itself created our own new memories, some of which will now always be jokes between us, and something quite special.
And we shared the photos. I went on EBay and for $15 bought a working slide projector. We were blessed last Memorial Day with spending time with old family friends — friends of my mother and father from “back in the day” who I called Aunt and Uncle and cousins… and we had an evening slide show, projecting the old images and memories across the room onto a screen that brought us thoughtful moments, melancholy feelings and laughter. It was a weekend of unique bonding and closeness, filled with new experiences, and refreshed memories brought to us through stories and my father’s photos.

All of this gets me thinking: what happens to all of our photos that are sitting on hard drives decades from now? How will our memories be relived by our children and grandchildren? Are we to leave instructions behind on how to access our achives, and is that experience the same as finding an old box of photos in the attic? If a hard drive is disconnected and stored away, reducing our stories to zeros and ones, will our children and grandchildren be able to just plug them in and enjoy them if discovered years later?

There is a tangibility to printing out photos, or leaving behind slides and negatives. It’s something we are losing as a society. I don’t pretend to not enjoy technology… quite the contrary, I’m about as geeky as they come, appreciating all that computers and electronics have to offer, and I take full advantage of the advances. I also think several generations from now, a lot of this will have been worked out somehow by our great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren; the dilemma of common formats and how to access our deceased relatives’ digital footprint. Or at least I have great hopes it will be all worked out. But what happens in the meantime?


At the end of every year now I print all my photos. I know that may seem excessive and I suppose many of you take a whole lot more photos than I do. There may be a different process you have to take in self-editing first, though be careful not to edit out that blurry photo of grandma because years later you will appreciate it as one of the shots that exist of her. The point is, I want to leave behind boxes of actual photos for my loved-ones to discover and savor… instantly. And I want you to do the same. We should leave behind something tangible that takes no effort to enjoy.

Of course, I’m not talking here about the artistic prints or the gallery canvas, or even the occasional photo book. I do all those myself, but it’s not the same thing. My coffee table books are always there to be browsed through, with the best chosen photos inside them. The prints I hang can always be seen. The people who buys prints, they enjoy them as they do in the room of their choice. What I am talking about is the undiscovered treasure that the rest of your photos will be to your family members and the people who love you: The ones you didn’t share. The ones you shared online that got a zillion “likes” but were forgotten about 3 days later. The shots you thought were mistakes and the ones you took of other family members that they don’t even remember you taking. The photos of places you loved and sights you enjoyed and that picture you took of your feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

At 12¢ per print (more or less) it’s a no-brainer to just take stock at the end of each year and have some 4×6’s made to throw in a box and put in the back of closet or drawer, the same way our parents and grandparents did back in the day after having rolls of film developed. Think of it as your analogue backup. And one that your children and grandchildren may one day appreciate.-

And my dad (white shirt) with his army buddies in Okinawa in 1966
Mar 042013

My time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4″ By Khunya Pan

Hello Steve & fellow followers,

This story will talk about my time with the Pentax K1000 & Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4, and how I ditched nearly all my equipment for this simple and brilliant setup.

I started taking pictures seriously about 5 years ago when I was 19, when my father bought a Pentax K10D DSLR. He hardly used the thing and I started to get interested in it. Next thing I know I’m taking it everywhere with me, upgraded to a K20D and the SMC-31mm f/1.8 Limited lens. It was a great way to learn the basics and fundamentals of photography. I eventually had an exhibition of my work done exclusively with the K20D and the 31mm. It was a great experience, but it was time to move on.

One night I was watching TV and a film called “Blow-Up” came on. I was instantly intrigued by the movie due to its main subject being photography. But the thing that stuck with me was the camera the lead character was using. No, it wasn’t a Pentax, it was a Nikon F, but it was a classic film SLR. Even though the actor had no idea how to use a camera in the film, I was still very intrigued by 35mm and film, and I wanted to try it out. Sick and tired of the point-and-shooters all around me calling themselves “photographers” just because they took pictures of their vacation or family gatherings, I wanted to do something quite different for my age group and actually learn “real” photography (wink).

I eventually got the K1000, mainly because I could use my 31mm on it, thanks to Pentax making a series of lenses that can be used on digital and film. Instantly I was hooked on it, and eventually learned how to develop my own film and scan it myself.

