The Leica M9 in New York and the beauty of slowing down by Bob Boyd

The Leica M9 in New York and the beauty of slowing down by Bob Boyd

Hey Steve!

My wife and I decided to spend our 20th Anniversary in New York City. I had been about 15 years ago for an audio engineering convention and wished she had been there at the time.

After going back and forth in my head about whether to take my SLR, weight, size, and ease won out and I decided to only take the M. For about a day and a half, I was second guessing whether I should have brought the SLR along. There were moments when I wished I had the fast AF or high ISO of my Canon. But, as is always the case, the reward came when I slowed down mentally and simply eased in to a different pace.

I often find that the beauty of a manual rangefinder is not only the quality of the camera and glass but the beauty in the flow of it. Sometimes finding a scene and pre-visualizing the shot. Taking a moment, focusing, and just pausing – then it’s like the actors show up for a split-second play. Typically slower shutter speeds conveying the motion of the moment. My SLR isn’t going anywhere – at the end of the day, it’s always about using the right tool for the job. But for this trip, the M9 was the perfect tool to capture the way I saw a beautiful city in motion and the pace of the people in it…

Full post here with many more photos

Hope you enjoy the shots.

all the best,

– Bob Boyd

Arriving in NYC, heading to the hotel.
2012-05-06 L1006345
Wall Street
Grand Central Station
The Metropolitan 1
The Guggenheim from the lobby.
The Guggenheim 2.
car | skate | cab
MoMA 2

87 Comments

  1. Beautiful pics!! Really captured NY through an artists eye, not just some Jo-schmo with a digital camera that thinks he knows how to take pics. Great work!

  2. I like the person sitting at the Gugenheimieminem or whatever, and the cab with the skateborder I like quite a lot.

    Sharpness schmarpness…it’s New York, it’s full of movement!

    • p.s. for me it’s an image to look at…it’s supposed to be art. It can be sharp, doesn’t have to be. Should have eye pleasing colors, and tones and shapes and it should look cool with sharpness, or maybe even with an abstract SUPER out of focus look.

      Of COURSE to each their own, and I haven’t read all the responses…but outside of the Stock Exchange which looks to me very rushed….I have ZERO issues with the motion blur

  3. OK, looking at countless photos I’m well aware that Leica glass can be used to make exceptionally crisp and clear images.
    Now I want to see meaningful ones, too – well done, Bob!
    BTW about the “old fashioned slowing down” rediscovered by RF users: it’s silly that one of the great photographers, Cartier-Bresson, was, for his own admission, shooting HUNDREDS of rolls a week… 😉

  4. After reading the article, it is clear the photographer (Bob) is using slow shutter speed in an attempt to achieve motion in the shots. The images don’t really do anything for me, but I do understand the attempt and what he is trying to do. I have tried the same technique with some success and some failures.

    Actually, I do like the Union Station shot, after reviewing the pictures again.

  5. I really enjoyed all these photos, I’m amazed at the negative reaction here. If you want sterile sharp boring digital pictures head on over to 500px.

  6. What fuzzy photos but so what ? I like them I like what the mood they capture especially drawn to #2 as well as the last. perhaps they’ll be captured clearer in the future and the mood will be retained. who knows? keep up the good work! thanks for sharing !

  7. great series, well done.
    for me, i enjoyed photos 2 & 3 the most.

    ive never been to america and live in australia. the whole series feels very expressive and looks as thou youve captured the mood of ny. thats how i interpreted it anyway

  8. What I don’t get is the *why* of using some of the world’s best (and most expensive) lenses (supposedly..) to take blurry pictures. I remember I had a camera once that could do this. A Kodak Instamatic.

    Also I find it ironic that when I get blurry pics it’s often because I rushed the shot. But these intentionally blurry pics are taken using a system that forces you to slow down. (And a system that the body costs more than my complete outfit of DSLR, 6 lenses, tripod, 3 speedlights, filters and an RX100). Wow. I’m impressed.

    • Even cheap cameras usually take sharp pictures. The blurring is an aesthetic choice here. That the camera can also take sharp pictures has nothing to do with these pictures. He has plenty of others on his web site, most sharp. A few blurry.

    • Do any of you guys bashing these images EVER in your long lives pick up one of your girlfriend’s Vogue or an Elle magazines or any of the other two pound 300 page fashion magazines and look at the advertisement images that someone was paid tens of thousands of dollars to shoot by people who are the arbiters of commercial image aesthetics in the modern world?

      Most of the shots are routinely soft or slightly out of focus or show motion or camera shake. Let’s start with, do you HAVE girlfriends? Probably not.

      These comments sections on Steve’s site invariably turning into an opportunity for anonymous insult the contribution of people who have taken the time to share their creative shots and with nothing but inane nonsense about sharpness and equipment.

      Nice, atmospheric shots, Bob. I like what you’re doing a lot and I’m glad that someone is out there using an M9 to take images that don’t scream M9. That don’t look like every one else’s M9 shots.

      The purpose of a camera, any camera, is not always to demonstrate the far limits of it’s technical excellence with every or even ANY shot. Just because a lens is a Leica, that doesn’t mean that the photographer is in a prison of only making sharply focused pictures. If you think that, and obviously a lot of people here do, you need to KNOW that you PROBABLY suck.

  9. Lots of great shots (on web site link), some real duds… To the author: you need to edit your work, or ask somebody to do it for you. It would be far bigger impact… Just a suggestion…

  10. “I often find that the beauty of a manual rangefinder is not only the quality of the camera and glass but the beauty in the flow of it.” I couldn´t phrase it better. Don´t worry about the attacks by other people who simply don´t get it. The experience of working with a rangefinder camera is priceless – well, literally 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your images and your experience. I particularily like the third from bottom, wonderfull graphic composition.

    Best regards,
    Wolfgang

  11. Just checked out the link Bob provided. One word WOW! To get that many “keepers” in one trip is really something. I have an upcoming trip to Prague and if I can only get a fraction . . . . I’ll be one happy camper.

    • I was more interested in adding the human element as she walked through. I’ve gone through museums, shot all of the exhibits with shallow DoF, and walked away with nothing that of lasting value that I couldn’t find in an art history book. This has nothing to do with camera . In this case, my preference was capturing the contrast of the static pose against the movement of a patron.

    • This is a question of taste, for for mine I find head and shoulders portraits of status very boring, and Bob’s one much much more appealing.

  12. Thanks to all who commented, Steve for posting, and those that took the extra time to look through the additional shots on my link. I was interested in capturing the motion and vibe of the city as we experienced it on our trip – I find the pace of NYC infectious.

  13. First, Bob very nice pictures. I really like the black and white conversions! The one with the woman on the chair is my favorite, very nice composition!

    Every time I come here to read the comments I see people talking about not being 100% crisp images, these photo’s are taken with a toy camera, not sharp and fuzzy etc. It’s a bummer to read that. I think these people forgot it’s not only about the sharpness, the crispness, the pixels peeping etc. It’s about emotion, expressing yourself and to tell a story with your photographs. Sure, it would be nice if a picture is 100% sharp and the composition is perfect but I think it is more important to have fun and joy photographing and expressing yourself through your photographs. Sharing emotions, thoughts and opinions. That for me is the key.

    Keep up the good work!

    Cheers,

    Lorenzo van Galen.

    • I’m gonna jump on this band wagon. I couldn’t agree more. Bob’s photos struck some strange emotion in me. At first I thought, “yeah, these are pretty good.” Then I just kept looking at them and started noticing all these little things. Next thing I noticed, I was totally sucked in. Really cool photos…struck an emotion and THAT’S what it’s all about. How many photo contests have you ever seen where the theme is “Sharpest Photo”?

  14. Hi Bob,
    absolutely stunning pictures (IQ + content); I followed them in your post, thanks for sharing; what Leica glasses did you use ?
    Matthias – Germany

  15. They lack the crispiness I’m used to see in Leica pictures, but guess this photog is looking for more dreamy catch

  16. I like your photos, especially the ones on your website. My fiance and I just bought plane tickets to NY for a trip this April. We are pumped — it’s our first time! I only hope to come back with images as nice as yours. Not only am I going to give my XE-1 a workout, I’m even gonna take my old AE-1 Program and run some Ilford hp5 through it. Your images have gotten me all amped up for NYC!!

  17. The full set is absolutely fantastic. For the people who are trashing these photos… man. You guys really need to get out of your basements and see the world the way Bob Boyd does. I truly felt like I was walking right with him, seeing what he saw. To me, that’s what photography is all about. Cheers to Bob, and to Steve for posting this.

  18. I don’t see the the “raison d’être” of this series of shots.. very fuzzy and I’m sure not representative of a M9.

    I get far better shots with my m4/3’rds OM-D and GX1 with middle of the road Panny Leica glass.

    • Have you clicked on the link and looked at the full series?
      This ‘sampling’ actually is very out of context IMO.

  19. I enjoyed these pics…thanks for sharing, and thanks for a refreshing change. There is something alluring about these pictures, like they have a lot of life to them.

  20. I really like these shots!

    They are almost impressionistic, and have a dreamy, urban moodiness to them. Heck, William Klein (who also shot with a Leica–hmmm….) also created “blurry” images in a lot of his work. Anyways, that inside, architectural capture (is that the Guggenheim?) is puh-lenty sharp.

  21. the great thing about the m9 and m8 is they are the closest thing to film of any digital i have ever seen
    i like these shots allot good form and composition thanks for sharing them the ones out of focus or shallow dof have a great feel

  22. People should really click on the link that takes you to all the photos.
    It puts it into perspective, and there are some really great shots there that these blend into, adding to the story.
    This is great stuff.

  23. funnily enough, after all the work I have done, I am beginning to enjoy the photographs that are closest to paintings, almost abstract. If you think of amazing paintings that are priceless, many of them are not done to reflect reality but an interpretation of reality, sometimes almost unrecognizable in comparison to the original scene. Turner for example. In photography, there is this overwhelming drive to create perfection, exact replicas of what we witnessed but painters didn’t do that even though the easily could, creating an exact replica is something that skilled painters can do fairly easily. What separates the average talented painter from the greats is how they interpret a scene, how they communicate something with the image rather than relying solely on the subject matter which is what a photographer does when he seeks to create a perfect ‘flawless’ image. Perhaps this is why people are drawn to film which is inherently imperfect so there is less pressure to try and make it so. Much better to push the film, add grain, not be constrained by (even defy) reality and leave instead a message or perhaps, art. Just a thought.

  24. Nothing compares to Quality of Leica glass but do any users out thesre care to share their faves of Close to “Leica Optics” I swear by MF lens some are FSU copycats 135-3.5 Voightlander Colour Skopar 2.5 and my latest get- Notkon 40 1.4 M mount with BW filter for PanaLeica Micro four thirds.

    I also played with D200 just shooting BW with manual 50 off FG 1.4 and the results were suprising good. I’m not comparing a DX with a MF 50 agianst any Leica D but I also started shooting with a refurbishing M4 and have yet to CLA a M3 I picked up a free M2-M3 ltm to m Leitz off a photo friend for Lavi-Dk. Room.
    Has anyone experimented with developing BW 35mm using Coffee and Vitimen C. IF SO could anyone show some examples…trying to avhieve Sepia tone look of T-Max.

    Hippy shooting folks! Great site Steve.

    I also use as my Go-to Pentax/ Vivitar 1.5 MF 50 two 80-86 PK mount to Micro 4/3.

    I placed comparing images on my friends Apple Mac Pro HD-Regular definition- 4X3-16X9 and my personel fave Black and White using a late 90’s Budget D lens MF 50mm 1.4 (second hand shope stuck mirror of All black version FG. I also bought Korean with Nikon mount (lens are made in Germany) and the optics are on par with “Leica” but close enough after comparisons with samples from your site.

    The Next’ M 11′?
    I’m hoping Panasonic’s Next model will give Leica MP a run for it’s money.
    I haven’t heard from UK ‘Tony’ but the UK drop by is still planed. I’m asuming the next version of the sensor MIGHT compete with a full frame without actually being Full Frame.

  25. Very nice pics
    I like the blurred pics and the Grand central.
    Leica M9 is not built for motion pics, unlike DSLRs, but we got used to shrp pics by Leica cameras,
    what i liked here was the photographers choice to bring photos that are not sharp and expected, and that is what made them so nice and interesting in my eyes.
    Danny

  26. I am a long time lurker on this site, but I rarely take the opportunity to join the conversation. That said, after reading some of the negative comments here, I felt compelled to speak out in opposition. I rather enjoyed this set of photographs, and I applaud Bob for sharing them. It really frustrates me that so many people these days consider the objective/technical quality as the only way to measure the quality/impact of an image. In fact, I feel this sort of mentality is, to a point, ruining photography as an art form. Sure, there are certain applications within photography that benefit from technically perfect imaging, but there are plenty more that don’t…and candid style street photography in certainly one of them. Subjective responses to photographs, while impossible to quantify, are still valid. And to these photos in particular, while some would argue that none of these photos show off the full technical potential of an M9, I’d say that most of these photos show off the technique of the photographer.

    • I agree — I really like these shots. For me the fuzziness etc. adds to and is part of the emotional impact. The first one for example captures the feeling for me of falling asleep on a bus/train while traveling and briefly waking up and being disoriented as you look out the window and figure out where you are. A perfectly sharp and color neutral picture of a building wouldn’t do that, even if it would be technically a “better” picture of a building and water.

      • Perhaps Bob himself can give us some idea whether he took this shot after suddenly waking up and groping for the shutter button. “Where the &%^^% am I? !” (I’ve found NYC much more exciting and very difficult to go to sleep while there). What’s the story, Bob?

        The three blurry dark vertical stripes add a powerful emotional impact that is just too difficult to put into words. It chokes me up. Are they apochryphal, looking out of a cell for crimes against imagery? I jest, of course.

        Actually, I have quite a few furry shots so I need a Justin to tell me what I was so cleverly achieving with each of them. If only I had remembered the deep significance my semi-conscious state or trembling hands were conveying..

        • I can see that you have a brilliant visual imagination so I’ll defer to you on whether an image should have any emotional impact on me.

          • No, don’t hide your light under a bushel, Justin. There are fuzzy, furry, images waiting for resurrection. Just a few words each will do it. The “Waking Up” series..

          • Here’s a start, Justin; there are about 16 trillion furries awating your treatment worldwide. At $1 a pop, that’s $16 trillion for you. Uh oh, hold on, $16 trillion, that’s Obama’s debt ceiling (until next week) ! Now it’s crystal clear (well, sort of..), Bob saw the NY Stock Exchange on Wall St, thought of the debt and started trembling.
            Mm, perhaps he should have tied his camera to a jack hammer.

            Your turn, Justin 🙂

    • I agree too. I did not love every image, but several have a great feel to them. My favorite is #2. I love how the guy in the background you dont see at first pops up because of the focus work. It really stands out to me. The B&W image of the woman in the chair is very nice also, but in a more standard classic way.

    • Bob, I like most of these. The station picture brings out the hustle and bustle of the city, with some people pausing to check information/rest/draw breath and others rushing through, with the Station itself in focus.

      I do find the criticism by some individuals purely because some of these are ‘fuzzy’ depressing however.

      There were some great photos taken in the last century where ‘fuzziness’ conveyed the emotion/stress of the situation (D Day landing shots), or the motion of the subject to the viewer (Famous photo voted of flickr’s deleteme group recently).

      Just because photography has more advanced tools/autofocus etc now doesn’t make the use of ‘fuzziness’ invalid as a technique.

  27. Sorry Dude, but this images are not typical leica! They look like from an first generation smartphone. Pro Equipment does not make pro images – proofed.

      • Looks like you erred, Christoph. How dare you. Off with your head!

        Let me set you right; “brilliant work”, “excellent photos, all beautiful”, “great work”, “fantastic images”,.. got it?

        • No, reasonable and polite. Criticizing people for having different aesthetic sensibilities is rude. I don’t love all of these images, but I don’t think that they’re bad because I don’t love them. They aren’t sharp because he decided to make them that way, not because he can’t focus. In some I find the sense of motion attractive, and in a couple of others I think it takes away more than it gives. But that’s opinion, not fact.

          • No one here is criticising “people” for having different aesthetic sensibilities, Markin. Why write that patent nonsense? Bob Boyd, I would bet, is a great guy. They are criticising the product (images). If every image is equivalent to any other ever made, try taking these, or mine!, to a book publisher, galleries, the Louvre, etc and see how you get on.

            The art world, large or small, relies on informed criticism. And a free market.

            It worries me when some people are ever-keen to shut down robust criticism because they feel it is not “nice” or “rude” (especially when it is dishonestly personalised). No publication lasts long with that destructive attitude. No one learns anything. Pollyanna is prissy poison.

  28. It seems as though you have some issues focussing but more importantly I am wondering what story you want to tell. What is it you want to say with these images? I like the shots of the station and inside the museum with the woman on the chair. Nice light and composition and the one in the station has a good flow. The others don’t speak to me but then again, they don’t have to, it’s your party!

    I agree totally with your take on the essence of rangefinder photography.

  29. I think most of these look like holga images and would guess them with being taken with a $5 disposable camera.
    The exception being the B&W of the woman in chair on the landing. Really like that.

  30. Bob, excellent photos! These are all beautiful. With regard to a previous comment, I agree that there is some loss of sharpness (eg, the New York Stock Exchange building), but I personally prefer composition to sharpness & it doesn’t distract me much. The use of motion blur with the interesting compositions really shows that you put a lot of thought into these images. I feel fortunate that I’ve tried street photography and can appreciate how difficult it can be to capture these moments and get clean compositions without added distraction. Great work!

  31. Good idea in principle, I’m not sure I like the execution though. 7 & 9 would be my picks if I had to choose.

  32. Love these shots. Typically Leica. What I really love is the slow shutter speeds you used. Creates a sense of you slowing down with the world still moving at pace (New York pace). I like how there is blur and movement, it engages me and communicates a state of motion rather than dishing up unnecessary details to me on a platter which can serve to distract. Reminiscent of the slow film days when almost all shots were like this. So much thought had to go into it because you did not get enough speed to freeze time. Brilliant work. You do yourself proud.

    • Why not enjoy the X-Pro1 for what it is (an incredible, immensely capable camera), rather than lamenting what it is not (a rangefinder)?

    • gunston,

      i have recently done the opposite, and went from leica m rangefinders to the fuji x pro 1 … and i could not be happier.
      you get the same overall ‘feel’ (handling, inconspicuous size, looks), astonishingly good image quality, the option of using ‘modern’ auto focus and zoom lenses but also vintage, full manual glass….

      it would be all worth it, even without mentioning the price difference. if i were you, i would invest that money on some good glass and, most of all, travel, so you can enjoy it!

      • It’s still nothing like a rangefinder….sorry. The fuji’s a good cam but it handles nothing like an M. I do find myself being able to convince myself of just about anything if I repeat it enough though and you seem to have done the same.

        • we are all entitled to our opinions, of course; i am not clear from your message on whether you have owned/tried either system at all, so i will assume you have – it would be quite daft to comment otherwise, no?
          i do still lover rangefinders, do not get me wrong; i did not HAVE to change system; i have tried pretty much anything out there (still, i dislike dslr with a passion, so that was not an option, even though i did try that too).
          after all is said and done, i find that for MY type of shooting and MY taste, and MY impressions, the fuji does deliver, big time.
          i was very skeptical, i was actually put off at first by the fact that it so obviously simulates the “L” camera, but at the end of the day, an objective assessment of one versus the other, purely based on image quality, handling, practicality, and, of course, pleasure from using it, gave me the answer.

          other people will feel differently, and that is fine. most modern cameras are very capable nowadays, so it is a matter of finding one that ‘clicks’ with us, that is all.

          • Well said, Stefano! I am in the process of looking at the X-System cameras and will be picking up one once the decision is made. For me, a 35+ year SLR/DSLR person, I am tired of the weight of the big bodies and fast zooms I needed for work (newspaper) as retirement approaches. I will keep my two “vintage” D2H bodies for the sports I still want to shoot but for an everyday, take everywhere camera the Fujis are big contenders for their image quality and light weight. Now if I could only decide between the XPro1, XE1, or X100s!!!

          • try all 3, you will not be disappointed with either one of them.
            i chose the x pro 1 because of the optical viewfinder; the xe1 is more compact with a better evf; i do not know the x100s, i did own the x100 and loved it, and if you can live with just one focal length it is a superb camera.
            others suggest the olympus, i have not tried the new EM5, however I have owned a few PEN-E, and i feel the aps-c is still providing superior image quality (obviously my own opinion, others will disagree).

          • having used slr’s ( Pentax then Canon, now also Nikon), range finders (M8), mirrorless (Pen, Nex, Xpro1), no it doesn’t matter at all, some of my best images the last 2 years have come from my i-phone, and I don’y even own it, it is supplied by my employer.

    • You see, Been there done that. The M9, will cost you an arm and a leg, just for the lenses and you may end up stuck with an RF that goes faulty in the middle of a trip. If you go that way, make sure you buy 2 M9s so you have a backup. I sold the M8.2 body but kept the lenses for when the M10 (read M) would come out and in the meantime I was using them on a NEX with very good results. Ilook for lenses first see what budget you need, get used to them on the Fuji first and then you might just postpone the purchase for many many many years… The M is nice that way…if the RF goes crazy, you have the live view to finish the trip. If you want, go see the classified for my lenses quiver. I will go the RX1 way or just stick to the rx-100 until there is an RX-2 or a FF NEX. If I go back to the Leica (M) then well I will build a new lenses quiver.

      Good shooting

  33. Very fuzzy pictures.

    With regard to slowing down, I like to decide when and how myself, and not to be forced by a camera.

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