Dec 032015

Camels, turbans and the people of Rajasthan with the new Voigtlander Ultron 35/1.7

by fiftyasa

You might remember my previous post about traveling in the sate of Rajasthan in India with some film cameras (here). This year I came back to Rajasthan with a Leica M9 and would like to share some images with you and the readers of your excellent blog.

A few weeks before leaving for this trip I acquired the new version of the Voigtlaender Ultron 35/1.7. I was in search of an affordable, small, sharp and fast 35 mm lens as main travel-photography lens, and gave the Ultron a try. I wrote a user review of the lens on my website here, mainly talking about sharpness and the use of the Ultron on the Leica M9 vs the Sony A7, but the first real use of the lens was going to be in this trip to Rajasthan.

The images below, unless otherwise stated, are shot with the new Utron 35/1.7 and Leica M9.

Bathing and preying in the sacred waters of the Pushkar lake:




Although I was carrying around also a Planar 50/2 and a Biogon 25/2.8, the Ultron stayed on my camera 90% of the time. 35mm seems to be the perfect focal lens for me for travel photography: not too wide and not too short, excellent for environmental portraits and easy to manage when composing the scene.



Pushkar also hosts a very popular camel trade fair which offers amazing opportunities for portraits and rural life scenes:





I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but I have to say that I am very satisfied with the Ultron. Sharpness, bokeh, pop, micro-contrast are top. My only complaint is that my version seems not correctly calibrated. It back focuses. Before the trip I just glued a piece of black tape on the rangefinder cam and that solved the problem. Unfortunately achieving precise focus on a digital M system is in general a pretty difficult task, no matter how many times you send your M body to Wetzlar for calibration…


In a temple in the countryside of Pushkar, Aloo Baba grows his potatoes (aloo) and kindly poses for a portrait:


In Ajmer I visited some projects of a local non governmental organization (NGO) called RSKS ( RSKS is active in developing the rural areas around Ajmer with various programs, such as educational programs and income generation activities. I visited one of their schools in a poor rural village, a sewing training center for young women and a micro-finance program in a remote village.

The following picture portraits a student of the school (this time shot with Zeiss Planar 50/2):


Here a woman who took part of a micro-finance program:


After visiting Pushkar and its surroundings, I moved to Bundi, a small city in the South of Rajasthan. It looks like the blue city of Jodhpur but on a smaller scale. Its people are extraordinary friendly:






For those interested in seeing more images of this trip, please visit:


Nov 202015

My Photo tour of India with a Olympus E-M1

by Neil Buchan-Grant –

I’ve just returned from running a 12 day Photo Tour of India for the luxury tour operator KUONI. It was a the first in a series we’re planning of at least one per year. The photo tour was a new concept in the crowded landscape of photographic workshops that proved to be a real hit with all the clients who came from the UK and the US. As opposed to a full on, hard core, seminar laden workshop, our photo tours are run by myself and the expert KUONI guides, combining the must see sites with special treats of photographic interest, researched and added by myself. This tailored approach attracted not only photography enthusiasts, but also their non-photographing partners.

In India every part of our itinerary was designed to offer the best photographic potential and we were even given a guided tour of the Delhi Photo Festival by members of the RANG documentary photographic collective. Each of our many destinations across the country featured the often hidden places photographers travelling solo would never find along with the big sites everyone wants to shoot. Tuition was given on a one to one basis in the field and I think its fair to say, everyone got some amazing photographs and learned new skills during the trip. The clients used many makes of cameras including Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus. We have an equally exciting multi-centre tour planned for May 2016 to China and Tibet which your readers can see more about here

Here are a few of the first pictures I made on the tour, all shot with the Olympus OMD EM1 in various places including Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Varanasi and a small village out in the sticks. On this occasion I decided to leave behind my Sony A7s and Leica M 50mm Summilux and take my Leica M 35mm Summilux bolted to an EM1 giving me a stabilised 70mm f1.4 option. It proved to be a valuable combo for portraits which I augmented with the Olympus 12-40mm and 40-150mm PRO zooms for travel shots. I hope you enjoy these and hope to see some of you in China next year!



















