WHAT TO PACK

by Tina Manley

When you are planning a photography trip, how do you decide what to pack? There are several things to consider before you decide what to put in your camera bag. What kind of photos do you plan to take? What equipment do you have available? How long will you be gone? How much weight can you carry? Will you have to carry your equipment long distances?   How will you protect everything from loss, theft, and weather?

HONDURAS, EL LIMON:  Martir Lopez fans himself with his hat on a hot day in the mountains of Honduras.  The women of El Limon make pottery and are involved in HPI's Women in Livestock Development projects.

HONDURAS, EL LIMON: Martir Lopez fans himself with his hat on a hot day in the mountains of Honduras. The women of El Limon make pottery and are involved in HPI’s Women in Livestock Development projects.

For over 30 years I worked as a documentary photography for non-governmental organizations in developing countries. I traveled to 67 countries photographing people. The photographs were used by agencies to raise money for self-development projects.

My cameras have always been Leica rangefinders. The cameras are unobtrusive, quiet, durable, and wonderful for low light photography. Since I carried all of my own equipment and stayed with local families, often without electricity, the rangefinders and their fast lenses were perfect.

For most of those years, I would also carry about 300 rolls of film for a two week trip. Now I carry computer equipment, battery chargers, cables, memory cards and hard drives.

I have learned through the years what is essential and what can be left at home. I just returned from a month in Cuba where I took 16,000 photos that I am still editing. All of my equipment fit in a Tamrac backpack and a Travelon purse (guys might want to carry a waist belt or vest). Cuba_3 Here is my packing list:

Here is my packing list:

  • Leica M240
  • Leica Monochrom
  • Leica M9
  • 21 Elmarit
  • 24 Summicron
  • 35 Summilux
  • 35 Summicron
  • 50 Summilux
  • 50 Noctilux
  • 75 Summilux
  • 90 Summicron
  • 2 Leica battery chargers
  • 10 M9/MM batteries
  • 4 M240 batteries
  • Acer Netbook with Lightroom
  • 2 2TB Seagate hard drives (one to store photos, one backup)
  • 10 SD cards – 16, 32, 64 GB

Visible Dust’s Artic Butterfly sensor cleaner 700101_02443-Edit I carried one camera on my shoulder, one in my purse, and one in the backpack. The purse has a steel cable strap and I carried steel retractable cables to secure my backpack.

I’ve never had anything stolen in all of my travels. A rain poncho covered everything, including the backpack, in bad weather. I kept the same lenses on my 3 cameras most of the time. The 35 Summicron was on my M240, the 50 Summilux on my MM, and the 24 Summicron on my M9. For low light conditions I would switch to the Summilux and Noctilux versions.

150208_6659-Edit-2 I love to photograph people and try to hang around long enough that they forget I’m taking photos. I’m very good at disappearing into the background! If I were planning to shoot sports or landscapes, my lens and camera list would be totally different, but for people, the list is perfect for me.

HONDURAS, EL LIMON:  Martir, Kevin Jose and Raquel Lopez in their rural home in the mountains of Honduras.  The women of El Limon make pottery and are involved in HPI's Women in Livestock Development projects.

HONDURAS, EL LIMON: Martir, Kevin Jose and Raquel Lopez in their rural home in the mountains of Honduras. The women of El Limon make pottery and are involved in HPI’s Women in Livestock Development projects.

HONDURAS, GRACIAS A DIOS:  Dr. Frank Strait examines a baby as the community looks on in a remote, rural village in Honduras.   Providence Presbytery and HPI provide health promoter training and medicines for clinics in Honduras.

HONDURAS, GRACIAS A DIOS: Dr. Frank Strait examines a baby as the community looks on in a remote, rural village in Honduras. Providence Presbytery and HPI provide health promoter training and medicines for clinics in Honduras.

 

HONDURAS, OLOAS:  Tiburcio Monueles blesses a breakfast of tortillas and beans with his two youngest children.   Erlinda and Tiburcio Monueles are community leaders who participate in Heifer Project International workshops in their rural farming community in the mountains of Honduras.  The Monueles had 18 children but only 9 are living.

HONDURAS, OLOAS: Tiburcio Monueles blesses a breakfast of tortillas and beans with his two youngest children. Erlinda and Tiburcio Monueles are community leaders who participate in Heifer Project International workshops in their rural farming community in the mountains of Honduras. The Monueles had 18 children but only 9 are living.

 

For those who will be in NYC for the Leica Meet on June 11, I hope you will be able to stick around for my lecture at the International Center for Photography on June 12. I’ll be showing photos from Cuba and talking more about how to pack. NYLUG’15: PHOTOGRAPHY COLLOQUIUM – information here: http://www.pbase.com/image/160198369 To see my documentary photos: http://tinamanley.smugmug.com/Tina-Manley-Portfolio/ http://tinamanley.smugmug.com/Documentary/Black-and-White/ Photos from Cuba: http://www.pbase.com/tinamanley/cuba&page=all 150214_10655-Edit

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Fashion Cover Up – Leo Kwok

We know Leo Kwok for his wonderful street photography and after inviting him to be our current featured photographer we discovered his amazing ‘Fashion Cover Up Project ‘  and we wanted to know some more about it.

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Can you give us a brief overview of what the project’s about?

Hong Kong’s air pollution is mainly caused by motor vehicles. There are about 306 licensed vehicles for every kilometer of road and they produce large amounts of particles and nitrogen dioxide which cause burning spasms; swelling of the throat; reduced oxygen intake and a larger buildup of fluids in the lungs — and in some cases death. You find people using such materials as facial masks, newspapers and tissue paper to cover their mouths and noses in order not to breathe in those harmful pollutants. We know that we cannot get rid of all the vehicles in the short run nor stay indoors forever. But wait! Let’s forget all the bad news for a while. Can we try to confront this issue positively and express the need to protect ourselves in a creative and fashionable way? In my Fashion Cover-up project, I invited five people with very different characters and occupations and created five unique outfits for them. The outfits serve both to protect and beautify the wearers. Instead of showing the sad and ugly side of air pollution, which everyone knows, I prefer to address this social issue in an alternative way, one that will arouse our government’s attention.

 

Tell us a little more about the incredible outfits created and what each one represents?

As I mentioned, I created 5 outfit for 5 different people. After I discussed with them, knew more about their job natures, what they did, where they went… I came up with these:

 

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Facial Mask Gown -Silvia Cheng, Marketing Company Owner based in Central “My nose and mouth need a protective mask, so does my skin, which is the biggest organ exposed to Hong Kong’s polluted air. I can feel protected in this glamorous gown.”

02_cloak

‘Good Morning’ Brand Towel Cloak – Ah Wai, Street Photographer “Batman has a bullet-proof cloak, and I also need a cool-looking air pollution-proof cloak when I’m driving my motorbike or working outdoors. Now I feel like I’m a superhero too.”

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Free Newspaper Skirt – Abby Au, Graphic Designer “I walk along busy roads every morning and usually have to collect a pile of free newspapers to cover my nose as the vehicles emit so much black smoke. This folded newspaper skirt works well, both functionality and aesthetically. I support recycling and support this outfit!”

