Daily Inspiration #142 by D.J. De La Vega

It’s FRIDAY! Time for the weekend and time for me ย to get my butt in gear and get to cooler weather to shoot!

Today I bring you a killer Daily Inspiration all shot with the wonderful Leica X1. This is the kind of submission I like to see, so if you have some photos you shot that you want to see here, and even get a link back to your website or blog, then send them along to me with the details and even a story to go along with them. Enjoy! – Steve

Hi Steve,

Your site seems to be getting better and better all the time. Also the guest articles and daily inspirations have been top draw!

Robert Boyer’s article about his rangefinder philosophy really inspired my and everything he was saying resonated with me about my X1. The idea that Leica’s don’t do somethings well or at all but excel in “Human Distances… Distances that we all know and live everyday with our fellow normal sized human beings and objects.” This sums up the X1’s attributes and capabilities too. As I’ve now been bitten by the Leica bug, I’ve been inspired by your site to try my hand at street photography, one of the most interesting and fundamental Leica genres in photography. I am historically a fashion and portrait photographer and in my down time shoot landscapes, urban and architecture. The X1 can photograph all of these things extremely well. However everyone knows the Leica X1’s limitations and I wanted to see how it would compare to a rangefinder in spontaneous situations.

As I was heading to Bruges, I thought this would be the perfect training ground and give my X1 a good opportunity to capture some interesting candids. The first thing I realized about the X1 on the street was how subtle and un-intruisive it was, I almost felt invisible. Henri Cartier-Bresson had always insisted this about Leica’s but I’d never experienced this sensation!

I reveled in the location and shot over 400 candids, I would estimate 95% came out as I had hoped for. The 5% that did not was because either I’d spotted the subject too late for the X1 to react or I’d estimated my manual focus distance incorrectly. People complain the X1 has a slow auto focus, but in the right hands this is not an issue at all. I used a combination of: auto focusing where possible, pre-focusing on areas and waiting for subjects to pass through and finally estimating distances and pre-setting the manual focus. These three techniques worked a charm and I became intuitive and knew which to use in different situations. Thanks to the X1’s minimalist menus, swapping between the three was easy and fast.

I found it difficult to narrow down my favorite shots, but here is five that give a good cross section of my results:

No 1: “Reflection For Directions”

ISO: 100, F4, 250th Sec

The first photo was taken in a reflection in a window. Whilst taking a break from shooting, enjoying one of the fine Beer’s Belgium has to offer, I noticed this reflection and the composition of the Belfry framed with the map reading couple. I had ample time to get out the X1 and auto focus and capture it.

No 2: “The Kid’s Are Alright”

ISO: 400, F4, 500th Sec

Whilst photographing in one of the squares, I noticed these young chaps fooling around in some kind of fancy dress. To highlight my ignorance, I unfortunately have no clue as to the relevance or meaning of the dress. These guys did not speak English so if any one out there does know the meaning I’d love to find out! As I tried to sneak over and get a shot, they spotted me and offered to pose, which was great cos I could get right up and make the most of the 35mm lens.

No 3: “Time To Relax”

ISO 800, F4.5, 250th Sec.

This is of a couple relaxing at one of the great establishments in Bruges. This was one of my first experiments with manual focus. I felt a little intrusive trying to hold up the camera and manually focus on someone, so I played around with gaging how far away some one was, setting the distance into the manual focus, allowing me to lift the camera and shot instantaneously. This allowed me to be very quick, subtle and document much more intimate moments.

No 4: “The Marching Band”

ISO 800, F3.2, 250th Sec

Serendipity raised it head with this one. Whilst the rain clouds came over and everyone had ran for cover, out of no where a marching band came my way. It was a street parade for the Ladies Circle International. This was my favorite shot of the parade, but an interesting note was as all the ladies were marching past organized into their separate countries, the lovely ladies from India spotted me with my X1 and actually stopped in the middle of the street and held up the parade to pose for a photograph. They must have also been fans of the red spot because the was a lot of people with SLR’s and they did not stop for any one else.

With the X1 I had no problem upping the ISO to 800 to allow me to keep the shutter speeds high to capture action. Even at 1600 and 3200 the results are very good and even have lovely almost film grain quality to them with no noise!

No. 5: “The Potter”

ISO 100, F4, 80th Sec

This guy was amazing. So fast and so talented. I love the detail this lens can capture, down to the clay fingerprints on the cigar.

I had a great time shooting candid street photography in Bruges. The X1 coped admirably and as long as you know its limitations you can over come them achieve the results you want with this camera in any genre. At the end of the day, its just a tool and it is the hands and eyes of the photographer that will capture the moment.

Thanks for looking, if you want to see more X1 experimentation check out my Flikr


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  1. Hi D.J.Vega
    Thank you for your shots, really nice light and feeling, specially the “time to relax”-one has a really nice mood, with no-one-looking-at-me-right-now (except for that little x-1) and yes, as Max point out, what a relief that most of it are lovely sharp (you dont have to work on finding THAT little nosetip in the picture that is sharp…)….(and that I also would have said to yours pictures Max, same relief there, that you dont hunt the buukeeeh, except for the girl in the rain where it in a wonderfull way had its justification….and you inspired to do hip-shots… with the M6 again, and get used (by the little note laying together with the film) to ajust aperture and shutter by feeling and belief)…..(and to Robert B….perhaps to get the compact-hassy(!), the film-SWC out of the bag and do the same…just an extension of the arm, fingers and the mind…and se what the occasion brings…with no shutter-lag)….if one can obtain to lay down the laziness…

  2. DJ,
    You did a really nice job with your photos and your story. Your enthusiasm is very refreshing. My favorite is the first image because it is very unique.

  3. Love to see a person passionate about their kit. Great shots and I can see you had a lot of fun taking these, like a thief in the night, you snuck in and took the images when normally they would have been lost to the world. Great feeling! Keep shooting! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love that X1 fixed focal length…keeps things nice and simple, the way they should be.

  4. I know Robert B will probably be shocked that I say this but I like them…The first one is creative and shows a good approach compositionally. The kids shot is fun, I love the tonal palette and it would even make a great b&w conversion. I like the fact that D.J. didn’t try to play silly bokeh games and exploit depth of field tricks just for the sake of it. Film is still better but I like these ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. DJ you’ve given me a big problem.

    I was all set to get a second hand M8 as the prices are now dropping down to about the level of an X1 and I have a couple of lenses that would work well on it, 40mm C Summicron and the Nokton 28mm f2, from my EP2. Now you’ve got me thinking that the X1 would give me an edge in street photography due to it’s size and silence. It is obviously capable of great IQ and has better high ISO/low light capability, just not quite as flexible as the M8. Darn I’m ba k in a quandary again!

  6. Ooops sorry one more thing –

    Everyone always says it’s about the images but boy does everyone get way more stirred up when it’s really about exotic gear that no-body actually has. Alternatively gear that nobody uses anymore (except maybe me and 4 other guys) seems that everyone wished they used back when it was modern does pretty well for the talk level as well. Why do you think us internet guys always talk about the gear?

    Answer = you might be able to throw in something that actually matters every once in a while.


  7. Nice images DJ – they look great. Really nice job. The X1 seems to work for you. I just acquired an E-P1 for the same purposes to chuck in the bag with my M cameras. (The poor mans X1 – it’s actually a really cool little device. I got mine for 390 bucks and it’s a blast).

    Don’t mind the lack of an explosion of comments – you have to use a very very controversial mega expensive camera to get an explosion of comments, the X1 is old hat. You should have said you took them with an H4D or something. Nobody could ever know. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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