Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Joy

Have a Merry & Blessed Christmas!
For me a most enjoyable start to Christmas was the Sunday School program at Cross of Glory in Mounds View, Minnesota. I hope the photos on my Voice blog captured a bit of the blessing the children were to us.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

photography as art

That seems to be the best way to describe American Suburb X.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leica and me -- part 3

My conclusions? So far I am very happy with my Leicas. As with the X1's lens, the M9's f/2 Summicron is exceedingly sharp with high contrast. I am enjoying converting some color photos to black and white, particularly portraits and scenics. Black and white can be used to eliminate competition between colors for attention and to emphasize composition. With the Leicas I am more deliberate in framing my shots and more appreciative of the basics of exposure (it is nice to have manual control over f/stops, shutter speed, ISO, and focusing). 

I will keep you posted as I become more familiar with both cameras and continue my exploration of photography.

Leica and me -- part 2

In yesterday's post I told you why I purchased a Leica M9. A 14th century English proverb tells us, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." I will leave it to you to judge. Please keep in mind, as I pointed out yesterday, that at my age I cannot afford to be rational;  that applies to my choice of subject matter as well. All of these photos were taken within the last two weeks.

continued in part 3

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Leica and me

A half-century ago (literally) I worked at a research photo lab for the University of Minnesota. It was there I became acquainted with Leica cameras. Of course, this was pre-digital. I learned to develop film, use enlargers, and make prints. I used view cameras -- some as large as 16"x20" on rails, 8x10s, and 4x5s. I would make contact prints from the larger cameras with sharpness that had to be seen to be believed. My favorites, however, were the Leicas. 

This was before the days of the M-series (for those of you who may be familiar with Leicas). I still remember the models: IIIf and, my favorite, the IIIg. They were light, compact, with lenses that seemed to rival the view cameras. Alas, I was in college and could not afford them. Today, if I was a rational person, I still cannot afford them. But at my age, I cannot afford to be rational. So, early this year I decided to start small and get what some may call a point-and-shoot, the Leica's X1. It is not a single-lens reflex. It has a fixed f2.8 lens. It will not focus closer than about 20". The auto-focusing is slow. So why did I get it? It has three things going for it -- things that are very important to me. 

  1. It has an APC size sensor, the same size as your typical DSLR (excluding full-frame cameras).
  2. It has a wide angle lens with unbelievable sharpness and color rendition.
  3. It is very quiet -- I would challenge you to hear the shutter.
The shots at the beginning and end of this video were taken with the X1 -- also, the September 26 and October 1 posts on my Voice blog.

I got an external viewfinder hoping it would duplicate the regular Leica's advantage of not looking through the lens, but rather seeing the subject directly and brightly without the mirror of a DSLR going blank with a loud clunck at the exact moment that one takes a photo. The performance of the X1 and the viewfinder experience convinced me that a full-size digital Leica was the way to go. I spent several months arguing with myself whether I really wanted to incur the expense, whether it would improve my photography, and whether I could adjust to giving up automatic focusing, looking through the camera lens, and using telephotos for nature shots.  

About two weeks ago I took the plunge and ordered an M9 through an old-style dealer in Manhattan, NY, Ken Hansen. Ken doesn't have a web site or blog but he knows Leicas and their lenses. He will talk to you on the phone and will answer emails within minutes day or night -- really! I don't know when he sleeps. 

After agonizing over Leica's expensive lenses, I settled on the old standard, a 50mm f/2 Summicron. After all, if it was good enough for one of the world's greatest photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, it should be sufficient for me. I'm not so naive to believe that a Leica with a 50mm will make me the next Bresson. But, after using film Leicas and reading about the history and nature of manual rangefinder type  shooting, I do believe this approach will improve my photography in those areas where Leica is outstanding:  street and candid photography, nature/landscape, portraits, and as an instrument for recording the years I may have remaining. Tripods, full-frame DSLRS, and telephoto lenses are getting heavier each year.

If you are interested, there are many sites and blogs devoted to Leica photography. Just a few that contain a wealth of information are those of Steve Huff, Thorsten Overgaard, Ken Rockwell, and Erwin Puts.

There are some kinds of photography that  Leica is not good at. They include extreme closeups (less than 2'), bird and nature photography that calls for telephoto lenses greater than 135mm, and sports/action photography (the M9 shoots at only 2 frames/sec. and does not have automatic focusing). For these very reasons I will keep at least one Canon body and my 70-200mm f/2.8 and 400mm f/4 lenses. Anyone interested in the rest?

I have not yet decided what I will do with my present blogs. (I do know I will keep my iPhone blog.) Tomorrow I will post some of the test shots I've taken with my M9 so far. 

Friday, December 3, 2010


A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.
~ Frank Capra

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

cameras & flutes

Buy a camera and you are a professional photographer.
Buy a flute and you now own a flute.
~ Unknown (Thanks to David Spielman.)