Ralph Gibson on finding a photographic identity. Even on stage he has his Leica.
Ralph Gibson on finding a photographic identity. Even on stage he has his Leica.
These are Leica (Leitz) AD slicks for dealers so that they could do their own newspaper advertising.
This is from a Leitz brochure in the 80's.
I still have a soft spot for this camera. I own one in chrome and in black. This was my third Leica after a M3 double stroke and a M4-2.
My visit to Wedding and Portrait Photographers convention in Las Vegas.
I had no reason to go to a wedding photographers convention but I wanted to go to the trade show. Stopped by the Nikon area for NPS members to get an introduction to the new Nikon D5. Nice camera, looks like it is time for me to update. Meeting the pro's in the room reminded me that there are a lot of not nice people in the world. Makes me wonder how some people make a living in a field where you need to be professional and easy to work with. I was very impressed with the Phase One cameras and made a contact that I may have to get more information from, I might step up to medium format. I shot Hasselblad for a lot of years in the film world. At the Canon booth Peter Hurley was speaking, he is entertaining. The show was broken into two parts, one area the big names like Nikon and Canon and Profoto, and the other area with albums and props and smaller vendors. The big name area was full of younger males lusting over the equipment. The smaller area had what I would call the working pro's. Mostly younger couples or older men and women who sounded like they had been in the business a long time. Interesting. Not as many people as I was expecting. Making a living as a photographer is hard and getting harder. Don't give your work away.
Back in the day I used to use light painting to obtain shadowless product photos with photo floods. In the last few years the technique has returned for creative purposes.
Light Painting is relatively easy thanks to digital capture. The base exposure settings are f8 at 30 seconds with long exposure noise reduction turned on. After the exposure the camera will take another black exposure to reduce the grain in the photo. Hence the Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting. I use a Streamlight 65018 Stylus pen light for exposing small objects. During the exposure keep the light source moving and turn it on and off as needed and don't expose with your hand in front of the lens. I usually hum a song so that I have a pattern that I repeat, i.e. this area for this verse and this area for the next verse and so on.
This is a lighting technique that I enjoy using from time to time. You can get different results by putting gels over the light or some Vaseline on a spare filter.
A visit to one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. The J Paul Getty is a great place to take photos and has some of the best photography exhibitions in the US. The one that just ended on Japanese photography was very nice. Really looking forward to the upcoming Robert Maplethorp show starting in March.
Behind the scenes of recent food photograph.
Beginning photographers are under the impression that lots of equipment is needed to do product work but that is not always the case. I try to make my work simple and graphic so it stands out. The in style for food photography is to use just natural light so I wanted to do something that would be different. The image that I visualized was to back light slices of kiwi but how to come up with a quick light table for the effect. First I grabbed a Matthews stand and arm and attached an AFFLAC clamp. I located an old piece of glass from a picture frame and covered it with a spare piece of Savage Translum. If you have never used this product I suggest you get some, it has a lot of uses.
Next I position a light under my makeshift light table and wheeled my TetherTools table into position. Almost everything I shoot is tethered with Capture One Pro.
We ended up slicing about 8 kiwi to get the pieces that looked right. Then it was just the time spent assembling the puzzle pieces until I was happy with the composition.
Equipment used was a Broncolor Move and head, Nikon D3s with a 105mm micro, Really Right Stuff tripod and head, Matthews C-Stand and arm with an AFFLAC clamp, Savage Translum medium material, and a Manfrotto arm.
When entering the world of Leica M cameras most people select the body, be it a M or MM monochrom , and usually a 50mm or 35mm lens to go with it. Cost usually dictates purchasing one lens at a time. But most Leica photographers that I have know have owned 3-4 lenses and not all of them Leica brand. Even though I have used a Leica lens at all of the focal lengths available I do not wish to carry a lens at each focal while walking around searching for images.