Kind Regards
Neil Buchan-Grant

British Travel Press Photographer of the Year

Jan 162015


Kolkata India – Shooting the streets and smiles

by Mark Seymour – His website is HERE

My photography travels have taken me to some of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse locations but I can honestly say this was unknown territory for me and before I left I really didn’t know what to expect. The little knowledge I had of India from its unique colour and spices to its religious and cultural heritage, the ornately carved temples to the lush landscapes, the fabulous history of the maharajahs to the well broadcast poverty, did not prepare me for what I was going to experience. Kolkata, once known to the English traveller as Calcutta, it is the capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. Kolkata is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India and is the third most populous area in India.

My opportunity to photograph the streets and people of Kolkata came from the Hope foundation and professional photographer Mark Carey who regularly runs a week-long training workshop that in addition to providing photographers like myself the most amazing opportunity to build their personal portfolios, but also enables the Hope Foundation to raise some important funding and their profile for their valuable work with the local children.

Hope Foundation 02

Hope Foundation 07

Over 250,000 children are forced to exist on the streets and in the slums of Kolkata. 30,000 children are trafficked into Kolkata on an annual basis to be forced into child prostitution, child labour and child slavery. The Hope Foundation was established in 1999 by Irish Humanitarian Maureen Forrest to help these children.They provide support to over 60 projects including education, primary healthcare, child protection, children’s shelters, vocational training and drugs rehabilitation. HOPE has extended its support and now provides a holistic approach to development which includes working with the children, their families and the community in Kolkata.

Hope Foundation 01

Hope Foundation 10

Hope Foundation 11

Hope Foundation 14

Joining four other photographers we prepared ourselves as much we could before heading out onto the streets and slums that form the living areas of the local people. I can honestly say that what confronted me was challenging and life changing. But what struck me most and what I believe I captured was the spirit of the adults and children as they lived their lives, photographing everyday moments. For me the power of the images was in the expressions on their faces, there was so much joy and laughter in such difficult circumstances.

Initially they were curious and taken aback by our presence as we wandered in and out taking photographs, but they relaxed and engaged with our cameras, smiling and welcoming us into their world. I can honestly say these people touched me in a way I was not expecting. Their sense of pride and joy was humbling.

Whilst we were there we were invited to a special event put on by Hope, a picnic for some of the projects they fund. They ate, drank, played games and enjoyed colouring activities.

Hope Foundation 13

Hope Foundation 09

Hope Foundation 08

Hope Foundation 05

I predominantly photograph my street images in black and white, but colour is an important element of visually recording India. My photos captured the very young through to the very old, living, working and getting on with their daily lives. My favourite images are of the children at play, just like children all around the world, enjoying climbing, exploring and making up their own games. The difference was in where they were found playing, not play parks and gardens, instead railway lines and amongst the confined spaces between the homes and make-shift buildings.

I travelled all the time with my Nikon D4s and two lenses The Nikkor 35mm F1.4 and the 28 1.4 although some days I alternated with the 35 and old but superb manual focus Nikkor 58 1.2. All the shots were handheld, the light was generally really good however it got dark quite early which is where the Nikon D4s really coped well as I quite often upped the ISO to 8000 to let me continue shooting without flash. I’m a great believer that it’s not about the size of the camera more about how you conduct yourself, how you move around and communicate that gets you the best images.

For me I can say that with all my heart I will be returning to India and extending my experiences of this beautiful land of extremes.

Hope Foundation 03

Hope Foundation 12

Hope Foundation 15

Jan 032014
Puerto Rico, India, Family… 2013 & the Leica M240
By Bob Boyd

Hey Steve,

2013 was a very busy year for me. Lots of work. Lots of travel. We took a family trip to beautiful Puerto Rico in July (our first ever outside the states as a family) and then I had the opportunity to return to India this past fall to document some mission work in the field. I’ve shot both an M and an SLR for the last 5 years but for personal work, it’s almost always the M. I made the decision to jump to the M240 early – mainly because of the ISO limitations of the M9 – and was fortunate enough to get an early copy last spring through my longtime Leica dealer, Ken Hansen.

I thought I would share some of my favorite images from this past year with a brief description.

Here’s to a great 2014 for you and your site!

All the best,

Bob Boyd

A bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico. (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

Bay near El Morro, Puerto Rico

Paths… (Left) a path of doorways at Fort El Morro and (right) Two brothers walk along the beach at sunset in, Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)


Coast Guard boat at sunrise near the ferry for Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Coast Guard at sunrise

Ocean play at sunset… Isle of Culebra, Puerto Rico (50mm Lux ASPH)

Ocean play at sunset...

