Oct 172013
 

Finding A Way Forward

By Jason Howe 

Hi Steve

I’m back again, this time with a bit of an introspective along with another slice of New Zealand. Over the last couple of years I’ve been dealing with a growing frustration, it’s one which I’m sure many other hobbyist photographers will be able to relate to.

I love capturing images of my family and the things we do together, in the past I’ve been able to supplement that by grabbing fleeting photographic opportunities on trips and holidays etc.

But………..It’s no longer enough to make do with the photographic opportunities that occur in everyday life, I want more…….I want to put myself in unfamiliar surroundings, I want to be out of my comfort zone, now clearly I won’t achieve that in NZ I realise that and next year I’ll be looking at an extended trip abroad to see how I fair. With all that in mind I decided I’d head off to the South Island alone for a couple of weeks, a dummy run of sorts, just me and the camera, well cameras!

I’ve shared a selection of my favourite digital and film images from the trip along with some reflections.

 

The Road Less Traveled – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1- Portra 400

1. The Road Less Travelled

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The Gathering Storm – Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph – Red 091 8x Filter

I’ve not sharpened this image, in the right light this lens and camera combination can deliver images that are almost too sharp.

2. The Gathering Storm

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Cockpit – Leica M9 – 90mm Summicron f/2

3. Cockpit

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The Remarkables – Leica M Monochrom. 90mm Summicron f/2

Zone focusing with the 90mm Summicron f/2 still requires a degree of patience, especially when waiting for seagulls to align themselves in to a formation of your liking!! I’m really warming to the 90mm focal length and the options it gives you, I have the version III from 1984 and I’m delighted with it.

4. The Remarkables

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Bedfords – Leica M6, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph (Portra 400)

5. Bedfords

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Catenary Ripples – Leica M Monochrom, 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

6. Catenary Ripples

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Congregation of One – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 – Portra 400

My travels took me to Christchurch, I was both shocked and amazed at the devastation even two and a half years after the earthquake rocked the city, I captured this old guy in a moments reflection at the locked gates of the cities ruined cathedral.

7. Congregation of One

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Silence of the Lambs – Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph

8. Silence of the lambs

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The Forsaken – Leica M9, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph (VSCO FILM 01)

I’m just starting to play with VSCO FILM 01 presets and whilst I’ve not used them extensively I can already see them fitting in to my post processing. Here I’ve worked around the Portra 400 preset.

9. The Forsaken

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Southern Exposure – Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph – ND1.8 Filter

10. Southern Exposure

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Beauty in the Ordinary Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 – Portra 400

11. Beauty in the Ordinary

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Vanishing Point – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1 – Portra 400

12. Vanishing Point

 

Anyone remotely familiar with New Zealand will know this is in the North Island, I’d taken one shot on the roll of Portra that was already loaded in my M6 so it’s included here :-)

Now I’ve had time to reflect on the trip it’s clear that I learnt a few useful lessons and also a little about myself.

In no particular order -

Being away from family was more difficult that I thought, that said, no pain, no gain.

You can do too much, by that I mean I visited too many places, spending more time in fewer locations is better.

I love shooting film and I need to trust myself more and rely a little less on the digital options.

I don’t like the idea of planning too far ahead when I’m out with the camera, it’s fun to see what transpires. Whilst that is fine, I have realised the importance of having a plan A and B up your sleeve, just in case.

I always carry too much gear, I know it, somehow I need to narrow that down to two bodies and two lenses for next year, where I ultimately end up will have a bearing on that decision.

Whilst travel is great I’ve known the importance of having long-term photographic projects for a considerable amount of time, I think this trip really allowed me to reflect on that, I have a couple of ideas in mind and need to action them.

Small trips in relatively familiar and comfortable surroundings aren’t lighting my fire, I feel like I’m repeating myself in my imagery and stalling in terms of progress. I must broaden my photographic horizons.

It’s not all about the photographs, you must savour the journey, one of my fondest memories from this trip was eating fresh Crayfish at the roadside whilst watching hundreds of seal pups playing in the ocean.

All the best, Jason.