For many years the classic Leica M system was a 35mm and a 90mm kit. Most often the 35mm was the 1.4 summilux and the 90mm was a slower 2.8 lens. This is a great combination more most photographers as it gives you both a moderate wide-angle and a moderate telephoto. This combination is both lightweight and portable. I actually followed a different path and started with a 35mm 2.0 and a 50mm 2.0. I am much more of a wide angle person and I have always favorited portability over speed when it comes to lens selection. A few years ago I went through my library of work photos of over 300,00 digital images shot with Nikon cameras and over 85% were taken in the 35-50 range. These are documentary images so they also show how I have shot with Leica M style cameras.
Shooting styles have changed over the years. For a long time in photojournalism style of photography it was "f8 and be there" . Acceptable focus was the most important aspect of capturing an image. Since digital has taken over from film the practice of pixel peeping has taken over. In my opinion we have lots of sharp images with no emotion.
With that being said it is time to update what should be in a Leica M shooters bag. 35mm or 28mm. The 35mm focal length has a lot going for it. It is a small lens that gives little wide angle distortion. When the lens is pointed below or above the horizon the curvature that the lens produces is noticeable but doesn't dominate the image. At 28mm it is even more noticeable and at 24mm it is hard to ignore. A 24mm lens is great to have and is one of my favorite focal lengths but in my opinion is not a top choice when assembling a portable Leica M kit. The choice of 35mm vs 28mm can be difficult to make if you don't have years of experience. Yes 35mm is the classic focal length but the question is which fits your shooting style. Size and weight is similar for each focal length. The choice of maximum aperture is a little easier. Optically Leica lenses handle very well and are sharp out to the widest opening. Because wide angle have so much depth of field by design and narrow depth of field is in vogue I suggest the 35mm 1.4 summilux as the choice for a wide angle kit lens.
For a telephoto lens the choice is either a 75mm or a 90mm lens. For speed we get to choose between 2.0 and 2.4 apertures. The Leica M series is a camera that few would consider as an action or sports camera so telephotos are used mainly for portraits and scenery. Before investing in a telephoto for these cameras I recommend trying one at a dealer. With rangefinders the image size doesn't change in the viewfinder when you change lenses and composing and focusing with the rangefinder is challenging. As often the lens itself with attached hood can obstruct a significant part of the viewfinder and this can be frustrating for some users. I have always felt that the 90mm focal length is just to much of a hassel with a Leica M. I prefer the 75mm focal length. Great focal length for portraits. The 90mm compress the features of the face just a little to much for me for street portraits, the 75mm gives more of a 3D look to the face. As far as the aperture goes I prefer the slower lens. And by slower we are only talking about 1/2 of a stop. The new Leica 2.4 lenses are excellent, sharp and a vivid color saturation. So my choice for a telephoto Leica M lens is a 75mm 2.4 lens.
Remeber earlier when I said my beginning kit was a 35mm 2.0 and a 50mm 2.0. My next lens was the 50mm Noctilux. Yep, I own two 50mm lenses. it is a shame that so few people have actually used this lens. It produces images like no other lens. The look that this lens produces when shot wide open is so incredible that when you first see images with it you will not give it up. I am not much of a bokeh person but the images are mesmerizing. It's not about being able to shoot in low light levels as it is about creating a unique and compelling image. Yes the lens is heavy and difficult to focus, but that is a small price to pay for a look that no other lens by any manufacture can create. And remember that when you stop this lens down a couple of stops it is very sharp. My next choice for a Leica kit is the Leica Noctilux.
No I'm not done yet. So I have chosen a wide angle, a normal and telephoto lens. Next up is a focal length that really doesn't get used much but when you need it you really need it. Wide is nice, but sometimes you need really wide. That is when the 21mm focal length comes into play. For travel photography there is no better lens to take your images above the level of snapshots. The one place this focal length shines is in interiors, and the bigger the better. When photographing cathedrals in Europe this is the lens to have. Remember to shoot straight up, often this is the killer image. Leica sells two 21mm lenses. One has a maximum aperture of 1.4 and the other is 3.4. The 1.4 summilux is beautiful but for me is just tooooooo heavy. The 21mm 3.4 is just so sharp and has very true colors. Although the bag might be getting a little heavy, I recommend the Leica 21mm 3.4 wide angle lens.
Even though I have recommended a kit that contains a body and 4 lenses, this outfit will still weigh less than a pro level DSLR and 2.8 zoom lens. There will be no limitations with this kit and believe me you will really enjoy photographing with this set up and it will give you many years of happiness.
This is the follow up to an earlier post where I asked you to identify which camera was a Leica and which was a Minolta.
The Leica is on the top. At one time Leica and Minolta shared production facilities and technology to make cameras together. The Leica R4 and the Minolta XD-11 are basically the same camera. Minolta made cameras on par with Nikon and Canon at one time.
Riverside Festival of Lights.
Leica Photographer Alex Coghe has an APP in the iTunes Store. Nice to see photographers using other avenues to get their work out to the public. Good work. The APP appears to be sponsored by Leica since it carries their logo. I wonder if there will be more of these to come. An APP like this based on the 100 Years of Leica Photography book would be popular.
This is a studio shot taken with Broncolor Strobes.
This is a studio shot meant to mimic natural lighting. Makes one think of summertime. Just a tidbit, the stripes that make up the background are actually an out of focus Victoria's Secret bag. Nikon D3s camera with a 105 micro lens. One Broncolor light that is bare bulb, 4 white Foamcore reflectors and Matthews C-stands.
Another food still life.
Lighting: Broncolor Move with one light and 100 x 100 softbox. Reflector cards. Foba white background. Camera: Nikon D3s and 50mm 1.4
If your a Leica user you should watch the documentary film Everybody Street.
"Everybody Street" the documentary film by Cheryl Dunn is now streaming on Netflix instant. It's a really good film about contemporary New York street photography. It can be also purchased at iTunes and other venues. There is a segment with Mary Ellen Mark who recently passed away. I also have lots of respect for the director for getting a real interview with Elliot Erwitt. He always just gives smarty, useless answers in most interviews. The interviews with Joel Meyerowitz could have been expanded to a whole movie by themselves. He is so eloquent when he talks about photography I really enjoy listening to him. If you have a Netflix account head on over and watch this film. More info at everybodystreet.com
Here's my review for the Leica M8
The introduction of the Leica M8 in September of 2006 was a watershed moment for fans of Leica cameras. What many said would never happen was really just a forgone conclusion and the only question was when. The Leica M series camera went digital and there was no turning back. It was not without some controversy. This being that the M8 was not a full frame camera. The CCD that was selected by Leica produced an increase in magnification with the current line-up of lenses of a factor of 1.3X magnification. At the time the CEO of Leica stated that we were not to worry, even though technology was not available to make a full frame Leica M, when the technology caught up and a full frame chip would fit in a Leica M body the M8 could be upgraded to take advantage of the newer chip. But when that CCD was developed it went into a new model, The M9, and plans to make an upgrade for the M8 were canceled.
The Leica M8 on the outside looks like a standard Leica M body but a little thicker. The choice to forgo an IR filter over the sensor so that the images would be sharper was a choice that came back to haunt the company. But more on that later. With the current Leica M selling for over $6,500 there are people looking to get into the Leica experience but with a much cheaper camera. Since it has been 9 years since the M8 has been introduced it seemed like a good time to do my review of the camera that startedthe journey that has culminated in the fantastic Leica M (240).
Leica did a very good job making their first digital M series camera as it retains the feeling of the film series cameras. The M8 is a little thicker and a bit heavier than MP that was in production at the time. Weighing in at 591g with battery, it is close to the 585g that the MP weighs. The M8 is 139 x 80 x 37 mm as compared to 137 x 77 x 38 for the MP. The best part of a rangefinder camera is still present. The rangefinder that is built into the M8 is every bit as good as the film counterparts. The magnification factor of the rangefinder is 0.68x. This magnification slightly favors wide-angle lenses which makes sense since it has a cropped sensor. The MP sports magnifications of 0.58x, 0.72x, 0.85x, to accommodate different types of shooters. If you were transitioning from a film Leica to a digital one it is a very similar feeling in your hands,
I wrote the following for my Leica M (240) review and it bears repeating here.
The most distinctive feature of a M series camera of course is the rangefinder. When the M3 was introduced in 1954 the one piece body withbuilt-in rangefinder was the marquee feature. The original Leica didn’t have a rangefinder or even an optical viewfinder. The following models first incorporated an optical viewfinder and then later a rangefinder. The first rangefinders were a separate window so when a photo was taken first you composed through one viewfinder than focused using an adjacent window. Only with the introduction of the last screwmount camera, the IIIG, and the introduction of the bayonet mount M3 did users get an integrated viewfinder and rangefinder. The rangefinder of the M (240) is the same design as the original. Over the years the viewfinder magnification and rangefinder base have changed but we are basically using a 60 year old focusing system that can create some of the sharpest images in photography. Using a rangefinder uses a different mindset and approach to photography. It’s not just the absence of autofocus. Looking through a viewfinder that doesn’t change magnification and only shows focus in a small patch in the center of the viewfinder takes some getting used to. But when adapted to this new way of seeing many feel it is a superior way to compose because the focus is more on the subject than on the camera. Some never adjust to the difference and label the Leica experience a failure.
The top of the camera is similar to film cameras with the addition of an LCD on the left side that is a digital frame counter. There is a rotating color around the shutter button to turn the camera on and of and to set the drive mode of single or continuous advance and to engage the self timer. The shutter release button is threaded to accept a standard mechanical cable release. Some people complained when the M8 was introduced that to change the battery and SD card the bottom had to be removed like with the film cameras. Some asked why not put them behind a door on the side like other cameras. By having to change the “film” so to speak, like a film camera increases the durability of the camera by making it a very solid block of metal. The front of the camera is basically unchanged. On the left side is a small rubber cover that once removed exposes a mini USB connector for transferring images to a computer. On the back is the LCD for setting the controls for the camera and for chimping.
Even though the Leica M8 is a digital camera it is best to approach the camera as if you are shooting film. There are few controls to change on the camera not counting the LCD back. The top of the camera has only three controls. The on - off selector, the shutter speed dial, and the mechanical shutter button. A hot shoe is in the center of the camera. If any camera could go with out a hot shoe it would be a Leica. Leica owners are notorious for their distaste of flash photography. The small LCD on the far left has a battery indicator and frame counter. Now for a little personal story. On my M8 a small bug somehow got inside my camera and made it’s way through the whole camera and made it’s way to this LCD to die there and remain wedged between the LCD and the glass. No harm to the camera but it was annoying to look at. That was one expensive bug to remove.
The back of the camera has a 2.5” 230,000 pixel TFT LCD screen. It really is low quality, Leica really cut corners here. The buttons are as follows, Menu, Play, Delete, Protect, Info, and Set. Standard types of controls are found on all digital cameras these days. The control wheel next to the display has 4 direction arrows for navigating the menus and for scrolling around the image preview. The outer wheel on this controller zooms the preview in and out.
The front is dominated by the rangefinder running across the top of the camera. This is the most distinctive part of the camera. Only the lens release button and the manual lens preview lever are the only other objects on the front. One note about using a rangefinder. Try to shoot with both eyes open. Yes there is a small area around the viewfinder frames when looking through the camera but it is so much easier to anticipate action with both eyes open. It takes some practice to use the right eye as the dominate eye and still use your left eye to follow the scene but when mastered it opens up a whole new world to your shooting. It feels like you are in the scene not just viewing it through a little tunnel.
The bottom plate is completely removed to change the memory card and the battery. This is a hold over from the days of film and has been criticized in the days of digital as unnecessary and cumbersome. This may be true but it insures that the camera is rugged. The tripod socket is attached to the baseplate. The tripod socket does not go directly into the camera and in my opinion compromises the stability of the camera when attached to a tripod.
Well here goes. As much as I enjoy shooting with this camera here is the area where the camera looses points. It’s not just because it is a cropped sensor. There are some very fine cameras out there with a cropped sensor. The 10.3 million Kodak KAF-10500 sensor that Leica sourced for the M8 is not very good. It is grainy and has very weak color fidelity. The firmware was updated many times and in my opinion they never got it right. I would get about 1 in 40 images that the color and exposure were horrible. And even though I always shoot RAW files the images were not useable. Above ISO 800 the images were unusable for any serious work. Since the camera has no IR filtering when shooting color you have to use hot mirror filters or the blacks are purple. Leica provided 2 of these filters when you purchased the camera but this was unacceptable for a camera produced in 2006. I suffered through this problem with some high end Kodak digitals in the early 90’s and this problem should not have existed in this camera. Not so much an image quality issue but I also had problems with batteries. They would suddenly go from full charge to dead in one shot. I would carry three spares and often that was not enough. The camera was sent to Leica and was found to be in spec.
To sum up this review I would say that I cannot recommend the Leica M8. I just had too many problems with the camera and I finally gave up on using Leica's until the next generation. If you can find a model that is in good shape and cheap and you already own some lenses it might be worth a try. Many of the cameras foibles go away if you plan on using the camera for black and white work. Then you don’t have to mess with the special filters. Many people shot with these cameras and loved them. This is just one man’s experience. I love my Leica M (240). I have been using Leica rangefinders for 30 years and they are part of me and I wish to use no other camera for street shooting. One bad apple doesn’t turn me off on all apples.
This was taken while the girls were shopping.
I like how this images is comprised of lines. The shadow in the upper left corner. The window support frame and it's corresponding shadow. The three heads line up, then the dark hair and the shadows of the heads line up. The background broken into blocks of color and shadow. The word SELF that is just an outline. I noticed all of this before I made the exposure.
Photo of Mangos for a wall display.
A shot of Mangos that was part of a recent food project. It took longer to find fruit that was not bruised than it took to take the photograph. I always enjoy taking still life photos. Technical info is : Nikon D3s with a 105mm Micro, Broncolor Move 1200L with 1 light and a 30 x 120 softbox with a grid and of course to Capture One Pro 8. The grid narrows the light to increase contrast. The image looks nice printed big.
Behind the scenes on a tabletop photo shoot.
Just a little how it's done for a commercial photography shoot. The camera is a Nikon D3s with a 105mm Nikon Macro lens. Lights are Broncolor Move with 2 lights. The main light is a 30 X 180 Broncolor softbox with grid and the backlight is a Mobiled head with a snoot made from Rosco Cinefoil. White reflector to the left and a black gobo to the right to shade the background. Holding the orange slice is a neat contraption from Matthews. It is a MICROgrip basic set that is holding a fork stuck into the orange slice. This little set has turned out to really be a little time saver for supporting objects. The background is Savage Translum which is a transparent plastic that has lots of uses as diffuser material or as a durable background.
This is an old lantern at a popular tourist destination.
Have you every been to Newport Beach in southern California. There is a cluster of old buildings by the pier that have a fish market in the mornings. The buildings have been there for a very long time and are old and run down. Near the sign are some old vines and in the middle is this old lantern. It really is kind of hard to spot. A little Silver Effects Pro magic and here is today's post.
What a marvel of engineering. The camera that started it all for 35mm photography. This was the camera that is the most copied camera ever who's lineage can be traced to todays Leica M. I owned one for about 10 years. Truly a pocket camera.