Finding A Way Forward By Jason Howe

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

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

Cockpit – Leica M9 – 90mm Summicron f/2

3. Cockpit

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

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

5. Bedfords

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

6. Catenary Ripples

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

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

8. Silence of the lambs

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

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

10. Southern Exposure

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

11. Beauty in the Ordinary

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



  1. Jason,

    This is the first time I have joined in one of these forums, just got to say that your shot of the drift wood on the beach is classically beautiful and moving. If it had been taken in the 1950’s by someone famous it would now be regarded as a photography icon.

  2. Pleasure to view.

    Glad Steve is finding this level of quality.

    Contentious as it sounds I do love the Leica look. And love using them. Only have the M6 now but probably should get an M9 again.

  3. Bravo Jason ! Very inspired and beutiful shots as usual.

    Jason is a great photographer. He doesn’t use the stupid GAS excuse like too many people here.

    He uses his camera the best way possible, therefore, he deserves a huge respect.

  4. Hi Jason,
    i think, i am in the similar “stage of life” Maybe i see the “sunset on the horizon” from my life. 🙂
    Sorry for my limited english.
    I am from Germany and 57 years old. How old are you?


    • Hi Wolfgang, I’ve had a lot of messages from people that feel the same way…..we’re never happy!1

      I’m a little younger at 43, don’t let age be an obstacle though. 🙂

  5. Hi Jason, nice of you to visit the “mainland”. If viewers use google earth they can see the devastation of Christchurch quite easily. I lived there and do not recognise the place now.
    As for eating crayfish, were you at Kaikoura by any chance ?. I’ve dived with the seals there and its a wonderful experience.
    Fabulous photos btw, tourists should consider NZ over Oz any day.
    Did you see any Orcs roaming about ?. I could see (with binoculars) Rohan from LOTR from my house at Swannanoa (of Tram Road towards Oxford).
    All the best and keep up with the great posts.

    • Hi Zakk, my second visit down south….I feel a real affinity for Christchurch now and it’s people, it’s important we don’t forget there is still so much to be done there.

      I was near Kaikoura, it’s stunning. Alas, no Orc’s!!

      Cheers. Jason.

  6. I really like the shots, but digital and film. Wish I could experience that region too.
    You can keep the crayfish though.

  7. Great post, thank you!

    My favorites are pic 1 the road, 7 the church, 11 the road tree. Ups – all with a film camera 😉 keep your m6!

  8. The thing Jason is showing us is: photography opions are out there and really close to yourself. I always want to visit NZ because I see so many beautiful images from there.
    That said: are you kidding me?!? Complaining about too much gear, while having an incredible 35mm Sensor and lovly glasses. Having only two lenses is a challenge but shouldn’t be a goal.
    P.s. The pictures are breath taking

    • Thanks Felix, I enjoy gear and readily admit my obsession, I’d prefer to carry just a little less. I should point out that quite often I’m carrying more than I need because I’m trying to produce content for my site, still my problem….:)

  9. G’day Jason,
    You take some damn good shots, and I am not just heaping praise because of the ca,era you used as I am yet to encounter a Leica that is not behind glass.
    Nice job mate.

  10. Jason privileged bloke. Just goes to show that NZ still is my favourate place in the world esp. for the people who live there… Unfortunately it’s a long way from Berlin.

  11. Hi Jason,

    Love your amazing photos. NZ brings me wonderful memories as this is where my wife and I went for our honeymoon 7 years ago (living in Barcelona, that was a very long trip but the best trip we have ever made, for sure). Now, living in NZ you have wonderful photo opportunities: whales and dolphins close to Kaikoura, the glaciers, the Milford Sound… From all your photos I would say that those in BW are the most amazing. You are also at 3-4 hours flight from many Pacific Islands. I would focus on just nature and landscape photography for a year, and see what happens…


  12. Thank you for the contribution! I admire that you’ve titled your images . . . you’ve inspired me to make an attempt to do the same.