Find Jason online: Website | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook

 

Sep 082013
 

New Zealand – East Cape Revisited

By Jason Howe – His website is HERE

Sometimes “real life” has to take precedence over photography and I’ve just experienced one such period. Having gone a few months without touching a camera I decided to brush off the cobwebs and take a trip out to the isolated East Cape of New Zealand. This is really one of the most beautiful regions of the North Island, relatively unspoilt, in parts like time is frozen. I first visited the East Cape last year on a road trip with my son’s, you can see those images HERE.

Despite knowing full well that keeping things simple and travelling light is the best way to go I found myself in a bit of a predicament. I had lenses that had arrived over the last couple of months that I hadn’t used and I was obviously very keen to try them out. So, I packed as much as I could, I wouldn’t carry everything all the time but at least I’d get to try the glass out on various bodies.

Therefore my bag looked like this -

Leica M9

Leica MM

Leica M6

21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph

35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1

50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

90mm Summicron f/2 III (1984)

There really was quite a lot to go at here, the 21mm and 50mm VC are obviously both fairly recent releases, I’d not taken them out of the house……..the 35mm Summicron v.1 I’ve had for a while but felt I’d not given it adequate camera time. Finally the 90mm I picked up from a friend because I knew it would challenge me and there is nothing wrong with that!

21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5

Image 6

The 21mm Ultron is considerably larger and heavier than its cousin the 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 which I also own. The truth is, all of the images I took here could quite easily have been captured with that lens. The real benefit of the 21mm Ultron is of course it’s speed, I didn’t really get an opportunity to explore the lens at wider apertures where this would come in to its own, I’ll need to experiment more with that. One real positive was the external finder, these are always a little painful but at least it is reasonably accurate in terms of framing the shot. I don’t have any other 21mm lenses to compare performance against but I found this lens to have excellent sharpness and no determinable distortion.

 

35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1

Image 7

Image 8

Most of the time I had this lens on my M6, those rolls of Portra 400 and TRI-X 400 are currently away for processing. What I had noticed before with this lens was reitterated once more, it exhibits exceptional sharpness and the transition between the in and out of focus areas is beautifully smooth. Despite it’s age this really could be one of the best 35mm lenses you can buy, the current 35mm Cron Asph is also fantastic, just in a slightly different way.

50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph

Image 9

Image 10

Image 11

Image 12

Image 13

I had high expectations for this lens, at the risk of sounding like a Voigtlander advertisement their lenses just keep getting better and better, I have plenty of Leica glass but these VC offerings really do represent some serious value for money and that can’t be ignored. This 50/1.5 Asph is no exception, it’s really everything you could want and more in a 50mm lens and when you factor in that price I’d be bold enough to say it’s right up there with the best of them.

 90mm Summicron f/2 III (1984)

Image 14

Image 15

I knew this would be a challenge and I’d have to say it was, focusing was tricky even with the 1.4x magnifier and I have a lot more work to do with this focal length.

I have to say I really did feel a little rusty initially, however by the end of the trip I began to feel like I’d got some of my photographic “mojo” back. I’m now looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in the South Island, just me and my cameras, happy days.

You can read the full post and see more images from my trip on my website HERE.

Cheers, Jason.

 

Jun 132013
 

Japanese Summilux 2

USER REPORT: The Japanese Summilux – Canon 50/1.4 LTM

By Jason Howe

Hi Steve, hope your well and enjoying the combination of MM and M240, I was pleased to see you got the latter back and I look forward to you slowly convincing me that I need one………..anyway I’ve been taking a look at a lens I’ve had for sometime and I’ve recently seen cropping up a little bit more than usual, the Canon 50/1.4. I’ve done a full write up on the Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM which can be found HERE but I thought I’d give a small taster of the images in this post as I really feel the lens is, well pretty awesome!!

Note: Processing in LR4 and Silver Efex Pro 2

An Introduction

The Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM first caught my attention quite by accident, whilst researching my purchase of the Leica 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE I stumbled upon references to a lens some referred to as the Japanese Summilux. Intrigued by this reference and fueled by my natural curiosity I took the plunge and picked up a perfect copy of the Type II version along with original Sl39.3C UV filter and Hood.

I’m fortunate to have some pretty amazing glass and I always seem to have a perpetual que of lenses waiting to get quality camera time. Because of this and despite me being happy with my initial testing of the lens the Canon 50/1.4 never really spent a prolonged period on any of my cameras.

Surprisingly there is not a huge amount of information around about this lens, certainly less than I anticipated. Therefore, having received several email requests for my opinion about it I decided that it fit’s the profile of my User Reports, by that I mean it’s not really mainstream or fashionable……..it is however very capable on the Leica M9, M Monochrom and film M’s and offers the user another cheap fast 50mm option.

If you’ve read my User Reports on the 50mm Jupiter 3 or Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar you will already know that I don’t go for overly technical write ups. I prefer, if I can to let the lens do the talking.

 

On the M Monochrom

Off the Rails – Leica M Monochrom – ISO 160 1/500 Sec

Off the Rails

Rebel – Leica M Monochrom – ISO 320 1/500 Sec 4x ND Filter

Rebel

Sound of Silence – Leica M Monochrom – ISO 160 1/2000 Sec

The Sound of Silence

The Urban Jungle – Leica M Monochrom – ISO 320 1/180 Sec 4x ND Filter

The Urban Jungle

 

On the M9

Alicia Sim 1 – Leica M9 – ISO 500 1/1500 Sec

Alicia Sim 1

Trapped – Leica M9 – ISO 400 1/750 Sec

Trapped

Yours Truly – Leica m9 – ISO 160 1/3000 Sec

Yours Truly

Alicia Sim 2 – Leica M9 – ISO 640 1/125 Sec

Alicia Sim 2

 

On Film M’s

A Long Day – Leica M3 – Fuji Provia 50

A Long Day

Golden Moment – Leica M3 – Fuji ASTIA 100F

Golden Moment

The Navigator – Leica M6 – Fuji ASTIA 100F

The Navigator

First Light – Leica M3 – Fuji Provia 50

First Light

 

If you’ve got the Leica M Monochrom and your taking an interest in vintage glass, the Canon 50/1.4 is certainly a great place to start and you won’t find better bang for your buck at around US$400.00. On the M9 and Film M’s its still a very worthwhile proposition if you want to get your hands on a good, sharp fast 50 for relatively little. I’ve gone in to much more detail on my User Report but hopefully this will have piqued your interest in this awesome lens.

Cheers, Jason.

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……..

Cheers

Jason

 

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

 

Jan 022013
 

My top 12 for 2012 by Jason Howe

As the year draws to a close, I felt it would be a worthwhile exercise to reflect on 12 of my photographs from the last calendar year, images that I feel were significant to me for one reason or another and to elaborate on the reasons behind their selection.

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” these words, immortalized by the great Ansel Adam’s are of course well-known in photographic circles, but are they still relevant in todays photographic world? Well, I believe so, of course it’s true that this statement originates from a generation where even the most industrious of photographers would have taken far less photographs than we do in the digital age, yet despite this obvious imbalance I feel it still holds some relevance.

Firstly, we must understand the context to the word “significant”, as only a relative handful of individuals are in a position to be producing images of “global” significance it’s important that we measure significance on a personal level and furthermore that we’re clear on the underlying reasons for that significance. Whilst this objective may seem quite achievable vs. the number of photographs taken, we must endeavor to look subjectively at our “crop” amongst the good, great and wonderful images we’ve collected only some will hold true significance.

I’ve applied the definitions of “meaning” and “importance” to the word significant, in addition to this I have imposed a further caveat that the image be technically sound although one could certainly argue that there are technically poor photographs that are of extreme significance, that is really a personal judgement.

Of course you may have more and you may have less? If you have hundreds, I’d suggest you look again! Too few, well there is always next year. Remember, I’m not talking about the number of good shots you have, just your significant ones.

Bridge Dynamic – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super WIde Heliar f/4.5

Bridge Dynamic – This image featured in my User Report on the Voigtlander 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5, you can view that HERE. I know from the emails and comments I received following this post that many people either went out and bought this lens on the back of my report or were able to achieve superior results because of it. The satisfaction that came with knowing my images and writing had assisted others really was the most rewarding experience. As a result of that and because this really is the most incredible little lens this image is included here.

