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: