Leica Glow:An appreciation of classic Leica M photography.

Posted in age of elegance, camera, England, hobbys, Leica, Leica Lens, Leica photography, luxury camera, photo, photoblog, Photography, photojournalism, road trip, rustic, travel, Uncategorized, vintage, Wales, writing on September 9th, 2014 by wabisabipix

kd_leica_m6_1The Leica rangefinder camera has over the years become as legendary as the famous photographers that have become synonymous with using it.

Cartier Bresson,Eve Arnold,Robert Capa,Robert Frank and Vivian Maier to name but a few, have all been associated with its name and the body of work created with this photographic tool has spanned over many decades.

In an era where photographic quality and longevity seem to be taking a back seat, in a world obsessed with the quick fix and inherent obsolescence and yearly upgrades, it seems the ubiquitous smartphone has dominated the requirements of the masses.Even internet service providers are struggling to cater for the deluge of every day images flooding the internet and it is allegedly rapidly running out of capacity in its current form.

Interestingly there appears to be a rekindling of interest by many in the younger generation that have read and learned about the photographic legends of the golden era of photojournalism and are kicking back against the digital world that cocoons them.Many are seeking to learn more about the old techniques of dark room printing and the power and minimalism of black and white photography.

Film appears to be making a come back and even the film industry is turning away from the current vogue to use video and returning to celluloid in a bid to recapture that classic 35mm look.Such is rumoured to be the case in that of the new Star Wars Film currently being filmed at Pinewood Studios in the UK.

The legendary Kodak film Tri-X, famous for use by such photographers as David Bailey,Don McCullin,Anton Corbijn and Sebastiao Salgado,is also gathering resurgence of interest,especially for those seeking that natural film grain and rich blacks and whites that add character and depth to an image,a complete contrast to the digital, rather clinical, grain free effects of todays digital offerings.

Indeed a close friend who had a fridge load of date expired film has found that it was purchased enthusiastically on ebay by fans of Lomography who love the psychedelic effects of the film in their Holga and Lomo cameras who cannot get enough of it.

Many are now stepping off the digital merry go round and seeking out classic film cameras to shoot their important pictures and memories, after all its easy to scan a negative for internet purposes and you can keep a negative for archive purposes for hundreds of years, but when your hard drive dies or becomes obsolete thats a big problem,who can remember zip disks?

Over the decades I have used many cameras,but one that I have a special fondness for is the Leica M6 with a 35mm F2 Summicron IV pre aspherical.

This lens has become known as the “King of Bokeh” among rangefinder aficionados.

A true jewel of a lens,this optic is possessed of a unique set of characteristics that almost give the lens a life of its own.

When shot wide open this lens gives an extraordinary creamy bokeh(Japanese Bo-ke),a term coined by the japanese to describe the out of focus or blurry background effect when a wide aperture is selected.It also gives a wonderful glow in the specular highlights and a full range of tones that really jump out of the picture giving an almost 3D quality frequently described as the Leica glow.It is almost as if the lens maker has dropped a tiny pipet of bottled nostalgia onto the front lens coating and all images suddenly seem in some way like a captured frame from a dream sequence.

Mechanically the optic really is a dream.It has beautiful click stops,silky smooth focus and a full array of depth of field settings,enabling a photographer to take full advantage of setting hyper focal distance and pre-setting the camera for street photography.

I also like the 90mm Elmarit f2.8 which is ideal when you need that extra little bit of reach or a tight portrait and the gorgeous Elmar 50mm f2.8 is a cracking pop out pancake lens in the old tradition and style for keeping in a discrete pocket.

In modern times the Leica M6 body may not seem the most ergonomically designed of film cameras and the loading procedure can be a little bit more time consuming than opening the back door of a typical 35mm film SLR, however in my opinion this is not what rangefinder photography is about.If you require a camera to rattle off 12fps and send the images directly online via a wifi connection to your laptop then you are looking in the wrong place.However if you are the kind of person for whom the internet is a mere after thought and you want a small discrete camera that can be hand held to stunningly low shutter speeds and which is whisper silent and doesn’t draw attention,and if you enjoy doing your own black and white prints or thrill when you get back your prints from a lab,then this could be for you.