Bridge Dynamic

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Day Dreamer – Leica M9 – 50mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Day Dreamer – This is one of my favorite images of my youngest son and whilst that is reason enough in its own right to be included here it also marked the arrival of the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE lens. This heralded a significant shift in my thinking on lenses. Yes, I moved from cautious to cavalier in the blink of an eye, in the main, because I had established that rangefinders were going to be my cameras of choice for a long time to come. You can read about my purchase of this lens HERE if you want a laugh….. As it happens I have not used this lens as much as I thought I would, that’s no reflection on the lens, just my attentions have been elsewhere, it is on my list to explore further in the new year.

Day Dreamer

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End of the Road – Leica M9 – 35mm Leica Summicron f/2 Asph

End of the Road – Looking too hard, yes I’ve found myself doing this a few times over the course of this year, I’m sure it’s a condition many will relate to. Your traveling to interesting places, thinking there must be a photograph here somewhere and before you know it that’s all your thinking about and it can become counter productive. This image and several others that almost made it in to this selection were taken on a road trip with my son’s, relaxed and having fun I still managed to see photographs, in fact I probably saw more and it finally sunk in that you don’t have to be on high alert to see photographic potential around you. This particular scene was spotted in the rear view mirror as we drove past in the opposite direction, I guess that kind of proves my point.

End of the Road

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Awakenings – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super WIde Heliar f/4.5

Awakenings – Striking a balance between your love of photography and your love of family, should be easy, right? I’ve touched on this before and it is still one of the biggest challenges I have come across photographically. My family was of course quite used to seeing me with a camera over the years, but when my relationship with the camera became a little more serious (ok, obsessive) then at times it seemed there was a conflict between to two. This image serves as a reminder that with a little care, it is possible to combine the two, although admittedly there is probably still plenty of room for improvement on my part. Taken on a celebratory break in Queenstown, this image almost never came about as I seriously contemplated leaving my gear at home in a bid to avoid any photography/family clash. A last-minute change of plan and some of that care I mentioned previously, proved the two can be combined, most of the time…..you can see all the images from this post HERE.

Awakenings

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Showtime – Leica M9 – 50mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Showtime – So many great memories are encapsulated in this one image, it really embodies all that is magical about the theatre in my eyes. My post The Producers which you can see HERE was the culmination of my time spent with the Tauranga Musical Theatre. What initially started as a one-off project has now evolved in to a more regular association. This ongoing involvement holds more than photographic significance to me, it enables me to be in the company of other creative individuals and that has been a real blessing.

Showtime

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The Mob – Leica M9 – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1

The Mob – An image with dual significance, I realized a long time ago that you can either sit around and wait for things to happen or you can make them happen. Have the courage to ask and be prepared to try new things, this mindset got me behind the scenes at the regions biggest horse racing meet and I was delighted to capture this scene. Less significant but still worth baring in mind is a point about equipment, I was prepared to part company with the 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 lens that was used in the making of this image. I hadn’t given it enough time on the camera and consequently I had not seen it at its best. I learnt a valuable lesson on the day I shot these images, you must get to know your gear and be prepared to take the time to do so.

The Mob

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Lakeview – Leica M6 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

Lakeview – I began to shoot and develop film around 18 months ago because I felt somehow that I had missed out and also because it could only improve my photography in the long run, now with the benefit of hindsight I believe it was the right move and I would recommend this route to anyone. I suppose when I look at this particular image I associate it with my love of film photography. Certainly I have a very long way to go when it comes to film and this will be something I look to explore more in the coming year.

Kodak Gold 200

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Misty Mornings – Leica M9 – 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

Misty Mornings – I’ll always look at this image and remember the wonderful time I spent on the road with my boys earlier in the year, having fun, exploring new places and really seeing them in a different light. Much like the light in this image their personalities and sense of humor really shone through on this road trip, we had so many laughs. Photographically, this journey really highlighted the quality of the 35mm Summicron f/2 which I had considered selling just a few months before. I bonded with that lens and in truth it was the only lens I needed on that trip. You can see the full post of images from the East Cape HERE.

Misty Mornings

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Rock Thrower – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5

Rock Thrower – One of the main draws to the Leica M9 and indeed the M/LTM system was the ability to shoot with retro glass, this image underlines that appeal for me. Shot on an inexpensive, 49 year old lens from the former Soviet Union I still look at it today with the feeling that I could almost reach in to the scene, such is the quality of the 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5. Proof if any were needed that it is still possible to get great quality without spending a small fortune. Not to mention, so much fun to shoot because there is always a chance of a magic. You can read my User Report on this lens HERE.

