Quick Shots: Bike Culture

Europe loves the bicycle. And I love photographing Europeans on their bicycles, often at the risk of being run over. Amsterdam takes the bike culture to a whole new level; you are constantly dodging cars, mopeds, bikes, and pedestrians walking through the city, but if you manage to not be squished, then you are rewarded with a bounty of photographic opportunities.

It was important to me to capture the bike culture of Amsterdam in a way that was distinctly Amsterdam. So I shot a series of images to tell the story of Amsterdam's bike culture. Photographed with the Leica SL and Leica Q and converted to black and white in Nik Silver Efex.

"Ironic Bike"

"Cobblestone Bike"


"Resting Bike"

"Parked Bike"

Quick Shot: Bike Repair

There is an outdoor market that is run every day in downtown Cambridge, but it is particularly crowded on the weekend with street performers and folks selling their wares. Since it's always a great place to see people doing interesting places, it was high on my list of places to take the new Leica MP 35mm film camera for a spin.

In one of the middle aisles of the market is a shop that specializes in repairing bicycles. As I mentioned previously, bikes are a popular mode of transportation in Cambridge, so he is always busy working on bikes that need repair, adjustment, or a quick lubrication. 

As I walked past his stall, I saw him working on an older bike that was on a stand. He appeared to be working on greasing the chain or shifters and the back wheel was spinning on the stand. I pulled the camera up to eye level and adjusted the shutter speed to be slow enough to catch that slight blur from the back tire as it spun. I really like the end result! What do you think?

Quick Shot: City Bikes

Equipped with my new Leica MP 35mm film camera and a 35mm f/2.4 lens, I hit the streets of Cambridge to practice my street photography. As you may have read in my blog about my first impressions of the Leica, the first time shooting the camera was a little clumsy as I adjusted to the different controls. Despite these differences, I designed a few photographs in my head and focused on getting those images during the walk.

One of the images I imagined prior to the walk was a photograph to capture how active cyclists are in downtown Cambridge. The city is off limits to drivers in many areas, so the roads are flush with folks commuting via bicycle. To really depict that scene, I wanted a shot of bikes in a line as the primary subject in focus and then a blurred person zipping through the scene on their bike. As I originally imagined it, the biker would have been further away and less prominent in the scene, but people don't always do what we want, and I actually kind of like the result. The initial reaction may be to think "thats a terrible photograph, its not in focus," but I hope the viewer lingers for a moment longer to realize that the bikes in the background are in focus and then wonder..... was that done on purpose? The answer is yes!

Quick Shot: A Stroll Through Cambridge

I have teased about my most recent purchase in previous posts, but if you missed it, I recently added a 1974 Rolleiflex T Whiteface 120mm medium format film camera to my collection. This camera is absolutely fantastic and it's quickly become one of my favorite cameras to shoot with.

My first roll of film was "wasted" on pictures of my dog around our house, but my first real roll of film was spent on a long day walking through Cambridge, England. I wanted to focus on learning the camera - focusing, shooting, metering, composing, etc. I packed a roll of Ilford FP-4+ and headed into the heart of Cambridge to see what came between me and the camera.

Each roll contains 12 images so I took.... 12 images. The roll was then brought home and developed by me using the methods I had practiced on my first throw away roll. I was very pleased that, upon seeing the developed negatives, I had 12 perfectly exposed images! phew!

Upon closer inspection I did notice a problem with a few images. If you look closely you can see some vertical streaks on the film. Turns out that Rolleiflex changed how the camera was loaded for the T variants - previous versions had you thread the film under a roller bar, but the T doesn't go through the roller. I had just read some generic "how to load film" instructions and did not catch this little difference. The vertical streaks resulted from the film being run under this roller bar, creating very small scratches on the film. That's okay- this was the time to trouble shoot those things and it really only shows on a few images.

I scanned each of these images using an Epson V700 scanner - there is no adjustment or color correction done. What you see is what I got! What do you think?

Quick Shot: Blue Bike

Whenever I travel, I try to do as much research as possible to pre-plan my photographs. While this approach serves me fairly well, there is always that element of surprise when you just walk upon a photograph, like today's Quick Shot of the blue bike.

We were walking through the streets of Chinque Terre, Italy (which I'll cover in a future post!) looking for a place to get lunch. As we turned a corner, I stumbled upon this photograph, which virtually took itself. 

The bicycle was super bright blue and contrasted nicely with the wall in the background. By itself, those elements were enough to photograph, but the empty park bench really complimented the scene and told a fun and lighthearted story about Chinque Terre. I always carry my camera on (with lens cap off) and ready for opportunities like this, so I took the photograph in stride and we kept walking for lunch. Sometimes great photographs only require a few seconds to see, compose and shoot!