Graffitied Tank… The kids inspect an old rusted out tank on the beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Graffitied tank

Room with a View… Windows of a watchtower open to a beautiful scenic view in the Puerto Rican rainforest of El Yunque.  (Zeiss 21mm f/2.8)

7 2013-07-11 L1002032

Fire in the sky… A firey sunset illuminates the post-rain mist on the mountainsides in Puerto Rico. (50mm Lux ASPH)

8 2013-07-13 L1002738

Amritsar, India… A Sikh woman bows in the middle of tourists at the entrance of Harmandir Sahib – the “Golden Temple”. (50mm Lux ASPH)

9 2013-09-22 L1004024

A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. (50mm Lux ASPH)

A Sikh man and his bike outside Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.

A Sikh man in Amritsar, India (right) and a Christian woman in Punjab, India (left). (50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit/ISO6400 (r)

Common Differences...

Indian Corridors… (Left) Golden sunset light pours into a market area in Amritsar, India. (Right) A mother walks her children to the village school bus stop.

(50mm Lux ASPH (l), 90mm Summarit (r))

Indian Corridors...

A remote village area. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

A remote village area. Punjab, India

Two young boys playing in a village in Punjab, India.
(50mm Lux ASPH)

 14 2013-09-23 L1004304

An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India. (50mm Lux ASPH)

An elderly man in a remote village in Pujab, India.
Brick Factory A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

A worker hauls new bricks at a brick factory in Punjab, India.

Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India. (35mm Lux ASPH)

Children playing with tire inner tubes along a dirt street in Punjab, India.

A Mother’s love and pride on display as she holds her child. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Mother and child. Punjab, India

Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India. (21mm Lux ASPH)

Two women rest on cots at a home in Punjab, India.

Village street scene. Punjab, India (35mm Lux ASPH)

Village street scene. Punjab, India

A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

A woman prepares an evening meal in a small hut. Punjab, India

Market traffic… Punjab, India (21mm Lux ASPH)

Market traffic.  Punjab, India

I’ll end on one last personal image… My wife visiting her 88 year old grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. (50mm Lux ASPH)

25 20131208 - L1005530

Aug 212013


India with the Leica Monochrom and 50 APO Summicron

by Lee Sungsoo

Hi , Steve

My name is Sung Soo Lee from South Korea.(Just moved in California 3weeks ago) I am a big fan of Unlike any other site, I can read real field reviews about gears- especially Leica , so I love to visit this site. I started using Leica M6 about 13 years ago. For many years I used Leica and other SLR , DSLR cameras together but now I use only Leica M9P and Monochrom with 50mm Apo summicron and 90mm Apo summicron and X2.As an amateur photographer , handy gear is more helpful for concentrating work.

For me , 50mm lens is the main angle in my works.

When I bought my first Leica , I couldn’t afford other lenses so I had to keep using 50mm summilux 4th for over 10 years. That’s how I’ve gotten familiar with this angle. I also love the dramatic effect of the lens and color. Then I had used the 50mm asph and summicron. Like other users , I agree that all the Leica lenses have different characteristics, which yields excellent results. Fortunately , I got a chance to own 50mm Apo Summicron – the very first one in South Korea- so much exciting things happened to me on February this year!

Some people were asking about the 50mm Apo lens. In my opinion, this lens is super sharp and has a much deeper color compared with other 50mm M-lenses in Leica.

Today, I ‘d like to share some pictures that were taken April, 2013 at Delhi and Jodhpur , India using 50mm Apo summicron lens.

One of my favorite photographers is Steve Mccurry.

Since the day I saw the pictures of Steve Mccury at Jodhpur , one of my dreams was going to Jodhpur for photographing.

Finally, a dream came true!! I spent incredible days in Jodhpur and India. I ‘d like to say thank you to all the people who I met during the trip- they welcomed me to their city with open arms and warm smiles. It was all very touching and I won’t forget the days I’ve spent there.

I hope you enjoy my pictures of India.

Have a wonderful day !

