Remembering 9/11 – A New Perspective by David Knoble

We waited in line, checking pockets, removing belts and placing all objects in a container for scanning. The room was full of chatter as we walked through the gates. Assembling ourselves back together, I realized one of the sacrifices we now all made. Part of the price of feeling secure is loosing a little freedom. That was when I decided to shoot something unique, something more than just a postcard or pictorial of this 9/11 monument. I wanted something that depicted the emotion I felt while standing on this ground sanctified by so many.  I wanted to show the emotion that those people must have felt that fateful day.  I created the portfolio Remembering 911. Link here.

For my age group, the attacks of 9/11 were the overbearing loss of life that we viewed as it happened in real time. I remember other events as a child and many more from history lessons with wasteful loss of life, but none I experienced this close.  Visiting those historical sites is moving, but nothing evokes my emotion like 9/11.  I now understand my parents statement, “I remember where I was and what I was doing when Kennedy was shot…”  This site carries a somber meaning to me both as a human being and a citizen of the country.

As we entered the memorial, I noticed how quiet it was.  Surveying the area, I found a rose set in someone’s name and made the image permanent. I was using the Summilux-M 35mm wide-open keeping the depth of field to a minimum. The FLE version of this lens allowed me to remain close to the subject producing smooth bokeh while the rose remained sharp.

The RoseThe Rose

I kept taking images of the two large fountains.  Four sided cubes with water falling from every side to a large square drain in the middle, these occupied the foundations of the former Twin Towers.  The black sides of the fountains were stark in the shade of the tall office building across the street.  Shutting my eyes, I could hear the white noise resulting from the falling water.  I imagined the tears of those trapped in the top floors of the Twin Towers.

After clicking a few quick images of the hole in the center of the drain, I pulled the focus back to the reflections of the skyline contained in the water at the top.

The Lone Fountain CoinThe Lone Fountain Coin

Then I pulled back again to focus on the names that were written in engraved stone surrounding each fountain.  As the Vietnam Memorial came to mind in Washington, DC I decided I liked the names surrounding the fountain.  It was almost like a gathering place for their memories.

HerosHeroes

Reviewing the images, a realization came that I needed to show the intimate connection of the monuments and the people there.  I wanted to include enough of the people present, but not take away from the focal point of the memories.  The images had to speak of the silence all around.  I came back to that somber feeling.  I thought again about the tears in people’s eyes at the tops of the towers, waiting for help that didn’t come.   Some, I imagined, were crying as they determined how to meet their fate.  I could picture them looking down the building towards the ground but not being able to see through the smoke.  I decided to represent the tear filled eyes through the outstanding bokeh of the Leica lens.  I decided to represent the smoke through the sharp shadows of this sunny day.

Hushed ConversationHushed Conversation

I started taking images of shadows from the people surrounding the fountain and their interaction with each other. I looked at other shadows formed on the ground and mid April meant only the Cherry trees had blooms – the other trees had not yet sprouted leaves. I began shooting the shadows of the crooked, and spindled branches on the ground. It reminded me of the needless hand of death, reaching out to those it came to claim.

There was still a fair amount of construction as the visitor’s center was not yet complete.  The chain link fence provided two backdrops.  First, the length of fencing provided a border that people couldn’t cross.  The fence represented containment.  I saw the containment of the people trapped in the tower and our containment now as we look for more security in our life.  Second, the shadow of the chain link also represented the brief time during 9/11 we were trapped as a country.  Planes were grounded causing travel to halt, large cities closed down for safety, New York was barricaded to everyone in and out.  It represented fear then and fear now.      



Fenced InFenced In

There were many heroes that day and in the days that followed, even though many of them perished – and I consider each person caught in that tragedy a hero.  With them in mind, I began taking images of shadows as people entered the frame.  Feet and hands entering the frame from the edges represented the help coming to the Towers.  It represented the bravery and help that the passengers provided to each other when grounding the plane in Pittsburgh.  It represented the aftermath cleaning up the damage to the Pentagon.  This was the connection I was looking for.

There is no question that the Leica M rangefinder was what made this revelation possible for me to photograph.  Even with the 35mm focal length, which fills much of the viewfinder, I still had room to see people entering the image, before they got there.  It gave me the ability to anticipate the moment.  One of my favorite images in this series is the shadow of the tree with two feet entering, one from the left and one from the right.  Are they trying to escape death or are they oblivious to it?  I could not have made this image with a viewfinder that only showed me reality through the lens.

IntrepidationIntrepidation

The Monochrom is my favorite Leica body and I began learning photography with black and white film.  I considered making these images black and white for the focus and tradition of documentary work.  While that was a very easy choice I could make with the M typ 240, I decided the shadows and the black stone of the fountain gave me the dark black I needed, so I continued in color.  In fact, there is one strong color shot that spoke to me – the Survivor Tree.  Aptly named, it was the single tree in the area that lived through the falling of the two large Twin Towers.  In some ways, I wish I had taken more images that day of the tree, but my focus was on the ground.      



The Survivor Tree

The Survivor Tree

As I pulled together the images for this essay, I decided to make one additional choice.  I decided to use the RAW images out of the camera, unaltered in any manner save contrast and brightness adjustments (which most RAW files need).  There is no cropping or color adjustments in these images.  My thinking was that I would show the unaltered view of what I had seen and felt.  While I do not believe altering the images through basic settings changes the craft, similar to film work, I did want an exact replica the way my Leica saved the image.  There is somehow a sense of completeness to my work knowing that I cannot change the image, a sense of finality.

Falling TearsFalling Tears

The sounds of nature.  The sparkle of the falling water.  The creamy background and inability to focus through it.  All this reminds me of the tears shed that day.  I thank the heroes of 9/11 for the strength and patriotism they have given to me through their sacrifice and that of their families.  I will remember.

David Matthew Knoble.

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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.”

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‘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!”

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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.”

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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.
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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 : )
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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

An interview with Alex Coghe by Stephen Cosh

WARNING : THIS POST CONTAINS EXPLICIT IMAGES

Alex Coghe is a world renowned street photographer and I’ve followed his work for years, however it wasn’t until I interviewed him that I saw there was more to the man than his street work…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Hi Alex, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background.

I am an Italian Photographer, and have been living in Mexico for 5 years. I’ve never just been a photographer, I was born a writer.

My profession is therefore a union of various activities: I am a photo-journalist. In the past I have written articles about Mexico for an Italian Magazine. I have also had experience as a political journalist but now I interview artists, especially photographers, for my blog and for The Leica Camera Blog.

I also have experience as a photo editor, a skill that I now apply to my publications. The most recent is The Street Photographer Notebook, a project that I’ve just started but that already has been greeted with much enthusiasm from street photographers around the world.

I consider all my professional entities equally important, I’ve never been just a photographer. I hold workshops, for example. And I still offer my journalist services.

I think Photography for me has been an evolution, an extension of my experience as a creative a writer. Poetry is an admission of loneliness and when I realised that I had no more time for this, my camera has become my pen. I will never abandon writing, but I’ve delegated the exploration of my soul to photography.

 

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Alex you are known throughout the digital world for your street photography. How and when did you get into street as a genre?

Well I actually began seriously in 200, but before that I had studied it alot. All the work done without a camera helped me a lot in terms of a solid base.

There were just a few resources on the internet then and books have been very important for me.

 

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What is it about street photography that compels you to get out and shoot?

The sense of self challenge. Street Photography is probably the most challenging genre and I consider it a permanent school for the photographer. I would advise all photographers to practice on the street because even a studio photographer will benefit from it.

For me Street Photography is an attitude, a state of mind. When I am shooting in the studio i still apply the approach of street photography.

But the main reason I shoot street and walk miles exploring places in the city si the feeling that at any moment I can be surprised and get as excited as a child, and the street is always and experience within an experience where you can meet new people and hear their stories.

To be a good street photographer you must have empathy for people. If you do not have a sincere interest in your subjects you will never get good photographs of them.

 

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Recently you have entered into erotic photography. Why this move and how does it link with your street work.

I’m just exploring another part of being a photographer.

I’m a commercial photographer and sometimes I’m not a contractually restricted from showing the images I made which is a pain. I respect the agreements with my clients, but I am pleased with some of this work ,especially my work for fashion brands. I would share but I can’t by agreement, so a year or so ago I launched the Mexicana Magazine project. It is a project where my followers finally can know another side of my work.

I don’t think I need to find a connection between my street work and erotic or fashion photography, but you can certainly see some elements typical of my vision as a street photographer inside my work with models.

I use the available light most of the time and my approach to this genre is the same as my approach to street, looking for that special candid moment. Yeah, erotica and fashion is “set” photography, but I am always looking for the “random moment”, that special, natural moment avoiding fake expressions and poses.

