Street Photography, it’s about mood and moment not minutiae

What is Street Photography? I believe it’s about capturing life in the street, revealing the drama in the everyday. That’s it. Like any good photograph it needs to exude an energy which resonates with the viewer. It may capture a decisive moment, highlight drama and tension or just pose a question. Daido Moriyama calls this ‘friction’.

selfie with rum

Selfie with bottle of Courvoisier

Many of the acknowledged masters of Street Photography were actually documenting their times and it’s only later their work came to be included within the genre. Atget, considered by many sources the Father of the Street, recorded statues, churches and street scenes he knew would soon pass into history. Walker Evans chronicled the Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration. Lewis Hine concentrated on the Human Document,  photographing immigrant communities in the early 1900’s.

And how Street sits alongside the accepted genres of photography is still an (18%) grey area. One of the classic reference works, ‘The History of Photography’ by Beaumont Newhall doesn’t even have an index entry for Street Photography. My personal point of view is that when the street becomes a road it overlaps with Travel Photography. When it involves a journalistic approach or street portraiture it starts to blend back into Documentary. And that’s fine. I’m happy with blur. Personally I don’t feel the need to box everything into some kind of giant art infographic and get precious about definitions.


Man in the machine

However there are some well known and talented photographers who see it very differently. I’ve just finished a book, published in 2014 so presumably reflecting current practice, written by one such traditionalist. He argues that Street Photography must be candid.  This is non negotiable. Anything involving interaction with the subject, changes the dynamics, involves some kind of conscious or unconscious ‘posing’ and therefore isn’t true street shooting. Instead it is Street Portaiture. I understand the sentiment, although images involving eye contact are a grey area and highlight how difficult it can be when we let the urge to control and box everything take charge.

OK the first click was candid. What about the second or third? The subject knew they were being photographed. Did they subtly change their demeanour in some way? So the first is ‘proper’ Street but the second two exposures are Street Portraiture? Yes I’m being picky but if you want to set up ‘rules’ then they have to work.

is it street

This is the second exposure but it’s not a portrait.

Is it Street? Is it Travel? Does it matter? 

How about Margaret Bourke White? She was the first female photo-journalist and the first female photographer to shoot for Life magazine. In 1939, in ‘Changing New York’ she wrote, ‘To make a portrait of a city is a life work and no-one portrait suffices, because the city is always changing, everything is properly part of its story….’ So in her terminology, a whole portfolio of diverse street images came together as a portrait of a city.

I’m sure we could all cope with that ambiguity but unfortunately the rules don’t stop there. The author goes on to state that shooting from the hip is also dubious, too much chance involved. (Walker Evans, please take note, you’ve been doing it all wrong). Cropping the image in post processing is wrong as it should be right first time in the camera. Using a telephoto lens is discouraged as it’s lazy. We shouldn’t even pre-visualise a theme. Instead we should walk in a trance like state responding to our surroundings. For these purists, Street is the almost spiritual hub of all photography.



Goodbye. This where I part company. It seems that rigor mortis has set in. Where do these these beliefs come from? Is it Henri Cartier-Bresson?

Certainly he developed an affinity for Zen in his later years after reading ‘Zen and the Art of Archery’ by Eugene Herrigel and spoke of the need to ‘forget you are carrying a camera’. He also famously disliked cropping. Which is fine when reputedly, only one in a hundred negatives make it to the enlarger. Then that one isn’t going to need cropping. As the contact sheets of the great man have never been published, we’ll never know. 

Let’s also remember he didn’t use a light meter, distrusted colour as producing empty effects, never printed his own work and often signed into hotels as ‘Hank Carter’. Should we all do that too?

No, of course not. The fact is that he was one of (if not the) greatest photographic artists of the twentieth century and like many people of genius he had his beliefs and foibles. My feeling is that common practice from the film era, anecdotes and occasional verbatims from the great photographic masters, hearsay and wishful thinking have congealed into a ‘code of conduct’ appropriate to the 1970’s. 

opposite view

Far enough

I take the opposite point of view. There is nothing sacred about Street Photography. Being creative in any genre is hard. Good street imagery is about mood and moment not minutiae.

Get the shot. Use the camera you love, the shooting style which suits you and if you want to, feel free manipulate and share the image with the world. This is not an excuse for sloppy discipline but I am encouraging plenty of creative play in the camera and in the computer.

This may come as heresy to some but photographers have been manipulating images forever. Early landscape photographers joined together separate exposures of the land and sky because the glass plates lacked the dynamic range to imitate painting and hold detail in both. In 1876 Doctor Barnado was sued for fraud because he made up studio sets of life on the street for promotional material. The history books are full of similar examples.

Fast forward to today. Most major camera manufacturers apply lens corrections in their software, it is commonplace to convert colour images to black and white and the widespread use of apps shows that retouching is now part of everyday image making.

Think about it. The whole notion of applying rules to an art form which is frequently about impromptu ‘decisive moments’ is bizarre. 

improvements underway

Improvements under way…

So, hopefully liberated from half a century old ideas, safe in the knowledge that there is no absolutely right way to create a photograph let’s take that first single step out into the street and hope that ‘improvements are under way’……

In part 2 of this series I’ll be looking at what I believe makes a good street shot and beyond that at different shooting styles.

PS: Street can be a divisive and emotional subject. There are no eternal rules of right and wrong. All artists and genres of art shapeshift through time and this article simply represents my opinion at this moment. I appreciate that your views may vary and that’s fine.

Tech note: all images with Leica M series cameras.

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf and Eileen McCarney Muldoon are co-teaching a Street Photography workshop, “Destination Brooklyn, Unlocking Mysteries”, Sep 21 – 24th.

email me at: or more information:



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: To see my documentary photos: Photos from Cuba: 150214_10655-Edit

Elliott (New Leica Monochrom M246) High ISO Test by Jono Slack


Well, I don’t do this sort of thing, but I have been asked, so I thought I’d do a simple (hah!) comparison between different Leica cameras at different ISO values in black and white. I’ve included:

  • Leica M9
  • Leica M Monochrome
  • Leica M-P (typ 240)
  • Leica Monochrom (typ 246)
  • Leica X (typ 113)

I’ve made a real attempt to keep everything as equal as possible. It seemed to be worth including the X, although it’s an APS-C camera, the 16mp at 23mm is very roughly equivalent to the 24mp at 28 mm full frame.


All pictures were taken at f8 (except the Leica X which was at f5.6), and with the Leica 28mm Summilux on the M cameras, and with the 23mm lens on the Leica X. The tripod wasn’t moved between shots, and the camera’s white balance was set to daylight.

The DNG files were imported into Lightroom and cropped – there was no revolving of the files to straighten lines, and no adjustments to noise reduction, colour, white balance, exposure or anything else. The X files were cropped to the same area – which gives about the same amount of pixels – the M9 files are slightly smaller because of the lower resolution of the sensor.

Colour files were converted to black and white in Lightroom with no changes to the channel mixer.

The cropped images were exported to Photoshop CC in groups (as 16 bit tiff files) and combined into one file and saved as a jpg with maximum quality.

Of course, there are lots of different ways one could approach this, but this way seemed to give as level a playing field as I could imagine.

I felt that using a 28mm lens at f8 reduced problems with focusing, and I’ve only used the middle of the frame. It has been suggested that diffraction has set in by f8 (thank you Sean). In fact I used f5.6 on the X for this reason, I also realise that the camera is not perfectly straight on to the dresser – however, as I have used the middle of the frame, and the situation was the same for each camera I feel that it’s good enough to give one a pretty good feel for the high ISO characteristics of each camera.

The image used is shown below (sorry it’s a bit untidy). Below that you can see the combined cameras at each ISO value. NB – the image strips are fewer as the cameras run out of available ISO – for the last image there are two MM 246 images.


ISO 200……………………………………………….ISO 400


ISO 800………………………………………………ISO 1600


ISO 3200………………………………………………ISO 6400


ISO 10,000………………………………………………ISO 12,500 – 25,000



Sean Reid at and grEGORy Simpson at have done lots more thorough comparisons.

On the other hand I do feel that the images here show a pretty clear distinction between the cameras. The new camera seems pretty good at 12,500 ISO and useable in most cases at 25,000.

Just a final note – these pictures were taken in low natural light – I’m never very happy with high ISO tests taken in good lighting. The exposure at f8 at 200 ISO was about 2 seconds.

If you enjoyed this article you might like to make a donation to Cancer Research

My wife, Emma Slack, Is doing the 12th Annual Pink Ladies Tractor Road Run in aid of Cancer Research

It’s worth mentioning that Jonathan Slack does not get paid by anyone for writing these articles, which is great for everyone, and fine by him, however, once in a while he adds a link to a favourite charity.

People have been extraordinarily generous in the past, and this year Emma (my wife) is fund raising again. It would be lovely if you could see your way to making a small donation to what is a wonderful cause.

Here is the link to Emma’s Just Giving page:

and here’s the link to the Ladies Tractor Road Run Page











Elliott: The Leica Monochrom (Typ 246)


When Leica announced the Leica Monochrom in May 2012 it was a real game changer. A very bold move which turned out to be an outstanding success. I was lucky enough to take a prototype to China before the launch ( The code name for the older model was Henri – and so it’s completely logical that the new model has been codenamed Elliott.

The new Monochrom (Typ 246) is based around the Leica M-P(240) with a 24mp CMOS sensor made by CMOSIS rather than the CCD of the old camera. It has a similar stealth livery to the previous model with the sapphire crystal back and no red dot.

01Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 at f16 1/2000 sec ISO 320

It’s worth briefly revisiting the reason for a Monochrome camera before discussing Elliott in detail: Current sensors only detect the intensity of light, not the colour. A Bayer filter is placed over the sensor with a different colour filter over each photo-site. When the image is processed (demosaicing) groups of 4 pixels are examined together and in the context of surrounding groups and the colour is calculated. The filter itself imposes a 1 to 2 stop reduction in the light reaching the sensor, and the demosaicing process reduces the resolution. With a monochrome sensor there is no need for a Bayer filter or for the demosaicing process – in theory one might expect a 4x improvement in resolution, but in practical terms it works out more like a two times improvement.


Apo Summicron-M 75mm f2 at f2.8 1/125 sec ISO 6400

03Macro Elmarit R 60mm f4 at f2.8 1/125 sec ISO 500

This article is not meant to be a critical review. My loyalty as a camera tester is to Leica. On the other hand I hope that I’m an honest correspondent, and I won’t say anything that I don’t really believe to be the case or leave out anything which I consider to be important. Of course I do carry out some detailed tests, but I generally keep these to myself. However I spend a lot of time with the camera (in this case around 5,000 images). I try and shoot in as many different circumstances as possible which which I hope to have represented well with the images in this report.

It’s also worth mentioning that many of these pictures were taken with an early prototype camera, and the performance, especially at higher ISO, has improved in the production camera.

04 Macro-Adapter-M with the 90mm Macro-Elmar-M at f4 1/125 sec ISO 320

Improvements over the old Monochrom

So, if the older Monochrom is still popular and produces fantastic results, why do we need a new one? The answer is the same as the reason for the M(240), and it’s worth revisiting the differences between the old and new cameras. First of all I’ll look at it in practical terms – and later on in terms of image quality.


  • Faster processor
  • Larger buffer
  • Longer battery life
  • Higher resolution LCD
  • Quieter shutter (without re-cock pause)
  • Less shutter lag
  • Better high ISO
  • Higher Resolution
  • Integrated thumb grip
  • Thumb wheel
  • Improved ergonomics
  • Improved Rangefinder design
  • Focus assist / exposure compensation button

It’s easy to forget the huge practical leap forward from the M9 to the M(240). Leica really listened to their customers and addressed almost every criticism of the older camera. These improvements are all reflected in the new Monochrom, better than that, as there have been a number of excellent firmware updates since the launch of the M(240) and all of these are reflected in the firmware of the new Monochrom. The only disadvantage is that the new camera is about 100gm heavier and 0.6mm thicker.


Macro-Adapter-M with the 50mm Noctilux f0.95 at f0.95 1/1500 sec ISO 320

New Features

  • Live View
  • Optional Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
  • Focus Peaking
  • Focus Assist (zoom focus)
  • Video
  • Matrix/centre weighted/spot metering modes
  • Weather sealing

I’m not a video shooter myself, but I very much like shooting close ups and also using my collection of R lenses (and some other old favourites).

06Summilux-M f1.4 28mm Asph at f8 1/3000 sec ISO 320

Shooting with Elliott

The new Monochrom is a beautiful thing – with the black chrome body and the sapphire crystal screen, with only minimal writing on the body, and much of it engraved but not painted; it’s the epitome of stealth!

This is a wonderfully finished camera – shooting it as a rangefinder, it behaves like all M cameras, but the digital features are unobtrusive and very easy to use.

You can choose whether to have Exposure Compensation directly on the rear thumb dial, or whether to press the button on the front of the camera whilst turning the dial. Either way it shows briefly in the rangefinder.

The Auto ISO is the best implementation I’ve come across in any camera. You can choose the highest ISO, and then either a minimum shutter speed (from 1/2 second to 1/500th), or a factor of the lens’s focal length (4x, 2x and 1x focal length). In Manual mode (where you set both the aperture and focal length) you can choose to have Auto ISO or to default to the last used fixed ISO.

For recognised lenses (either selected manually or via the 6 bit code) the recent M cameras have applied corner shading correction – in the Monochrom there is no colour shift, but it is still used to correct vignetting – of course, any such feature is likely to have some impact on the resolution at the corners. Now there is a new option to switch it off.

07Macro-Adapter-M with the 50mm Noctilux f0.95 at f1.8 1/3000 sec ISO 320


Just like the M(240) the new shutter on the Monochrom is both much quieter and with less lag than that of it’s predecessor, without the twangy re-cocking sound of the older camera.

One of the criticisms of the previous monochrom was that, despite the magnificent resolution, it was very hard to estimate the actual sharpness of an image on the rear LCD because of it’s low resolution – the new LCD, just like that of the M(240) allows accurate assessment of the sharpness of your image before downloading to the computer.

I’m not a video shooter, so I’m not in a position to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of shooting monochrome for video, or to assess the video quality of the Monochrom.

The rangefinder itself has been much improved for the M(240), and of course these improvements have come to the new Monochrom. Much tighter manufacturing tolerances combined with automatic rangefinder calibration (rather than hand done calibration) means much improved focusing.


Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 at f2 1/125 sec ISO 400

For most purposes I’d prefer to shoot an M camera using the rangefinder, but there are circumstances when it’s great to be able to frame an image on the rear LCD (for instance with a lens wider than 28mm) or to use focus peaking or focus assist. For me the real advantage of the live view features on the new camera is the ability to use wide and long focal lengths, Leica R and third party lenses, and most of all the ability to shoot close up, which is something which was not really possible with the previous Monochrom.

I’ve spent a lot of time using the Macro-adapter-M – both with the dedicated Leica 90mm macro-elmar, and also with other M lenses (there’s something very special about shooting the Noctilux with the macro adapter!). It would be nice if the new camera used the Visoflex EVF found on the new Leica X and the Leica T, but the older EVF works perfectly well for most purposes

09 Macro-Adapter-M with the 50mm Noctilux f0.95 at f0.95 1/90 sec ISO 2000

Image Quality

Comparisons with the previous Monochrom and the Sony A7r (36mp) by Tom Stanworth ( and with the the Nikon D800e by Ming Thein ( suggest that the original Monochrom was still the reference for high resolution black and white photography.

I’ve done some careful and detailed comparisons of high ISO and resolution with the previous Leica Monochrom and also with the Leica M(240). There are several other reviewers who will be providing detailed image comparisons (see the links at the bottom of this page), so I’m just going to give a generalised idea of my feelings.

10Apo Summicron-M 75mm f2 at f2 1/125 sec ISO 6400

As you would expect, at base ISO the resolution improvement over the older camera simply respects the difference between the 18mp of the old CCD sensor and the 24mp of the new CMOS sensor. However, the higher ISO is a definite improvement. The new Monochrom offers a ‘pushed’ ISO of 25,000 ISO whereas the previous camera was 10,000 ISO, my feeling is that these values are pretty much the same in quality. At lower ISO values the new Monochrom seems to offer a one stop advantage over the original camera, and a two stop advantage over the Leica M(240). Banding is still a possibility at very high ISO, but Leica have been working hard on this, and it has definitely improved considerably over the M(240). 25,000 ISO is certainly useable in lots of situations). What’s more, the lovely tonality is retained at these very high ISO values.

Resolution is stunning, but of course it depends on using the very best lenses, but for me, the real bonus of the Monochrom is the lovely subtle tonality, it’s impossible to quantify, but the images just LOOK lovely. I imagine that there will be a new internet firestorm over the difference between CCD and CMOS sensors (which was previously concentrated around colour response). My personal opinion is that the files from the older monochrom and the newer one look very similar, but the new camera has better ISO and slightly more resolution.

11 Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 at f4 1/2000 sec ISO 25000

DNG File Compatibility

Of course, the excellent JPG files from the Monochrom are supported by all relevant photographic programs, and the DNG files are supported well by both Lightroom 5, 6 and CC (I haven’t tried LR 4) and by Capture One v8.2. This support also extends to  Yosemite 10.10.3. without crashes or issues.
Apple support is more complicated. Yosemite 10.10.2 does not have support for the files, Yosemite 10.10.3 has just been released. The new CoreFoundation raw file support has a bug and crashes when trying to load the Raw files – this is potentially quite nasty.
Photos is the new Apple photography program, just released with 10.10.3: Once you have tried to load a Monochrom DNG file then the library will crash continually on loading. The only way I have found to fix this is to delete the library and restore from a backup (or to start a new library).
Aperture will also crash continually, in this case the only way to re-load the library is to delete the DNG file(s) you have imported (which can be a problem if you use ‘managed’ files rather than ‘referenced’ files); moving the files is not enough.
iPhoto simply will not load the files (but does not crash). However, you should not convert your library to Photos until this has been fixed.
The Apple finder  doesn’t show a preview of the file (no crashes).
This has been confirmed as a bug in the Apple CoreFoundation – they have said to Leica that this will be fixed in the next release – in the meantime:
If you are running Yosemite 10.10.3 or 10.10.4 pubic beta then do NOT load the DNG files into either Photos, Aperture or iPhoto or you may not be able to reopen your photo library.




Apo Summicron-M 75mm f2 at f2 1/60 sec ISO 1600


Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 at f2.8 1/90 sec ISO 500


The new Leica Monochrom (Typ 246) is a worthy and capable successor to the previous model, and it shows real improvements at every level; it’s faster, quieter, more flexible and has better image quality, especially at high ISO.

In addition to this it has Video capabilities and Live View together with the capacity to use a whole host of new and old quality lenses with the use of adapters. It works wonderfully with the new Leica 90mm Macro Elmar M and the Macro-adapter-M and also with legacy Leica R lenses.

With the new options for Auto ISO, together with the exposure compensation on the rear dial and the excellent high ISO, the camera is fantastic and fluid to use in low light situations such as concerts and bars where the file quality really shines.

For me it’s also a wonderful companion for landscape and nature photography (path photography as Jesko called it). It’s flexibility means that it can be handheld at any aperture in almost all circumstances. I’m sure that a lot of street photographers will find it their weapon of choice for many years to come.

I have kept my testing shots to myself. If I’ve disappointed – or if you would like some really detailed analysis of the files, then you should visit ReidReviews ( and ULTRAsomething photography (

Sean Reid has been doing side by side tests of the M9 Monochrom, the M-246 Monochrom, the M-240 and the Sigma SD1, and grEGORy simpson who wrote the popular “Fetishist’s Guide to the Monochrom” series of articles, is at it again with the new M-246.


Summilux-M f1.4 28mm Asph at f8 1/250 sec ISO 320

Memory, Narration and Curation in Photography by Mick Yates


In recent meetings and photo shoots with friends, I have been attempting to self-appraise my photography – when do I shoot my best work, when do I not? Perhaps a little presumptuously, what is my signature style, when am I doing a good job? And therefore what should I focus on in 2015?

Having been a “serious” photographer my entire post-teenage life, it has probably been too easy to slip into travel snaps, family record keeping and simple reportage. In the past eighteen months, I have been getting into “street” photography quite seriously (and even published on the subject). Yet, it does seem that a little more thought is required, before pressing that shutter release.

So, how should we think of our “photographic voice“?


A perfect place to start is “The Decisive Moment” (1952) by Henri Cartier-Bresson, just re-published in a superb edition. I was lucky enough to receive this as a Christmas present.

My favourite paragraph?

“Memory is very important, particularly in respect to the recollection of every picture you’ve taken while you’ve been galloping at the speed of the scene itself. The photographer must make sure, while he is still in the presence of the unfolding scene, that he hasn’t left any gaps, that he has really given expression to the meaning of the scene in its entirety, for afterward it is too late. He is never able to wind the scene backward in order to photograph it all over again.”

Whilst Cartier-Bresson is adamantly against the “shoot everything as fast as you can” approach that is used by so many with high-speed DSLRs (myself included), he absolutely advocates extracting the maximum possible meaning from the scene presented to the photographer.

He goes on to say:

“There is subject in all that takes place in the world, as well as in our personal universe. We cannot negate subject. It is everywhere So we must be lucid toward what is going on in the world, and honest about what we feel.

Subject does not consist of a collection of facts, for facts in themselves offer little interest. Through facts, however, we can reach an understanding of the laws that govern them, and be better able to select the essential ones which communicate reality.”

So the subject is all important, but the reality of the subject isn’t a simple depiction.

I have also been reading John Berger’s “Understanding a Photograph” (1967), where he addresses “memory” in photography.

“I am not saying that memory is a kind of film. That is a banal simile. … Unlike memory, photographs do not in themselves preserve meaning. They offer appearances – with all the credibility and gravity we normally lend to appearances – prised away from meaning. Meaning is the result of understanding functions.”

“Photographs in themselves do not narrate. Photographs preserve instant appearances. Habit now protects us against the shock involved in such preservation.”

Simply capturing an image, however technically skilled, without giving it a meaning is not enough. Narration is needed.

Berger also notes:

“Memory is not unlinear at all. Memory works radially, that is too say with an enormous number of associations all leading to the same event.”


“When we find a photograph meaningful, we are lending it a past and a future. … Yet unlike the storyteller or painter or actor, the photographer only really makes, in any one photograph, a single constitutive choice: the choice of the instant to be photographed. The photograph, compared with other means of communication, is therefore weak in intentionality.”

Looking at an image as a mere “instance” isn’t enough to provide any real meaning.

In reviewing my own work, I “feel” most comfortable when telling a story. Une histoire. In recent times, two of my images seem the most satisfactory in this regard, both offering a pictorial examination of an “event”.

The first I have referenced before, showing a short-lived interplay between worlds at a pedestrian crossing, in Dublin. There’s lots of context and content in this shot – layered memories perhaps. I just love the expression on the girl’s faces, and the almost “defiant” attitude of the ‘lady”.


The second, in Glasgow, was taken late at night in the rain, with two young women, obviously seeking a party, sheltering together almost against the odds.

There is context and layered content, and a capture that tried to sum things up at that exact time for the two women.


Both are telling a story. And, interestingly, both are amongst my most liked recent pictures on social media. Of course, one should never be swayed by false praise (how do we value “likes”?), but it does seem to me that art is so often “in the eye of the beholder”, whatever the artist’s intent, so it is a useful view about how others see images.

Berger led me to read more, including Susan Sontag, in On Photography (1977)

“ … such [photographic] images are indeed able to usurp reality because first of all a photograph is not only an image, an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real.”

This seems to underpin the idea that the photographer is interpreting the real, as a photograph combines both gritty reality at that moment, and the artist’s interpretation or composition built around it – the “memory” he or she is attempting to create.

That said, Sontag also noted:

“To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.”

If people are never “seen as themselves”, in a sense their very existence is being curated, moment by moment, by the photographer.

The photographer should thus, at least in a  “street” sense, be about both narration (the story) and curation (the moment of memory that is chosen). And the subjects are captured almost like Schrödinger’s Cat – you only see their true reality in that exact moment of capture, however much you might like to ponder the before and the after.

Berger’s references to other forms of communication led to Berthold Brecht, where I found this passage appropriate.