This sparked me to start a weekly mailing list where I would send out a photo a week, and while it hasn’t grown to a huge number of followers, it has kept me motivated to continue taking pictures. The pictures I was taking were making me happy, but I still felt like they were missing some kind of magic. Then I discovered the Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4…

There is not much in the way of reviews or web presence on this lens, and I seriously wonder why. The early versions of the lens were released in the mid 60s, and continued until 1971 where the SMC-Takumar’s were released. These did away with the radioactive coating. Some say they are better, some say they are worse. My version is one of the early ones, with the obvious yellow coating on the front element. In color, it doesn’t distract or cause any bizarre effects, and in B&W it’s absolutely stunning. My guess is Pentax was going for a Leica/Zeiss killer, and maybe on a technical standpoint they failed, but on an aesthetic and artistic point of view, they succeeded tenfold.

The setup has been my primary carry-around shooter. I have used many other cameras and lenses throughout the years. I’ve tried my hand at a Yashica & Rolleiflex TLR, a FED2 Russian camera, a Leica M3 and a Leica M9, and the Fuji X100 and X-Pro 1. Honestly, none of them are quite bonkers enough. I always go back to my K1000 and Takumar. Yes, sometimes the weight and bulkiness of an SLR are annoying, and it is far from an ideal street-shooter, but I really don’t shoot street photography, and the Takumar is not meant for that, nor is the K1000. This is a setup that makes you get in close. It is intimidating, as it should be. It is a $150 setup that produces $10,000 Leica results.

Sometimes I feel a bit amateurish walking around with what is essentially a “student” camera. But I think I’ve finally gotten passed the vain part of photography and trying to “look cool” while I take pictures. In the end, it’s the photograph that counts, not what the silly man behind the camera looks like.

I eventually sold my K20D and 31mm lens, and now I shoot exclusively film. From time to time I will borrow my girlfriend’s K-x and use an M42 adapter so I can shoot the Takumar on that, but it’s not very often. I am quite amazed though by the results of a nearly 50-year-old lens on a crisp and clean digital sensor. The lens has such a soul to it, it’s delicate and I worry if I accidentally whack it on a counter or something, it will fall apart with ease. But if you treat it well and with respect, it will be a lifelong companion and always give you outrageous and amazing results.

And so concludes my story, enough with the text and on with the photographs. The first three are from the K1000 and 31mm, the rest are the K1000 and Takumar. You can compare them for yourself and see if I’m talking total claptrap.

Thanks for reading and looking!

Yours friendly,


Additional images can be seen here:


Quentin - SMC-31mm 1.8

Tokyo Drift - SMC-31mm 1.8

Ruta Maya - SMC-31mm 1.8

Bicycle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Ellar - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

French Hand - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Hands - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Naked Bed - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Nikon - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Smile - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Rifle - Super-Takumar 50mm 1.4

Feb 272013


Understanding the Basics of Exposure by Emanuele Faja

Note: This is a guest post by Emanuele Faja from AndBeThere.com


In this post you will find all the information you need to understand how the different aspects of photography come together to form an exposure and how each setting has a distinct effect on the final outcome. Please remember, this is a guide on the basics.

If, after having read through this guide, there is something you don’t quite understand then please do not hesitate to leave a comment with your question and I will answer it.

Another point to keep in mind as you read this guide: There is no such thing as a “correct” exposure! It’s all about YOUR artistic vision and it will vary with every scene. There is no “cut and paste” method. It will require plenty of thinking on your part if you wish to take your photography to the next level.

You will want to bookmark this page because there is a lot of information and it will require reading a few times.

What is Exposure?

Exposure is simply the amount of light that you allow to reach the light-sensitive photographic medium inside your camera. This medium could (or should!) be film or it could be a digital sensor.

The more light you let in the brighter your image will look and, conversely, the less light you let in the darker your image will be. You see? It’s not exactly rocket science!

The factors that affect Exposure.

There are three things that you modify to make your image darker or brighter.

  • Aperture – This is the adjustable opening in the lens. The bigger the opening, the more light hits your sensor at any one time.
  • Shutter Speed – This determines how long the shutter will stay open. The longer the shutter stays open the more light hits the sensor.
  • ISO – This is a measurement of how sensitive your film or digital sensor is to light. More on this later.