Mexicana Magazine is not just erotic photography, inside you will also find good documentary.

 

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Between street and erotic photography, which do you find the most creative and why?

Both are creative in a different way. I think creative ideas in erotic photography can be more interesting as I am not alone like I am in the street.

I do not direct my models. It is real creative work with them. We have equal power. They are in front of a camera and I’m behind it, but there is always a dialogue and a shared experience. I think erotica is like sex; it can never be one-way. The result would be bad.

 

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Can you tell us about the kit you use to shoot with, especially the Leica gear and how you go about processing your images?

I have been using a Leica X2 for two years now after delivering work on assignment from Leica Camera AG.

The Leica X2 is my main camera. I use it for street photography, photojournalism, fashion and erotica.

As a photographer I don’t need a lot of equipment or big cameras.

I have two ways to work with Leica X2. When on the streets I use the X2 like an analogue camera: LCD turned off, and shoot black and white JPEG without RAW (DNG), optical viewfinder and pre-set focus. When I am working with models I prefer to work with the electronic viewfinder, autofocus and of course I work in RAW.

In my opinion, this camera is always best with manual exposure.

For street photography I don’t edit the files that much. Sometimes I add contrast but that’s all.

For erotica and fashion, yeah I work the images with Adobe Lightroom where I will choose colour or black and white and of course I alter the mood and aesthetics to suit the shoot’s particular requirements.

 

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What is next for Alex Coghe?

I will continue to devote myself to the projects that I have… with two magazines there is a lot of work to do.

I need to prepare work for the agency I am collaborating with: it will be a classical photojournalistic piece, here in Mexico City.

I have other projects and ideas for 2015, but right now I can’t tell you about them. I will announce them when they are ready to go.

 

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Thanks Alex!

Alex Coghe website

A day with Summilux-M 50mm ASPH – Possibly the ‘best’ standard lens ever made!

An article written for The Leica Meet by Jip Van Kuijk

The lust

I have wanted a ’50 Lux. ASPH in my collection for quite a while, so after much deliberation, I finally bit the bullet. My finish of choice was the silver chrome version, which, if you’ve ever compared it to the black version, (almost) weighs a ton. It’s easy to see why tho; the black version is made of anodised aluminium, while the silver is build of solid chromed brass. It’s all brass, even the lens hood. While it’s heavy on the M (Typ 240), it’s truly a joy to use; it instantly felt right when handling it for the first time, especially the wonderful aperture and focus operation. This is a geek with a new toy. A very happy geek.

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The lens and the camera, M (Typ 240) with Summilux-M 50mm

First impression

On first use, I was astounded by the performance wide open (f/1.4) and slightly stopped down at f/2. Naturally, I didn’t expect anything else, but the reality is impressive. Some further testing showed that even at the closest focus ranges, the performance is very high indeed. This is clearly made possible by the floating element at the rear of the lens. Due to this element, the focus is smooth, yet slightly stiffer than other lenses. And gosh, is this lens ever beautiful on the chrome M.

Blossom blooming in winter

Blossom blooming in winter

Cadzand-Bad

After my initial play, I just couldn’t wait to test the lens further and get some more images with it. Since the weather was warm (18˚C, in fact – really warm for winter in the Netherlands) I decided on a lovely location, the beach at Cadzand-Bad. If you’ve never been, it’s a great place for some fresh air and landscape shots, even more so with the 50 Lux. I love the old style of the wooden breakwaters they have on the beach there, especially compared to the harsh modern concrete crosses they have elsewhere.  They made for a nice subject on a winter’s day, that while warm, was ultimately colder than anticipated. We can thank the strong sea breeze for that. As long as I didn’t stand in the shade for too long, the bright sun kept me warm enough.

Breakwaters and me, at Cadzand-Bad

Breakwaters and me, at Cadzand-Bad

The sea and wet sand was causing glare and reflection, so I made use of Leica’s Universal Polarizing filter. This not only cut them right down, but also acted as a two stop ND filter, allowing me to shoot in very bright light. An ideal combination of both effects in one handy package, like killing two birds with one stone, or like we say in the Netherlands, ‘Twee vliegen in een klap’. I was concerned that the filter might cause reflections of it’s own, but the lens performed really well, even against direct sunlight. I only managed to get the lens to flare in a single photo; pretty good if you ask me.

Footsteps on the beach, at Cadzand-Bad

Footsteps on the beach, at Cadzand-Bad

Just when I thought the lens couldn’t amaze me any more, the shots just kept coming. I didn’t shoot wide open a lot, as I wanted a deep depth of field on the beach, mainly shooting between f/4 and f/8 to maximise the depth captured. Returning to the handling again for a moment; the focus and aperture feel really good, better than the Summicron-M in my opinion. The focus tab is also a welcome change from the 50 Cron; I found it make focusing faster and easier, especially when focusing on people. For more precision, you can still use the knurled ring, so it’s the best of both worlds – you don’t have to use the tab if it’s not to your taste.

Against direct sunlight, used the pol filter to remove reflections on the wet sand behind the breakwaters. At Cadzand-Bad

Against direct sunlight, used the pol filter to remove reflections on the wet sand behind the breakwaters. At Cadzand-Bad

Golden hour

As the sun started to set itself into the sea, I made my way up into the Dunes to find new shots. I love the texture of the dune grass, it’s subtle colour against the sand gives a soft pastel palette when lit by the golden glow of the setting sun. Just add some great bokeh from the 50 Lux and you simply can’t go wrong! I was lucky enough to have a model on hand in the form of my companion Lorenz, who’d been along for the ride to shoot some long exposures with a 6 stop ND filter on his M8/50 Cron combo. As he was going through his shots of rocks in the sea, I took the opportunity to grab a few shots. Note the subtlety of the out of focus areas in front of him, and the creaminess of those behind.

Lorenz checking his results, at Cadzand-Bad dunes

Lorenz checking his results, at Cadzand-Bad dunes

Even wide open, the 50 Lux is sharp from edge to edge, it’s performance is sharp, with a subtle vignette, which I love. I feel it actually adds to the images and certainly shouldn’t be considered a negative point. The colour rendition of the lens is also very pleasing, but I haven’t really been able to compare it directly with other lenses. I’m planning a 50mm lens comparison in the near future, to show the different qualities of each lens for a variety of subjects. I have always been a big fan of the 50mm Summicron-M and it’s angle of view; now I think the 50 Lux will become my most used lens. It’s as if a whole new world of possibilities has opened up to me.

View from the Cadzand-Bad dunes

View from the Cadzand-Bad dunes

 