“Portrayal of Past and Present in One” 

Stand out, without in the process hiding

What you are making it stand out from. Give your acting

That progression of one-thing-after-another, that attitude of

Working up what you have taken on. In this way

You will show the flow of events and also the course

Of your work, permitting the spectator

To experience this Now on many levels, coming from

Previously and

Merging into Afterwards, also having much else now

Alongside it. He is sitting not only

In your theatre but also

In the world.

From John Willett, Brecht’s translator, attributed to poems Brecht wrote between 1947-1953.

The photographer’s job is thus very much like the actor’s. Both want to involve their audience, even though they use different means.

The photographer, though, unlike the actor, can only involve the viewer by curating the most appropriate moment. A fragment of time (or perhaps a series of fragments), rather than an extended performance.

Yet in that fragment of time, there must be both depiction of the reality of the moment, with enough narration (content, context) in the composition to suggest to the viewer that they can see beyond that very same moment, both past and future.

That will truly engage the viewer.

A sound challenge for 2015!


Images taken with either Leica M9-P or Leica M-P, processed in Color Efex Pro. Henri probably wouldn’t approve, but he did say colour was in its infancy when he was writing in 1952 …

Leica M6 TTL, Tri-Elmar 28-35-50 pictured.

Mick Yates

The Leica Meet Skye – just 8 weeks to go… two spaces left…

Isle of Skye – Leica Meet – Mar 8th – 11th

These routes have been chosen to allow for multiple options to stop/shoot on the way. But as always bear in mind that the schedule is flexible and weather dependent. This is a festival of seeing, shooting, sharing, socialising…. and when you get back and process your images – celebrating!

Mar 8th – Sunday

Mar 9th – Monday

  • 6.00: meet for coffee/biscuits. Sunrise and explore coastline and local landscape.
  • 8/8.30: return for b/fast at lodge
  • 9.30: depart for Elgol on West Coast. The village of Elgol, on the shores of Loch Scavaig, has a wonderful rocky coastline with magnificent views out to the Inner Hebrides & across to the Black Cuillin range. This is a scenic drive including multiple stopping options along the way for mountains, abandoned church, lochs. Circa 1 hour on beach taking classic views.
  • 12.30: lunch at cafe in Elgol.
  • 1.30: possible trip in to see Fairy Pools or similar lesser known location, head North to Fiskavaig bay for sunset over the sea & islands of Bracadale Bay. Again options to stop/shoot
  • 7.00: return to Sconser and dinner at the lodge

Mar 10th – Tuesday

  • 6.00: meet for coffee/biscuits, dawn shots at Sligachan where an early 19th century picturesque stone bridge crosses the river that carries the water down from the Cuillin. This is a classic setting. Water cascading over a stony river bed with the surrounding hills as a backdrop.
  • 8.30: b/fast back at hotel and re-pack
  • 9.30: drive to Neist Point, the most westerly point on the Duirinish Peninsula. With its lighthouse perched on vertical cliffs it forms one of the iconic Skye vistas.
  • 12.30: pub lunch en route
  • 1.30: drive to the Northern part of the island (via Faerie Glen) eventually for sunset over the Outer Hebrides.
  • 7.00: check into Beinn Edra House:
  • Dinner at Lodge tba

Mar 11th – Wednesday

  • 6.30am dawn shots along the Flodigarry/Staffin coastline
  • 8.30: b/fast at hotel and re-pack
  • 9.30: drive to the iconic Old Man of Storr (a rocky outcrop with interesting pinnacles that are the remnants of ancient landslips). It’s eastern face looks across the Sound of Rassay
  • Lunch is on the go and around 11.00 we need to start watching the clock. We need to be on the bridge back to the mainland by 12.30 latest to get back to Inverness airport by 3.00 pm for flights back.

Each person is responsible for getting to Inverness airport, costs of accomodation, food and drink. The hotels will be pre-booked at the following costs: Sconsor Lodge £65 single room p night for two nights. Beinn Edra House, £45 single room for one night. Additionally there is a charge of £300 pp for the driver/guide, 8 seater minibus, collect/return to Inverness airport, available pre-sunrise to post sunset each day.

Any queries or questions please contact me on

Paris and a Leica, a marriage made in heaven

paris group

The Leica Meet on Aug 27th in Paris was a special event for two reasons. Firstly it was a genuinely international Meet. We had members visiting from Germany, Holland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, UK and of course France. Secondly it celebrated our first year as a group! A year in which three guys who didn’t even know one another when they met to shoot along the South Bank of the Thames in Aug 2013, then went on to set up a Facebook page and website with a membership currently approaching 5,000. Paul Borg Oliver decided to nickname Stephen, Gavin and myself, ‘the three musketeers’ and that was particularly appropriate as we were in Paris.

Fuelled by coffee/croissants courtesy of The Leica Store Paris we set out to explore this wonderful city. With around 36 people it wasn’t practical to walk together so we split into groups and periodically met up. Fortunately we had Laurent Scheinfeld, James Kezman and Cyrille Bailly who lived in Paris and showed members, areas with different characteristics. With the occasional stop for coffee plus lunch the day bubbled along with newly made friendships. It was fascinating to note the variety of seeing and shooting styles from zone focusing/holding the camera anywhere except at eye level, to asking permission, engaging with the subject and becoming part of the process. Conversations ranged far and wide but always came back to Leica and no doubt several items have been added to several wish lists.