So far so good? Right now you only have to remember three things. Easy :)

Now let’s talk about each of these three factors in more detail. I will go over the basics of each factor and then explain how each one effects your image.


The Aperture setting on a lens is expressed in “f stops”.

This is actually part of a conspiracy created by photographers who don’t want anybody else to understand how photography works so they can charge ever increasing fees for their work ;)

Of course, I’m just joking. The f/stop is actually a ratio that’s reached by doing some tedious mathematics. It’s the ratio between the diameter of the aperture in the lens and the focal length of the lens. Got that? No? Good, it doesn’t really matter…

This is all you need to know for now:

The standard sequence of f/stops:

2 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22

Going from right to left (f22 to f2) each f stop lets in twice as much light as one before. So f/8 lets in twice as much light as f/11 but only half as much as f/5.6.

Got it?



Because of the tedious mathematics, the smaller the number, the bigger the aperture. This is because they are actually ratios and the f stop number is the bottom number of the ratio/fraction. So they really should read 1/2, 1/2.8, 1/4 etc but they don’t… probably part of that conspiracy theory by photographers…

Here is a nice little graphic to make everything even easier to understand:

Aperture Chart

There are lenses which go beyond f/2. For instance, I own a Pentax SMC K 50mm f/1.2 lens. There are various reasons why a photographer would want to own such a lens. We will talk about that a little later but it’s worth mentioning that the lenses become much heavier and more expensive as you go beyond f/2.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is expressed in seconds or fractions of a second.

Most cameras have shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/2000 of a second and also a “bulb” mode that will keep the shutter open for as long as you keep the shutter button pressed down.

1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000


Going from left to right (1 to 1/1000) each shutter speed is twice as fast and so lets it half as much light. 1/125s lets it twice as much as light as 1/250s but only half as much as 1/60s.


Instead of tediously writing 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, the shutter speeds are just written as numbers on the shutter speed dial.


Iso is a measurement of how sensitive your film/sensor is to light.

Iso is actually a throw back to the lovely pure days of film photography. It’s named after the International Standards Organisation which decided the ratings in the first place. Different films would have different Iso ratings and a photographer would select which film to use depending on the situation and, of course, personal preference. A few examples:

ISO 200 color film


ISO 400 Black & White film


ISO 800 Color print film

Fujifuilm Fujicolor Press 800-

ISO 1600 Black & White film

Fuji Neopan 1600

In order not to confuse the hell out of everybody when photography went digital the camera manufacturers continued to use the term Iso and also the same scale:

25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

Going from left to right (25 to 6400) each Iso setting is twice as sensitive to light. Iso 400 is twice as sensitive as Iso 200 but only half as sensitive as Iso 800.

The higher the number, the greater the sensitivity of the film/sensor.

The greater the sensitivity of the film/sensor, the less light is required to create an image.

The sensors in new digital cameras today are becoming so good that they reach ridiculous Iso numbers like 51200 and even higher! This does mean that digital is great for night-time photography but I do wonder what will happen in a few years time when Iso numbers in digital photography will be 7 digits long!


A Quick Recap

So now you should know the following:

What are the three factors that affect exposure?

Which is the bigger aperture: f/2 or f/16?

Which shutter speed lets in more light: 1/2s or 1/500s?

Which Iso setting is more sensitive to light: Iso 200 or Iso 1600?


If only it were that simple!

I have a confession to make. I have not been entirely honest with you in this article but I did it for your own good. Instead of drowning you in information right away I just introduced you to the three factors that make up exposure but I did not tell you the “side effects” that these factors have.

  • Aperture also effects the Depth of Field. I will explain what it is in just a moment.
  • Shutter speed also effects how sharp your final image will be due to movement.
  • Iso is linked to how much film grain or digital noise your final image will have.

Depth of Field

“The distance in front and behind the subject that is acceptably in focus”

Depth of field is often abbreviated to “dof”

The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of field. So at f/22 (small aperture) you will have a much bigger (deeper) depth of field than you would at f/2 (large aperture)


Depth of field is actually determined by three factors:

  • The aperture – We just saw how that affects the depth of field.
  • The distance to your subject – The further away you are from your subject the greater your depth of field.
  • The focal length of your lens (35mm, 50mm, 85mm etc.) – The longer your focal length (i.e. 100mm vs 35mm) the shallower your depth of field.