An article written for The Leica Meet by Jip Van Kuijk

The new Leica X (type 113) by Jonathan Slack

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Introduction 
In 2009 Leica surprised everyone by bringing out an autofocus camera with an 12mp APSc sensor and a fixed 35mm equivalent f2.8 lens. In 2012 they refined the concept in the same body, releasing the X2, this time with a 16mp sensor and better response times, with the option of using an optional external viewfinder (a 1.44m dot unit.)
The X-Vario came in 2013, this had the same sensor as the X2 in a slightly larger body with a 28-70mm (equivalent) lens. Leica designed the lens for optimum optical performance in a small package; the compromise needed to make this possible was to make the lens variable aperture and rather slow (f3.5 – f6.4). The LCD was upgraded to a 920k dot unit, and the X-Vario used the same EVF as the Leica X2 and the Leica M (typ 240).
The X-Vario received a mixed reception as a result of the slow lens, and some questionable publicity material. However, it has come to be much appreciated by lots of photographers as an elegant and no-nonsense travel camera with really fantastic image quality. The recent firmware update has improved the camera further.
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This brings me to Leica’s newest X camera – code named Anna-Louisa, but now to be the Leica X (typ 113). It uses the same basic body as the X-Vario but with a fixed 35mm equivalent f1.7 lens.
I’ve been testing the camera since July, including a 2 week trip to Crete (where this article is being written). As a tester for Leica, my allegiance is to Leica, and if I find things wrong with the camera, then my duty is to tell Leica about it rather than the world in general. On the other hand, Leica have never had any influence over what I write, and I wouldn’t dream of saying anything that I don’t consider to be absolutely true.
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The Body
The Leica X (typ 113) is a small 16mp APSc camera with a fixed lens: the 23mm f1.7 Summilux Aspherical. The body is just a little smaller than a classic M6. Like the other X cameras it has shutter speed and Aperture dials on the top plate, together with a video button. Setting the Aperture dial to A gives you Shutter priority, setting the Shutter speed dial to A gives you Aperture priority and setting both to A gives you program mode.
The rear of the camera has the same large 920,000 dot LCD as the X-Vario. On the right hand side it has a thumbwheel which also serves as a thumb rest. There is also a three way switch; up for exposure compensation, left for self timer and right for flash settings (this only works when the popup flash is popped up). In the centre is the Info button which changes the display settings. The thumb wheel and the switch are now in black (unlike the chrome of the X-Vario).
On the left hand side of the LCD are the buttons with the same layout as the X-Vario, from the top
Play
Delete / Focus (delete in Play mode, focus options when in AF mode)
WB (White Balance)
ISO
Menu/Set
The whole setup is elegant and well thought through: both flexible and straightforward.
The only other change from the X-Vario is the hot-shoe. This is the same as the Leica T, with the EVF connector in the inside edge; the Typ 113 uses the same Visoflex EVF as the Leica T with a 2.36 million dot unit (probably the same basic unit as the Sony A7, the Olympus E-M1 and the Fuji X-T1).
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The Lens
Finally! A fast lens in a Leica X camera, and this lens is a real cracker – it’s a 23mm f1.7 (35mm equivalent). It’s commendably small, and has internal focusing, so that it doesn’t change length, either when the camera is switched on, or during focusing. It has a proper manual focus ring, with a distance scale, unlike the normal ‘focus by wire’ found on similar, small, fixed focal length cameras. Auto Focus is enabled by turning the focus ring beyond infinity (there is a firm detent).
The lens focuses right down to 20cm, although (like the Leica T) the maximum aperture is reduced to f2.8 at the closest focus distance to ensure the best image quality
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Ergonomics and Operation
Although larger than the X1 and X2, many will feel that Anna-Louisa is the perfect size for street and travel photography. The thumb wheel housing acts as a good stability aid (smaller but almost as good as the winder lever on an M6) and the controls are perfectly clear and obvious; there are no programmable buttons, and the only button which changes it’s function is the Delete/Focus button.
Of course, it would be nice to have a built in EVF, but the new Visoflex works well with the camera. Unlike the old EVF on the Leica M and the X-Vario it has an eye level sensor, so there is no need to press a button to change from LCD to EVF.
Anna-Louisa is certainly no sports camera, but it is responsive and there are no obvious delays when shooting.
The shutter is almost silent and shutter lag is minimal. Auto focus is quick (although less reliable at closest focus and infinity – hopefully this can be improved with a firmware update). Manual focus with the proper focus ring is a joy, and although the camera doesn’t have Focus Peaking, it does have the central square zoom in focus assist of the X-Vario.
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Conclusion
The new arrangement with the higher resolution EVF and the eye sensor LCD/EVF transfer are real improvements over the X-Vario. Added to this all the good points of the X-Vario in terms of controls and ergonomics have been retained.
To my mind the Leica X (Typ 113) is the X camera come of age. Straightforward and logical operation coupled with a familiar form factor and a wonderful fast lens. It doesn’t offer the bells and whistles of some of the competition, but it does offer manual control of Shutter Speed, Aperture, Focusing, White Balance, ISO and exposure compensation all with labelled controls, it also has the fastest lens in it’s class.
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I Want to See the Tower by Laurent Scheinfeld

Some of the most rewarding aspects of The Leica Meet are the new friendships and the remarkable talent we encounter. One such person is Laurent Scheinfeld, a Paris based photographer with a unique perspective on that iconic travel destination, the Eiffel Tower. Here he describes his fascinating project.

Millions of people dream to see the Eiffel Tower. Trocadero esplanade, which undoubtly is the best view point for admiring the Tower, counts several millions of tourists from all over the world, every year. Surprisingly, the dream becomes reality and the place then offers a strange ballet of people shooting themselves in front of the Eiffel Tower, playing with its image as if it was a goal in life to get their own picture in a posed or grotesque attitude in front of the Tower. I love my native town Paris and I love the Eiffel Tower. Through a social and psychological analysis of the viewers, I try to catch the decisive moment when the people and the Tower are in harmony; the Towers’ ubiquity disappears and leaves the viewers in a state of grace.  Is there anyone on Earth who didn’t one day say, “I want to see the Tower?”

Watch out for my ‘Meet the Leica Meet’ interview with Laurent on The Leica Blog later this year. Olaf.

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Making it Happen. Photographing the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble by Olaf and Gavin

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My iPhone pinged and purred. The message was from Chris Marrington of Charlie Bravo Advertising in Johannesburg. It read, ‘Olaf, when are you back in the UK? Got a job that might interest you but it may not be possible to pull it off in time’. As I was chilling in the sun on the very lovely Church St in Burlington, Vermont the option of work didn’t seem too attractive but the idea of a challenge was too intriguing to pass up.

