Archive for Leica SL

Rethinking The Leica SL2 As A Camera For Street Photography

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2019 by johnbuckley100
Leica SL2 with Sigma 45mm f/2.8 L-Mount

For the better part of 15 years, I shot exclusively with Leica Ms. Small, discreet, you could lift them to your eye and take a picture on the street with no one noticing. To the extent people did notice, they often assumed it was some weird and non-threatening anachronism, a film camera from the last century, and not, as Leica’s digital rangefinders progressively became, a marvelously thought through and capable alternative approach to photography. I’d see street photographers with their big DSLRs that announced their arrival like they were driving up in a Hummer and would silently smile. I’ll never do that, I’d say to myself.

Leica SL2 with Sigma 45mm f/2.8 L-Mount

One of the limitations — if that’s what it is — of using a Leica M is that you have to shoot manually, as no automatic focus lens works with the rangefinder. But while my family would groan as I fiddled with the focus, and complain that they couldn’t hold their smiles any longer, in fact over time I learned how to focus as quickly and automatically with a manual lens as some photographers could with their big Nikons or Canons. And readers of this site may recall my recent posting about using a Leica M10 and a small 35mm Summicron lens to “shoot from the hip” in the Medina in Marrakech, taking street photos in a location where photography was difficult due to local sensibilities. I couldn’t have done that with a big DSLR.

Leica SL2 with SL35mm Summicron

In 2015, Leica announced the SL, a mirrorless camera system, and it promised to fill a gap in my needs. It was launched with a 24-90 zoom lens that early reviewers gasped over, a lens that promised to be as sharp as Leica’s prime lenses at every focal length, even if it was both slow (f/2.8-f/4) and cumbersome. That was okay, I had my M and Monochrom and a range of M lenses for the street, but with the large 24mp, full-frame SL and just that one zoom, for the first time, I had a camera — even if built like a tank — that really could do all the things an M couldn’t. It was a fantastic camera for landscape photography, even if big and heavy for hiking. It also was a great camera for action, sports, portraiture, even product photography. And because Leica brilliantly cast the new L-mount camera as a vehicle for using M lenses (far better than other mirrorless cameras), it was the answer to certain prayers: my 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux with its razor-thin focal plane was suddenly incredibly easy to use, given the SL’s bright electronic viewfinder.

Leica SL with SL 24-90 zoom

Suddenly, I could become a proper landscape photographer. Having an SL opened up a new world. I could use the amazing 90-280 zoom lens for wildlife photography. I could go to Iceland and shoot long exposure images, as in the above shot taken this past August. But I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, use it in the street. For that I had my Ms — small, light, and perfect for that use.

Leica SL2 and 75mm Noctilux, f/1.25

Just before Thanksgiving, I upgraded my SL to the new SL2, a 47 megapixel camera with IBIS — image stabilization built into the camera housing. It was launched with great early reviews from Jono Slack, a photographer who gets to test Leica’s cameras before they’re released. Jono has managed to keep the respect of Leica’s small, argumentative and opinionated users, because he is, first and foremost, a photographer, and even if his images are meant by Leica to stimulate the Pavlovian drool, we believe him when he raves about a camera, as he did with the SL2. Eminent tester Sean Reid, who does not so rave about cameras, but rather puts them through a series of sometimes eye-numbing tests, did so with this one. Even more mainstream sites spent time with the SL2 and gushed. It is telling, though, that three weeks ago when I picked mine up at the Leica Store DC, and one of the members of the team there asked where I was going to take the camera to try it out, I said I had planned to take it to the Library of Congress, Washington’s most beautiful interior, and not out onto the street. I just couldn’t think of the SL2 as a street camera.

Leica SL2 with 75mm Noctilux

For while the SL was significantly upgraded — twice the megapixels as the initial SL, with IBIS, an improved LCD and EVF, with an improved menu layout (which is saying something — Leica should be revered almost as much for their approach to software as they rightfully are for their lenses), I didn’t really think of the SL2 as a camera I’d take out into the streets. Oh, sure for static objects, the new camera was amazing.

Leica SL2 and 75mm Noctilux

And I took it out for a spin as an urban landscape camera.