Boring Note: Sensor size also plays a big role because of the way it magnifies the focal length of a lens. Most DSLR cameras these days have “cropped” sensors which are around half the area of a full 35mm frame. This means that they magnify the focal length of a lens by roughly 1.6. So a 35mm lens becomes roughly a 50mm lens.

My advice: shoot 35mm film and forget about it. ;)


Generally speaking, if you are hand holding your camera you should be using at least this shutter speed if you wish to get optimally sharp images:




Focal length of your lens

So this means if you are using a 50mm lens your shutter speed should be at least 1/50s (or 1/60s if your camera doesn’t have a the 1/50s setting). I find this to be true if you are shooting a camera that uses some kind of mirror system (analog or digital SLR systems) . If you are shooting a rangefinder camera (which is a different type of system which has no mirror and thus far less movement going on when you press the shutter) you can get away with far slower shutter speeds. Some people claim they can shoot a rangefinder at 1/10s or slower!

Here is an example of a picture I took using my Pentax K1000 at a low shutter speed. I had no choice. It was late at night and I had Iso 1600 film and my lens was fully open at f/1.2 so my only option was to lower the shutter speed below 1/60s. If I remember correctly, this was taken at 1/15s.

You can clearly see that the image is not sharp because I was holding the camera and the cars that were crossing the bridge in the background are also very blurred. This is also due to the very small depth of field at f/1.2


You also need to choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to capture your subject while they are moving. We will talk about this a little later on…


The higher the Iso the more film grain or digital noise you will have in your final image. Film grain can be quite lovely while digital noise is always disgusting. Thankfully, digital cameras are getting “cleaner” as the technology matures.

A quick example:

Iso comparison

Putting it all together

Time for another little test. :) Feels like being back at school eh?

  • Define “Depth of field”
  • What will have more in focus: A large d.o.f or a small d.o.f?
  • What is, generally speaking, the longest shutter speed you should use when shooting hand-held with a 50mm lens?
  • Fill in the missing word: The higher the Iso the more ______ your image will have.

Final Triangle

Let’s now talk about the Exposure Triangle that is created by Aperture, Shutter Speed and Iso.

Let’s assume that a particular scene can be shot at f/8, 1/250s with an Iso of 200. There are actually many other equivalent exposures that we could use to shoot this scene. If you change one factor of the triangle of exposure then you must do an opposite change with another factor to keep the exposure the same.

For example:

  • Original exposure: f8 1/250s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 1: f4 1/500s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 2: f2 1/1000s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 3: f11 1/125s, Iso 200
  • Equivalent exposure 4: f8 1/125s, Iso 100

There are a huge number of variations but they all have one thing in common. The exposure (brightness) of the image will be the same.

What does change between these equivalent exposures is the following:

  1. Depth of field due to Aperture
  2. Sharpness due to Shutter Speed
  3. Grain/noise due to Iso

So what happens when you under-expose or over-expose an image?

The first image is under-exposed, The middle one is a normal exposure. The bottom image in over-exposed.


If you under-expose a scene then you will lose details in the shadows and your image will be dark.

If you over-expose a scene then you will “blow” the highlights which are the bright areas of the image. They will usually come out as blocks of white.


Artistic considerations

Now this is the fun part. You have gone through all the theory and now it’s time to see how you can use it in the real world and how it can spark your creativity.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is no “correct” exposure. It’s all about YOUR artistic vision. Each scene you photograph has a certain dynamic range (the range between the darkest and lightest parts) and often its greater than the dynamic range that you can capture with your film or digital sensor. It’s up to you to decide how to handle the situation.

Before we jump straight in I want to say one last thing:

You need to pre-visualise the effect you want to create in your head before you start to change the settings on your camera and lens. Otherwise will you have a hit and miss approach and you will never understand why you aren’t capturing the type of photographs you want.

A few ideas to set you thinking:

  • Using Shallow Depth of Field for flattering portraits.

This is perhaps one of the most common uses of shallow depth of field. By taking a portrait of somebody using a large aperture (i.e. f/2) you blur the background. This is especially useful if the background would otherwise be distracting to the overall feel.