The brief was to arrange a video/stills shoot for the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble who would perform in a public space in London on July 18th, the to celebrate the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. They had just completed a UK concert tour funded by the Client, South African property investment company, Redefine. Buskaid raises money so that impoverished children in the township of Soweto can learn to play classical stringed instruments.

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Ideally the space would be Trafalgar Square as it is close by South Africa House. There were twenty eight musicians and two singers. The four cellists needed chairs and they needed to be on the bus to Heathrow at 10.00. The date of the message was July 2nd. Time to spare 🙂

With the Client in Johannesburg and me in Burlington we needed someone on the ground who could make this happen. And here all credit goes to my good friend, Leica Meet co-founder, DJ and music industry photographer Gavin Mills. A couple of Facebook msg’s and the game was on.

Gavin, over to you…….

……. organising this event was clearly a challenge. But after looking at online videos/info about the ‘Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble’ and finding out the great work they do, I wanted more than ever to help make this happen.

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First job. Get permission. With a professional group and corporate sponsorship, we couldn’t take the risk of turning up and being told to move on. I discovered that Trafalgar square is managed by two separate bodies. The GLA (Great London Authority ) control the Square while Westminster Council look after the terrace and the area around the square. The Terrace seemed right. A classical string orchestra with the National Gallery as a backdrop, a good match.

Getting the licence was a little more difficult than imagined. In July, the events department were inundated with Summer fixtures. I completed all the appropriate forms but the waiting times were too long for our deadline. I must have driven them mad, calling every day, (I was on first name basis with most of the department by now) but there was now only a week to go.

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Meantime I organised the film and sound crew. I called Mark Kemp (link below) who specialises in short promotional films and covers events for companies like Agent Provocateur and Fashion TV as well as some of my own music events. Mark introduced me to sound recordist, Jassim (link below) who had one of the most difficult challenges of all, recording a full string orchestra in an open air space full of traffic and tourist noise, with only minutes to test sound levels. He was up for the challenge.

All we needed now was a licence and we were all set. Disaster struck when, with less than a week to go, the council refused permission.

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After all that work, we weren’t going to give in and I spoke with the decision makers. They explained they already have problems with too many buskers, many of whom are illegal.

I countered that Buskaid is different. It is a good cause, our musicians had performed for royalty at Queen Elizabeth Hall the previous night. All we were asking for was thirty minutes on a Friday morning to celebrate Nelsons Mandela’s Birthday. The council gave us permission. Perfect!

We had our permit and our team. It felt like the Magnificent Seven, except we were six. Mark and Kathy on video, Jassim and Joao on sound. Olaf and I on stills.

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Olaf chose a 24mm Summilux and 90mm APO , whilst I had my Voigtlander 15mm and a choice of 35mm lux/50mm Cron for a standard lens.

Although we both shoot with Leica M series cameras, our different approaches, meant we captured different aspects of the performance. Olaf is a ‘less is more’ kind of photographer, images telling a story in a less obvious way. Using a 90mm he would get close up shots of the band as individuals.

My brief was to capture the Orchestra in our majestic surroundings as an entire scene as well as catching special moments.

It was useful working as a pair with so many musicians and so much action. We couldn’t be in the right place the whole time. Instinctively if Olaf was shooting a particular angle I’d think that was covered and find another shot. It seemed to flow naturally. Perhaps because we already photographed together at Leica Meet events.

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Olaf, back to you…….

……. Our one nightmare was the weather. There is no shelter on the part of Trafalgar Square where we were performing and the stringed instruments couldn’t get wet. So waking on July 18th to pale grey skies and drizzle looked like a bad omen. Our team arrived early and we started setting up. We were supposed to film the musicians getting off the bus for the start to the video, but the call never came. So our first introduction was when a group wearing white Buskaid T shirts and huge smiles ambled across the square to say hi.

 

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The mood immediately lifted. The spirit of these talented young musicians filled the air and refused to dampened even when rain threatened. We improvised a new opening introduction by the Buskaid organiser and magically, right on cue, the sun broke through at 9.00, the time our permit allowed us to start filming. It is impossible to put into words the positive energy generated by the Soweto String Ensemble.