Best Regards,

Sung Soo Lee










Feb 142013


Traveling through the land of color with a Leica Monochrom and M9 by Daniel Maissan

I think it’s always nice to put myself up for new challenges in life and not take the easy way. Most of the time it ends well, even though I tend to get a bit frustrated and impatient at the start. As I was leaving the Netherlands two months ago on a photographic journey through India, I got the idea of giving myself an extra handicap once again.

So traveling through the land of color I decided to bring a Leica M Monochrom and see what that would do. Since a year and a half I’m completely in love with my Leica M9 combined with the Summicron 35mm. So of course I brought these as well.


At first I did get the frustration that I expected. Several times I switched my lens back to the M9, to capture the beautiful colors of the saris. Writing blogs and facebook  posts on not knowing what to do. Should I just shoot black and white and obey my challenge or should I capture the trip of a lifetime with that what I was comfortable with? After a while though, I did start to get the hang of looking at life in black & white. I soon started to notice that the lack of color made me focus more on what was happening. No distraction of color, only the light, movement and most important the contact with my subjects. For me photography isn’t so much about making the perfect shot. The main reason I use my camera is to make contact with a world I understand less every day.

L1011722 L1010781

Getting more comfortable with the Monochrom along the way, I started to experiment a bit more with it. Compare black and whites that I shot with the M9 and then converted in Silver Efex, with the ones I made with the Monochrom. The difference was huge. Specially when shooting at dusk or at night, the higher ISO options were very welcome. Also the amount of detail in dark areas and the sharpness of the pictures were a treat. I was starting to fall in love with this new way of working.



After a month I shot almost everything with the new Leica, my M9 was drastically neglected at the bottom of my bag. I noticed that the way I looked at things had changed. A lot of times it looked like I didn’t even see colors anymore. Not until I arrived in Jodhpur, the bleu city. There was no way around color here… the bleu houses, the beautiful dresses of the Rajasthan women, the colorful turbans of men. It was time to bring out my old precious again.




Now I’m comfortable with both cameras. The two rangefinders again have done, what Leica did to me the very first time I used one. They make me think about what I am doing every single time. They force me to slow down, make decisions on the settings I’m using, and anticipate on what is going to happen. From now on I also have to decide whether to use color or black and white. I believe these cameras actually make me a better photographer.


Working with the two different cameras changed my perspective of the world I’m traveling through as well. They made me even more aware of what is happening, what situation I’m in and who the person I’m photographing really is. Therefor they make me understand a little bit more.


Don’t forget guys, if you have a GREAT B&W shot and feel lucky, the I-SHOT-IT premium Monochrom competition is underway and heating up. Prize is a Leica monochrom and thousands in cash. How cool would it be if a reader of this site won? AWESOME! – Steve

Jan 112013



By Richard Geltman

I ordered the Sony RX1 in September 2012 from Amazon and expected delivery in December. Departure for India was set for the 15th and it seemed likely that the camera would not arrive in time and I would be “forced” to rely upon a NEX-7 and/or the Sigma DP1/2M cameras that I had recently acquired. Happily, the camera came on December 3rd giving me some time to use it before leaving and to become accustomed with its behavior in different situations.


The camera is weighty-feeling and very solid. It feels like a miniature M9. I was unable to obtain the EVF so used, in addition to the LCD, an optical viewfinder. I found after a few experiments that the Voightlander 28 mm finder gave the best match for the 35 mm lens field of view. I’m sure the Zeiss finder made specifically for the RX1 is nice but I think it somewhat over-priced. I fitted the lens with a 49 mm B+W clear filter and purchased a very inexpensive screw-in vented lens hood on Ebay for around $10. These two served to protect the front surface of the lens throughout 3 weeks of travel. The lens cap (solid metal) was never used at all. While a wrist strap would be quite comfortable with this device I prefer the 60 cm Lance loop-type strap which allows the camera to lie diagonally across my chest and rest on my left hip, making it quickly available yet at the same time unobtrusive and fairly safe from being snatched or damaged.

