Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roll number 3

Leica M6, Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2

Time to do some high-res scans and a few prints.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Colour weekend

Nikon D700, 24-70mm f/2.8.
Photoshop composite of two images.
Just don't look too closely at the timestamps.


Leica M6, Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2
A bit of a gap, since I lost a roll of film. Not loaded properly so the film advance didn't. Sigh. So strictly speaking this is roll number 3, but we'll call it number 2. Now up on flickr, here.

A few observations. Looking at the images I find myself wanting to crop, which is something I almost never do with the D700 or G10 or 4x5. I guess I'm not used to composing in the rangefinder yet.

Another thing: shadow detail seems to be nonexistant. I think this is an artifact of the scans but I'm not sure. I'll have to make a hi-res scan myself to see.

And... the D700 with the 24-70 feels like even more of a behemoth now. Also I haven't touched the G10 since the M6 arrived. It may be for sale soon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Leica M6, Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2
Got my first roll back from the lab today — and took in my second, and shot most of a third while walking over to King & Spadina. I'm having the film processed at Toronto Image Works, and getting 6 megapixel low resolution scans to use as digital contact sheets. I add metadata to the jpeg's from the cd of scans, and import to Lightroom. Any images that I want to work with further I'll make high resolution scans of by myself, and post-process in Lightroom and Photoshop in the usual way, and then print.

I'll post a few images from each roll in my Leica Year low resolution scans set on flickr, untouched as they come from the lab (except for the addition of metadata). Each image will be tagged with the roll number. As I work up the images, I'll add other sets for work prints and final prints. And yes, these will be actual physical prints.

The first roll is here.

Some process problems. First of all, metadata. When shooting 120 or 4x5 the pace is quite leisurely, and keeping track of aperture, shutter speed, time and place in a notebook is not a problem. With the Leica, though, shooting a dozen frames in a few minutes is easy (digital reflexes, remember?) so keeping track of things is more difficult. For this reason the metadata is likely to be inaccurate.

Second, the scan quality isn't great. The resolution is fine, but the dynamic range isn't, and the scans are dusty. So why not just scan everything myself, and stop whining? It takes too long. And it's just a contact sheet, after all.

Other things? Looking at this first roll, especially the pictures of the participants in the Influency poetry salon, I kept thinking of Robert Capa's comment, “If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough.” The shot of NourbeSe Philip would be much better with tighter cropping, for example. Of course I can do that in post-processing, but maybe I should have gone with a 50mm lens. Or maybe I should just get closer.

More to come.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Colour weekend

Nikon D700, 24-70mm f/2.8
I've decided that on the weekends I'm going to shoot digital colour, just to keep my hand in...


So I've now shot 2 rolls of Tri-X. Don't have them back from the lab yet: it's supposed to be in by 11am out by 3pm but asking for scans adds a day. I may decide to scan my own after all.

I realize I have digital reflexes, and I wonder if any of the images will be even vaguely in focus since I'm having some difficulty with the rangefinder with eyeglasses, compounded by my tendency to shoot in low light...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Starting up

The M6 arrived yesterday. It's an early one, manufactured in 1987 according to the serial number; the red dot says "Leitz" rather than the later ones which say "Leica". (I'm not about to become a collector. Really.) It is a lovely machine, feels just right in the hand. and the sound of the shutter is seductive. Yes, the infamous removable bottom plate is a pain, but I can see that I'll get used to loading film that way quick enough.

Speaking of film, it was a bit of a run-around finding Tri-X 400 last night (everybody's buying it!) but I did get some, and have started shooting.

I also have three rolls of 120 and some 4x5's to scan..

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A look at black and white

Zeiss Ikon Nettar 515, Tri-X 320
This post is mainly a test (how to blog a picture from flickr), but I like this image. Apropos the previous post, does it look like it was taken in 2009? It was, with my old Zeiss Ikon Nettar 515 (which my father got as a teenager in Germany), on 120 TriX film. But does it look contemporary? To me there's a 1920's feel about this image — except for that fence.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


My lens arrived today. It looks remarkably like a piece of scientific equipment: the objective of a microscope, or a part of an apparatus used to look at thin transparent slices of crystal. With a bit of luck the camera body will arrive early next week.

In the meantime... I assume that everyone reading this knows about Leica, but in case you don't (or in case you haven't read it) go read this article from the New Yorker.

All done? Crazy, yes?

I'm not a camera collector, and I've argued at various times and in various places that the whole notion of the "decisive moment" (and of course the Leica mythology is all wrapped up in that) is the equivalent of the lyric epiphany in poetry, and, to my mind, just as suspect. (Not everyone shares this suspicion.)

So what the hell am I doing committing to taking pictures with a Leica for a year, if I don't buy this mystique? I don't feel that I need to learn how to see, either. (Oh, arrogance. Who knows how to see? Who sees?) (Maybe I've seen, once or twice. Maybe you have, too.) (HCB saw almost all the time.)

It's about constraints. It's about the liberating effect of constraints, like saying, for a year I will write nothing but sonnets, or, this novel will not use the letter "e", or, I will paint only in shades of blue, or ... I'm looking for a musical example, help me here (hear).

I'm also thinking about something Jörg Colberg wrote a while ago, about wanting to see black and white photographs that didn't look like they were taken in 1975 (or was it, that looked like they were taken in 2009?) (Colberg's tone often annoys me, but his blog is just as often a source of wonders.) Also a while ago, I started tagging images on flickr "another look at black and white" (deliberately echoing Philip Glass' amazing early work, Another Look at Harmony)

Another look. That's what this is about.