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Their enthusiasm is infectious, a foot tapping crowd gathered within minutes and there were four TV station interviewers present. Ordinarily, in spite of having a permit, we might have expected trouble from the authorities or stewards but when I explained what we were doing to a police officer, he replied, ‘Its great, take as long as you like mate’.

This was one of those commercial jobs which is both a pleasure and a privilege. It all came together seamlessly. A pro team, a great Client and a very worthwhile cause.

Somehow I couldn’t resist the thought that Nelson Mandela looked down and smiled upon us that day

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Here’s a link to the video we shot in You Tube

 

You can find out more about Buskaid’s great work here. https://www.buskaid.org.za/

Here’s the agency which had the original idea: charliebravo.co.za

 

With thanks to our team:

Mark on video: http://www.mkproductions.co.uk/

Jassim on sound: http://www.soundgood.biz/

Gavin: http://www.gavinmillsphotography.com/

Olaf: http://olafwilloughby.com/

We can make your brief happen, contact us at: gav@gavinmillsphotography.com and olafwilloughby@gmail.com

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Over Confidence with the Leica M Monochrom

Shooting with the Leica M System takes practice. At first it’s not easy, but the more you use it, the easier it gets until after a while it’s just instinctive. You lift the camera to your eye, adjust the focus tab, overlap the two images in the viewfinder and press click. Or at least that is what you do if you shoot Aperture Priority all the time. If you don’t use AP, it’s a little more complicated, but being a street shooter, I need to capture my subjects very quickly and Aperture Priority is a must. It alleviates the need to set shutter speed leaving you with nothing but focusing to worry about… Unless you’re shooting with a Leica M Monochrom.

The Monochrom is a superb camera. It is black and white only, full frame and captures an uncanny amount of detail, so much detail that numerous people have stated it produces a sharper, more detailed shot than most black and white medium format cameras. I can’t back this up as I have no experience of MF cameras either digital or film. What I can say is that of all the 35mm cameras I have ever shot, both digital and film, nothing I’ve ever seen compares to the clarity, sharpness and tonal gradation that the Monochrom achieves. It is simply outstanding… Until it bites you in the ass!

I live in Scotland. Scotland, albeit a fantastic country full of haggis and whisky, is grey. We don’t get much sun here, so setting an M camera up for street shooting is easy. Here’s the drill…

  1. Fire it onto Aperture Priority
  2. Set slowest shutter speed to 1/60th of a second
  3. Set Max ISO to 5000 or 8000 depending on wether you are shooting day or night
  4. Get out on the street – you’re ready to go

This set up works great when the sun you do get in Scotland is forcing it’s way through layers of grey cloud. It never fails. Keep your lens wide open, click the button and let your camera sort out shutter speed and ISO and you have your photo. But last week I went to London for a day and took the camera… When I got home it bit me in the ass.

I took about 40 shots, got home and uploaded the shots from the card and all but a few were overexposed. Why? London was sunny! I was shooting wide open with the camera set up for grey Scottish light and the bright sunlight in London was just too much for the Monochrom. The (non-technical) reason for this is that the Monochrom has no Bayer filter and therefor lets in more light. Too much light hitting a sensor will burn out the blacks and cause overexposure. With a colour camera (one with a Bayer sensor), you can save nearly all overexposed shots by playing around with the colour channels in Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom, but with the Monochrom you only have one channel – black.

The settings I should have used are…

  1. Fire it onto Aperture Priority
  2. Set slowest shutter speed to 1/125th of a second
  3. Set Max ISO to 2500

So there I was, sitting looking at 40 odd overexposed shots thinking what a waste and I started to delete them one by one, but then came across a few that had just enough black in them that I though I might be able to save some.

It’s testament to both the Leica M Monochrom and Leica lenses, that even in the harshest of sunlight and wide open with a shutter speed that is too slow, that they can capture and render such strong contrasts. It may be the main reason that Leica lenses are so damn good.

I opened up one of the shots in Silver Effex and started playing around with the contrast slider and hey presto, and totally by (happy) accident, came up with an image that looks like a deliberate hi-key shot. I played with a few more and managed to save 8 or 9 of the 40 i had taken. Lucky!

Lunch

So the moral of this story is that when you use a manual camera, specifically a Leica M Monochrom, just remember the word “manual”. Don’t rely on settings you used in one location just to “automatically” work elsewhere. Photography is all about capturing light and if your camera is set up for a different type of light than the one your shooting in… it’ll bite you in the ass!