The ergonomics are pretty good. It never slipped or dropped and was never uncomfortable when shooting in any position. The EV adjustment dial lies at the top right of the body and is fairly firm. I did accidentally dislodge it two times in three weeks. The movie button lies laterally and below the EV dial. While not as bad as the NEX-7 I did inadvertently actuate the video mode once or twice as well. Otherwise, I didn’t use video so have little to say about it. This camera is really small, almost too small for my hands. The shutter is nearly silent but for shooting with an OVF, I used the focus confirmation sound (unavoidably linked to an imitation shutter noise.) This noise was not a problem on the street and generally did not draw any unwanted attention. You quickly start to know where the focus point in the OVF is although I experienced plenty of misses as well. I experienced focus misses with the NEX-7 and the RX1 is faster and more accurate. The lens is large but feels solid and substantial. The markings are engraved rather than painted on. The aperture control ring which encircles the lens is also very solid feeling but lies adjacent to the camera body. For me this makes it somewhat hard to adjust. There is a macro mode ring at the far end of the lens which allows close focus (~22 cm.) I never used this and would rather have the aperture ring in this position as with most Leica lenses, making it more accessible and more usable.


Battery life is acceptable for my type of shooting and generally I would get more than 250 exposures when fully charged. I always carry a spare but needed to use it only once or twice. The camera will shoot slightly more than two frames per second so one tends not to shoot many frames at a time. Rather one or two and then moving on. As has been mentioned numerous times, Sony requires that the battery be charged in the camera. I find this inconvenient and so purchased some spare generic batteries as well as an external charger. Several types are available and Steve just posted about a particularly nice one. Parenthetically, the non-Sony batteries worked perfectly well.

The only other feature of the camera I would describe is the fact the when using aperture-priority along with auto-iso, which I do much of the time, the camera always tends to a shutter speed of 1/80; rather than lowing the f/stop it will raise the iso and keep the shutter speed at 1/80. Given the pixel density and, perhaps, personal issues such as age, eyesight, balance and steadiness, I would like to be able to set a minimum shutter speed, perhaps 1/125, but the camera doesn’t allow this. Annoying. While you can use shutter priority instead, you get f/4 almost all the time. Again, pretty annoying. The only way around this is to go fully manual but I’m not too adept at it and I generally find it too slow for rapid street use.

All of the above being said, this is a wonderful camera: lovely in feeling, fast in focus (without the accessory lamp,) quiet in operation, smooth and threaded shutter release (as opposed to the halting Leica,) wonderful high iso performance (out to iso 6400 if not beyond,) great malleable files fully supported by Lightroom (unlike the Sigmas,) and ultimately, very small, compact, unobtrusive and with a huge sensor. As has been said elsewhere, you can set the camera to aperture priority, the auto-iso from 100 to 6400 and go out and shoot anything and everything without any problem.



Travel to India was a goal for me for a number of years. I have experienced tourist travel in western Europe, Argentina, Japan, Hong Kong and China and of course the US as I’m a native New Yorker. I assumed the experience would be challenging but rewarding. In this I underestimated India. It was extremely challenging and rewarding but also revelatory, invigorating, infuriating, spiritually awakening, amazing and wonderful. There is a sense of life and vitality in India that I’ve not felt elsewhere. And this in a place with tremendous poverty, social and legal problems (witness the recent rape/murder,) and dramatic disparities in education, economics and social equality. One sees women in saris using primitive hand tools while working on construction projects. One can walk down a street in Udaipur and see a gleaming, black Audi A6 next to a cart carrying the freshest produce pulled by two water buffaloes and guided by a partially toothless old man looking straight out of the 14th century. Driving is a nerve-wracking, chaotic dance of continuous darting in and out, weaving around animal-powered carts, vehicles traveling the wrong direction (even on the few significant highways,) truly horrible roads and passing and endlessly tooting one’s horn. Frequently I was told that driving in India requires a good horn, good brakes and good luck. It also requires nerves of steel, white knuckles and continuous vigilance.


Mumbai is the city in India that evokes the most usual sense of urban life in me. It has a population of about 21 million and at any given time more than 57% live on the street and are, strictly speaking, homeless. This does not mean that a large percentage of the homeless don’t work and to support them, as well as all the other Mumbai denizens, are vast systems of services such as outdoor laundries, lunch box delivery services and all manner of unbelievably inexpensive goods and services. A vegetarian Indian “burger” sold on the street that costs 5 cents and is wildly popular; shoe shines in the railroad station (that of “Slumdog Millionaire”) for 2.5 cents; street-level haircuts, shaves and dental extractions! India has to be the most entrepreneurial nation on earth. Everybody is selling everything and something. Everything has some value and is recycled and sold by someone who can earn a living from it one rupee at a time. All this, also, from a people who quite generally are curious and friendly with foreign travelers. There is often a sense of over all gentleness that Indians project but, of course, all generalizations such as this are easy to prove false in at least some regard.