Rock Thrower

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Reach Out – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Leica Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE

Reach Out – The Leica M Monochrom didn’t mark any great shift in preference from colour to b&w for me, it’s quite clear from my photographs that b&w imagery is very much a part of my photographic identity. I mention it here because I have a strong feeling from what I have already seen from this camera that it is going to be very significant for me, I guess only time will tell……….This image featured in my first post from this camera which can be seen HERE.

Reach Out

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A Turning Point – Leica M3 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5

A Turning Point – This image has not appeared on here before, shot on Ilford HP5 plus 400 it made such an impression on me that for a while there I was considering abandoning digital and shooting solely with film. However one thing that I learnt early in photography is that your opinion on a specific genre, image, film type, you name it, can change quite quickly and decisions need to be considered. As time past my love of film remained strong but I eventually began to see that for me at least it did not need to be a choice between film and digital, I can see the merits of both, therefore I should enjoy both.

A Turning Point

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Lake Placid – Leica M9 – 35mm Summicron f/2 v.1

Lake Placid – I had the remarkable good fortune to not only discover some great equipment this year but more importantly the photography of the late Roland G Phillips-Turner, so far I’ve featured his work twice on my website with more to follow in the new year. It’s really been a discovery that has bought myself and many others a huge amount of joy. The image above was shot with the 35mm Summicron f/2 v.1 that belonged to the aforementioned photographer, this was certainly the first time it had been used in many years and it worked it’s magic accordingly. A great reminder of this wonderful discovery

Lake Placid

Food for thought…….

Taking an overview of my selections here it’s actually quite insightful and as it happens, a very accurate assessment of my shooting habits, for instance -

Two of the twelve photographs are film, equating to 1/6th of the images This is an accurate reflection of the amount of film I’ve shot this year compared to digital, I really want to increase this next year.

Three of the images or 1/4 are in colour. Again, I’d say this is a fair reflection. I only want to make great photographs, B&W or Colour it makes no difference to me, although it’s fair to say I can’t see the the ratio of colour increasing next year.

It’s been a good year for me photographically, I’ve continued to develop and whilst there have been challenges I’ve certainly done my best to overcome them and progress. Whilst it’s always rewarding to look back on the images you’ve taken the real excitement lies in the images your yet to capture, that thought should fill us all with encouragement and excitement in equal measure, enjoy!!

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a safe and prosperous 2013.

All the best, Jason.

Dec 122012
 

titleforjason

Scary Faces – Pushing the Monochrom Further

by Jason Howe - Website | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook

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From Steve: I know, I know…many of you are tired of these Monochrom articles! At the same time, many of you are NOT. This will be the last one for a while because I feel we have PLENTY of information on this camera now on this website, let alone the entire internet. I could not resist posting these as it really shows what the camera can do better than any previous post on the MM. I am dubbing Jason  Howe the “MM Master” as these are masterful shots and he certainly has learned the camera better than I have! Enjoy and THANK YOU JASON!

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In the short period of time that I have owned the Monochrom it has already established itself as my “go to” camera, in part this is due to its incredible performance but also because my subject matter of late has been dark, in every sense……this camera along with the 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE make a formidable team, one I’m finding difficult to break up despite the other lenses available to me.

In the last week I took the opportunity to visit the theatre once more, this time with a view to having a closer look at the higher ISO’s on the Leica M Monochrom. With nothing specific planned we decided to do some impromptu “Scary portraits” by utilising the fixed stage lighting and a borrowed LED torch which on occasion I managed to hold in my teeth whist shooting. Clearly, this is far from ideal but it did actually work out reasonably well and I’ll be adding a torch to my bag for those occasions where you just need a some additional light.

Even though this show is very dark I still found myself not needing to push the camera beyond ISO 3200, even then it was artificially so and I could probably have shot at 1600, but as I wanted to see a little more from the Monochrom I went ahead. I also continue to deliberately underexpose by 1/3 of a stop to as much as 1 stop on occasion, I feel I’m really getting to grips with this particular Monochrom idiosyncrasy and as there really is so much detail in the shadows of these MM files that there is absolutely no point in risking blown highlights. I also wanted to take a closer look at what I would describe as being the Monochrom’s digital grain.