04_roll

Toilet Paper Roll Costume – Tung Tung and Yau Yau, Primary 1 Students “Our mother gives us tissue paper to cover our mouths when we go to school. Instead, we are always looking for something cute and interesting to replace it. This outfit is functional and looks lovely. We love it so much because we are big fans of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.”

05_bag

Garbage Bag Suit – Kwan Jeh, Secondary School Cleaning Lady “I use the garbage bag to wrap around my head in order not to breathe in the toxic gas and substances. Now this full suit even protects my whole body.”

 

What made you choose to present the project in black and white also can you describe for us your studio set up and processing technique?

First of all, I think the form, shape and texture of those outfits are very important. I strongly believe B/W photo works better. Secondly, although the idea is a bit humorous, i don’t want people to think that it’s a secondary school craftwork project. Instead, i want to present it in a serious, professional and artistic manners. It should be more like a B/W high-fashion photography. I shot in RAW and did some contrast and tone enhancement in Photoshop and Silverefex Pro. One more thing i want to mention, the idea of the outfits and photography style, both are inspired by the Issey Miyaki Pleats Please Collection.
Issey1
I have a tiny photo studio less than 300 sq ft with a very basic setup : 400W studio strobes x 3 and 150W studio strobes x 2, umbrellas, soft boxes, beauty dish….etc and etc.  For cameras, i have Canon 5D (just sold), Nikon DF & FE2 with 3 lenses, Pentax 645D with 4 lenses, Mamiya 6, Leica M240, M9 (just sold), M7, M4, M3, X2….. lenses: 90cron, 50 Noct, 50 lux, 35 Summaron, 28 elmarit, 21 elmarit and just buy a R 70-210 /4. I used M9 and 50 Noct with 4 studio strobes to take this set of photo. For street or documentary photography, i usually bring M240 with 50 lux and 21 elmarit, M7 with 28 elmarit ; HP5+400 or Tri-X 400 and X2. I am expecting the new Leica Monochrom : )
My_Leicas-

In one of our correspondences you said ‘Street photography is dessert, photo project is the main course”, what advice would you give to other photographers thinking about starting a project?

I always ask myself, “What’s the point to do this project?” If you think it’s meaningful to you or others, please go ahead. I have a life time project called “We are family” – record the significant moments of my kids and wifey, but not those typical family photos. I had a project called “Beautiful Strangers”, recorded the life of a tribe who lives in Yunnan, China, one of the poorest villages in the region. I believe some of the members here saw this set of photo in Leica Meet FB page. My motto is “To touch someone’s heart with photography”.

Where do you look for your inspiration?

Study the works of photographers, designers, artists I like, reading news everyday, watching movies and talking to different kinds of people.

Whats next for Leo Kwok?

I always want to improve myself and do better. As a photographer, I hope I could win an award in any significant international photo competitions like Leica Oskar Barnack Award, World Press Photo Contest….. I forget to say that people (even my friends)  think I’m a photographer. In fact I have been running my own branding design company and need to deal with my clients, staff, suppliers and all design works from 10am to 7pm everyday. Photography is just my serious hobby. I wish I could spend more time to take photos, travel and discover more new stories or one day it’s my second career.

on_the_way_to_exhibiton

Cars, Cameras and Confidence by Marc Hartog

If you have never visited the Le Mans Classic, and if you have even the slightest interest in cars or motorsport, add it to your list of things to do before you die – there is simply nothing else like it.

Held every other year in early July, at the same 13.6km circuit as the better-known “24 Heures du Mans” annual endurance race, no other car-related event I have attended comes close to touching all of the senses and creating that sense of palpable excitement that often eludes us as adults – and provides so many amazing photo opportunities, in one place.

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In the last 18 months I have discovered the simple enjoyment of shooting with a Leica M, and have also made a more concerted effort to think about what and how I want to shoot. Photography for me is a hobby. My real job is as the CEO of a media company, Apptitude Media, but we do happen to publish the British Journal of Photography so I have daily inspiration in the office. We also publish the world’s first magazine designed for the iPhone, fltr, which champions smartphone photography. My own editorial team has banned me from sneaking my own pictures into the magazines, so I was delighted to be invited to contribute to the Leica Meet blog!

This was to be my third time at the Classic, and remembering that the circuit and accessible areas are vast, we figured bikes would be a good idea, and managed to insert fold-ups in to our relatively limited luggage areas, which were well worth sacrificing other things (like lenses and tripods) for.

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Last time in Le Mans I lugged a large Lowepro rucksack with my trusty Nikon DLSR and about 8 prime lenses, a flashgun and tripod…and no room for a bike. All change this time – I carried a small, understated Domke messenger-style bag, containing three important cameras with almost no accessories – and, most importantly, I had a plan.

I packed my recently acquired M240 with 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Aspherical FLE lens, to document the action and the interesting people I knew I would find there from past experience. I set up my camera to be completely manual as I enjoy the challenge of picturing the end result and finding the right settings to suit each situation. I always set the camera to DNG quality for post-processing and find it useful to set the film mode to b&w (no filter) which I find helps test light and contrast, in particular as this event lends itself to black and white images.

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Having never had any training or studied the ‘rules’ of composition, I am slowly finding my style and at the moment I am favouring shooting with a black and white slightly grainy feel in mind, wide open most of the time, and cropping to 16:9, all of which was in my mind as I was taking pictures. I only updated the firmware this week and was delighted to see that crop lines have been introduced, so with the EVF or in LV I can set the lines to 16:9 and it takes the guess work out of the equation…one less thing to worry about!

05

I also had my iPhone to capture fun things to share immediately with friends who were not able to join us, and I bought a Go Pro Hero 3 the week before I left, with the plan of mounting it to the cars for the journey, and catching some super-wide angle action at the event.

As with the main Le Mans race, the Classic is 24 hours of racing, but divided in to six separate period races, ranging from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. It is only open to cars that have the provenance of having actually raced at Le Mans in their period and when they race, they really race – including the classic start where the drivers stand on the opposite side of the track and have to run to their car, jump in and hope it starts.

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This is where I did miss having a longer lens, and since getting back I have acquired a 135mm lens and an EVF, which I am looking forward to playing with. Fortunately the detail in the M240 files is superb and Lightroom 5 made light work of cropping in to the subject where ‘feet zooming’ was not possible.

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Le Mans on an event weekend is a bit like the most expensive car park in the world, with incredible cars parked all around the circuit, often organized by the owners clubs, so it is easy to lose hours without even looking at the racing.

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This blog contains a small selection of pictures taken over the 48 hours we were in Le Mans, around the circuit and of the racing. Most of my night-time shots were shot wide open at ISO 3200 and I didn’t have to worry too much about lighting…the M240 just sucks in whatever is available. Oh, and I added grain to get the slightly filmic effect I wanted – the low light capabilities of this camera and lens combination are outstanding.

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The most challenging photos I attempted were motion shots of the racing at night. It was very dark and even wide open with ISO set to 3200 I needed to shoot at around 1/30. I wanted to create a background blur with the main subject in focus, and I did not manage to achieve this…it is, of course, entirely possible that mild inebriation assisted the failure. But…I actually really like the effect of slight blur on the cars – they were going really, really fast and I think this imperfect picture actually captures the moment better than the way I was attempting to, or at least that is what I have convinced myself.

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The paddocks are open access, which means you can photograph the engineers, drivers and these amazing classic machines up close. The pits and pit lane are, obviously, closed for authorized personnel, but more about that later…

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The ‘cars’ and ‘cameras’ referenced in the title of this blog post are obvious. The ‘confidence’ is there because I wanted to talk a little about how important being confident is when it comes to shooting who or what you want to.

From the several Leica Meet events I have attended in the last year, my own confidence has grown ten-fold. I no longer feel conspicuous or strange when wanting to capture a moment or an interesting face. Most importantly – and it could be the copious amount of wine consumed over dinner which helped – we decided to just walk over to the well guarded access gates to the pits, and see what happened. On the way there I remember saying to my partner in crime, Mike, “just look confident”, and we waltzed straight past security, through the gate, in to the pits, and in to the heart of the action.

Forget sitting in the grandstands, this was racing going on right before our eyes and, at night, in the rain, it was like watching theatre unfold before us – I think I caught some of the best shots I ever have, and I felt that childlike excitement whilst I was doing it. Forever-type memories, and all because of having a little bit of confidence.

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Unfortunately my battery gave up the ghost while we were in the pits…a lesson very firmly learned.

All in all a terrific weekend, and a rare opportunity to indulge in my two passions. I am already looking in to booking my trip for Classic Le Mans 2016, maybe we could do a Leica Meet there??!

 

Full set of images   – https://www.flickr.com/gp/marchartog/5pp282/

by Marc Hartog

 

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet (9)

A selection of some of the finest work contributed by our members in the last two weeks .

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Stephen Cosh

ImageCarles Decors

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Dirk Holvet

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Roy DyBuncio

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Yonathan Budi

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Tommy N Armansyah

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Ilovezachy Boy Borj

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Luis Borges Alves

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Rick Bronks

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Axel Wohlbold

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Benya Acame

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Mike J Pratt

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Benny Asrul

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Herman e Patger

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 Rod Higginson

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Iwan Setiabudi

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Tristan Blonz

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Budi Wibowo

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Jack Cheung

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Oddy Kasim

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Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

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Sung S Lee

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Teuku Adifitrian

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Kresna Priawan

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Spyro Zarifopoulos

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Eileen McCarney Muldoon

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Derlin Zhang

 

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Benny Asrul

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Fredrik Lübbe

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Antony De

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Lluis Ripol

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Danny Ardiono

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David Lykes Keenan

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Nathanael Rony Sidharta

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Iwan Setiabudi

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Gavin Mills

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Rossie Zen

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Hun Shiun

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 Yongkie Lie

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Yonathan Budi

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Stephen Cosh

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Dian Savitri

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Frank-Peter Lohoff

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William Jusuf

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Alvaro Lucena

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David Feltham

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Teuku Adifitrian

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Henry Wang

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 Amy Su

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Mike J Pratt

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 Carl Merkin

Why Leica ?

 

Written and compiled by Gavin Mills for the Leica Meet .

Between shooting the streets of Brighton at our last Meet and whilst having lunch and a couple of beers we got into an interesting discussion. No surprises we were talking about Leica and what’s so good about the camera , the experience of using it and how to describe that special or signature Leica look .

Rather than another technical review of the camera which there are already plenty enough of online , instead the following is  a collection of views and opinions written by some great photographers who are passionate about using the camera .  Sharing from a users perspective,  their thoughts about the camera, how they became a Leica shooter in the first place,  and how did  it influence their photography.

What exactly is it that makes the Leica their personal choice .

Enjoy !

1654400_10203116830259865_1231469286_nStephen Cosh

David Lykes Keenan

My first Leica experience came as a teenager back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I was a typical teenage photographer at the time using an SLR camera. In my case, I used a Nikkormat and a Nikon F. But my grandfather had an M3, numerous lenses, a Visoflex, countless gadgets, and he was generous enough to allow me to use his kit from time to time.

I wasn’t aware of the Leica mystique in those days but I knew the camera was something special and I found it to be an amazing experience to be able to take pictures with it.

Leaving college, I didn’t become the photographer I thought I was going to be when as I was a teenager. I graduated as a software engineer and programmed computers for 30 years until 2003 when I went out and, on impulse, bought a Leica Digilux 2 primarily because it resembled and reminded me of my grandfather’s M3.

That was the beginning of the end of my software career and the beginning of my new life as photographer.  With the help of eBay, I re-created my grandfather’s M3 over time and had a lot of fun with it.

As time went on, I purchased other Leica’s. Eventually after experiencing what a particular model camera had to offer, I would often resell them and move up the “food chain” to something new. Today, I own a IIIf, an M7, and a Monochrom. And I still have that first M3.

There is something about how a Leica fits my hand. It is truly a physical extension of myself in a way no other camera can match — it belongs in my hands. As such an extension, it spends less time slung from a shoulder and more time in my hands much closer to the next photograph. No wonder it has always been a favourite of street photographers.

The quality of Leica lenses are indisputable but frankly this fact is less important to me than the ever-ready presence of the camera itself — the important thing is that a Leica is so much more ready for the next photograph than anything else I could be using. Of course, the image quality is nice bonus on all these photographs I’d otherwise miss.

It’s safe to say that the Leica camera is in my blood. No other camera gives the satisfaction of photographing as does a Leica M rangefinder. Thanks grandpa.

http://www.dlkphotography.com

David Lykes KeenanDavid Lykes Keenan

Olaf Willoughby 

I shoot with a Leica M for one simple reason. With other cameras I’m just taking pictures, with Leica I feel I’m making the picture. This feeling is multi-layered. Rationally, it comes from the solid construction of the camera and its lenses. The simplicity of seeing through the rangefinder, using manual focus and the straightforward menu system means that the camera is out-of-the-way and lets me get on with the job. The size of the components means I can pack an M and 3 lenses into a small bag and walk all day, day after day. And the quality of the lenses is such that there is no dispute that they are among the best in the world. For me, the Leica M outfit offers the best quality:weight ratio on the market.

Emotionally I get a kick out of the image quality. And that shouldn’t be surprising. Like most things in life, the more we put into it, the more we get out. With the Leica M series you engage with the subject matter rather than the camera and that effort is richly rewarded. Like many photographers I’ve been through numerous experiments with most of the popular brands and I found it hard to settle with anything, always looking for the next big innovation. With Leica I feel I’ve come home.

http://olafwilloughby.com

16291_10152352621742796_1208453536_nOlaf Willoughby

Yongki Lie

I’m Yongki Lie,  a photography enthusiast that loves to travel and meet people from different cultures.

Living in Jakarta – Indonesia.

I first knew Leica from seeing its outstanding and unique images in magazines and friend photos. Before I used a Nikon D3 and due to the compact size, discreet and outstanding dynamic range,  I’ve decided to switched to Leica M about 3 years ago.

What struck me the first time using it is how easy it is to operate. I felt with its super fast lens with the magic glass, I can improve my creativity.  I believed my skill in street photography and human interest will be going to a higher new level.