Chaos, dirt, clutter, litter and crowd anxiety can be a deterrent to many contemplating travel to India. Also, fear of contagion, e.g., Delhi-belly, dengue fever, malaria or worse. I experienced no illness or inconvenient health problem while there for three weeks of travel from the north of the country to the southern tip although admittedly I was careful in my habits, never ate street food (as India has the world’s highest rate of toxigenic E. Coli enteritis,) avoided raw vegetables and fruit everywhere but in the best hotels and drank only carbonated water, beer, sodas or wine. If you can overcome some of these common anxieties then India offers an unequaled travel, photographic and personal experience and I would encourage all who are intrigued to take the plunge.


The photos that accompany this article were all taken with the RX1 rig described above. I hope they convey some of the emotions and raw beauty of the people and the country.


Nov 102011

USER REPORT – A Visit To India with the Leica M9 by Bob Boyd

Hey Steve,

Hope you’re doing great. I just returned from southern India last week. It was, to put it mildly, an unforgettable trip. Amazing people, and so much amazing color. I just wanted to share a few of the shots with you.

I went with co-workers to check on schools our church had funded for some of India’s neediest children – including one in Pondicherry – an area directly impacted by the tsunami in 2004. No doubt, need is evident on some of these busy city streets but there is also hope in the bright eyes of the beautiful children.

Full photoblog of the trip posted here:

The sun rises on snow-capped mountain peaks on our way from Houston to India:
M9, Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon
A boy flashes a smile as we drive next to a city bus:
M9, 90mm Summarit
Children playing and flying kites on the rooftops in Hyderabad:
Canon 1D4, 85mm f/1.2L II
A street beggar in Hyderabad amid the bright lights of nighttime traffic:
M9, 50mm Summilux pre-ASPH, ISO 2500
A young girl on her way to class:
Canon 1D4, EF 35mm f/1.4L
A rickshaw driver in Hyderabad:
M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH
One of the students flashes an bashful smile:
M9, 90mm Summarit
One of the places we visited was called “Pipe Village”. Families of workers from a concrete pipe factory have converted large drainage pipes into living quarters. M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH
One of the matriarchs of “Pipe Village”:
M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH
A beautiful mom and 2 of her girls in Pipe Village:
M9, 35mm Summilux ASPH

Mar 262011

The Leica M9 – Travels Throughout India

By Ashwin Rao

Hello, everyone, it’s Ashwin Rao, here again to share my recent travel experience with you. I recently returned from a three-week sojourn to India, a land of grandeur, spectacular beauty side-by-side with harsh reality. While there, the Leica M9  served as a constant travel companion,  and I wanted to share my experiences with you in another travel journal here on Steve’s site.

Last year, in one of my first articles for this site, I discussed my experience with the Leica M9 while on travels in Egypt and Venice, Italy. At the time, the M9 was brand new, a relatively untested product, full of untapped promise. Over the past year, in not only my experience but in the experience of many other dedicated photographers such as yourselves, the M9 has proved itself time and time again as a reliable tool for photography in a wide range of circumstances. It is a discrete camera for street photography, where being unobtrusive allows one to nail the shot without provoking the subject been photographed. The M9’s relatively diminutive size also allows easy stow away, making it an ideal travel companion. Finally, while not being weather sealed, I have found the M9’s robust built to inspire confidence in photographing a wide variety of circumstances. I have used it in snow, dust, smog, fog, rain (okay, light drizzle), hot and cold climates, and the camera has not let me down.  While one may take pause to port around a $7000 camera with similarly priced lenses into more challenging shooting circumstances, I can guarantee you that most people would never know this camera for what it is. More often than not, people walk up to me and ask me what type of film camera it is that I am shooting, if they come up to ask anything at all….in this way, I feel that the photographer carrying around the M9 is less of a target than the photographer carrying the ubiquitous SLR that everyone seems to own these days…making it a target for thieves, scoundrels, and the evildoers of the world…

Weight of the world – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Up-close and Personal with Mahal – Leica 24 mm Summilux Asph

Despite its size and discretion, most of you know that the M9 yields uncompromised image quality. In fact, having shot with Leica M series cameras, Canon Full Frame SLRs, Nikon Cameras, the X1, Ricoh’s offerings, and Pentax SLR’s, I find that the M9, with aspherical glass mounted, offers the highest image quality of any system. Particularly, the Leica M9’s sensor really shines when used at ISO’s of 800 or below, which basically means 95% of photographic opportunities. Sure, the M9 doesn’t really do macro or super-telephoto photography, but for 80-90% of what anyone might want to photograph, it does the job handily, in a small package, using unparalleled Leica optics (Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses are great too….just not my flavor).

