Looking into the souls, thinking in (Leica) monochrom
By Marco Wolf – His Website is HERE
My name is Marco Wolff from Hamburg. This is my first article I write about my thoughts as a photographer, my ideas and gear I use.
More than 3 years ago I deeply stepped into digital photography, took online trainings and made a lot of photo sessions. These sessions follow 2 streams, the first is about portraits – going next to people, talking to people and focusing on what they are and what they think. The second stream is about dancing – Flurina (first picture above) was the first dancer I took pictures of and right at this moment I was addicted to the passion of the dancers expressions and their life.
During this time I used several cameras and lenses like olympus, nikon, Leica etc. to find for me the most suitable one. Hopefully, now… I have found it. In this article I like to tell you a little bit about my way I used Leica and my experiences with the Leica monochrom.
2 Years with my Leica M9
I bought my first Leica (M9) in silver in 2011 with 35 mm f/2 and 50 summilux f/1.4. I started to take pictures for a local culture organisation in Lucerne (Switzerland). I was able to take pictures during concerts and also backstage. It was always a dream to me to work like a reporter with artists, being next to them as observer. Amazing moments are always before the gig starts, the members of the band are lazy, funny and relaxed. But then, after they entered the stage – their mind totally changed.The way they look and behave is totally different – you can feel they are passionated to their music. I try to be so close to the band to be able to freeze their expression to the picture.
Picture of the band “When Saints Go Machine” (Leica M9, 50 Summilux)
This picture was taken during a concert of the danish band “when saints go machine”. It was nearly dark, hard to focus. I just work with available light with no extra flash etc. The M9 with max 800 ISO and summilux 1.4 was the best combination for me.
I grew up by the pictures of Anton Corbijn, especially the pictures he made of Depeche Mode. I knew it is hard to copy his contrast and sepia style – especially when adapting them in the digital world. I spent days on producing my own presets in lightroom to go in this direction. Every single picture of the M9 gave me a lot of post work, but the results never really kicked me.
Good friend of mine (Leica M9, 50 Summilux)
In august 2012 I could join the “St. Moritz workshop” with Steve McCurry, Jock Sturges and Amedeo M. Turello. Leica was the official sponsor during this 2 days workshop. I was able to use a pre-production Monochrom for half an hour with my lens and memory stick. After importing the RAW files in Lightroom I was just sitting in front of the screen astonished by the quality of the pictures that just came out of the camera with no additional post work. – I just could kick my M9 lightroom presets and was able to work with the monochrom files with just some fine post editing.
But as you may know, buying a Leica especially a Monochrom is expensive and it took some time until one camera was available at my personal camera store 😉 I sold the M9 with the summilux, bought the monochrom and a used 50 f/2 summicron. After some weeks working with the monochrom, I didn`t miss any color. No more taking decisions which color style would fit to the pics. I just felt home and free – I was now able to concentrate on the object in front of the lens. It just reduced everything to the minimum – my personally essence of photography.
Now I fully concentrate on having contact to the “model”, the composition of the background, everything just in black and white – an amazing feeling.
The good news about the monochrom are also the higher ISO compared to the M9. I use ISO 6400 as maximum – the results are still amazing.
dancing choreographer in zürich (Leica MM, 50 Summicron)
In these pictures above I just added some contrast and blacks and have just the style I was always looking for.
It`s always interesting how the MM also interpret the lights. Like at the pictures above. Behind the woman is also a lot of light, but on the file it is almost black. After a photo sessions like with dancing choreographer, it is always a pleasure to me, looking at the screen and being fascinated what potential the camera has – that’s a kind of soul the camera has. It`s not just another gear that makes great pictures with high-resolution, no it`s just sees the light differently
Some words about online printing services. I tried out some of them over the last years, apple printing, whitewall (the official shop) and others. If you like to have the best out of your MM on paper I really can recommend the WhiteWall-Leica printing service. After registering your MM camera you have access to this shop. My recommendation is the “Lambda print” just on paper or paper on aluminium. The black parts of the picture are like painted, the fine details e.g. of the hair are amazing. Looking at the portraits is like looking directly at the face.
Gear I also use:
VSCO (film 1&2), MacBook Pro Retina 15.4”, Sony A7r – yes, I´m also one of them 😉
Another Portraits all with Leica MM and 50 Summicron:
Next time I will you tell a little bit more about my dancing photo sessions I took over the last years with different professional dancers from Angela Rabaglio, like this:
Please give me feedback about my work under email@example.com, my official website is http://marco-wolff-photography.com
I really like what you posted. Thank you for taking the time to do that. I really dig the dancing choreographer pic.
I get the sense that you make a connection with your subject, and that catching them in odd (special?) poses only adds character to the images.
Marco, Some really nice work here! Thanks for posting…
Leica printing? Well I think your Leica MM-pictures will look even better on a Leica tripod, using a Leica gear head. Don’t forget to wear a Leica RAW jacket and a pair of Leica shoes, and do some Leica gel in your hair. Boy, what a kind of nonsense. People make around the world pictures as good as yours NOT using a Leica, and certainly NOT even considering a Leica printing service. I dare to do the same with my D800, a few good lenses and a the local printshop used by all pro-photgraphers @ 1/6th of the price. And without a pole sticking out of someone’s head.
If so, why are you interesting in reading leica-entries? For me, everybody can use the gear he loves – I?m open minded. Like the pole sticking out of the head is extra – i like it and put it extra in this direction. thank you
Marco, don’t worry. I don’t think your post reeked of Leica fanboyism at all; it just provided some information and enthusiasm. I’m a D800 (and old Nikon slr) user myself, I’m not fond of Leica (fanboyism) nor do I like zooms, but I never feel the need to attack someone’s gear choice.
Again, beautiful, intriguing images. And that pole… Oh well!
Maybe i was a bit rude, but I just don’t believe in the ‘Leica is best’ story. And that is not based on pure emotion, but on facts as I’ve been considering Leica M several times in my life, and have a lot of Leica-owning friends as well. Just because of that… comparing Leica M with other systems I owned never could proof that expensive superiority. Even contrary. I understand the feel of such a beatifully crafted camera in your hands, but there it stops for me. Leica is what it is and it will never work for me and I’m a bit allergic for the silly fanboyism I see quite a few times on sites like this. Nikon, Fuji X, Olympus, Sony… they’re all able to deliver the same IQ or even better at a much lower price level but I’m sure that at least 100 replies will follow now to claim the oposite. Sorry. My 2c
That was not rude – that was straight the truth.
The camera is just a tool and a tool in wrong hands will not give you good results.
Otherwise a cheap camera in right hands can make wonderful pictures.
Leica is not my tool – I never belive in some wizards telling the story about
the Leica Glow and something like magic you can buy with money.
Just my opinion…….
I am a Leica user, not really a fanboy. I like the rangefinder. It works well for my style of photography. I used DSLRs, Nex, A7R, etc.. I always come back to the rangefinder. I look for cheaper options but have not found one yet. I may have used Leica for too long and just got so used to the focusing system. I think it is the option to nicely fine-adjust the focus without having a focus point jump around. I like that and it makes me pay a lot for it. Is it worth it? Other cameras I often leave at home. I am curious about an Olympus Em-1. Would like to try that. BTW The printing service that Marco mentioned is not a Leica print service. Whitewall.com offers to print digital files on real B&W photo paper to everybody. But when the MM came out Leica made an exclusive deal with them to only offer that service for a specific time to Leica MM buyers. It may have been for a period of one year. Leica investigated how to print the MM files nicely on B&W paper and collaborated with Whitewall. There are other companies offering the same service but they may not have the convenient online service that Whitewall is offering. So it is not Leica printing. Just a collaboration between a good printing service and Leica. Personally I can recommend Whitewall. They do nice prints. D!RK
A far as I know the Whitewall B&W print service is available to everybody. At least B&W on RC paper and B&W on Baryta paper is available without any Leica registration. Maybe the prices are different or they do an extra service but in general the B&W Whitewall prints should be available to all. I used it in the past and the prints are really beautiful. D!RK
Stunning work…. Really like your captures!
Fantastic work. Files from the Leica CCD sensors never cease to amaze me.
Superb! Keep it up!
Wish you had a B&W shot of Flurina.
hi tom. just for you .. here are more pictures of this small session with flurina in black and white: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#AO5yeZFhdxExG
Appreciate the follow up Marco! B&W really brings out excellent definition of the human form, especially for toned body like a dancer would have.
Great work, the MM is quite a piece of art, always rewarding 🙂
Probably the best tool Leica made for photographers…
These are very, very good, and the images match the caption of the story, which is quite rare.
thank you michiel. i just love talking to people – understand their way of thinking, problems etc. after that..the picture is the essence of all.
So true Marco; the image is the essence, and your images capture that essence.
I understand you perfectly as i own the MM and simply love it
Hi Marca, I really enjoy your work and would love to see more on your website. However, I guess the links your are providing are not working. It only leads to http://4ormat.com/ .
Thanks, Rainer, South-Germany
sorry for that – me and steve tried to fix everything. the right link should lead to marco-wolff-photography.com. ich wünsch dir einen schönen tag rainer. gruss aus dem norden
That link does not work..
Good friend and choreographer are superb! Great to hear Anton as an influence. One of my favorite photographers!
Bob Tilton? You are “THE” Bob Tilton from Werk Crew 😉 ? I really do enjoy your calendars!!
Same opinion as you + portrait behind glass!
Those are excellent Marco I really enjoy them.
That would be me. Very much enjoy Steve’s site and the guest posts. Glad to see you here too.
Marco – you may like a movie called Control that is directed by Anton. It’s a B&W movie on Joy Division.
The book is not bad either 😉
hi bob – yes, i saw the movie already. i love the work of anton corbijn. depeche mode is currently on tour, anton did their background videos for the tour – they are just amazing.
theres also a movie called “inside out” – a documentation about anton.
hi bob. i love anton corbijn – all his pictures seems to be so simple. Also George Boo is one of them. They don`t need the fanciest cameras and tools, the are able to make just beautiful pictures.
like you wrote minimum is really maximum so one word thank you!!!!11
Thank you steve for positing my article. I love your post about Leica – your one of the reasons I bought a like and I still like it – I love it 😉
Lovely work Marco! It’s obvious by your photos that you have found a true passion. Taking a look at your website, I was quite impressed, especially by the dance collection! Its clear you have a bright future ahead of you.