    • Thanks, Mmmmm, giving images a title….not to everyones liking for sure. I have mixed feelings about it, you certainly can’t enhance you’re image with it I know that. I do think I prefer it to someone saying I like your photograph with the dead sheep in it though. Do what makes you happy, Cheers.

  13. This was a wonderful post Jason…i admire you…your work…and your words…Thank you for this!

  14. Nice Jason thank you so much for sharing your outing which is as I know so hard to find with a family
    And responsibilities I guess we should thank your family for being open and understanding love the road shots and second car shot beautiful light

  15. I loved all the pictures; they have the quality and framing I would like to achieve.

    I appreciate IMMENSELY the info you provide with each picture: camera, lens and version of lens, film, filter, and any other settings. I find it incredibly helpful in my learning about photography.

    Thank you.

  16. These are all beautiful images. Your outings on your photo essay are very interesting and a great way to show the growth and changing direction. I will be followerer for sure.
    There is no doubt you have some nice gear but to be honest the best gear is the eye behind the lens.

  17. Liked no’s 1, 3 and 11. Impressive. But to ‘put yourself out there’ it may be better to avoid the well-worn paths of rusting vehicles, more old wagons or farm implements, driftwood on lonely beaches, disappearing jetties etc into lakes/seas and long exposure twilight coasts. It’s very hard to be ‘original’ and I don’t have (nor should I) solutions, but there are genres which have become so cliched I never want to see more examples of them. Yet another oxidised car in long grass? No thanks.

    • And that James just reinfoces how I feel. It is difficult to be original and I understand the limits of my own ability, but I would rather stop right now than carry on as I am. I totally agree with the cliched examples but they will always be necessary for honing technique.

      Cheers, Jason.

      • Now and then I find myself trying to emulate images I’ve seen elsewhere and then think “me too”, which is not good. Not sure how to escape that. However a week or two back I was in the Outer Hebrides and noted a recently published “art” book of local b&w photographs (superbly presented) suffered the same malady to some extent. Perhaps taking the painterly approach with much longer time consideration would help..

        Thanks for the reply.

        • It’s great to get some other perspectives. It’s essential to look at the work of others but at the same time I fear being subconsciously influenced, I may be wrong with that.

          I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time so far, I’ve learnt quite a bit in a relatively short space of time. It’s time to find some direction though and I feel a degree of urgency in that statement.

          More reflection required…cheers, Jason.

  18. Sorry, I should have added – on the lens issue, I do not carry 6 lenses. They would be in the car, or in a bag on the bike. When arriving at a scene, or planning shots, I would have two lenses max – one in my pocket, the other on the camera.

    Typically, this would be 50 plus a wide, 28-75 or 90.

    The Superwides (15 & 21) I particularly like on the Monochrom for big skies and dramatic landscapes, provided the subject is big enough or close enough.

    I couldn’t go away for a month (as I plan), traveling the length of the country with 2 lenses. I carry two lenses, but I would need the other options available. There’s no inconvenience or cost in having them in the car, and if you can’t distinguish different focal lengths in your mind and plan their use, I’d ask why you have them in the first place. That could be part of another photographic project.

    I can see the discipline of the single lens projects people do, but I do feel it is pointless – it is the scene I wish to capture in the most dramatic way I can. It’s not about the gear.


    • My M6 bag has a 50 mm Nokton , a 21 color skopar and an old screw mount 90 mm Helar in it. Makes you think at times … particularly as my medium format (and I normally take both when doing film trips) has a fixed normal lens (Fujifilm rangefinder).

  19. Hi Jason,

    I here you. Have been in the same boat recently. I agree also with John above. I have found I enjoy my little day trips so much more when I ride my bike (Triumph Rocket III). The day trip becomes a journey rather than the destination. Agree also about taking less gear. For me now when I go somewhere it is only one system, digital or film. Mindsets are to different for me taking both on same day.

    John I am looking to do a little bit of a tour the Xmas as well. maybe we should all meet up somewhere and have a play.

    Great shots as always Jason.

  20. HI Jason,

    I live in Auckland … don’t hold that against me!

    I feel a very strong affinity with what you say, particularly about focus and needing a project. I will often take photos as they occur, having no particular plan, and I know pretty much what they will look like after I’ve taken them – the images are still sitting on the memory cards in my camera.

    Reviewing my images over the last 30 years (I’m scanning and working on printing some books of my travels – Blurb, purely for personal interest as I will combined some excerpts from the journals I took at the time), I now see a lot of family shots, but not a lot with any particular focus. They’re just nice. Some really good, but then I was concentrating.

    For myself, I have carried my cameras and taken pictures all over the world, and it has been great fun. But I need to change. New places stimulate and increase awareness, which is good; but I don’t think it is the answer.

    I don’t know if this will help you, but I plan to travel more of this beautiful country of ours with a plan in mind. This is my home, and it fills me with joy and wonder – I just need to find a better way of expressing it. I will be taking my motorbike (I think), my Monochrom and the new Sony A7r (if it lives up to expectation, otherwise my M9) and the following primes – 15-21-28-50-75-90 Now, I know 6 lenses is a lot to take, but each is different, but if I line them up end on end, they are still shorter than my Nikkor 80-400 AF-S zoom.

    There’s no point in heading off on a photographic journey with only two lenses.

    Christmas, I plan to head around East Cape, and down to Wellington on the way to Wanaka. That’s only the physical route – the photographic journey is still in the planning!


    • Cheers John, I’ve had quite a few messages today from people that are similarly frustrated.

      I think you should take and use what you’re comfortable with, for me I know I’d do better with less, I just need to do it.

      The East Cape is wonderful, one of my favourite places in NZ, enjoy.

    • Hey Jason and John, as a recovering Aucklander (I have lived in Dunedin since 2006) I find that I have to deliberately NOT take the fancy shot: the classic shots of wanaka and the remarkables — because there is a classic beautiful shot around almost every bend around here.

      (And yes, the NI and SI are completely different and equally fun)

      Travelling — the good cameras take up very little rrom on the car, But for flying, my current kit is a nikon one and a small rangefinder. I leave the Leica and Nikon and the really good stuff at home.

      On the family — you only have your kids in your house for all to short a time. Mine are leaving high school fairly soon.

      In the summer I want to get into southland and fiordland. Not been there yet 🙂

  21. Very nice indeed You do know that many people would travel thousands of miles to shoot in New Zealand? It’s always tempting to think the grass is greener on the other side of the ocean, but I’m thinking you can do a whole lot with what’s in your own back yard. NZ is a beautiful place and you’re very lucky to be there.

    I echo your thoughts about spending more time in one place. It’s far more effective than flitting in & out. 5 years should do it!

    • Hi Andrew,

      I did anticipate that response, I’m from the UK and it’s certainly not lost on me how beautiful this place is and that many would love to be here.

      I think you’re right with the 5 year estimate!! Haha, it’s clear I have to find a way to satisfy myself here in addition to anything else I try.

      Thanks, Jason.

  22. hi Jason,

    My piece of advice: lose some of the gear. You’re taking way too much. Just try a one camera, two lens kit for a while. It will clear your mind.
    Second: you live near south-east Asia: as far as I’m concerned the best for everyday life photography. Just go there for a few weeks. To me, it was far more interesting than NZ. Stay in one place for a few days. Don’t go sightseeing, just go to a place where people actually live! There you’ll find the real things to happen.


    • Have to agree on point number 1 as well Joeri. I recently spent 5 weeks travelling and took my Monochrome and 2 lenses. Was great to have less gear to think about and free up the mind for photography and generally the holiday aspects as well. It’s not only the photography but also other aspects of travel i enjoyed that set up for.

      That’s my personal experience and I do appreciate we are discussing this with one of the true collectors of all things great in the photography world:-)!

      • I too echo the take less gear approach. The truth is, you’ll never be prepared enough for “every” photographic option and trying to be prepared for all of the most common ones still leaves one with too much gear and so many compromises that it can be difficult doing simple things well.

        I’d also be cautious about taking film. Yes the xray machines are way less powerful than in days of old, and yes you can get hand searching of your film, and yes you can buy and process while traveling. But it still adds a layer of complexity to traveling for photography that may make the whole trip stressful and less satisfying-and you’d be carrying at least two bodies, and if one is the Monochrom then three if you want to shot digital colour and four if you want BW and a colour film bodies.

        I’d suggest the Monochrom and two lenses and have a really focused (pardon the pun) trip. Yeah, some pictures will get away. But you’ll be much more relaxed physically and mentally and you can spend more time crafting the pictures you do take. If you can’t bear the thought of no colour shots, ditch the Monochrom and take a digital Leica body–but don’t take two bodies–your shooting will rapidly become a mental struggle of which to shoot with and suddenly it’s all about the equipment and not about the photography.

        Have a good trip.

  23. I was particularly interested in your M mono shots and your comment about the camera sometimes delivering images that are too sharp. From what I’ve seen elsewhere, I think you’re right, also too contrasty. But to my eye you have got the relationship between motif, sharpness and contrast just right. I’d love to see you try some high-key as well. And if you are interested in using your beautiful equipment (lucky you) on an approach that is likely to be different from anything you’ve tried before, have a look at “The Practice of Contemplative Photography” by Andy Kerr and Michael Wood (Shambala). Even if you don’t want to go down their particular road, you’ll likely find it will do something for your way of seeing – even in familiar places.

    • Thanks, it can definitely be the case and it’s one of the reasons I have not been tempted by the 50 APO. Thanks for the link also, I’ll be sure to take a look.

  24. As you know, I agree and appreciate your thoughts when coming to very similar conclusions you have here. I’m sure you’ll turn that into something exciting in the near future!

    Another great set of images.



  25. You are definitely a great photographer and I think that you have given voice to that sense of freedom and creativity that so many of us continue to search for. More important that your photos, though, is the fact that you seemed to have learned a lot about who you are and what your place in the universe is. Never loose the light that guided you in your journey. Happy trails.

  26. i agree 100% with where you are at. I’m feeling the same way… that I’ve photographed everything I can locally and need fresh material, locales, ideas, perspectives. Great set!

    • Thanks, I’ll be shouting about it when I find the solution….i’m talking about travel but that can only be part of the answer for me, I need to find home based projects also as thats where we spend the majority of our time.

  27. I here you Jason, am in a very similar boat, have very similar frustrations. I have found that my day trips that I used to drive to are so much more enjoyable now I do them on a motorbike. I see more and feel more in touch with my surroundings and the whole day becomes the journey rather than the destination. Also means you have to take less gear, and that has helped me as well. Now it is either a film day or a digital day. There is a lot to see here in NZ, if you want to catch up on the road sometime let me know.

    • Hey Dave, I can just see my wife’s face when I compound everything by adding a motorbike in to the equation…..:) That said I take your point. There is a lot in NZ and I’ve identified I need for long term projects here, I just feel the desire to be out of my comfort zone. I’ll drop you a line for sure.

      Cheers, Jason.

  28. Great stuff Jason! I’ve mentioned on flickr that I’m really taken with this series of images from New Zealand’s beautiful, wild coastline. Couldn’t agree more about it being about the journey too, first and foremost its the experience, your passion for what you’re experiencing will then come naturally in your images.

    Wonderful stuff, enjoying the mix if digi and film here too, always great to see film being used – Portra 400 is fast becoming a favourite of mine too.

    Keep sharing, always great to see your work.

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