All that being said, I recently ported my M9 and 4 lenses to India, and had a fantastic time photographing the country. I found the set up that I took to be entirely complete. I didn’t feel myself lacking for another camera, and in fact, I barely used the Leica X1 that I took as a backup camera. Further, when I got home, I was so convinced that I didn’t need the X1 and promptly sold it. The M9 is that good, that versatile, and that reliable.

Patterns in Red – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

The Watchful Eye – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Sun into the Sundial at Jantar Mantar –  Leica 24 mm Summilux Asph

After much debate and discussion, I concluded upon the following kit for my travel needs:

Camera and Appointments

1.     Leica M9, black (with black dot replacing the manufacturer’s red dot)

2.     Luigi Leather Half Case, in Rally Brown color with built in grip

3.     Match Technical Thumbs Up CSEP-1 with Beep Shutter release

4.     Electric tape to cover white “M9” logo


Lenses (all with Heliopan or B&W thin cut UV-MRC filters to protect the front element, hoods, and caps)

1.     Leica 24 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph

2.     Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph Version II

3.     Leica 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux Asph

4.     Leica 90 mm f/4 Macro Elmar  with detachable hood


Bag and Accessories

1.     Billingham Pola (Black) bag

2.     Microfiber cloth x 2 for cleaning lenses and camera

3.     Batteries, total of 4

4.     Battery charger, and approrpiate power adapter

5.     Black, ankle length cotton socks, to act as lens cases for stow away and protection



1.     MacBook Air, 11 inch, for on the fly editing (I have the 11 inch model with 4 GB ram, 128 GB hard drive, and faster processor)

2.     SD card reader, to allow the Macbook Air  to read files from SD card

3.     Adobe Lightroom 3, with Nik Silver Efex and Color Efex Plug-ins loaded

4.     InCase MacBook Air Neoprene sleeve

That’s the entirety of what I brought with me. The entire set up, save a couple of batteries and computer, fits neatly into the diminutive Billingham Pola. The Pola and Air fit neatly into a backpack, along with my phone, music/headphone options, and Amazon Kindle, with plenty of room to spare for other travel accessories.

Speaking briefly of computers, the new 11 inch Macbook Air is tiny, less than 3 pounds, and quite full featured, allowing mobile computing and image editing and uploading while on the road. I highly recommend this to round out your kit, if you are serious about travel photography.

Varanasi Night-time Puja – Leica 35 mm Summilux Asph II

Sunrise Laundry Service – Leica 90 mm Macro-Elmar

You might ask, why did I choose to take the lenses that I took? For one, I have the luxury of having the option to take these lenses in particular. Second, I wanted a uniform “look” from my lenses, and thus decided to bring only modern, aspherical glass for the ride. Should I have chosen to take pre-aspherical glass, my images may have had different “looks” (pre-asph vs. asph), and I decided, for this trip, to have 1 look to my images.: hence, aspherical glass. Many of you can debate the merits or detractions of which lense focal lengths to chose. For me, I wanted to cover the side angle and near telephoto range. I typically favor a 35/50/90 mm kit, and adding the 24 mm summilux allowed me to shoot wide when needed. I find the wide-angle option  to be great for compressing tight spaces into a frame or trying to capture the scope of monuments such as the Taj Mahal.. The 90 mm option, which not the most used for my photography, allows for a bit of reach when I needed it. The rest, and the majority of the shots that I took, were taken with 35 mm and 50 mm lenses. In my mind,  you should take at least a couple of options for focal length when travelling. This allows you to have more flexibility in capturing the moments that you wish to see. Some moments require closer shooting, while others require you to be a bit more pulled away. Here are some focal length pairings that I recommend:

1.     4 lens kit: 24/35/50/90

2.     3 lens kit: 28/50/90; 35/75/135; 35/50/90, or 24/35/75

3.     2 lens kit: 35/75 or 50/90

4.     1 lens kit (not generally recommended by me, unless it’s all you have or want): 35 mm or 50 mm lens

The bottom line is that most of you should take a reasonable collection of tools that you posses, and make use of the space that is available to you. The worst thing you can do is regret leaving a lens at home that you really wish that you had. The flip side is that the more that you bring, the more burdensome lens-switching and carrying becomes….so find  happy balance. Take photographs close to home, as you will  get comfortable with shooting from certain perspective. These perspectives and the principals by which you shoot on the road don’t change all that much…

Prayer by Light – Leica 50 mm Summilux AspH

Bull and Dog – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

My itinerary for India developed from the desire of myself and my travel companion to see the real India. We didn’t want to see the country through the windows of a tour bus or organized group travel plan. We wanted to see the people, the places, the moments, the UNESCO world heritage sites, the dusky back alleys, and meaningful religious ceremonies, and do all of this in a variety of settings through India. Along the way, we travelled the country by foot, by private car, by overnight trains, by boat, ferry, and flight. In many of the areas, we were the only “tourists” present. The Lonely Planet was our guide, along with the New York Times Travel section, and in this way, we saw much of the country during our 3 weeks there. I am fortunate to have a travel partner, Andrea, who’s interested in the same things that I like to see, who’s easy to get along with, and who enjoys taking photos as much as I do (and maybe even more than I do…she took more images than me).  Our itinerary for the country was as follows;

Reflections from the Taj – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph


1.     Arrive in Delhi, India

2.     Enjoy Delhi’s sites over 2 days (including Dances of India, Connault Place, Jantar Mantar, Mughal palaces, The Red Fort, Lotus Temple, Lodhi Gardens,  Gandhi’s tomb, and many more sites)

3.     Train from Delhi to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal

4.     Travel to the Taj, Fatepur Sikri, and other Agra religious sites over 2 days. Make sure to travel to the other side of the river, where there’s a beautiful park overlooking the Taj Mahal

5.     Overnight 13 hour train ride from Agra to Varanasi, home to the Hindu Faith and the crazy, alive Ganges River

6.     2 days spent in Varanasi, the place to see so much of the Hindu faith and a true melting pot of India

7.     Flight from Varanasi to Mumbai, where I was fortunate to visit with family

8.     Mumbai to Kerala, a southern Indian State known for it’s great food, beautiful beaches, Mountainous tea plantations, and beautiful backwaters. We spent an entire 9 days in Kerala taking it all in

9.     Flight back to Delhi, and back home

The Night Boatsmen – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Preparation – Leica 90 mm Macro-Elmar

The trip that I took represents only a small fraction of what can be and should be seen in India. Due to time limitations, we were not able to see so many places, such as Goa, Chennai, Mysore and its beautiful palace, Jaipur, Udaipur, the Himalayas and North most India, or the eastern Indian Seaboard. However, what we saw was remarkable enough to warrant many future trips. India is  truly a worthy destination, where you will see life at its grandest and its poorest.  By no means is it an easy place to travel. Trains and flights are often delayed. Traffic is often congested. The overt poverty can be sickening, overbearing, and saddening. The pollution can be hard on the lungs, mind, and spirit. Despite its challenges, India offers so much grandeur and beauty. It is one of the most colorful countries in the world. The dress code and palette is far wider than what we see here in the US and Europe. This makes for some fun color photography. India’s people are kind, generous, and caring. They will look after you and make you feel welcome. They are not used to western travellers, and we can be a bit of a novelty to them. Indians love to stare at others, so be prepared for that. Like anywhere else, if you meet their looks with courtesy and curiosity, you will be treated to great photographs that you can take back home and enjoy for a long time to come.

The Prayer – Leica 35 mm Summilux Asph II

Devotion and Documentation – Leica 50 mm Summilux Asph

Along the way, I have shared many images with you. There are many more that remain to be discovered. What you see is my version of India, my interpretation of what the country presented to me. The Leica M9 served as both an inspiration and a reliable took for capturing these moments, and I suspect that it will serve you equally well on your own travels!

By the way, if you wish to see more images from my travels to India, they can be found on my blog, and via my Flickr site, so please visit there if you wish:





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: