Archive for Leica M10

Dream Combo: The Leica M10 on the Streets (and Beaches) of Miami

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 29, 2020 by johnbuckley100
All photos Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux

On the last day of the Obama Administration, my Leica M10 arrived in Washington. I remember sharing anxiety with the good folks at the Leica Store DC about whether it would be delivered before the cordon went up around downtown blocks in preparation for a certain person’s inauguration. There were two silver linings to Trump’s inauguration: the Womens’ March which followed dwarfed the crowds at his fete, and was the greatest outpouring of civic protest I’d ever witnessed, and I was able to capture it with the Leica M10, which in so many ways is the perfect camera for street photography.

Flash forward to late February and my wife and I had a weekend trip planned to visit a friend in Miami Beach. I had a newfound embarrassment of riches to choose from when it came to bringing a camera, for the Leica SL2 was released November and I’d been working with the third generation Monochrom since January. Readers of this space will remember I had recalibrated what kind of camera could work for street photography, since the Leica SL2, with the smaller Summicron SL lenses and a nifty little Sigma 45mm, f/2.8 lens could make it seem — well, almost — like I could walk around with the invisibility of an M. And while Miami promised bright colors, isn’t the perfect answer to that confounding expectations by carrying the excellent new Monochrom?

I wisely came to my senses and brought along the M10, and I’m glad I did. While the new Monochrom surpasses it in the size of its sensor (41 mp vs. 24), and the SL2 is in a class of its own, both in terms of a 47 megapixel sensor and amazing color handling, the Leica M10 is as perfect an M camera as ever existed, and using it one could shoot from the hip, in crowds, with nary an eyebrow raised. Well, maybe one eyebrow raised.

We are intimately familiar with the M10 because it has lived in our hands in walks around our city, although over the past year, I suppose, I have carried a Monochrom more often. As a photographer I have what some might call a problem, though I can’t quite see it that way: I am equally in love with black and white and color photography. Obviously, when carrying any digital camera other than the Monochrom, once can have it either way, and carrying the M10 last weekend, I was glad to be able to process some images in black and white, for that’s how I saw them when I took them.

The M10, we already knew, is versatile and discrete, but spending the weekend with it reaffirmed what we believed from the moment we clutched its lithe body in January 2017: it really is a perfect street camera. Using the hyperfocal distance, and having practiced just enough walking through crowds with the camera held as flat as possible at the bottom of my chest, keeping eye contact with people even as I surprise them by pressing the shutter, most of the time you can get away with taking people’s picture without them freaking out. Though, of course, sometimes you get caught.

If ever there were a combination of camera and city that worked perfectly, it is the M10 and Miami. Sure, HC-B’s Leica iii and Paris in the 30s was a pretty good combo too, and Rui Palha owns Lisbon with his Leica Q. But given how bright and colorful Miami is, how big are the crowds along the beach and in the Wynwood Arts District with its famous graffiti walls, the city and camera combine like rice and beans. In certain moments, when a monochrome image is best, the image can be living poetry. Shooting the M10 in Miami is the Platonic ideal of Leica photography.

Of course it makes sense that what is widely believed to be the most successful seller of Leica cameras in America — the Leica Store Miami — is in Coral Gables. Fans of destination photo workshops take note: this is an ideal city to participate in one, and happily David Farkas, Kirsten Vignes, Peter Dooling and the legendary Josh Lehrer continuously play host with such genius photographers as Arthur Meyerson and even Alex Webb using the Leica Store as their hub.

Miami is a feast for the eyes, especially northern eyes weary of winter with bodies in need of Vitamin D. How much camera does one need, under these circumstances? There are rumors that Leica is planning on upping the megapixels in the M10 while retaining that edition, perhaps calling it the M10R.

One doesn’t really need more megapixels for street photography. Landscape, sure. But street photography? Not so much. We look forward to future winter visits to colorful Miami, with the perfect street camera in hand. For now at least, that remains the Leica M10.

On Marrakech and Street Photography: A Photo Essay

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2019 by johnbuckley100
All images Leica M10 with 35mm Summicron, Version IV

This being an unusually lucky year for travel opportunities, I recently went to Marrakech and spent several days in and around the Medina, the old city with its warren of narrow passageways giving way to pedestrian squares. I had read about the difficulties of taking photos in the Moroccan street, of the active hostility of people to having their picture taken. My response was to travel with the compact Leica M10 rangefinder and a 25-year old lens, the 35mm Summicron, which is small and unobtrusive, and to shoot “from the hip,” camera held in the palm of my hand and raised to the eye only when taking pictures of inanimate objects.

I’ll tell you more about how I took the pictures posted here, but I also want to get into the why of it, into what it means to be a privileged Westerner who, against the wishes of the people whose lives he’s capturing would go ahead and take their picture. First, let’s set the scene.

The old city is punctuated with palaces and museums, among the most beautiful of which is the Dar El Bacha with its incredible tile work and architecture.

These images show off the legendary King of Bokeh, Leica’s last pre-Aspherical 35mm f/2 lens before the Summicron Asph was introduced in the late 1990s. Wide open, the out-of-focus areas drop off quickly, and to my eye pleasurably, even as it can be softer at the edges and corners than a modern, Aspherical lens. All of the above images were taken the conventional way, with the camera lifted to my eye. As were the two pictures below — the first (actually taken with the 75mm Noctilux) because the beautiful waiter didn’t object to her picture being taken, the second because I was far enough away that the father and daughter looking at the exhibition didn’t see me taking their picture.

Out in the street, though, it was a different matter. I walked casually with the camera at stomach level, ISO high enough to support an f/5.6 – 8 exposure, focus set to the hyperfocal distance of approximately 25 feet, and took pictures of people in the Medina’s full cacophony of sounds and riot of smells, the motorcycles pushing through, the donkey carts trying to get by. It was, as they say, a target-rich environment. Over several days wandering through the Medina, only occasionally did I raise the camera to my eye, and only a few times was I called out for taking a picture.

When you take pictures of people who don’t want their picture taken, what are you doing? Susan Sontag and others have written about the power relationship between the photographer and his subjects, between the observer and the observed. This imbalance exists even in your home city among people of comparable class and stature. But an American going, camera in hand, to a city like Marrakech turns up the amp to 11.

What I wanted to do was to make pictures that conveyed a reality that neither I nor many of the people who would see the pictures — you — have ready access to. It’s a conceit that what I was going for was art — though it’s always an intent — rather than mere tourism snapshots. As with all street photographers, I was focused upon taking pictures without asking permission of the subjects, and in fact had equipment and a technique deliberately designed to keep people from knowing I was “taking their picture” (which under these circumstances is a loaded phrase.) I’m not a documentarian or a photo journalist, and I’m also not an in-your-face, Bruce Gilden-style bully; the photographers I most admire are the humanists — Sebastiao Salgado, Alex Webb, Rui Palha — the people who care about other human beings and use their camera to tell their story even as they allow them — the subject — to provide the art through their interactions, movement and activity. But was that what I was doing in the streets of Marrakech?

Each of the pictures above were met with some protest, including the visibly raised arm of the shopkeeper in the bottom right. (I brought the camera to my eye for that one, thinking I was far enough away to do so unobserved, and only later saw the the shopkeeper’s discomfort.) In a favorite image made there, the local Surete protecting a palace let it be known in no uncertain terms that I should cease and desist. And in so doing, they made the picture!

As a privileged visitor, you make assumptions. I assume that part of the reason why people in Marrakech don’t want their picture taken is that we foreign tourists are invaders in their community. Even though the local economy is dependent upon tourism, tourists don’t have the moral “right” to take their picture without their permission, which they’re unwilling to give. The Moroccans try to preserve their personal rights and autonomy even as, for hundreds of years, Unbelievers — in some cases, colonial subjugators — have tromped clumsily through their neighborhoods. Moreover, Muslims have a religious edict against human and animal images, against a human representing things invented by Allah alone. A street photographer from the U.S. enters the Medina with a history as complex as the culture he or she wants to turn into two-dimensional pictures.

And yet, one of the things we all do when visiting an exotic location is try taking home with us some visual representation of it, a remembrance and relic of the visit. A century of film cameras, the economy of Rochester, New York and at least some portion of the current mobile phone economy has ebbed and flowed on this marketed presumption.

Perhaps street photography of the sort I was attempting can be justified by its knowingness, its flouting of the subject’s desires by subterfuge. Perhaps it’s deliberateness ennobled what otherwise would be seen as callous indifference to people’s autonomy. Even under this rationale — and I’m aware that’s what it is, a justification — what I was doing was still the act of a privileged Westerner who, against their wishes, made pictures while ignoring the subjects’ rights, their dignity. Because I could — at the end of the day, I was less likely to be punched for taking someone’s picture in Marrakech than I would be in streets of D.C. where I live.

But if my motives were driven by artistic purpose, wasn’t it okay? Don’t artists have superseding rights? Or is it all just exploitation, the pressing of a power relationship that at its core is my ability, as a Westerner, to afford to come to a place like this with an expensive camera hidden in my hand?

I wrestled with these thoughts. But I didn’t stop taking pictures.

I have never spent days on end shooting from the hip, but I quickly learned to capture, if not the perfectly framed shot, at least one that had authenticity and the sacred quality of the observed living in innocence, unaware their picture was being taken.

Pictures can be made with poignancy, with respect. The element of humanist, Family of Man universality could enter into the equation. The exotic could be captured with the excitement inherent in traveling far from our homes. And every once in a while I would capture something that I deemed really special.

Widening the frame a bit: a brilliant and brave street photographer like Mark Cohen can shoot incredible photographs of his fellow citizens in the risky intimacy of a small city like Scranton, but for many of us, going to a place far from home, camera in hand, relieves us of fear and inhibition. Our passport lets us take pictures we wouldn’t dream of taking in our city’s streets.

Even unleashed in the street, I punctuated my photography with more formal captures of the architecture and art, the scene, the tourist’s bounty.

It’s an incredibly beautiful city, in its alternating rough but delicate way, but still, pictures devoid of people are not what I love. This is not what gets me going. This is what gets me going.

Taking pictures of inanimate objects, whether in landscape photography or just capturing a beautiful tile floor, is dependent on light, on weather, on simply being there, on showing up, far more than on action and incident. Joel Meyerowitz, who is both a brilliant street photographer and a documentarian of moments dependent on light, not action, talks about taking “tough pictures.” Inherent in this is the notion that street photography has an admirable, testing degree of difficulty, that finding the kismet in human interaction is where the treasure lies.

There are no decisive moments taking pictures of tile on a Marrakesh palace’s floor, ah, but just outside in the street something might be happening. Weegee’s dictum was “F/8 and be there,” emphasizing the showing up, the getting out there. “Out there” being defined as the street, where things happen. Things happen out there because that’s where the people are.

When Joel Meyerowitz co-authored Bystander: A History of Street Photography, I don’t think his title meant the photographer is a bystander, at least not in the way we use that term to refer to someone who does nothing. Who lets life go on without him. Because the photographer very much does something. Whether he takes the picture, as Garry Winogrand famously said, to see “what something will look like photographed,” or for some other, possibly deeper motivation, the street photographer is intimately engaged in the scene, even as he remains distant from it. For me, that’s an intense way of being, a way of genuinely connecting with my surroundings — and a greater motivation to go somewhere than simply “being there.”

Back in Marrakesh, there were moments when it all came together. The first picture on this post is an example of the Medina in perfect street photographer’s dream light.

The photo below is the kind of image that really keeps me going. The kismet of the parts assembling themselves in front of the camera lens, the practice and skill of having the camera ready to go at close to the right settings — well, it’s why I show up, f/8 or whatever.

I may not have perfectly nailed the focus on the little Moroccan boy responding to the European girl in the tiara, but that’s okay. (As Winogrand also said, photography is incredibly forgiving — you can botch the focus and still get the picture.) The action of the mother — what is she doing? — and all the unknown elements contained in this short story are the kinds of things that as a photographer I live for.

I really don’t know what’s going on in this picture — I was too busy snapping the shutter. I remember standing in the foyer on my way out of a small store in a small town outside of Marrakech where crafts are made by a collective of artisans and seeing, first, the blue transom light, and next, some action in the street. I instinctively brought the camera to my eye. My settings were what I had most recently used on the street — approximately f/8, ISO 400, probably 1/250th of a second (I’ll check the metadata later to see.) All I know is that in capturing this incident in which Europe meets Africa/Christianity meets Islam, two children engage though a mother intervenes, the full story is unknown and gone in a split second. It is … the reason to carry a camera. To be ready, you have to be comfortable making pictures of people, permission given or not.

On the last day of our trip, we went to the village of Aghmat, for the Friday morning market. It was agreed among our friends that others would keep their cameras down and I’d wander through shooting from the hip as unobtrusively as possible. I’d share with our friends whatever pictures I took, but they wouldn’t trigger a reaction by everyone holding up their iPhones.

Looking at these pictures, I’m reminded of the roots of tableau painting, the cast of characters arranged by the artist to tell some story out of the workings of a given day. In street photography, the artist is, well, a bystander, without the power to choreograph movements. It’s joyful to see just what the camera can record in what Daido Moriyama referred to as “fossils of light and time.”

To me, these photos capture life in all its pungency and primal interaction. And as the trip finished, I was glad to have come to a place deemed hostile to street photography, not because it made me hone my skills but because it made me think. About what matters in picture making.

I adore landscape photography (scroll down and see the images from a trip to Iceland in August), but know that a big part of my satisfaction in taking a good landscape photograph is that to do so, I had to hike to some sublime location. Martin Parr says one thing that prevents people from becoming good photographers is… laziness. F/8 and for Godsake be there. Street photography is a little different in that it requires more than simply being there. You must be attuned to movement in the street, to subtle incidents, to the mood of people, not just the quality of light.

I was grateful to go up into the mountains and be able to take this picture in the calm late morning light in a tiny village that housed a Berber Museum run by the same people who run Marrakech’s lovely House of Photography.

I was glad on our final morning to take a photograph of the fountain in our small hotel with its lush flowers in the water. Most of all, I was grateful to have come to Marrakech, an intriguing, fascinating city reputed to be hostile to street photography and be able to walk away with some images that I hope others besides me will find hard to forget.

John Buckley’s Instagram is @tulip_frenzy

The Alhambra by Night and Day: A Photo Essay

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2019 by johnbuckley100
All color images Leica M10; all black and white images Leica Monochrom

As everyone living in the continent he sailed to knows by heart, in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Less well known to some of us is that, in that same year, the Christian Reconquista of Spain was completed upon the defeat of the last Moorish sultan. The Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella was peacefully handed the keys to the Alhambra, which the Nasrid emirs of Granada had built over the previous centuries. It remains the greatest example of Moorish architecture in Spain. We found it captivating.

Today, the Alhambra is the second-most visited attraction in Europe, even as it is limited to fewer than 9000 tickets each day. Having now spent time in both the Andalusian blast furnace of a June day and on an absolutely sweltering evening, it’s easy to understand why. What follows is meant to be neither an historical summary nor a visual tour, but simply a series of photos from both excursions, some in color, some in black and white, showcasing what was, to us, one of the most amazing places we’ve ever visited.

Visiting the Alhambra today is not like going to a Mayan ruin or Angkor Wat. It’s not like going to the Taj Mahal. It feels alive — from its gardens in the vast Generalife, to its fountains and ever-present flowing water. You can feel the presence of the magnificent Nasrid artisans and craftsmen who rendered the walls with poetry. One remains grateful for the wisdom of the later Christian kings who — contrary to their treatment of the Aztec and Maya — respectfully preserved the culture that came before them.

The three Nasrid palaces, as well as the hillside summer palace over the Generalife, look out onto Granada, from which the Alhambra was a separate royal town. The distance from the modern city isn’t far, but it’s a separate world. Visiting with hundreds of others at the same time leaves no space for contemplation, and it was too hot to imagine doing this anyway. But if ever there were a place about which one could say he felt transported to another time, it’s the Alhambra.

It’s exceedingly hard for a photographer to maneuver for position among the crowds and find a shot. Capturing the delicacy of the craftsmanship seems almost futile, but over the two different tours, we were able to take a number of pictures worth keeping.

There is such a blend of styles apparent over the transition from one palace to the next, it remains a miracle of sorts that neither Ferdinand and Isabella — the latter of whom chose to be buried here, before her surviving husband moved her to their mausoleum in Granada below — nor their heir Charles V obliterated the palaces they conquered. While there was a long period of disrepair, and at one point Napoleon trained his cannons on it, more than 500 years later, the Alhambra is preserved. In fact, you can visualize Moorish architecture as a beautiful undercoating to all of Andalusian culture, making it special even in a broader Southern European territory not lacking for cultural delights.

It’s hard to say which element within the interlocking palaces will stay with us the longest. The various ceilings of the Hall of the Abenerrajes, the last palace to be built before the Nasrid’s collapse, deserve monumental status in their own right.

We left in early evening and had just enough time to make it across to the Albaicin to look back upon the Alhambra in the fading sunlight. It’s a magical place.

We’re grateful to Blanca Espigares Rooney of Tours by Locals, who was our friendly and erudite guide for our group’s night visit, and in fact, her family were among those who have lived in the Alhambra over the past century. Thanks also to Maria Garcia of Viator who managed to conduct a 4:30 PM tour on the hottest of days navigating the gardens to keep us cool.

Our Top 10 Photos Taken This Year At Demonstrations Against Trump

Posted in Leica M, Trump Protests with tags , , , , on December 16, 2017 by johnbuckley100

March For Racial Justice-2

All images taken with the Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux 

The only solace we have had in 2017 against the cruel and unusual punishment visited upon the land by the election of Donald Trump has been the ability to go to Washington demonstrations.  They came so quickly after the inauguration — the Women’s March, which was scheduled, the protests against the Muslim ban, which for successive weekends were spontaneous — that at a certain point we joked about being appreciative of Trump, as he had organized our weekend activities for us: take camera to demonstration, march, record it for posterity.  In fact, we we have a gallery filled with dozens of images entitled “Washington Demonstrations In The Age of Trump”.

The picture above was taken in September at the combined March for Black Woman and March for Social Justice.  It’s our favorite image of the year because, for once, the light was decent, but also because it reflects  what happened in this awful, yet miraculous year of resistance.  See, two competing events merged into one, because the cause was unifying.  The white woman is out of place, but so what — this is the way we’re going to get out of this mess, as Virginia and Alabama show: white women and black women turning out in record numbers to vote these creeps from office.  So call that image our designated #1 picture of this year of demonstrations.  And, ah, what the Hell, here are 14 more from a remarkable year of political activity across the four seasons:

March For Racial Justice-11

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March For Truth-4

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white-house-protest-12917-25Tax Day Demo-12

Unity March For Puerto Rico-19

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At The Unity March For Puerto Rico

Posted in Trump Protests with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2017 by johnbuckley100

Unity March For Puerto Rico-9

All images Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux ASPH

On a blustery, sunny November day citizens turned out to protest the shameful treatment of Puerto Rico by the Trump Administration.  The cruelty and incompetence of  Trump and company is manifested hourly, but perhaps in no way quite so shamefully as in its treatment of three million citizens who await the help they should have received long weeks ago.

Unity March For Puerto Rico-19

The desperation of people who themselves, or whose relatives, have been suffering for weeks was palpable.

Unity March For Puerto Rico

But as with so many of the demonstrations since January 20th, there was an element of joy, of the fellowship that comes being with citizens who at least retain the right to speak up against this bizarre and un-American regime.

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After a large segment of the march had gone by, it seemed to reconstitute itself, and when we came close we saw that Lin-Manuel Miranda was there.  We were glad to see him, and the thousands who came out, reminding America how we are supposed to support our fellow citizens in need.

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Capital Pride Parade 2017: A Photo Gallery

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 11, 2017 by johnbuckley100

Pride 2017-2

All images Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux FLE

Since Trump’s inauguration, we’ve taken to the streets, camera in hand, to capture the energy he’s unleashed.  The crowds have been determined — to fight back, to remove him, to save the nation and the planet — but it’s been pretty joyful, all in all, from the Women’s March through the Climate March and the smaller ones like last week’s March for Truth.  Even those spontaneous demonstrations following the Muslim Ban were filled with fellowship, if not precisely happiness — people smiled for the camera, they were glad to be counted.

The 2017 Capital Pride Parade today was as if the blight of Trump had not settled upon the land.  It’s always a fun event, but today’s felt like we caught a glimpse of what life will be when this pestilential administration has gone back where it came from.  What a delight it is to live in a city with such a large and dynamic LGBTQ community, and their thousands of friends, gay and straight, who come out each year to show their true colors.

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At The March For Truth DC: A Photo Gallery

Posted in Trump Protests with tags , , , , on June 3, 2017 by johnbuckley100

March For Truth-4

All images Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux FLE.

Six months in, with the damage of the Trump presidency more obvious by the minute, the resistance will not let up.  On a hot summer day in DC, crowds still came out for the March For Truth, the protest organized around the principle that the President of the United States, his family, his staff, and their collusion with the Russians should be properly investigated.  This will be a big week on that score.  We believe our Saturdays will continue to be organized around capturing this steady resistance.

March For Truth-7

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