After the Golden Hour - Leica M10


Just because the Golden Hour is over doesn’t mean it’s ok to pack up your equipment and go grab a slice of pizza. Yes the hour before sunset can give you beautiful light, everybody knows that. But stick it out for a little longer, the glow in the sky combined with the last ambient light of the day can match up to give some wonderful light.  

This is also when those fast lenses that are so expensive start to pay off. That faster aperture allows faster shutter speeds and also captures more of the light spilling from various sources that cannot be planned on, they just happen. Also remember to watch your ISO so that you get just that right combination of image quality but not to much grain. The auto ISO setting can be vary helpful.  

These showers are always placed just between the beach and the parking areas so they are usually good areas to try at the end of the day. This particular beach has two sets of showers located a short distance from each other so I was walking back and forth and shooting based on the number of people and by the rapidly changing lighting conditions. I find people cleaning their hair and feet make the best images.  

There seems to be an ongoing discussion in all forums about using UV filters on lenses. Some say why degrade that expensive lens with a filter and others say protect that expensive lens with a filter. No matter what your preference on the issue is I recommend always using a protection filter at the beach. Salt water spray is very corrosive to camera lenses and bodies so I see no reason to take chances. Even if your not right at the waters edge that spray can go a long way if the wind is blowing. I remember a camera repairman showing me a camera that was not functional because of one grain of sand. It was hard to believe but it was literally one grain of sand.  

Remember, bad light can be good light.  

Ralph Gibson - Self-Exposure and The Black Trilogy

Ralph Gibson books

Ralph Gibson books

Ralph Gibson has written an autobiography, Self-Exposure, and I couldn’t be happier. I have been a fan of his work for over 35 years so when I found this title on Amazon a few months ago it went straight to pre-order. I received my copy on November 20, the day of release, and read it the same day. 

Ralph Gibson has been a photographer since the early sixties after a brief stint in the Navy. Early on he started on the road to be a Magnum member but wisely chose not to go the route of a journalist and started a career as a fine-art photographer. His first book “The Somnambulist “ was a great hit and he was on his way. Not only is he a great artist but he has been a successful and influential book publisher as well. 

Self-Exposure tells his life story in a candid way. He goes into detail about his early years and reveals a mixture of good times and a fare amount of sad episodes. Once out of the early years the book travels through his life touching on the living of an artists life. If a man is judged by his friends than Ralph must be a remarable person. Over half of the book is dedicated to talking about the people that have been in his life. Since Ralph has spent so much of his life running workshops and mentoring photographers it is only natural that there are many chapters about the technique of photography. 

Except for when he talks about the early years most of the chapters are quite brief. From a few pages to just a few paragraphs. Another thing that is unique about the book is there are a lot of photographs. That is to be expected from a photographers biography but they are scattered every few pages in the book. Not just a few in the middle. If you are new to the work of Ralph Gibson you will have a real sense of the man after reading this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.  

Images from Self-Exposure by Ralph Gibson



The Black Trilogy 

The second book that I’m reviewing here really is a companion to his biography. The Black Trilogy is a reissue of the early work of Ralph Gibson. It includes the work of three of his most influential books. They were, The Somnambulist, Deja-Vu, and Days at Sea. Ralph has shot with Leica’s since he started to get serious about his work and these images are prototypical Leica work. This is what you strive for your work to look like when a Leica camera is held in the hand. The images are not just beautiful to look at but a whole photography program could be built around the study of these images. The compositions are just so strong. The way that he moves close to his subjects and frames so precisely really shows a master at work. Just study how he selects his vantage point for an image. Just a little higher or lower, and the image would not be as strong. His use of framing devices is so clever and sophisticated. He also shoots often in the vertical format. Why don’t we take more verticals? He has said that 75% of the images in the first book came to him on just one weekend of shooting. That is amazing. But just as amazing is that he has also stated that it took him 3 more years to get the last 12 images for the book. 

One thing I do to judge the strength of images is to look through a book upside down. I learned this from many years of working with large format cameras where the image is projected on the ground glass upside down. You really see if the composition works this way. The images in The Black Trilogy pass the test with flying colors. His compositions are just so strong. The book is a master class in composition. Another aspect of his work is the way that he uses the film grain as an element of expression. The grain adds so much to the images. In today’s digital world with all of the sterile images that today’s cameras produce, his use of grain is almost shocking. The use of grain is also one of the signatures of his style. Another thing that makes his books so good is that he is so good at sequencing his images. He just takes this to another level. Not only are the images strong, but they work together to tell a story. Open his books anywhere and compare the image to the previous image, then compare it to the next, then the next. The flow is so seamless. He makes his images combine to make an even stronger experience than just looking at single images on the wall. The books themselves are works of art.  

Images from The Black Trilogy by Ralph Gibson


2 Views - Leica M10

Leica M10 with 50mm 1.4

Leica M10 with 50mm 1.4

Above you see 2 solutions to a problem. Interesting subjects with great lighting, expressions, and movement that make a great photo. Which photo did you take?

The bottom photo is what most everybody takes. It has everything that makes an interesting image. Contrasting hair colors. They both have their hair bundled up but with different styles. One has a solid color sweater, the other has a pattern. The both even have about the same amount of stray hair. The red hair matches her sweater. The background glow matches her hair. The other has white hair to contrast with the dark sweater. 

This photo is the one that most people take because of these reasons and because it is easier. To put it simply, your not going to get noticed taking the image and that is very important for most photographers. Being noticed taking a photo and the possibility of being confronted is to much for most people. It is an interesting image, but with just a little work it can be so much better. 

Compare the top image to the bottom image. It is so much better because of one aspect of the image. We can see their faces and can see that they are deeply interested in something. The fact that the redhead is motioning to what they are looking at. The way that they are leaning into what they are looking at. I love how the redhead is holding the glasses in her other hand is such a wonderful detail. That they are wearing similar glasses is another great detail. The fabric in the lower left of the image mirrors the pattern on the redheads sweater. The straight white lines on the black sweater contrast with the “V’s” on the other sweater. The image really comes together. 

The image with the faces was taken first and I went around to see what the back looked like and immediately took the second image. I knew right away this was a teachable moment for my blog. For the image from the front I used the live view function of my Leica M10. First that got me to eye level. I didn’t want to shoot down and get the tops of their heads. It was also important for me to get the expression on their faces, that is so important in images of people. If I had squatted down in front of the I would have drawn a lot of attention to myself and I know the ladies would have stopped what they were doing and looked at me. 

My first rule in street shooting is not to interrupt people’s lives. My photos are not so important that I can do whatever I want to get a photo. But at the same time, if you need to, be brave when taking your photos. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance when shooting. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I just don’t like photos of the backs of people’s heads. And I see a lot of those photos on Instagram. Look for the special moments and little details that make an image special. Good Luck. 

Do you really use all of those Leica’s


One of the more common questions I get is do I actually use my cameras. Pretty much every time I leave the house I take a camera. For most of my serious shooting I grab my M10. I like the look of the images but they are not that much different than the M 240 images. Actually they are the same. But the M10 is so much thinner that I feel more comfortable carrying it. The M10 feels so much like the M6 and I carried that for about 20 years so it has a familiar feel to it. 

The M240 has been mostly regulated to backup duty but it sees its share of action. The 28mm Summaron is mounted on it and that turns it into a nice little point and shoot camera. The more I shoot with that little pancake lens the more that I like it. Really has a film look to it.  

I have been shooting more and more film so my M6’s get the occasional exercise. Like to shoot tri-x and process it myself. I skip proof sheets and go straight to the scanner. I have shot so much film over the years that I can judge a negative without proofs. The Lightroom presets are nice but I still like the look of real grain. As long as they keep making film I will keep shooting tri-x. I should try to get a hold of the new Ektachrome, that would be a blast from the past. ( Funny, autocorrect doesn’t recognize the word Ektachrome ).  

And now to the poor neglected M8. I never really bonded with this camera. Occasionally I use my M8 as a poor mans Monochrom. I just leave off the IR filter since I’m not shooting for color. The images do print well in black and white on my Epson P800. I see no reason to give up on it so I just keep the batteries charged for the once and a blue moon excursion. 

As if I don’t have enough Leicas I still find myself looking at the CL. Not much reason for one but it would be a great carry all of the time camera. I like my iPhone 8 but I am not crazy about the 28mm field of view for all shots. I really am a 50mm guy. We’ll see.  

Summer is almost over so I will start shooting again. Just don’t like the harsh light of June through September.  


The Getty Museum in Los Angeles currently has on display ICONS OF STYLE : A CENTURY OF FASHION PHOTOGRAPHY, 1911-2011. The Getty has a history of curating some very good photography exhibitions and this one is up to the usual standards. I have not done much fashion work and I don’t follow the trends but I do appreciate good photography when I see it. I have books by Peter Lindbergh, Patrick Demarchelier and Helmut Newton. I went to the show not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. The work was first rate and from about the 50’s to the present I recognized most of the images. 

I try hard to expose myself to all kinds of photography. I have a niche that I subscribe to for my own work but understand that inspiration comes in many different forms. My abstract work has been influenced by a number of contemporary German artists. Looking at other forms of contemporary art, architecture, and even music can have a great influence on your work if you let it.  

The show runs through October 21, so if your in the area go to the Getty to see the show. Also the Getty is a great place to shoot architecture and people. 



J Paul Getty Museum 


Icons of Style


Irving Penn, Nick Knight, Jean-Baptiste Mondino


Patrick Demarchelier


Tim Walker


Chris Von Wangenheim and Francisco Scavullo


Hiro and William Silano


Helmut Newton


Horst P Horst

Edward Steichen 

Edward Steichen 


IKEA has teamed up with Hasselblad to make Fine Art Photography available to the masses. The prints are mostly in the 20" X 30" size. They sell for from $20 - $25. I have seen them in the store and the are well done. Supposedly this is a test run to see if original artwork sells in their stores. I would like to see this catch on as it would allow photographers to get their artwork in the hands of a lot of people and make some money. The images were taken with Hasselblad cameras.

Norrhassel Collection at IKEA

Norrhassel Collection at IKEA