Quick Shot: A Little Abstract

My favorite landscape images are hardly considered landscape photographs - they are abstracts. They are small extractions from a larger scene. They convey a grand vista in a tight frame.

This landscape is exactly that - although the sky isn't visible in the image, the reflection of the sky in the water gives a much grander image. I took this image at Blea Tarn, one of the more isolated lakes in England's famous Lake District. 

Photograph with the Leica SL Type 601 and 24-90mm lens.

Quick Shot: Lighthouse in the Sea

Sometimes I do some rather dumb things to get a good photograph.....

Take this lighthouse. It's at the bottom of a towering cliff at a place called Beachy Head (I didn't make that up) and it stuck in the middle of the water. The only way to see it is to walk to the edge of the cliff (without any safety fence) and lean over carefully. Leaning over is further complicated by the fact that it's also gusting 30MPH winds. Did I mention there is no safety fence?

I knew from looking at my iPhone that we were close to the lighthouse, and it wasn't until I leaned over the precarious cliff that I could see it. My toes were inches from the edge, and any give in the cliffs (which have serious erosion issues) and I'm on my way to France. Anyone who walked along the path a few feet away had no idea there was a lighthouse directly below them - the cliff was that extreme.

Anyway, I got two images - one from directly above looking down (a vantage point not usually seen with a lighthouse!) and one from the side with the cliffs in view to offer perspective. Which do you like better?

Taken with the Leica SL and Leica 24-90mm lens.

Looking down at the lighthouse from the top of the cliff. You don't get a sense of how steep it is from where I am standing to the lighthouse from this view.....

.... but this should help. Yeah, that lighthouse has been dwarfed by those cliffs!

Quick Shot: The Nothing Camera

Have you ever taken a picture with a camera that doesn't have a lens, shutter button, or any buttons? Have you ever taken a picture by sticking film in a wooden box and hoping to get lucky? 

I can now answer yes to those questions. I can now say I have made a photograph with a nothing camera.

The nothing camera is often called a 'pinhole camera' because that best describe the lens, or lack thereof. The nothing camera is so simple and basic that the operating instructions are summed up with 'pray'. The nothing camera has no ISO, zoom, focus, or megapixels. You don't know what the camera may or may not be seeing. You guess the exposure. And if you guess right, you'll be rewarded with one of the most unique looking images.

I encourage you to click this image and view it full screen. Marvel at how not sharp it is. Marvel at how imperfect it is. Marvel at that vignetting. Take it all in folks, because it came from a wooden box. For all the time I spend obsessing over sharpness and lens distortion with my expensive Leica lenses, it's refreshing to shoot with a wooden box - a camera that couldn't be further from the technical perfection of all my other photographic machines. 

I'll be talking more about the nothing camera and my experience using it in an upcoming post, but today I am starting by sharing an image from the nothing camera. This is a place called Durdle Door along England's Jurassic Coast - it's a popular photography spot. Of course, most photographers there are carrying a little bit more than a wooden box with a piece of film in it......

Quick Shot: Dali's Tree II

I photographed this tree on film a year ago and dubbed it the Salvador Dali tree because of it's bizarre shape and surrealistic look. So when I returned to the Lake District this year, I was happy to see that the "Dali Tree" is still alive and crooked!

Shot with the Leica SL

Quick Shot: Never Too Late To Turn Around

I hate nothing more than a blown opportunity at a photograph. To think about the photos that "should have been" makes me sad and frustrates every part of my creative spirit. So, as a general rule, I try to avoid "should have been" photos.  

I flirted dangerously with a "should have" photo while in the Lake District. I had done the research to find a great location to setup for sunset and I went out an hour before sunset to setup and prepare for whatever Mother Nature had in store for me. The sun was slated to set around 9pm- at 8:30 it was looking pretty bad. The sky was full of a thick layer of grey clouds - the sun was lost behind it and there was no color to be seen. Cold and downtrodden, I called it around 8:40 - there was no way this dull sky was going to amount to anything. 

As I drove back to the campsite, my friend and I got busy chatting about the otherwise good day. About 10 minutes into the drive, I looked in the rear view mirror and all I saw was neon pink...... The sky had turned a shade of pink I had never seen before - I was incredible - and here I am driving AWAY from it! At this point the sun is about to set, but I peeled a quick U-Turn and hauled ass back to the spot we'd been setup at earlier. Thankfully I arrived in time to get some great shots of the neon pink reflecting off the water - there is very little editing in the images below... It was that good! 

There's a lesson here..... Don't give up on your photograph. And if you do, it's okay to turn the car around!  

Shot with the Leica SL and Leica f/0.95 Noctilux Lens.

Yes, it really did look like that. Very minimal edits done to this image.....

Yes, it really did look like that. Very minimal edits done to this image.....

The last drops of pink in the sky. I love how it turned the water pink.

The last drops of pink in the sky. I love how it turned the water pink.

Quick Shots: From the Streets of London

Few things bring me the same pleasure and thrill of opening a fresh roll of 35mm film and exploring a city with the aim of making 36 photographs. While it's almost impossible for me to produce 36 "keepers" with any one roll, that's the goal, and I find that I have more keepers from any one roll of film than a similar 36 digital images. 

All of the images included here were shot on one roll in one day of walking around London with my Leica M7 and a 35mm Summarit lens. Apparently I had a thing for feet that day ;-)

Ghosts

Football

Hang

Tophats

A local

Leaning

Doorway

Ride Along

Selfie

Slacks

Crossing

Lookup

Quick Shot: A Walk In Dreamland

I took the photograph at Thetford Forest Park in central England on a sunny day. The path is actually part of a network of mountain bike trailers in the park, and the light through the treetops was perfectly illuminating this patch of grass that I put into focus. The dreamy effect comes from the soft bokeh and focus of the 50mm Leica Noctilux f/0.95, which has a very distinct style. Images made with the Noctilux are known for this softness, which was the perfect tool to really give the viewer the feeling of a stroll through dreamland. 

Quick Shot: Half Punt

I usually don't intentionally shoot a photograph with the idea of making a sequence or composite, but this was one of the rare times where I wanted to focus on half of the subject. I was standing on a bridge over the River Cam in Cambridge, England, watching a couple rowing a punt toward me. I decided to shoot the punt in half - IE one image for the woman in the front with lots of negative space, and a second image with the man in the back with more negative space. I thought it would be cool to have this as a pair of prints hanging side-by-side, and I think it worked out really well.

Here are the two prints merged together into one photograph.... just the way I'd hang it up in my house. 

Shot with the Leica SL and 50mm Noctilux f0.95

Quick Shot: Following My Lens Through London

Street photography is all about making impulse decisions. You get a split second to try and capture a natural human moment before it disappears, never to happen again. There are no do-overs in street photography.

On Saturday I took my Leica M7 35mm film camera with the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 and a roll of Ilford FP-4+ for a walk in downtown London. My goal was simple - see what came in front of my lens and take 36 photographs. When carrying my digital camera I will be more liberal with my shots as I am only inconveniencing a few electrons if I mess up, but film isn't so forgiving. I get 36 exposures and its up to me to make them as great as I can.

After developing the roll and scanning the images, I am left with 11 "keeper" shots - a great ratio of shots to keepers! These are straight scans with no editing. As you'll see, a lot of interesting things found their way in front of my lens yesterday.

En route

En route

Conversation

Look right and wait

Empty train station

Tube station

Shopkeeper's window

Down

Reflected icon

Drizzles

Scribbles

Riding

Quick Shot: Two Eyes

The London Eye is quickly becoming a popular site for tourists who wish to have a tremendous view of the London skyline. The ferris wheel has little glass bubbles that rotate with the wheel over the span of 30 minutes. To get this double exposure showing an eye within an eye, I centered the wheel in the center of my focus screen, then took a few steps back and shot again. This image was created on my Hasselblad 503CX using Ilford Delta film.

Quick Shot: Trees

Nothing too fancy, just a beautiful image of some pine trees lined up along the beach on Llanddwyn Island in Wales. I really liked the fence in the foreground and the fact that you could see parts of the beach through the trees. I actually took a few images with my digital Leica and my film camera before I settled on this being my favorite.

This is a film photograph taken with a Hasselblad 503CX on Ilford Delta 100 Pro film.

Quick Shot: Not So Normal

One thing I really like about film photography is the ability to do some not-so-normal things with it. For instance, unlike with a digital camera, I can combine two different scenes on one negative to create a single image, called a double exposure. In this case, I shot a wooden plank door on one of the colleges in Cambridge, followed by a scene overlooking punts on the river Cam. 

The interesting thing about these shoots is that it's very difficult to pre-visualize the resulting image. In this case I really didn't have high expectations, but the resulting negative is one of my favorites from the roll. I particularly like how the trees in the upper right corner are almost 'segregated' by each wooden plank from the door.

The photographic society Magnum used to require photographers to submit prints showing the borders to prove there was no cropping or funny manipulation. So in a nod to Magnum photographers, I have scanned it so you can see the whole border of the print - no photoshop involved!

Shot with Hasselblad 503CX + 80mm f/2.8 lens on Ilford Delta 100.

Quick Shot: Lavender

This weekend I found myself knee deep in lavender at a local lavender farm in Hitchin, England. The farm was full of lavender pickers and people enjoying a beautiful day surrounded by purple plants and I was eager to explore the photo opportunities. There's a bit of irony to these photographs - the lavender fields are full of bees pollenating the millions of plants, so I wore jeans to protect my legs as I shot. As we walked through the rows of lavender, my friend commented that the bees will only sting if provoked and are more interested in the plants than in the people walking around. Not two minutes later, I bend down slightly to get a better angle on the lavender and when I stand up, I have a bee stinging me in the knee. Apparently the little buggers can sting through jeans! Two days later, I am nursing a very swollen and red knee, but I still got the images I wanted and that's what matters!

Using the Leica M-P 240 and the Summarit-M f/2.4 35mm lens, I captured what I thought was the essence of purple (and red, if you count my knee)! 

Quick Shot: Leeds Tower

I once purchased a book on abstract photography, and although I've never come close to creating anything like the book demonstrated, I do look for naturally occurring opportunities to create something more abstract.

Such was the case with this photograph, which was taken from inside a shopping mall in Leeds, England. The mall was semi-open air and had a very neat glass roof that created an interesting dome over the mall. I could have taken a hundred photographs with the interesting shape of the ceiling, but I focused on trying to make one great image. I couldn't tell you what stores are in the mall because I walked all three levels looking up the entire time trying to find the perfect shot. On one of the top floors, I found myself looking at this - a tower outside cutting vertically through the scene, while the natural curve of the roof made the windows and frame wrap horizontally. It was the sort of interesting geometric contrast I was looking to get!

To help balance the frame, I exposed for the clouds. This made them visible and "moody" while darkening the window frames and tower. The resulting image I think is very dramatic and geometrically intriguing. 

Shot on my Leica 35mm MP with a 75mm lens and Kodak Tri-X film.

Quick Shot: Dungeness

I spend most of the week researching the places I'll spend time exploring on the weekend. When I found my way to some photographs of Dungeness, I knew I'd have to take a day trip to see it in person.

Dungeness is home to one of England's still operational nuclear power stations and sits along the southern coast, just a few miles from France. In fact, it's so close to France that my cell phone starts to provide me with text messages welcoming me to an international destination! Along the beach leading to the power station is a bunch of, well, junk. But it's very photogenic junk!

With the Leica and Rolleiflex T in hand, I took about two dozen images of the junk around the Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. I haven't finished the roll from the Leica, so all of these are from the Rollei. I think it's one of the more interesting piles of junk I've had the chance to photograph in England!

PS - keep your eyes out for power lines in these photos that lead from the power station!

Quick Shots: Stroll Through Cambridge

Street photography is all about catching a split second in time that tells a story, which is sometimes very challenging. When previously using my Nikon dSLR, I didn't do much street photography because it was bulky and can be very intimidating to people when they see you hold this massive camera up and aim at them. Now that I'm starting to use a Leica, street photography has opened up in a whole new way - the Leica is no bigger than my iPhone, so it's not intimidating, and it's virtually silent. The combination means I can take pictures without my subject feeling like I'm invading their personal space!

Armed with the Leica MP and the Adox Silvermax film (which I absolutely adore, by the way), I took a stroll through Cambridge to capture a variety of the sights and sounds of this university city. My stroll coincided with graduation for students from the University of Cambridge, so it was busier than usual with lots of interesting personalities available to photograph. Here's a selection of prints from my stroll - do you have any favorites?

This woman was relaxing to enjoy one of the first nice days this spring. I was convinced to take the photograph because of her tattoos and seeing that she'd taken her shoes off. 

We were walking down the street and I saw the boy being hoisted onto the bike seat and knew I had to get in front of them to take a photograph. The boy was so excited to be sitting on his mom's bike!

A lot of the street musicians in Cambridge are not terribly good, but there are a few worth stopping and listening to as they perform. Tobias was very good!

I walked right past these two German men without noticing them until my ears caught them speaking German. Having taken some German in school, I turned to see who the voice was attached to and was immediately captured by them. For me, it's the little boy who looks bored that really makes the image.

Soon-to-be graduates from one of the Cambridge University colleges line up in procession to enter their graduation ceremony. I intentionally underexposed to create a stark contrast between the black and white of their robes. 

This woman's Thai food truck always smells delicious, but there's normally a long line so I haven't stopped to taste it (yet). The woman in the foreground was just placing her order.