There is some magical visual attribute (Lol..)

I am currently using M240 and Monochrom on daily basis. Furthermore, using manual focus and not worrying about many electronic programs allow me to focus on more essential skills as a photographer. I to love take  human or people photos,  how to approach and make  communication and get an emotion from them.

The feel of photo is important to me. During my travels to take  photos of people I’ve never met before is a challenge.

During my experience with Leica I grow fond and specialize on using wide-angle lenses: Summilux 21mm Summicron 28 mm  and also the magic of Noctilux 0.95.

There is some magical visual attribute that separates  a Leica from ANY other camera , It’s like a  3 dimensional quality with bold colour and offers more detail with larger dynamic range.

Yongkie Lie

Yongkie Lie

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

A few days ago Gavin emailed me a couple of questions regarding the Leica and being a “Leica Shooter”.  The timing was impeccable because I was asking myself similar questions.

I was initially introduced to the Leica M9 through Olaf Willoughby when we met on a photo workshop in Nepal.  I was intrigued with the small, ergonomic camera that he was using.  Of course, I had known of the Leica, but I had never used one before and Olaf offered me the use of his camera for an afternoon, however after about 10 minutes of using the Leica I wanted to return to the comfort of my Canon 5DII.  After all, I was in a foreign land and didn’t want to miss opportunities by spending time learning a new system and I am so glad I didn’t continue using the M9 because not one of my shots was in focus!  ……. So, why did I want to go back for more?  I wasn’t sure why I had an inexplicable attraction to that little camera.  I liked the way it felt in my hands.  I liked the allure of a new challenge and I liked the images that others around the world had and were continuing to produce with Leicas.  I was starting to see differently and the Leica seemed to coincide with my new vision.

The Leica has definitely changed the way in which I work.  I am seeing much deeper or maybe I’m looking much deeper.  It has been years since I’ve used prime lenses.  At first, I found using these lenses to be static and stifling.  I was frustrated by my inability to frame my subjects the way I wanted to.  I had to relearn how to move around my subject, connect with it and create the image.  I cannot say whether the Leica has made me a better photographer, but it has certainly made me an evolving photographer.  I am working harder and feel 100% connected with my work.

The one question I ask myself though is “Can my new work that I am sharing on social media, cross platforms?”  For the past fifteen years my means of sharing work was by entering art shows and presenting in galleries.  Before choosing an image to print and frame, I would ask myself 5 personal questions about the work.  If the photographs passed my own self imposed questioning, I felt reasonably comfortable about presenting them.  Now that I am shooting predominantly with the Leica, the tone of my images has changed somewhat and I am not sure that the same photo that may work for sharing on the web would also work as a piece of art.  Can the Leica photo follow two different channels?

Finally, the question of whether the Leica camera has a signature look?   Yes, the camera itself and the work it produces have a strong signature.  Yet in addition to the phenomenal quality of the lenses and camera there is something more.  Defining that something is hard.  I think it has a lot to do with the camera being a rangefinder that works well with prime lenses, but I also think it has to do with the photographers that own Leicas.  Our work is important to us, we are passionate about it and we work hard to breathe life into our images. Depth of field and lighting are paramount.  So, while the camera produces high quality images it may be the Leica photographer’s vision that truly creates the signature look.

LightEileen McCarney Muldoon

Johannes Huwe

I have been a Leica photographer for almost 10 years; I am currently using an M240 and M Monochrom. As a landscape photographer, I was always out and about with a Hasselblad Medium Format camera, (initially with film, and later digital) and at that time I was looking around for a high quality compact camera. More or less through chance, I came across a Leica. Luckily, a camera shop was also a Leica dealer, and so I got my hands on my first Leica M. At the time, I never thought this meeting would change my photographic life so much. I haven’t used my Hasselblad H3D 39 Megapixel in years since then..

I have a soft spot for high quality optics. In photography that really hits home with Leica, just like with Takahashi in astronomy.

What I love about the Leica M is the combination of highest quality and compact construction. This gives rise to a special feeling when you use it. The lenses alone are masterpieces of the purest kind. For an engineer like me, it’s a real highlight to be able to use the silky smooth focusing of a Summilux or Noctilux.

And with regard to quality my Leica M Monochrom with the APO 50 even surpasses my Hasselblad for black and white photography. And that with 18 mega pixels compared to the 39 mega pixels of the Hasselblad. But pixels aren’t everything.

In addition, I feel a connection with other Leica photographers too. I don’t feel that at all with almost any other brand. You could maybe compare it a little to Apple 7 years ago. When the first iPhone came onto the market.

But when all’s said and done, the Leica M is also just a tool. And everyone has to find a tool that suits them. I don’t think you can take better pictures with a Leica. But I have never had so much fun with photography as I do with a Leica.

http://www.huwe.cc

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lemonbase/

Johannes HuweJohannes Huwe

Dirk Vogel 

As a student I always dreamed of having a Leica M6 not even knowing what it meant to shoot with a Leica.

I think I was the myth and the tradition of Leica I wanna share.

In 1994 my dream came true. I sold a lot of Nikon equipment and took some money grandpa saved for me.  I bought a brand new Leica M6 with 2.0/50mm.

The first steps weren’t easy because it was totally different to an SLR as you know. I needed some training.

If I raise a SLR my face is covered by the camera. With a Leica M I have one eye and my mouth free for communication. There is not so much between me and who I want to photograph. So it’s more directly more authentic I think. And the lenses! More contrast more brightness and so on. The shooting was a revelation for me!

A few weeks later we got the task to take a portrait of a VIP by our professor. A good challenge for me and my M6. I chose the author Max von der Grün who lived near Dortmund. A strong character: fought as a paratrooper in WWII, worked as a coal miner after the war and has always to fight for his literature. So I was a little nervous to face the old man with my little cam. I took some rolls of Fuji Neopan 1600 because we met inside his office and I shot a shot whilst we walking around the room and talking. As we finished he said:  “Oh, I did not notice at all, that you photographed…” (below)

I decided the Leica was MY tool. Now I have ten bodies and a lot of lenses.

Dirk VogelDirk Vogel

Stephen Cosh

I started shooting the Leica M system after a decade of landscape photography with an SLR. Quite simply, I was bored and I wanted a change.

I had come across street photography a few times on Flickr and it had always grabbed me. Although I found it fascinating, I had no idea of how to go about it but instinctively knew I couldn’t really do it justice with an SLR.

I knew that I needed a prime lens and I knew if I was going to be walking the streets all day as oppose to sitting in one place behind a tripod, I didn’t want the bulk and weight of a Nikon D90 and three zoom lenses.

My first foray into street type cameras was the Fuji X100, which although a great camera at the time, was very limited, especially as I wanted to work with manual focus. The only way forward was Leica, which to be honest was daunting as it required a completely manual approach, but I went ahead and have never looked back.

The Leica M system is the ultimate street tool. Lightweight, robust, fast and easy to focus. However, it wasn’t until after I had my first Leica body that I started to appreciate Leica lenses. Leica glass is, without a shadow of a doubt, the finest glass available. Super sharp, hardly any drop off and the real bonus is the weight and size. Nothing allows you to focus selectively like a Leica M lens… Nothing!

I now shoot film and digital Leica M’s and couldn’t imagine shooting anything else. I know lots of people say that the final image is the important factor of photography, but Leica is as much a part of my photography as the final image. Picking up an M and wrapping the strap around my wrist is a great feeling. It’s every bit as important to my experience as developing each roll or uploading each shot.

I believe that the forced manual operation of a Leica makes you consider your photography more. It slows you down a little and makes you snap less, considering each shot completely. The Leica M viewfinder also allows you to frame and crop in your head in a way that through the lens framing cannot. I would go so far as to say that the M has helped develop my style of street photography. I have tried other cameras but just don’t get the same result.

You can tell a Leica M shot a mile away. Not only from the dreamlike bokeh and razor sharpness of the fast Leica glass, but also a Leica shot looks more considered, there’s more feeling in it… more soul. I wouldn’t shoot anything else!

http://stephencosh.com

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevog5/

Pretty VacantStephen Cosh

Christine de Loe

I started shooting when I was a kid. My first camera which was a Yashica that was offered to me by my father who was also a Leica lover. He had a wonderful collection and I grew up with these cameras around but never was able to shoot with any of them but I was happy with what I had.

Until 2 years ago  my camera system was a Canon DSLR with a wide range of very nice lenses… I was happy with that even though I was starting to find all that gear very heavy and bulky.

One day my cousin told me how extraordinary the M system was.  He wanted to get an M9 and told me all about it.
That stayed in the back of my head for a while.

Then as I was getting more serious about my photography, since I had to justify to myself for spending such an amount of money, I started considering buying a Leica.
My fiancé was kind of pushing me in that direction. It kind of helped me or at least made me feel less guilty about the purchase I was about to make!

I started with a second hand M9 and a 50mm that the Leica dealer lent me. I took it along with me on a trip to Morocco…as well as my DSLR system. I worked with the M9 for a few months and was not 100% convinced to tell the truth.

I was spending a few days in Paris and visited the Leica store.
It was at the moment the M Monochrom was announced. I started discussing with the salesman and told him I had got an M9  and found Leica’s idea of doing a Monochrom kind of weird. I did not see any interest to get one.
He looks at me and says but the MM is a far better camera than the M9…I was kind of upset. Then he showed me some prints… wow, It was beautiful.

Black and white photography is the way I express myself the best, so the idea of getting a camera specifically designed with that in mind,   the idea started to grow more and more every day . I had to get this camera!

But to be honest I said to myself if I am not happy I’ll sell all my Leica equipment. Too much money invested not to use it.

The result is that today I am left with one Canon and 4 lenses that mainly stay in the cupboard…. I sometimes think I’ll sell everything. Am done with all these kilos to carry around. I don’t have the same pleasure I used to have using this system. And photography is, for me, first a huge pleasure.

I am a happy owner of 3 Leica cameras now with a few nice lenses which enable me to do almost everything that  I want . Almost meaning I am not doing sports shots or birds. I use the M system for work as well as for my personal use.
Leica is such a stunning object , never have I seen such a beautiful camera. It’s not an invasive camera..it’s more “people friendly” and people often tell you how that old camera looks nice!
Leica cameras are easy to use, extremely well built and reliable cameras, it has forced me to take photographs in a totally different way. I am now obliged to get much closer to people and therefore have a stronger and more personal exchange with my subject.

I am just finding myself at ease with the tools I have today. I enjoy every picture I take.

L1001130-ModifierChistine de Loe

Win Soegondo

My name is Erwin Soegondo from Indonesia, photography is my life and my hobby.

My first manual camera was Asahi Pentax – Spotmatic with standard 35mm ens, then I moved to DSLR to have more option lenses. In 2006, i decided to change from DSLR to Leica, as I’ve seen outstanding result of Leica’s photos. Prior to that i tried to find out more information thru internet, books, and magazines.

Most of my photos interest are more to human interest and street photography which fit with my current Leica M9P and Monochrome, for wide lenses I always use Summilux 21 and Summicron 28mm, and as for portrait I use Noctilux 0.95 and Elmarit 90mm.

In my point of view, CCD sensor is still better than CMOS sensor.

I like the way camera challenges me, all of my photography projects/works are without autofocus and other electronic/automatic programs.How to stay connected with the objects are more important, it is about how we approach people and communicate to them directly or indirectly, which for me far more beyond shoot and go.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/win_laffan/

 

Win SoegondoWin Soegondo

Rod Higginson

I got back into photography about 7 yrs ago being encouraged by staff in Apple store Exeter. New to Digital age I bought a Nikon D80 having had a Nikon FM . The bulk of DSLR and various kit always seemed a little limiting as well as over complicated menus. The sensor had a problem and was away ages for repair, by now I was wanting to photograph on a daily basis and feeling frustrated without a camera. Browsing on the internet lo and behold Thorsten Overgaard site appears showing the very wonderful Leica Digilux 2! I was smitten! Something told me to beg or borrow to acquire this camera and so gambling on eBay I purchased one . It arrived day before my Nikon was returned but in that short time I was blown away by ease of use, image quality, simplicity and the connection to the camera.I felt this was just the beginning with a new love affair with photography. I’m afraid other than to check it was working the Nikon never had more than a few shots fired and to this day remains “on loan” with my daughter. I noticed my photos improving and read up on all manner of things Leica related. I used to watch the Wim Wenders Leica advert on You Tube again and again sharing that feeling of being connected. Well, along comes M8, not great reviews and my bank balance won’t allow but by the time M9 has been out a while circumstances have changed. I realise I have once in a lifetime to grab this opportunity. Off to Red Dot Cameras in London for their only second-hand M9 and 50mm summicron f2. Decide I will give myself a month to see how I get on. Within 48 hours I can’t put it down and know I made the right decision. 35 mm ‘cron soon follows & then 90mm. Stephen Bartel then gets in touch and asks if I would like to join his gallery! Meantime I have had the odd small exhibition were I live , selling the odd photo and receiving positive feed back. Combe house Hotel were I work part-time as their gardener offer me a permanent display in their restaurant and reception area and am then asked to do the photos for their new website. I have always used Flickr to post photos and various spin offs to get comment ( this being where Stephen noticed me). I am asked if I would let my photos along with other selected folk to be shown at Greenwich Maritime Museum Ansel Adams exhibition on a rolling screen basis. I submit more photos and end up with most being picked. When Leica meet site starts I am asked to be Photographer of the week selection. I find all this hard to believe, in the space of 18 months, with no education in the subject and massive amounts of self-doubt to have come this far. The pleasure I get from taking photographs with Leica is amazing. When I stood and looked at my photos on a screen in the Mayfair Leica gallery I wept.

Leica for me means top quality, robust build, easy menus, discrete and glass that’s second to none. The thought of hauling round DSLR kit just doesn’t appeal.I have never regretted for a moment the Leica purchases. As I mainly shoot B&W Iknow I will end up with a mm and probably 50mm ‘lux. I just see it helping improve my work all the time, alters how you see things compared to DSLR & auto everything.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rodhig/

http://www.stephenbartelsgallery.com/photographers/rod-higginson.html

Rod HigginsonRod Higginson

Richard Curtis 

I first started taking photographs in 1980, just as a hobby. Making come progress after that, but not enough, I decided in 2005 to attend a photography school, a weeks deep dive into digital photography in the USA. I chose the America media school, Maine media workshops, due to its reputation and also my influencers are mostly American (Sally Mann, Irving Penn, etc) as well as enjoying the American style and progression of photography.

The year after I had the opportunity to travel to Kashmir on a weeks photography street shooting workshop. It was here that I met my mentor John Isaac, ex UN documentary and war photographer. Working with John on critique and images and the intensity of a workshop, it really pushed my photography harder than ever before. The workshops with John soon opened a whole new world of photography, but soon I realised that I wasn’t getting the shots that I really wanted, something was missing and I felt disappointed by taking photographs. At one of the subsequent workshops, I met a chap called Paul Cohen, it was Paul who would be responsible for my new photographic vision. In a conversation with Paul, I mention that I was becoming a little tired with photography, his response was as simple as “change your camera”. I thought, really is that all it would take?

It was soon after this that the compact systems revolution had started and I had the opportunity to use a Fuji x-Pro 1. It’s always challenging when you move from something that you trust (DSLR) into the world of a smaller sensor, smaller lenses, and I found it concerned me for a while, would the images be as good as a DSLR , something that we have come to know and rely on, to capture that moment that we desire the most.

After using the Fuji for another workshop (along side the DSLR, I realised that the images and quality were just what I was looking for. The Fuji for the first time allowed me to become invisible, taking photographs that I had always envisioned, but not been able to get. Was the image quality good enough though? I was truly blown away with what the smaller cameras were able to provide, it’s almost that the innovation had been happening quietly behind the scenes and would take a leap of faith to be discovered.

It was then that I had an opportunity to use my first Leica for a workshop, this camera would change my photography forever. Not only did it force me think more creatively and imposing a “creative restriction”, having to manually focus the lens and think twice about the composition. Ultimately It was able to re-imagine my photography.

Why did the Leica re-ignite the love of photography once again. I think there are many factors that answer this question,

Being a street photographer and a social character, I enjoy the conversational aspect to photography. Using this camera re-engages with people and their surroundings, it’s not intrusive in any way. The other side of this means you can grab shots without being seen, almost a fly on the wall, or hidden in the shadows.

Its physical appearance and size links to a time gone by, old-fashioned, almost vintage In way, something from the 1940’s or 50’s, this makes people feel comfortable, more relaxed and perfect for a capturing a natural pose.

I like the legacy of the camera, it hasn’t fundamentally had its look or approach changed over time, and that provides a link to many of my influences and classic photographers. using the system, forces me to think more about my imagery and pushes my harder to create great photographs.

The camera adds a creative restriction. Having to manually focus the lens using a range finder and thinkIng about exposure and focus slows the photographic process down, allow more critical questioning to happen. This unique approach to photography adds to making a photograph and finding the perfect picture more challenging, combined with the rangefinder view not allowing me to see the actual scene, but a few inches/feet the other side of it, allows me to only partially compose the image and leave the rest to chance.

When I compare the image in the focus screen to seeing the image on the computer later, always gives me a sense of amazement, almost back to the film days, of not being able to see the actual picture until it was developed, a truly magical experience.

– The Leica system gives an enjoyable experience. The colours that come out of the camera, as well as the sharpness of images forces me to think long and hard about the post processing part of image making. I have always wanted to find a system that was not post process heavy. I like to take many pictures, the Leica solution enables me to think about and create the story/narrative of the series of images, rather than a single image. Which I personally find much more fulfilling.

– The Leica system re-ignites a nostalgia from a time past, the images that are made (even with the new M240 sensor), provide the Leica look, mostly down the “Leica Glass”. Each image has a way to engage the viewer in a different way, a different way to tell a story, even when colour or Black and white is used. But could this be just the photographer? I don’t think so, a combination of the lens, style of shooting and the photographer make the whole picture. A certain thought process has had to happen to capture truly magical moments, a way to foresee what will happen in a scene and capture that moment in time which will never be repeated. It allows me to tell the story, but with more engagement and emotion .

3e7c11237ed3634e11c6abf70f335818Richard Curtis

Wide open f-stops also has an impact on the photographer. Leica lenses are not cheap. A conscious decision for most owners is which lens to buy. They are thinking what they will use it for and how they will use it. most Leica photographers tend only to use a couple of lens to tell their story, even the great photographers (Bresson) shot with just a 35mm or 50mm lens for many years, without wanting to change their perspective. I think this is something else that adds to the magical capabilities of the system. It’s of course another create restriction, which in its wider capability enables maximum creativity. You also don’t tend to think about the what you want to capture, but more about the style you want to depict and want you are able to capture with it.  Most Leica lenses are fast. Ranging from 0.95 with the magical Noctilux to F1.4 summilux, F2 summicron and to the Elmarit’s. The quality at these F-stops is incomparable with other lenses and most Leica photographers enjoy shooting wide open. This I feel is another difference in shooting style, if you are shooting wide open (even with landscapes) the photographer is careful of what to make in focus, out of focus and sharp, using the natural occurring bokeh to add interest and enhancing the story.

– Travel. I really love to travel and shoot street scenes, portraits and environments (landscapes, urban etc) and having a lightweight and flexible system is key to making sure that I have the right access and agility to get the shot that my mind has foreseen. I now think less about which lenses to take,I just take them all without compromise. Having the M240 allows me to capture not only images but video footage later, and saving space in my bag allows me to take an audio recorder and small shoulder video rig for additional context that I may need later for the story to engage and make sense to the viewer, without adding additional weight.

If I had to sum up in words why I use the Leica system it would be:-

Re-imagine ,Bokeh , creative restriction , Natural , A way of seeing, Stories and narrative , Classic, Vintage, Flexible, Precise, Engaging, Social, Immersive, Hidden.

But ultimately, it’s the way that it makes me feel!

Richard CurtisRichard Curtis 

Gavin Mills

Remembering the first time a Leica caught my attention , it happened because of one of my Flickr contacts whose pictures I’d often admired had tagged all their photos with Leica.

I could see there was something different about their images  – the detail, colour and  the depth or perhaps it was something indefinable and difficult to put into words .  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was but I that knew I liked it and that their photos made my stuff from the Nikon D200 camera look flat digital and lifeless by comparison even though I was using some of the best Nikon glass available.

After a couple of late night coffee fuelled researches my mind was made up , I planned to get one as soon as possible !

Initially the thing that stopped me rushing out and getting one straight away was the cost as photography was purely my hobby,  but  an opportunity came when the M9 was released suddenly there was a nice second-hand market for M8’s on eBay and the price dropped to an affordable level for me.   I bought a great condition used M8 along with a 50mm Summicron F2.

It’s a good route to anyone thinking about getting into Leica  with a limited budget – stay a release or two behind the latest version saves literally thousands and makes it a pretty risk free purchase, because if you decide later it’s not going to be for you, then you’ll probably see most of your money back when selling it , and quite possible you could even make some profit on the glass as the lenses keep creeping up.

That first day with the camera, I instantly liked the feel of it in my hands , the size, weight, and most of all the way each dial felt tactile and precise. It was like playing a beautifully crafted instrument .

It took me while getting the hang of using the manual focus . Looking back what’s funny is at first I thought manual focus was going to be a downside of using it ,something I would have to endure to get the look I wanted  , but it turned out to be one of the best things about working with it .

The rangefinder focus and working manually meant I had to be more deliberate and precise when making my pictures helping me to work in a slower more methodical and thoughtful way. Choosing exactly where in the image I wanted to focus made me look harder at what I was shooting and making me interact more with my subject .

The Leica M  cameras and their lenses are discreet and fast , perfect for when I don’t want to be noticed, but when I do  approach people or somebody notices me shooting them I often find the reaction I get is welcoming.  Complete strangers often say ‘that’s a cool camera’ or what kind of camera is that?  Perhaps it has something to do with the iconic  retro design that people feel comfortable even perhaps a nostalgic warmth towards it .

If the Leica camera was a car it would be a Porsche 911 , not because of the obvious German engineering comparison or because both are design classics, but both have undergone continuous development, while the basic concept and look has remained little changed .

But above all else why I choose to shoot with a Leica is simple  – the look of the pictures !

As I said at the beginning its something that’s difficult to put into words but there’s a sense of depth and space to the pictures they seem to have life and soul ,  as if you’re looking through a window at  life, capturing reality .

http://www.gavinmillsphotography.com

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gavface/

Gavin MillsGavin Mills

Paul Borg Olivier 

With some tongue in cheek I would dare say that clauses that protect the individual right and freedoms of individuals, entrenched in the Constitution of well-established democracies or treaties that forge International Institutions, must be amended to include not only nondiscrimination on the basis of orientation, colour or creed, but also on the basis of the camera we use, be it of whatever origin, make or brand. I shoot Leica.

I shoot Leica and I am guided by two main principles.

(1)       My eyes are my camera and my Camera is my memory.

(2)       I chose Leica and I demand the freedom of my choice.

In April 2013, I was romantically driven to film and to the Leica III series, buying a Leica IIIC from 1937 and a Leica IIIC model from 1949 with a Summar collapsible 5 cm f2 lens.

I was always attracted to the whole philosophy of Leica and am still deeply intrigued by the humanity and work practice of the Leitz family before, during and after the war. It was a work practice based on the freedom of the individual.

Weeks after the getting hold and shooting with the pre and post was III Series, I wanted more. I wanted something more contemporaneous. I tested and added to the arsenal the DLux 6. This is a great piece. It is a camera that gives super results. However, this super-tech-red-dot camera is not enough to give the full and real Leica feel. This is what pushed me on the M9P and in less than four months I had four Leica’s added to my gear.

Caravaggio developed the use of the lens to project light to his paintings in the sixteenth century giving new dimensions to paintings that have become immortal.

Leica has created a legacy in the last 100 years to provide excellence and craftsmanship in our hands. It is the creation of bare hands and focused minds. Leica is the result of mathematical formulae and fine craftsmanship put together.

With the Leica, the first change that I have seen was in myself. Leica changes you to change your images.

I am an amateur, a pure dilettante in the positive sense with a passion and freedom to shoot. I have no professional constraints that force me to shot. Yet the M series is a masterpiece. Each camera is a unique sculpture on its own in our hands.

The M series is centred around the capabilities of the human being with respect to the laws of nature. It lets the user develop and work with his own tool. It strengthens your sense. It gives you a sense of feel, both through the focus dial and through the cool metal on the face even in environments at high temperatures. The Leica M series gets you closer to the image and gives you a stronger sense of sight in the rangefinder. It sets you a vision. It enhances you goal, and puts you in mission.

Leica tickles the passion to shoot. It paces your shot. It synchronizes you with the subject and lets you build a relationship with it. In a way it is yoga to the eye. It makes you see more and makes you want to look for more.

Leica does not permit its user to mass-produced Hamburger shoots. It lets any user prepare each photo with passion just like a Michelin Chef..

Leica is as elegant and graceful as Audrey Hepburn, and as sharp and discreet as Sean Connery.

Many say it is a camera for snobs. I disagree, though it is not a camera of the people like a Volkswagen. Wish it could be, but then, perhaps it would defeat its own sense of being and what it has been for the last 100 years.

every man has a silver lining lfi version 400kbPaul Borg Olivier 

Get a Project

Some years ago when I got my first camera I was happy to shoot pretty much anything, perhaps that random experimentation helped me to find out exactly what I enjoyed shooting but after a while I found that I was still yet to develop a style or a clear vision of where my photography was going.

Finding a project can be a good way to focus and develop your photography in many ways.  It can help to express your own thoughts and views and develop a deeper understanding of your chosen subject. Often by narrowing yourself down to defined subject it can help creativity as after a while if you keep shooting the same thing you’re going to look for new interesting ways to shoot it which makes you think outside the box.

L1059630

There are no rules to shooting a personal project unless you want them, no deadlines no set amount of images. Remember it’s your project if you decide you want to quit halfway through that’s ok to.
First choose a concept it can be absolutely anything from, Trees, to tattoos, coffee grinders to camper vans. It could even be something more abstract like an emotion or feeling.
Whatever it is that you feel like exploring, then once you’ve got your concept just get out there and start shooting its as simple as that.

10 ideas for a photography project

1. 100 Strangers
This is a great one if you want to have a go at street portraits and for building confidence in going up to complete strangers on the street. It’s a great ice breaker when you tell the person that’s what your doing

2 . Shooting from the Hip
Shooting from the hip is usually pretty inaccurate, maybe that was also true for the cowboys in the movies who shot their guns that way. But actually that slight random factor is what makes it more interesting and can often create great shots by accident. Taking the viewfinder out of the equation means you just have to go by your instincts and it creates a fresh perspective on your composition.

3. Alphabet
Whist walking through Camden Market at our recent meet I came across a shop in the Market that sold pictures of different letters of the Alphabet. Most of the letters were abstract like an aerial view of beer glass to represent an O or a coat hook to represent a K . It’s a good project to develop an eye to see things in another way and it also helps develop the creative side of the brain.

4. Architecture
Shoot the beautiful buildings around your city at all different times of the day. You’re sure to find some buildings you’ve never noticed before.
One of the benefits of doing a project on Architecture is that is can help observe and capture strong structured lines. Exploring how perspective and angle can change an architectural element can be interesting plus it will also come in handy when you have a person or object in the foreground and you want to get the best from architecture in the background.

5. Watching Windows
One that I’ve seen on Flickr and is almost a genre of street photography in its own right. Capturing behind glass, perhaps someone sitting in a Café eating lunch or somebody sitting on a bus, maybe even a person working in a store thats dressing the window. It takes a bit of courage to get in close but often that’s a way of getting the best reaction.

6. Song Lyrics
Take a song that you like and try and make a set of images to go with that song. Once you have shot all the images you can make a slide show to go with the music. You can also use the same idea to go with a poem.