Notice how the woman is in sharp focus but the wall behind her is blurred. 


  • Using slow Shutter Speeds to create artistic effects with water.

This is incredibly common all over the internet and for good reasons too. It looks great.

Remember that if you are shooting fast-moving subjects then you probably want to use a fast shutter speed like 1/250, 1/500 or 1/1000.

  • Using large Depth of Field for landscapes.

If you shoot landscapes you should try to use a large depth of field so that the entire image appears sharp. This means you will need to use an aperture of f/8 or smaller (f/11, f/16, f/22 etc).


Sometimes photography is about compromise. I couldn’t use a really tiny aperture like f/22 because the sun was going down and so that would have meant that my image would have been under-exposed.

  • Mix it up a little!

What ever your artistic choices, make sure you don’t always do the same thing. Don’t shoot every portrait with a shallow depth of field, the background can often add to the the image!

As this is an introduction to exposure, I’ve not covered exposing for backlight, sidelight and exposure compensation.


(and the best way to learn exposure)

Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything yet.

This does take a little while to all sink in.

The best way to learn, in my opinion, is to get yourself an all manual camera like a Pentax K1000 and 10 or 15 rolls of cheap film like Kodak Supercolor 200.

There are a few reasons why I recommend using a simple all manual film camera like the Pentax K1000.

These cameras they have a real shutter speed dial on the camera body and an Aperture ring on the lens. This means that you are always aware of the settings you are using. Also, the physical location of the shutter speed dial and aperture ring remind you that one is a function of the camera and the other is a function of the lens.

There is no “auto” mode! This means you are forced to think at all times about what settings you are going to use! Don’t worry, there is a light meter to tell you if your exposure is correct.

By starting out with a film camera and using the same type of film you take Iso out of the equation. If you take my advice and only shoot one type of film while you are learning it means that you will always be using the same Iso value. This means that you only have to worry about shutter speed and aperture. It makes it even easier! You are turning the exposure triangle into a see-saw.

There are plenty of reasons to shoot film. Once you try shooting film you might just want to stick to it! Check out my article on giving film a try.

A Real Aperture Dial with a Depth of Field Scale 


Shoot 3 or 4 rolls a week while also making a note of the aperture and shutter speed setting and in less than a month you will have it down like a pro. As a bonus, you may also have some lovely pictures too ;) After you have shot your 15 or so rolls and got accustomed to manual setting the exposure then feel free to move to scanning, digital or a more advanced camera… It’s up to you!

Thanks for taking the time for reading this guide and I hope you found it helpful.

Feel free to leave some feedback about what could be improved. I’ve tried my best to explain everything as clearly as I can.

If there is something you don’t quite understand then don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I will clear it up for you.

Note: This is a guest post by Emanuele Faja from AndBeThere.com

You can connect to AndBeThere via: 

Our Website | Facebook | Google+ | Twitter | Flickr | Via Email

I would like to thank Steve for the opportunity to write an article for his website.

 I am a big fan…keep up the good work!

Feb 212013


Shooting Medium Format alongside Leica M for Travel and Documentary Photography

by Pascal Vossen

Hi Steve, thank you for your contribution to the photographic community and giving me the chance to ventilate my thoughts to other photographers!

Shooting medium format alongside 35mm format is what I did during my latest trip to Sri Lanka and it turned out really well for me. I enjoyed it a lot and it made sense to me before I left, during shooting and afterwards when I looked at the results. The only ‘regret’ I got is that I didn’t go bigger in film size. Still though, the Leica M was and will remain to be my main travel and documentary camera. Let me first tell you why, before I move on to the medium format part;

Photographing with a Leica M is special. I don’t have to explain that to someone who handled a Leica M before, but to the photographer who didn’t. It’s a camera with a magic feel, handling and character to it. It gives you the best of 35mm in a small and intuitive package. You don’t feel like you are getting blocked off to what is happening around you as soon as you bring the camera to your eye. The design of the Leica M, being a rangefinder camera (i.e. with a separate optical viewfinder), will allow you to stay in contact with what is happening around you. You never loose focus on your subject. You see everything. Notice the light, meter, frame, focus, reframe, anticipate and shoot your image. Its a fast process that always allows you to stay in control. Rangefinder focusing is imo also the most accurate way of focusing, since you don’t have to rely on an auto focus system that might fail. You are in control, you decide where you put the focus. This means that you know exactly where your focus point is. Is this off, then you failed and not the camera.

Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Polonaruwa.


Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Red Mosque, Colombo.


Because of its construction, the fact that it is a rangefinder and thus not has a mirror like a DSLR, the Leica M is compact and elegant. It is without a doubt the most beautiful camera I will ever own. The first time I tried one myself I noticed by its reassuring weight that this thing is build to last. Furthermore, it does not scream for attention and gives most people the impression that you are carrying an ‘old-timer’ around. Yes, sometimes that’s true, but its a very competent ‘old-timer’. But then again even the 2013 Leica M (type 240) still looks like the camera Leica build 30,40 years ago. That is partly the beauty of it and gives its user the freedom to walk around without drawing too much attention to themselves. Even the small time street criminal would more often go for a larger looking plastic DSLR from e.g. one of the Japanese brands, because they think you are holding a worthless old camera that is not worth stealing. If I however go on a trip where I suspect to end up in more dodgy areas I would maybe tape off the ‘Leica’ sign and put some more tape on it to make it look broken, just to make sure. I don’t care what it looks like when I am photographing (I do when its on the shelf ;)). The purpose of having this camera is to be able to get the shots I wouldn’t get with another camera. It is inconspicuous and enables the photographer to get really close without getting noticed. Even the shutter won’t give away your presence when you are photographing with an analog M, since it a cloth shutter and therefore near silent. I have found the digital Leica M (e.g. M8.2 that I also shoot with) in ‘discreet’ mode also very silent until you take your finger of the shutter button and the shutter re-cocks. Prepare yourself to be notices or walk away first.

Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Temple of the Holy Tooth, Kandy.


Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400@800 | Temple of the Holy Tooth, Kandy.


It is my opinion that photographing with a Leica M stimulates you as a photographer to take pictures in a more intelligent way. This has partly to do with the way you frame your images through the viewfinder. The frame lines give you the possibility to anticipate and be in control of the moment. Furthermore, the typical rangefinder character and lenses (prime lenses, mostly ‘wide angle’ to ‘normal’ focal length) force you to come close or be more creative. These are all reasons why the leica M is my main choice for shooting travel and documentary photography.

Leica M7 | 50mm | Portra 400 | Kandy.


Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Colombo.


So what made me bring along a medium format camera and why did I think it was a great combination? Let me say this first; Before I left for Sri Lanka I figured out that too many options is no good! I planned on limiting myself to two lenses for the Leica M, the Summicron 28mm F2 for wide angle landscape and environmental portraits and the Summilux 50mm F1.4 ASPH for shots/subjects that are better suited with a normal focal length or less depth of field. But then I threw in a Voigtländer 15mm heliar! I forgive myself since I got some good shots with it.

Then I had the choice of leaving it the way it was, which is a really light travel setup, or fill the bag (i.e. a Billingham Hadley Pro) up with a medium format camera + one standard lens for portrait and landscape. Reasoning behind this was my intention to take close-up portraits and high resolution landscapes. A larger negative means you can capture more information, details and you gain quite a bit of dynamic range (that’s even more true when its digital imo). This and the larger control in depth of field all add to the look of medium format. Nevertheless, the obvious image quality gain was not the surprising part. It was mostly the ease and the way of handling both cameras alongside which I found to be great.

A standard part of my day would be that I would ask my driver to drop me at the beginning of a town/village/city on the way and pick me up a few hours later on the other side. I walked, explored, observed and talked a lot to people. When I saw something interesting I would normally have my Leica M7 in my hand, approach my subject and photograph my subject from the intended angle in the most natural way. This often required me to get pretty close without disturbing them with what they were doing at that particular moment. Would they have noticed me and stopped what they were doing then the image would have been lost. This is definitely important in countries like Sri Lanka where people don’t mind to be photographed and gladly pose with a smile when they notice you. I don’t want that. At least not when its not intended as a portrait. You could consider this ‘phase one’ in the approach to my subject.

Leica M7 | 28mm | Portra 400 | Dambulla.


‘Phase two’ would be approaching my subject for a short chat, making him or her feel comfortable and then ask them if I can take their portrait. If you photograph people in this way you set yourself apart from the average tourist that just snaps away at them and then walks away without saying anything. It really is more or a social and respectable thing to do and you will notice that you will gain a bit of their trust. Just enough to get close enough for an intimate and well-composed portrait.

Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Dambulla.


If you use digital you show the image to them, which could lead to fun reactions and even more photos, or you give them a chance to hand over an email address (if they have that) so you can send them the picture you took of them upon arrival at home. For exactly these kinds of shots I would grab for the medium format camera. I have introduced myself and my intentions to them and I can now take the tool that gives me the largest IQ. Handling the cameras together was great since I could easily tuck away my Leica M and take out the medium format SLR (I used a Contax 645 + 80mm F2). They fitted comfortably in my Billingham Hadley Pro bag, which is not a gigantic bag. It has great padding and with its flat shape it fits perfectly to your body. Another great advantage was that I didn’t have to fumble around and switch lenses on my Leica M the whole time. Switching lenses is a process I find annoying and a little tricky when traveling to dusty and humid places.

So, to sum up what I found great about this setup is;

-Inconspicuousness and intuitive handling with the Leica M

-Advantage of higher IQ from a larger negative (6×4,5> or sensor a-like) when needed.

-It is still a fairly compact setup (Leica M, two lenses and a MF camera) and packs well in a medium sized camera bag (most Medium Format cameras are actually not that big if you think about it).

-It avoids that you have to change lenses when you want to take a portrait or landscape (if you are comfortable using one lens on the medium format camera)

Some more medium format examples:

Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | View from Lipton Seat, Haputale.


Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Kandy Bride, Kandy.


Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Provia 400X | Near Adams Peak.


Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Portra 400 | Mihintale.


Contax 645 | Zeiss T* 80mm F2 | Acros 100 | Galle.


I have found there to only be one possible downside and one ‘regret’ to this all. Downside was that you would have to bring two different formats of film and load two different cameras (if not one or both are digital). The regret was in a way that I didn’t bring a MF camera with a larger negative. That would have been even better. Thus, in the future the MF camera alongside my Leica M will be either a Mamiya 7 or a MF DSLR (Phase One or Hasselblad) depending on the destination, subject/project or way of shooting.

All images are taken in Sri Lanka and the whole series can be viewed on my portfolio (www.pascalvossen.com):


Thank you for reading!

Pascal Vossen


Feb 202013

Sharpness and Bokeh are bourgeois concepts by Dro Grigorian

As a Leica user, I know whats it’s like to have a bond with your camera. I myself shoot with an M8, M9 with a 50 Lux and 35 Cron. I get results that I like more than any other combination. But sometimes, you have to change your medium and let your hands and eyes experience something that you are less accustomed to.

When I was a little kid, my father passed me down his Voigtlander Vito CLR. I remember thinking this was the coolest piece of equipment I had ever seen. It took me a while to learn to use it. I didn’t understand the idea of using exposure settings properly. Over time however, I would get my prints back from the local Pharmacy, and a few of the slides actually had something to look at! This inspired me to keep trying.

Now that we’re in this digital world of pixel peeping and micro-sharpness and what have you not, it’s truly nice to step back and shoot with some old traditional equipment. It’s quite peaceful actually, and it allows me to slow down and enjoy the everyday aspects of life. For those of you who are not familiar with the Vito CLR, it is a 35mm film rangefinder produced in 1963. It’s got a build in light meter and the fixed lens has an aperture setting ranging from 2.8 to 22.

I recently stepped back again and started to shoot with it just for fun, and I’d like to share some of the pictures. The beach photo was taken with C-41 process film. These pictures show that sharpness and bokeh are not necessary elements, but a luxury.


Dro Grigorian





Feb 102013

Afghanistan with a Leica MP & Film

By Daniel Zvereff

Afghanistan was truly an unforgettable adventure. This was partially because I never intended to visit there. I was originally bound for Turkmenistan and, at the last minute, was denied entry. Thus throwing me into a sort of tangent undertaking through Afghanistan’s incredible scenic north and then encountering the inspiring people of Kabul’s outskirts.

All photographs were taken with a Summicron 35 ASPH, and the Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 on either TRI-X or Across 100 film.

For more please visit my website at www.zvereff.com










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