The brief was simply to shoot our personal interpretation of the areas we visited. Although we had ample opportunity for urban landscape and architecture, the magic of Paris is in the street. The city seems to have a joyous energy that effects both tourists and locals. With so many opportunities all around, most of us shot in the Street genre. It was here the Leica M series blossomed. They seemed tailor made for this kind of environment. Relatively small and light in weight and bulk, the camera gets out of the way so we can get on with making the image. A marriage made in heaven. As you’ll see from the accompanying gallery we have some very talented photographers in our group and we’re proud of the work created in a just a few short hours.

We’d agreed to meet back at The Leica Store at 18.00. We expected ‘some wine and cheese’. But we were in a for a shock. There were four different wines, six different cheeses, cold meats and hand made chocolates! The generosity and hospitality of Gaelle and Emmanuele from the Leica Store was amazing and truly appreciated. We could not have asked for a better end to the day.

We like to say that our Meets are not workshops. There are no teachers and no students. However the reality is that if you are open minded there is always something to be learned from someone in such a creative group.

As for the three musketeers; we would like to say a huge thank you to all our members who attended and made it so enjoyable. We missed the fourth musketeer, D’artagnan (aka Eileen McCarney Muldoon) who is based in Rhode Island, USA.

However,  she is more than compensating by running a Leica Meet in Boston on Oct 15th. It’s called the Boston T Party to celebrate Leica making some complimentary Model T cameras available for the day. Check it out it’s going to be a creative and enjoyable day. One for all and all for one!

Olaf Willoughby

Using manual focus lenses on the Leica T


For several years I’ve been trying out legacy lenses on a variety of cameras. It’s great to be able to reinstate some of the lovely older lenses. I also have an unhealthy collection of M lenses, and although they mostly get used on my M cameras, it’s good to use them on other cameras as well.

I’ve tried using M lenses on the Sony A7 (quite good) A7r (not so good) Fuji X-T1, Olympus E-M1 and various other cameras. Some cameras produce colour casts with wider angle lenses, especially full frame cameras. None of them include the lens information in the exif – which is not quite a show stopper, but is irritating.  In the end I’d mostly given up on it – too many compromises, and most of the cameras worked better with their native lenses. An interesting experiment, but not that interesting!

When the Leica T came along last Autumn, and the Leica M adapter T and EVF appeared around Christmas time I was expecting to be enthused for a short while, and then rapidly run out of enthusiasm.  Not So Fast!

The first wonder was that the Leica Adapter T saves the exif data relating to the lens if it’s 6 bit coded – this is great – I like to know what I’ve been shooting with, I’m much to lazy to make a note of it, and not nearly clever enough to work it out from the image. Of course, this doesn’t work if you stack adapters – as in the example below, where I used a Leica M to R adapter on the Leica T to M adapter.


Semaphore – Lecia 60mm Macro Elmarit R

Focus Assistance.

Very soon after the introduction of mirrorless cameras with Electronic Viewfinders (EVF), various electronic focus helpers were introduced.

Zoom to Focus (The T has this)

Initially this seems like a great idea – point somewhere, zoom in, check the focus, zoom out take picture. . . Fine on a tripod, not so useful otherwise, as either you will have moved . . or your subject will, or both.

Added to which any idea of the composition of an image you might have has completely gone. With most cameras you can choose where to zoom in – with the T you can only zoom in to the centre spot, making it even more problematic (especially with lenses with a curved focus plane, in which case focus and recompose doesn’t work. either).

The Look

The Look – Leica 50mm Noctilux @ f0.95

Focus Peaking (the T doesnt have this)

The holy grail – at least, I thought it was, and was very adamant that it should be implemented on the M(240) – which it was. It seems like the perfect solution, as it shows you areas which are in focus without having to destroy the composition by zooming in and out.

But now I’m less convinced; it LOOKS good, but there are issues with it as well. Higher contrast areas are more likely to show in focus than low contrast areas. Worse than this, it’s almost imperative to focus wide open and then stop down – hardly the modus operandi for catching the ‘decisive moment’. The final problem is that it’s not always very accurate either.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that focus peaking isn’t sometimes useful, but having been a devout advocate I’m now much more equivocal about it’s use.

So, what’s a guy to do – his new camera has the zoom in, zoom out option (nicely implemented) but no focus peaking!


Explosion – Lecia 50mm Noctilux @ f0.95 on the new Leica Macro Adapter M

The Bride

The Bride – Lecia 50mm Noctilux @ about f2.0

The Solution

Having rather fallen in love with the T, I really did want to use some of my lovely M and R glass on it, I don’t like magnified focus assistance when I’m not using a tripod (and I don’t use a tripod very often).

The only solution seemed to be (shock horror) to focus with the EVF zoomed out. The fact that I really prefer to use the left hand dial on the Leica T for Exposure compensation rather made this the only option.

Focusing is practice (I told myself). So I’ve been practicing. . . and practicing; and it’s paid off. I’ve found that I can manually focus accurately with the Leica T and it’s EVF with all the lenses I’ve tried; sometimes I get it wrong, but not as much as the AF using the 23mm and the zoom. In fact, for static objects when there’s time to focus it works really well.

Although the camera has no focus peaking there is a kind of ‘shimmer’ that you can see with most lenses over the area which is properly in focus. It’s not as apparent as the focus peaking in other cameras,  but it’s usually more accurate.  This discovery has prompted me to turn off focus peaking on my M240 – with good results – usually better than with focus peaking on. Of course, it works over the whole frame; no focus and recompose required.

I recently received the lovely new Leica 90mm macro elmar, together with  the Macro adapter M from Leica. It’s wonderful fun on the Leica T, and I’ve had pretty much complete success focusing using just the EVF, and without even the zoom focusing aid. Which leads me to . . .

The Smile

The Smile – Lecia 50mm Noctilux @ about f4.0


Learning o b a grandfather

Learning to be a grandfather – Lecia 60mm Macro Elmarit R

The Ultimate Test

Having got to this point I thought I should try and work out a real test to see whether my instinct was right, and that focus assistance was only useful on a tripod. More to the point, that it was possible to use the EVF to focus without zooming in, and without focus peaking.

So, it had to be a wedding – the real test of any camera / photographer partnership.

We had been asked to the wedding of one of our eldest son’s very best friends, in fact, Silas was to be the best man. It was a lovely and informal humanist wedding at a country location, and there was a fine photographer employed to record the event. So I could afford to take the chance on complete failure.

Which lens to use? well, if it was to be a proper challenge, then it need to be a difficult one. The 50mm Noctilux was the obvious answer, and as it was a dull day, it was possible to shoot wide open at the maximum aperture of f0.95. So that was what I did; I shot the whole wedding with the Leica T and the Leica 50mm Noctilux M wide open (effectively 75mm at f.0.95) . I took around 600 images during the day, all of them focused using just the EVF, with exposure compensation on the left dial, so no focus assistance at all.

Of course, if I’d been responsible for the wedding photos I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing it like this, but actually the results are fine, interesting and different – obviously there are some out of focus shots, but there are always out of focus shots when you shoot at f0.95. There are also lots of good catches, and the album of the wedding has been very well received.

Perhaps more importantly, the camera was a real joy to shoot with in a wedding environment – nobody was phased by it – the almost silent shutter meant that you could shoot anytime anywhere, and the raised EVF meant that most of your face was visible, which is the best way to engage with your subject.


Gleaming – Lecia 50mm Noctilux @ f0.95


Posing for the camera

Posing for the camera – Lecia 50mm Noctilux @ f0.95.

The Conclusion

The Leica T is a fine camera in it’s own right, and with it’s own dedicated lenses. However the M adapter T is there to be used, and it really does do a fine job; populating the exif information and allowing us to use our favourite M lenses.

There is an instinct that we need these special tools to manually focus on an EVF, but the truth of it is that a bit of practice, and the excellent new EVF on the Leica T, make focusing accurately relatively simple at any aperture. No crutch (or focus assistance) is required, handheld focusing is perfectly straightforward, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Jono Slack.

See the full image gallery here:




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.

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.

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.

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!

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’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.


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.

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 .

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 

A musicians’ sense of timing

I grew up in a house where the aroma of darkroom chemicals frequently filled the air. To supplement his income as a professional musician my Father worked as a photographer for The Musical Express in London, now the NME (New Musical Express). He was fortunate in that not only did he photograph the famous singers and bands of the day but also the countries he visited, touring as a Musical Director for various acts.

We were talking about the old days when my Mother reminded me that he used a Leica M3 for many years. No, unfortunately I didn’t find it perfectly preserved in the loft but I did unearth a plastic bag with some old prints of street genre photography. Street? I was really only familiar with his more traditional travel memories of temples and tourist spots.

He never really spoke much about these images and clearly was following in the footsteps of the ‘decisive moment’ giants but it was like opening a new window into his life. The images you see here are just scans of the old prints, so please forgive the quality but I wanted to give some of his photos an airing to a group who I thought might appreciate the style of work some fifty years later.


fw1 fw9 fw8 fw7 fw6 fw5 fw4 fw2

There are well documented links between photographers who were also musicians and vice versa. From Ansel Adams and Milt Jackson through to Bill Wyman. From philosophy through to learning the toolstechnique and interpretation. Perhaps it’s all about a musician’s sense of timing applied to photography?

There’s also a thought here which could be applied more widely. Many of us, me included, are propelled forward through our creative lives; updating, uploading, upgrading, it never stops and neither do we. Maybe there is a benefit in seeking out those undiscovered gems, revisiting old projects, breathing life into old ideas whose time may have come full circle.