7. A Day in the Life
Ask a friend or somebody that you find interesting and shoot their whole day. You could also do this for a group of people. L1061318

8. Social Issues
Find a social issue that’s important to you and take photos to highlight that issue. Perhaps like my own current project of shooting and talking to homeless people around my city, or difficulties for elderly or handicapped people. You could try working with local charities and find a way to use your photography to help a cause or even an individual. I greatly admire the work of Jim Mortram http://smalltowninertia.co.uk

9. Lines
This could be pictures of roads or railways lines, footprints in the snow or sand, a pathway through the woods even people waiting in line. Lines are everywhere around us so the possibilities are endless.

10. Shoot in the style of…
Choose a specific photographer whose work really inspires you and try shooting in their style. Recently I was asked to do a shoot for someone who greatly admires the work of Dutch photographer Anton Cobijn and asked me if I could make an image in this kind of style. It was an education looking closer at his work .

These are just a few ideas possible photography project that I hope might inspire. If you have some other interesting ideas that you’d like to share with us please add them into the comments. Or if you’re working on a project you’d like to share post a link in the comments or you can submit it to us at the Leica Meet and perhaps we’ll run a feature on it .

Portraits of Strangers

As any street photographer will tell you people watching can be fascinating business.  It’s something many enjoy whether they ‘ve a camera in hand on not. Perhaps its has something to do with trying to guess someone’s story just from observing them that taps into our creativeness , or it be could real life is far more interesting than watching television, or even somehow by watching others it can help us to make sense of our own lives.

After a spell of shooting people who were usually unaware I felt I wanted to get in closer and shoot those interesting characters I had been watching from afar, capturing their faces in more detail and hopefully a touch of their spirit in my pictures.

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‘Vexed’ M9 Summilux 35mm

Getting Closer

Using a Telephoto Lens – One obvious way to get closer without people knowing or without affecting a scene is just use a longer lens. Often I use a 90mm Summicron , probably not a lens most people would associate with street photography but I like the extra distance it gives me and that ability of getting closer without being noticed.  New York Street photographer Saul Leiter was very fond of using telephoto lenses and even used a 150mm lens for some of his Street work  .

The Candid Street Portrait  – This is using a standard focal length (usually 35mm or 50mm)  pointing a camera at someone point blank without asking their permission.  The candid method can produce some great photos if the person doesn’t notice you and can also provoke an interesting reaction if they do , usually one of disapproval. Personally I feel it can be intrusive, unsettling for the person and as recently pointed out to me by Stephen Cosh, it might end up ruining it for all street photographers –  if too many people complain about street togs sticking cameras in their faces , then street photography could end up becoming illegal.

Shooting Discreetly or From the Hip – This method works great and can produce some  wonderful close up shots, with very little chance of you being noticed . Sometimes seeing a person coming towards me I’ll pre/ zone focus which means choosing a point of focus that’s in their path and waiting for them to walk into it, whilst  trying my best not looking like I’m about to take their photo.  Shooting from the hip and walking around with the camera I generally set the aperture somewhere between ƒ5.6- ƒ8 to give a better chance of hitting my subject.

9613133216_e462ededce_c‘Girl in Juice Bar ‘  from the hip  – Summicron 50mm

Asking Permission – This has actually become my favored approach and the one I am going to talk mostly about. You might say that as soon as you’ve made that contact, the person has become aware that your taking a their picture so it totally changes the photo you’re going to get .

Now you’re dealing with that persons sense of how they want to be perceived its not a candid photo anymore, but to me that’s part of the challenge , developing a sense of how to make people feel at ease,  breaking down our natural social reserve.

I’ve found asking someone can often be most rewarding and I’ll often come away after meeting someone feeling really exhilarated from the experience, it’s difficult to put into words but I could say it’s like a good energy flow.

One of the most enjoyable things for me can be how happy the person is when they see the picture you made, something that none of the other close up methods I mentioned are likely to give you. Usually I’ll give a business card with my email and am always happy to mail them the picture.

Its possible you can ask for a portrait without even saying a word by just holding up the camera in a gesture as if pretending to make a shot and then you can generally gauge by the persons reaction whether or not it going to be cool.

It’s all down to your ability to catch the person in an honest and truthful way, making the person feel comfortable enough to let down their guard infront of a complete stranger and building a sense of trust between you . Its not something you can learn in a tutorial or from book but something that might either come naturally or can be developed by practice.

When I approach someone I know in my own mind that I am only trying to make a good photo and want them to be able to enjoy the photo too and I think people can sense if your intentions good.

8151910461_93f265f17b_c ‘Spencer’ M8 Summilux 35mm

Ready Set Go !

Sometimes you’re only going to get one shot so make sure you’re camera is set to go, there’s nothing worse than having to apologize because you got it wrong the first time . Usually I’ll have the camera set to Auto-exposure, which I can rely on to get me something about right and then if I have more time I’ll review and adjust manually to make sure I got it perfect.

What do I Say ?

There’s no set way of asking sometimes I can just walk over and engage in a conversation for a while before I even get round to asking for their picture,  other times  I’ll just come straight out and ask them, every situation is going to be  different .

If you use the simple and honest  ‘I am doing some kind of photo project ’ approach can often be the most successful, people are often willing to help . Perhaps there’s something interesting about the person you can point out , like they have a great beard or cool fashion style that could be part of a project or simply just I am doing this project which involves asking complete strangers for photos .

Keeping the conversation going , the more you build a rapport between you the more relaxed they’ll be and then you might be able to get them to help make a better photo by moving into a better light or background  .

Recalling the first time I made a street portrait I was so nervous ,

I saw this cool looking Rastafarian guy walking through Soho, and  before I knew what I was doing found myself following him down street. As I approached him I had butterflies in my stomach and I wasn’t even quite sure yet of what I was going to say to him .I think I said awkwardly something like

“Hello I’m a street photographer and I’m doing a project about people in London, would it be ok for me to take a picture of you ?”

His reply threw me a bit, he said in his strong Jamaican accent  “ Man… you to advanced for me “

I wasn’t quite sure what he meant but I just carried on chatting to him, being honest and explaining that he was actually the first person I’d ever asked .

I went on to tell him he looked a bit like the Reggae artist Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry which made him smile ,  it happened to be one of his favourite artists.

He then said “you’re ok man go on and take my photo “

L9990563

‘Ras Ras’ M8 Summicron 50mm

The first time is always going to be the most frightening but with each person you ask its going become easier.  If you approach with a confident smile that’s going to be a big help and you always have to remember what’s the worst that can happen.

A Final Word

Of course its up to you how to approach Street portraiture and each situation can require a different method, you can only use your own judgment what’s going to work best . Sometimes its possible to use a more than one approach by discreetly getting a shot before asking as  you might get the feeling they’re probably not going to agree if you ask, so cover your bases rather than lose the shot.

If you’re interested in making street portraits and have been to nervous or shy to approach strangers I hope that reading this has helped a little and if you have any more thoughts on the subject , want to add any thought or share any of your own experiences or pictures on ‘The Leica Meet ‘ we’d be very happy to hear from you.