These images were all shot as JPEG’s, this was something I’d not yet tried on the MM and I was very curious to see the results, I always found the B&W JPEG’s from the M9 to be very pleasing, as you’d expect the MM files were even richer.

Please remember to click on the image to see a better quality rendition.

 

Scary Faces – No 1 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 800 – 1/180 Sec

Scary Faces - No 1

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Scary Faces – No 1 – 100% Crop at ISO 800 – YOU MUST CLICK IT TO SEE FULL 100%

ISO 800 Crop

I’m absolutely loving the sharpness and detail from the Monochrom and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE, traces of what I would describe as the Monochrom’s distinctive “digital grain” are just apparent at ISO 800, this shot was taken in total darkness and illuminated by the LED torch only.

 

Scary Faces – No 2 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/125 Sec

Scary Faces - No 2

Scary Faces – No 3 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/125 Sec

 Scary Faces - No 3

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Scary Faces – No 4 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/125 Sec

 Scary Faces - No 4

The image above will be a favorite of mine for a long time to come, I’d say these are some of the richest blacks I’ve achieved so far with the Monochrom, there is still plenty to learn and a lot more experimenting to be done but the progress has been satisfying so far. Despite being shot in JPEG the images still exhibit a huge tonal range and whilst I don’t think I’d ever use them straight out of the camera the PP certainly only took 1-2 minutes each to process.

 

Scary Faces – No 5 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/180 Sec 

Scary Faces - No 5

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Scary Faces – No 6 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/250 Sec

 Scary Faces - No 6

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Scary Faces – No 7 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/180 Sec

 Scary Faces - No 7

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Scary Faces – No 8 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/180 Sec

Scary Faces - No 8

Scary Faces – No 9 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/250 Sec

 Scary Faces - No 9

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Scary Faces – No 9 – 100% Crop at ISO 1250 (click it)

ISO 1250 Crop

 

To me this crop at ISO 1250 is indistinguishable from the ISO 800 crop in terms of “digital grain”. In fact, I’d actually say it’s superior to the ISO 800 image, I don’t have enough insight in to this camera yet to give a categorical reason for that and I’ll definitely be looking closely at future images. Once again the detail is quite staggering.

 

Scary Faces – No 10 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/90 Sec

Scary Faces - No 10 -

Scary Faces – No 11 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/250 Sec

Scary Faces - No 11

This particular image brings a smile to my face, it’s most definitely enhanced by the third face in the background!!

 

Scary Faces – No 12 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 3200 – 1/180 Sec 

Scary Faces - No 12

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Scary Faces – No 12 – 100% Crop at ISO 3200

ISO 3200 Crop

Usually we’d be referring to digital noise when looking at images shot in these lighting conditions and ISO’s but whilst that may be technically correct it does not seem fair to use this term when analysing the Monochrom images. I prefer to refer to this as digital grain, it’s certainly a more accurate description, whilst it is not directly comparable to film grain it is certainly closer to that than digital noise in my opinion. I’m sure plenty would disagree with this statement…..

 

Scary Faces – No 13 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 2500 – 1/750 Sec

Scary Faces - No 13

Scary Faces – No 13 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1600 – 1/125 Sec

Scary Faces - No 14

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Scary Faces – No 15 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/350 Sec

Scary Faces - No 15

With each passing week I grow more competent and excited in equal measure with the MM, I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I talked myself in to this purchase. I’m sure there are many more out there going through the same thought processes I did when considering this camera, all I can say to those people is go for it, you will not regret it.

As I initially mentioned I’ve been finding it difficult to break the MM partnership with the 35 Lux but in order to further my learning and enjoyment of this camera I am going to need to, I’ve got lots of vintage glass to try and there are photographers out there already getting excellent results. I’ve also got some exciting new lenses in the pipeline, certainly one of these has the ability to force me to ditch the 35 Lux for a while……..

Once more I’d like to thank the cast, crew and all those associated with the Tauranga Musical Theatre, your enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the making of these images is really evident in the photographs and most certainly appreciated. I’ve made no secret about my own feelings for this wonderful place, I look forward to capturing more moments and memories in the future.

