Leica M Monochrom in New Zealand by Chaiporn Vithessonthi
I’ve been thinking of whether to send you my images to be posted in your “daily inspiration” section for a long time. It was a tough decision because my images are not as good as those published on your site. At the end of the day, I’d like to receive comments from fellow photographers on my photos. So, I take a chance. Hopefully I will take better photos in the future.
I’d been shooting with film cameras for a long time before other activities took my time away from my cameras for years. To keep my story short, I bought my first digital camera, a panasonic GF1, when I came cross your review in 2010. Then, I bought a Leica X1 which I enjoyed a great deal on the road. Images from your Leica M9 inspired me and, indeed, led me to buy an M9 to compliment my M6 and M7. As I decided to move to New Zealand, I got myself an M Monochrom before leaving Thailand. I fully agree with you and others that the Monochrom is overpriced, way overpriced, but I really like B&W photography. So, I went for it and have been very happy with it ever since.
After having mainly shot with the Monochrom for almost a month, I have realized how lousy a photographer I had been over the past few years with my GF1 and other digital cameras. I can’t remember when was the last time I shot with color slide film. Getting the precisely correct exposure hasn’t been of great importance in the digital world (in relative terms) but it is of importance when shooting color slide film. Post-processing could save the day when I had my images wrongly exposed (say, half to one stop over/under) with digital cameras in the past. But the Monochrom has forced me to expose my images right. Overexposing the image is not an option. It’s not easy, and it’s still a long way for me to consistently get the exposure right. I have to improve my other photo skills too.
I am not good at post-processing and would appreciate any comments that come my way. All of the images below were processed in LR4. Photo 3 & 6 were also tweaked in Silver Efex Pro 2. With the exception of Photo 1, all photos were shot with a red or yellow filter on.
Photo 1: A mother took care of her baby at the Artist House in Bangkok, Thailand
Photo 2: Middlemarch, New Zealand
Photo 3: Dunedin Train Station, Dunedin, New Zealand
Photo 4: High school students performed a haka at the Octagon, Dunedin, New Zealand
Photo 5: A Scottish piper, Dunedin, New Zealand
Photo 6: A young boy was enjoying the performance of a Scottish pipe and drum band, Dunedin, New Zealand.
Poor, blown and washed out processing of Monochrom images seems par for the course on SHP.
#2, 4 and 5 are a little dark but that last one is perfect. Excellent work. I hope to one day find the courage to submit something for “Daily Inspiration” lol.
Hi Bernie, I really enjoy getting comments from folks. I like to sit down and listen to others’ opinions. You should try it out one day.
Nice work! I’m a fan of the second image, though it is a bit dark to my taste.
In my opinion, the other images are just a little bit complicated. I think one of the photographer’s primary goals should be to direct the viewer’s attention, and having many elements in the frame is counterproductive to that end. It should be clear not just what you want the viewer to see, but how you want the viewer to see it (i.e., how you’d like the viewer’s eye to move through the frame). If you can’t direct the viewer’s attention using in-camera methods, like recomposing, blurring distracting elements by reducing depth of field, etc., maybe try to do it in post-processing with some selective dodging and burning. Not that I’m the world’s greatest, but that’s my $.02.
Hi Brian, I agree with your comments, and thank for your advice. They are a bit too dark, and I realized that when I got them printed a couple of weeks ago. My Macbook Air fooled me into thinking that they were not too dark.
Color Spider…….or go to DPREVIEW, they have greybar under there photo’s use that to check if you can see most of the stairs of the bar….
Beautiful shots Chaiporn! I especially like the last one, with the little boy transfixed, lost in the moment and his surroundings.
To me, it’s capturing those poignant moments (which the Leica obviously allows you to do) that is the essence of a great photo! Nicely done!!
Hi Mars, many thanks for your kind words. I really like all my M (film and digital) cameras for two things: (1) they all slow me down from my fast-pace work life. And (2) they are small enough not to scare people off.
The boy image reminded me of George Rodger’s 1945 image of a boy walking through a concentration camp with bodies and survivors piled up at the side of the road. The boy did not look like an inmate and we can only wonder why he was there, and whether he understands what has happened. A child in an adult world with questions unanswered …http://pinterest.com/pin/19562579602008163/
Hmzzz, strange assosiation…..by the way, the reason he was there was that Germans after the war were forced to see what they had refused to see during the war and that included little children as well who were of course completely innocent to the slaughter.
Chairporn thanks for sharing your images. years ago you could buy a black and white viewing filter … Probably Leica should have fitted one to the MM viewfinder (oops another £500 on the price!). I think there is a raw edginess to your b&w images as you are breaking away from colour and learning to see in b&w. I would question the use of a red or yellow filter when photographing people in contrasty light as you had, fine for removing skin blemishes with controlled lighting but will add to the contrast as in pic 1. Was there someone else there using a flash or have you cleaned the childs eye in processing… Ideally something to reflect light in on their right hand side or even a small off camera flash, experiment around -1.5 stops. Pix 2 & 4 to me are slightly underexposed maybe more in lightroom would help. Dunedin station when opens up looks about right and the filter had done its job correctly, maybe if printing from film you would hold the trees back a bit. The boy, well it is one of those observed moments that you don’t know how long it will last so you have to get your first shot in quickly and then look for others around it possibly moving to one side to see some of his face. It depends what you want to say with your image: a little boy in grown up world or the grown up word from a child’s perspective. If the latter personally I would crop to square or 5×4 ratio. Would the image have been so arresting I’df the boy had worn trainers? Would you have directed the boy at all, or would you have brought a child along in order to take the image? An image to remember however it was taken Try reading some of Ansel Adams books on how he made photographs and particularly his views on light, a different genre but… When I first went to photographic college back in the early 1970s the head reputedly was commissioned to take photographs at an industrial location large scale machinery etc, 2 days before his technicians arrived and set up the lighting cables and lights. He arrived set up his camera and took two b&w photographs at the same exposure, the second to process with any adjustments after developing the first. He was then asked if he would mind as an extra taking a colour picture as well… He replied that they could get anyone along to take a colour snapshot, he took photographs (which were 5×4 or 10×8 B&W). It was not as arrogant as it seems because his lighting wash set up for b&w and colour film was kept in a fridge opened just before use and the appropriate correction filters applied. He later adopted some newer inventions and bought the college a set of rolleiflexes to use roll film! Black and white was for serious photography so well done embracing it the hard way. It will make you a better photographer!
I really appreciated your comments. With respect to Photo #1, nobody else was taking a photo of them at the time, and there was no flash. No filter was on my lens for this photo. I probably did five things to the image: increase an exposure by about 1/3, add black (probably -15), increase contrast (+15 or +20, shadow (+30) and white (+30). All was done in Lightroom 4.3. I used more or less the same adjustment values to all other images. The raw files were underexposed by about a stop or so. I was afraid of blowing the highlight during the first week or so. I rarely underexposed my images with my M9 though.
Old skool views Martin…..William Eggleston and Stephen Shore dragged color into the art photography world….kicking and screeming and lots of other photographers embrased their bold move so color is there to stay. In fact color is far far harder to do then black and white (since you have a lot more variables to play with). Sometimes a picture that does not work in color and is great in B&W, the other way is more rare (and with an ordinary digital camera you can go the other way as you probably know by shooting RAW and JPEG at the same time).
Very nice pics.
In my eyes this camera has closed the gap between digital and film cameras,
I am not speaking of DSLR cameras they are not even close to the MM performans ( although i must admit, lenses play a big role too , even a crucial one. ) I am speaking of Leica M8 M9 where i truely love their B\W, and yet in my eyes the MM is the ultimative B\W digital camera.
I sold my M9 for the MM, It was’nt easy, one has to get used to the camera, and see only in B\W.
once you are there its such a joy to look at the MM’w results.
I decided to use the M6 TTL for 2 weeks, ( i still dont have the photos) , I first put a B\W roll in it, and that was ok, apart from the qustion why do i have to film in b\w if i have the MM ?
So my next film was in color, and wow that seemd so strange to me, as i was thinking B\W ( already )
That is what this camera does to you
Many thanks for your kind words. I still shoot films with my M7 (with rolls of Ektar 100). Right now I’ve mainly been shooting with my MM, just to learn it inside out. I really enjoy viewing my MM images. But it was hard to get good images (in terms of correct exposure) for the first few weeks. Very difficult indeed.
These images are great! If you are a lousy photographer I hate to see you on a bad day . You’re good. I love the first image of the mother and her child and the little boy. Keep up the good work.
Hi Chaiporn, isn’t it great? I, myself, have the mono. Much in the same way as Slide film, this camera does require more discipline with your exposure. It’s almost the missing link in evolutionary terms. I always carry a camera, mine of choice tends to be the Monochrom. I have completely ‘gone off’ AF, preferring to return to the days where I have more control, at least shooting manually MF I always ‘feel’ that I have more control, and even a friend who is an avid Nikon user was surprised how easy it is to focus! On the other hand I prefer using the B+W Orange filter. Monochrome was my first love, I do not ‘see’ the final prints in colour, colour is at times a distraction to me. Stronger images tend to be monochrome IMHO. Using these, yellow, orange, red filters requires less post processing, if my image is good enough when I capture it, I feel it should not require PP. Spending too much time eyes glazed over the computer is not what I want. Making images is better.
The Mono is certainly my favorite camera, which has always been with me almost all the time.
I’ve never tried the Orange filter though. One day I will give it a try.
About the final prints, it is hard to find a good lap that delivers good B&W prints. I thought I had to get them printed in Germany or the US after having tried out a couple of labs in NZ, that all left me desperate. I am a bit lucky to find one lab (in Dunedin) that manages to print them well enough for me to feel good about the final prints. I am certainly going back to this lab again.
I found 1, 2, 3 & 5 a touch dark, but maybe it’s just me, or my jealousy of you having the “M”.
But #6 is absolutely fantastic, don’t change a thing. It tells a great story and the white line on the road draws you up the frame. Print it, frame it, be proud of it!
No not just you, I found them a bit dark as well. #4 has so many things in it, my eyes just keep rolling around LOL, but the last one is nice though…
Hi Darren and Ark,
Thanks for your comments. Yes, both of you are right. They are too dark. I processed those images on my MacBook Air when my iMac was not around. I thought they were not too dark till the day I got them printed. I’ve just uploaded an updated version of those photos on my Flick. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaiporn/)
I do the same thing sometimes. The Macbook air is not really reliable for editing I have found.
You have to set a Laptop always to the brightest Screen setting. Then use a cheap (hardware)calibration tool (around 100 dollar) and you are set.
To conserve power you can use a power savings setting all day long but when it comes to editing just set the screen to the broightest setting again.
Recalibrate every few months and you set 🙂
Lovely pictures you have taken here.
I am convinced that you will be a better photographer with MM as it is going to be about motiv and light.
The second and last image stands out positively, and especially the last one I found exciting.
Keep up the good work
Hi Ib M, I’m glad you like them. It’s really hard to get exposure right for the first two weeks. As I was afraid of having brown highlights, I tended to underexpose my images by at least a stop (or more) during my first week. It’s getting better now, but it is still a long way to go.
These are nice! Plus, you seem to get great enjoyment out of this, just like we all do.
And yes, the monocrome is expensive. But does anyone know of a “cheaper” camera that can deliver better pictures (I am setting myself up here, I know. let the coments begin)? This is my dream camera, plain and simple.
Hi Jan, yes, it encourages me to shoot more B&W images, and I really like it that way. There is nothing we can do about price tag, at least not now anyway. It’s just a question of take it or leave it. And I took it with my both hands.
Very nice collection. I really liked the boy watching the pipe band. I like how the Monochrom handles the sky. Much better than my old Oly.
Is it true the the owner drove that Ford Fairlane all the way from the plant in Detroit?
Many thanks for your kind words and comments. While I don’t have an answer to your question, I just don’t think that they drive to their car New Zealand.
I hope your April 1st was fun.
My first car was a Ford of that vintage. It was like driving a small truck.
My eye goes back to the last image. Great shot.