The Leica rangefinder is for people who prefer to smell the roses and enjoy life at a more laid back pace while taking the scenic route.It is for those who may relish the pleasure of sitting in a cafe watching the world go by while enjoying the pleasure of winding on the gears of a classic precision photographic instrument,almost like a swiss watch,that instills you with confidence in its design and the quality of its build and optics.The enjoyment of following a classic ritual from an age of elegance that makes you feel that taking pictures with it should be more thoughtful and considered.

 

In essence,shooting a Leica rangefinder eventually becomes an almost Zen like experience as one can see all the action prior to the subject entering the frame,preset the focus using hyper focal distance and use experienced judgement to set the light levels.Combining all these elements successfully creates an almost instantaneous extension of your mind and eye and culminates in a single understated whisper quiet click!

They are such mechanical wonders that they do not even require batteries.In my opinion thats quite something in this modern age.

It takes practice and discipline to master this technique of course,but the reward is there for those patient enough.

Indeed Leica cameras and their lenses are not cheap and seeking out the classic lenses is a costly affair.However of all the cameras on the market they are clearly an investment and you will almost certainly find that the camera or lens you buy either holds its value or becomes more valuable as the years pass by,the problem is that you probably will not want to sell it anyway as it becomes very much a part of your life.

There is also something pleasing knowing that in all likelihood that rangefinder will still be shooting when those digital wonders are are long gone into the annals of upgrade history or are relegated to the status of expensive paperweights.Indeed a battered and bronzed Leica with years of usage,has a certain beauty and appeal to it that is quite frankly priceless.

 

 

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Traveling light

Posted in Alcoy, Castles, Crusades, Festival, knights, Leica, lumix lx7, medieval, moods, Moors, photo, photoblog, Photography, road trip, Spain, technology, tourism, writing on November 17th, 2013 by wabisabipix

P1010836I took the opportunity of shooting a few pictures with only a lumix LX7 camera the latest incarnation of the LX series of cameras which has proved very popular with professional photographers because of its high speed 24mm Leica Summilux f1.4 zoom lens. DSC07462 (2) It is a great option for carrying just one small camera that has a quality that you can rely on even in the lowest of light conditions. I was particularly impressed by its great ability to shoot rapidly at 5 frames per second with full follow focus at f1.4 and also its wide range of special effects filters ranging from soft focus to HDR and the exposures always seemed to be spot on finding that sweet spot almost every time. It truly is a pocket Swiss Army Knife of a camera. The pictures shown are of the walled castle town Alcoy near Alicante in Spain.

Alcoy is famous for the yearly festival held in April every year celebrating the historical event in which St George and his Crusader knights who according to legend are said to have swept into the town through the cliff arches that form the center stage of the town and defeated the occupying Moors in april 1276.

Alcoy is also said to have been the home town of Federico Borrell García the falling soldier in the famous image of a “falling soldier” captured in his dying moments by Photojournalist Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War. He is said to have worked in the Alcoy textile mills and was part of the Alcoy Militia

 

  la glorieta Federico Borrell García is seen pictured at the La Glorieta Park in Alcoy in this article,www.photographers.it/articoli/cd_capa/img/taino.pdf and this is the band stand and park today.  

P1010443                                                                                                              P1010822                                                                                                                                      A view of Alcoy during sunset. P1010826 A few examples of the LX7 built in HDR effect showing the arches where Saint George as legend says                                                                     rescued the town from the Moors P1010684 P1010704 Two pictures one day apart showing the Saint Jordi Bridge during an unusual weather front in the region. P1010785 A mural of Saint George a popular historical figure in the region. P1010655 Doves flying in the Plaza De Dins. P1010650   P1010060 alcoy 3 The Town hall in Alcoy. P1010593     P1010657The Saragata Cafe ,great coffee, food and service located in the Plaza de Dins. Check out the Spanish omelette rolls for breakfast.   P1010616     P1010619       P1010625The plaza De Dins P1010434   San Mauro Watch TowerP1010440

For more on Federico Borrell García see this excellent and well illustrated article (in Spanish):

www.photographers.it/articoli/cd_capa/img/taino.pdf

Colour photographs copyright:Kerry Davies.

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Retro Cool?

Posted in classic, cool, Leica, Nikon, Nikon Df, photo, photoblog, Photography, photojournalism, retro, Uncategorized on November 7th, 2013 by wabisabipix

This is the new Nikon Df camera with a newly designed 50mm f1.8 lens.

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After its much much publicised entrance with several teaser adverts it clearly attempts to merge the design of a classic FM2 or F3 body with that of a modern SLR in an attempt to capture the kudos of the film days in a almost £3000 package.

My first impression was one of fascination and interest and seeing that mirror box shape reminded me of the days when film was the only option.

The question I couldn’t help but ask questions of however was Nikons marketing ploy of “retro”.

What is truly “retro”?

We live in an age when digital cameras are upgraded every year or two.

Does any camera really last long enough to become truly classic any longer?

In this time when press photographers are having their livelihoods stripped away by a dying newspaper industry it leaves me questioning their pricing.

If camera producers truly wanted to create a classic retro camera would it not make sense to make maximum effort to create a quality example of perfect engineering with quality parts and optics at a reasonable price with perhaps a replaceable sensor that can be replaced with each technological update.

In the 1990’s I clearly remember the cost of professional bodies such as the Nikon F4 and the Canon Eos1 being in the region of £1200.These cameras would last a decade or more if treated properly.

The one thing that remained true was the use of film.

These days camera’s now cost 3 times that cost.The new Df is priced on the region of £2800.

The current workhorse cameras the D4 and D3 offer more features on the face of it and they will soon become obsolete for the next  wonder sensor that turns up and relegates those metal bodies to mere paperweights sitting on a bookshelf gathering dust.

The retro looks only last a short time as a novelty jewellery item, before becoming common place and ending up among other equally identical faux retro bodies looking like they popped out of a plastic 3D printer. These are now living in a used camera shop at less than quarter of the value you paid for them.

What is truly retro?

To me a truly retro camera has to be a film camera.

It is a film camera that will be your constant companion for a decade or more,something that will live with you and your family and be there for all of your experiences,the highs and the lows. It will wear and age with dignity and those experiences will show themselves as worn brass corners where those years of mileage have rubbed away at the paintwork like an ancient stone pathway.

Its gears will be of fine mechanical quality and the shutter and aperture dials will click with a reassuring quality that work as well as the first day it was bought even though a decade has passed.

The focussing screen should enable a bright view of what it being photographed, even in low light,  the image will snap into focus with a diamond cut clarity.The experience should leave you with the feeling of an artist bringing all the elements of a painting into sharp focus in a simple but exquisite frame.

Its lenses will produce a creamy bokeh that renders an  image with a unique fluidic quality, possessed of a character that enhances reality, giving an almost 3D quality .The lens will have distance markings and Hyper focal positions clearly marked to facilitate the pre-setting of focus quicker than the fastest auto focus could manage.

It will have a timer switch which whirs like a quality swiss watch.

The wind on  mechanism will be whisper silent.

Its shutter will produce a muffled unobtrusive inaudible click making it possible for the photographer to blend in to the background unseen.

It will become something you truly trust and covet.

I use Nikon pro cameras for my day to day press work and rely on them ,but for me what is truly retro?

Strangely almost half the cost of the new Nikon “retro” consumer camera  that to me meets the definition of this is……

What is truly retro?

KD_LEICA_M6_1

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