Cheers, Jason.

Aperture Priority - Photography by Jason Howe
find me online: Website | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook

Nov 302012
 

USER REPORT: The Leica Monochom – Scarily Good. By Jason Howe

Another submission, this time my first images from the M Monochrom and some thoughts on my first 3 weeks with the camera.

Big thanks for all the quality information you put up on the camera, it all helped make my decision to purchase it a lot easier.

As a rule I like my posts to be considered and well thought out so it many respects this is rather an impromtu update on my first three weeks with the Leica M Monochrom.

I say three weeks but really in terms of actual usage it’s been more like a 7-8 hours. Having experienced the initial sense of euphoria that always accompanies the arrival of any new camera I found myself quite unexpectedly feeling a little deflated after firing off the first few frames. Was this a case of “buyers remorse”? No, it wasn’t that I regretted the purchase, not at all. This was about seeing that many of my initial shots contained blown highlights, it has to be said this really dampened my enthusiasm quite rapidly . Yes, despite what I’d read elsewhere I still anticipated picking up this camera and being fully conversant with it in minutes……naive and perhaps a little arrogant on my part.

I quite literally put the camera back in the box and left it for 10 days or so while I got on with some other more pressing matters……if I’m going to be processing images in LR4 and subsequently having two library’s (MM files not yet supported by Aperture 3) I should really tidy out my Aperture 3 library before it all turns in to one big horrible mess!! I had been guilty of some very lazy practices, ones I won’t repeat in a hurry! Looking back, at least subconsciously I must have been thinking that I would have some decent images out of the Monochrom to process at some point!

Back to the Monochrom, it’s now clear that my two biggest challenges with this camera will be -

Exposure – despite the histogram showing a correct exposure there is still clipping, maddening to say the least.

Processing in LR4 – I used LR 3 a little but the look of my B&W’s plus all my file structure was born out of Aperture 3

Add to this the harshly lit skies of a Kiwi summer and opportunities to use this camera were eluding me. Thankfully I have what is becoming an ongoing association with Tauranga Musical Theatre and was able to get a couple of rehearsals in this week and at the same time hone my skills with the Monochrom. Their current production – A Very Scary Xmas 2 is dark, these are conditions outside the realm of the M9 at ISO 640 even with the Summilux’s. Yes, I personally choose not the use the M9 above ISO 640, maybe 800 on rare occasions.

So, belatedly I have decided to put up my first images from the Monochrom.

These images were taken during the rehearsal, the action is live and fast-moving, the light is without a doubt the most challenging I have worked in, often dark yet interspersed with bursts of light my shutter speeds could vary between 1/30 and 1/2000 in an instant. Throw the idiosyncrasies of the Monochrom meter in to the mix and you get my drift. Whilst I would be the first to admit there is always room for improvement I am really quite pleased with these.

I can’t underline how incredible the image quality is from this camera, all the shots here are taken at ISO 1250 – 2000, there is no noise reduction required. I’m yet to see how the camera performs at even higher ISO because quite simply I haven’t had to go there, it’s difficult to imagine circumstances where I would need to…..

All these images were shot with the 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE and the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE. I have done some experimentation with vintage Leica glass and coloured filters, I continue to work on this and will hopefully collect some images that will allow me to put together a future post on the subject.

As I mentioned, processing images from the Monochrom was one of my concerns, B&W is my comfort zone, but my initial impressions of the Monochrom files was that it may be more difficult to get my B&W look than it was using the M9, how ironic would that be……however, my LR4 fears have proved unfounded, I believe I’m on top of the processing and now I have what I would describe as my look. I’m never critical of the images of others, we each see things differently and I firmly believe that, I am pleased that I have managed to avoid the silver/grey looking MM files that I have seen online though.

So, what about exposure then? Well it’s a work in progress but I’ve found that underexposing by 1/3 to as much as 1 stop in some cases will do the job. These files contain so much detail in the shadows that there is almost limitless opportunity to recover them. So, in essence one should shoot cautiously.

I’ll continue to post my thoughts and images on the Leica M Monochrom, but after a shaky start I have to say it really is “scarily good”

Cheers

Jason

Aperture Priority - Photography by Jason Howe 
find me online: Website | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook

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