Leica SL2 with SL 16-35 Zoom

But I still just couldn’t think of it as a street camera. Contrary to wishful speculation, the SL2 is not smaller than the original SL — while changing form factor and becoming ever so slightly more comfortable in the hand, it’s still a big, heavy camera and — here’s the key issue — the lenses are heavy. Even that range of prime Summicron lenses (all f/2) make the combined size and weight of the SL2 if not the equivalent of a Hummer, then at least, when posted up against using an M, like going out into the city streets looking for a parking space while driving an SUV. The M in this metaphor, of course, is like going out and parking with a small German Smart car.

Leica SL2 and Sigma 45mm f/2.8 L-Mount

Yet in the time since the original SL was launched, Leica did something bold and brave. They announced, with Panasonic/Lumix and Sigma, something called the L-Mount Alliance. The two Japanese camera companies would both be able to compete with Leica using a common lens coupling, enabling all SL lenses (and with an adaptor, Leica M and R lenses too) to be used with their cameras, and vice versa. Panasonic released two extremely capable L-mount cameras, the S1 (24mp) and S1r (47mp). And in fact, Leica at least temporarily lost some number of SL users to the higher megapixel S1r. I’ll admit, I was tempted too, as I knew last summer I was going to Iceland on a landscape photography excursion and I really hoped Leica would release the SL2, with its higher megapixel count, in time. They didn’t. And as the photo of the waterfall above can attest, the original SL is still, in 2019, a helluva camera.

Leica SL2 and Sigma 45mm f/28 L-Mount

But perhaps the most interesting development in the nascent L-Mount alliance was Sigma’s release of a set of new lenses, preparatory to their release of a Foveon-based sensor camera sometime in the future. One of the first lenses they put into the market was their 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary lens, which with its L-Mount is compatible with the Leica SL2. For the first time, a small and light autofocus lens could be used with SL camera. And it cost approximately $500, which compared to Leica lenses — typically, $4000 or more — is a bargain. I bought one in anticipation of the SL2 release, and when I put it on the SL2 and compared the size to my M10 with a 35mm Summilux, it no longer seemed so large. Hmmm.

Leica SL2 and Sigma 45mm f/2.8

Remember when I said that I could shoot the manual focus M lenses as fast as most people can shoot with autofocus lenses? That’s true. But it was a revelation taking the SL2 and the small Sigma out into D.C.’s streets. It did not feel like I was driving a Hummer. To be sure, it didn’t feel, as an M feels, like what Henri Cartier-Bresson referred to as an extension of his eye. But the SL2 as a street camera suddenly seemed to work.

Leica SL2 and Sigma 45mm f/2.8

Yes, I know, I could have been using the SL and Leica M lenses all along. But why would I do that, when the M is such a superior and small camera for street use? And in fact, when I went out with the SL2 yesterday in December light, I did bring an M lens — the 21mm Summilux — as well as the larger SL 35mm Summicron. These offered great possibilities.

Leica SL2 and 21mm M Summilux, cropped to a square

As I walked into the National Portrait Gallery, I had the Sigma autofocus lens on the camera, and caught the picture below. I think if I’d had an M, I would have been able to get both the sign and her feet into the picture, as I’m more fluid and experienced with an M and 35mm combo. But still, what a capable street camera this is.

Leica SL2 and Sigma 45mm f/2.8

Once inside, I discovered there was a free performance of the Washington Ballet for children, and I quickly switched to the faster 35mm SL Summicron.

Leica SL2 and SL35mm Summicron

It is an amazing combination, rendering color brilliantly. It focuses quickly. It is as good a lens, for color or black and white, as Leica has ever produced.

Leica SL2 and SL 35mm Summicron

It was immediately adaptable to the conditions. Just like my Ms! Importantly, in an environment with many photographers — parents with their iPhone, pros with their big rigs — the SL2 felt moderate in size, not a bazooka.

Leica SL and M 21mm Summilux

I walked over to the National Gallery of Art and used both the 21mm manual focus M 21mm lens and the autofocus SL 35mm lens.

Leica SL2 and SL35mm Summicron

I wanted to get to the Capitol building as the sun was going down on the Washington Mall, so I hustled over there just as the moon became visible. Of course, if you are thinking of landscape photographer, the SL2 is an astonishingly capable camera.

Leica SL2 and SL35mm Summicron

The revelation of the day was the the SL2 can absolutely work as an urban camera, out on the streets. Leica should add a series of Elmarit f/2.8mm lenses to their roadmap, because the Sigma 45mm lens shows how a small autofocus lens can be used in the same way M lenses on M cameras have always been used.

Leica SL2 and Sigma 45mm f/2.8

With the SL2 the stars — and moon! — have aligned. It is very much the camera I hoped for, and more. All the new features make it a better camera than the already very high performing SL. I found the new function button layout to be intuitive and, with new menu options, even faster than the SL. The big revelation for me is that in certain travel situations, I no longer have to choose between taking an SL or taking an M. I can take an SL and use it like an M, with both small manual lenses and the small autofocus Sigma. I know there are SL users who were already doing the former. The addition of the Sigma autofocus lens, though, is at least as important a new development as all of the added bells and whistles of the SL2. Leica, if you are listening — to paraphrase an appeal from someone, I forget who — get cracking on a series of Elmarit SL lenses.

Leica SL2 and M 35mm Summilux

The SL system is positioned for the future in an incredibly exciting way. I will never turn my back on my Ms. It is the camera system that feels most natural in my hand, pressed to my eye, pressed to my heart. But the SL2 is an astonishingly capable and adaptable camera, and with it, Leica’s future is bright.

Inside The Volcano: A Journey to the Icelandic Highlands

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2019 by johnbuckley100

All images Leica SL and the three Vario-Elmarit SL zoom lenses. Higher resolution versions of these images can be found at, and purchased from, JohnBuckleyInBlackandWhiteandColor.com, and you can follow me on Instagram @ tulip_frenzy.

Over many years visiting Yellowstone, I’ve marveled at how large the caldera is, how much time is spent traveling within the parameters of an ancient super-volcano that last erupted 640,000 years ago. Across large portions of the 3-million acre National Park, you can see the faint outline of the volcano all around you, even as smaller craters house geysers and fumaroles.

This grounding helped prepare me for a journey of eight days, along with a group of photographers under the aegis of the Leica Store Miami, to some of the most picturesque and amazing quadrants of Iceland. Much of it was spent the Highlands, often inside a massive caldera.

Bruarfoss

You start, of course, by traveling from Reykjavik through land that almost instantly has breathtaking water features. Bruarfoss was not on our original agenda, but a member of our group made the request to go on the six-mile roundtrip hike to see these falls, and I’m so glad we did. Less than 90 minutes from the capital, we had our tripods set up, jaws nearly agape at the color of the water.

I’d been practicing long-exposure photography with 6- and 10-stop Neutral Density filters, and while I’ve always been less than perfectly enamored of the landscape-photography ideal of slowed-down ribbons of water, I’m pretty glad I got with the program.

Kerlingarfjöll

We headed miles away through dusty badlands, similar in topography to Utah or southern Idaho, wending our way up into the Highlands to the section known as Kerlingarfjöll. Unfortunately, the light departed behind clouds literally just as we got there. But walking up and down steep ridges as thermal spots leaked sulfurous clouds made for some interesting photographic possibilities.

That first night on the road, we stayed at a nearby fairly primitive hotel with quite decent food and hot water. What more could one need after an amazing introduction to the wild and sublime elements of Iceland? And we had just begun.

The light was fickle again the next morning, but the sights as we left Kerlingarfjöll were just as stunning.

The image of the Gyrfoss waterfall below was taken at 0.3 of a second so as to capture its power, its anger, rather than to smooth it all out with a longer exposure.

Gyrfoss

We reversed yesterday’s course back down from this portion of the Highlands across parched topography familiar to those who frequent the altiplano of the Colorado Plateau, punctuated by rivers and waterfalls. We had avoided the massive Gullfoss on the way in — it has the power of Niagara, and almost as many visitors — but now we took the time to walk down into it, fortunately, just as the sun came out. It’s amazing.

Gullfoss

Because we were traveling with a knowledgeable local photographer, Brynjar Agústsson, and a very able driver in a powerful red bus that could leap tall rivers in a single accelerated burst, we weren’t locked into seeing only the most popular, easily accessible waterfalls. We could head into the Highlands once again with access to some of the most amazing sights I’d ever seen, or had the privilege to photograph.

That evening, we went to Sigoldugljufur, the so-called Canyon of Tears, and as the sun set, we counted 18 visible waterfalls. The only photo I’d previously seen of it was taken at sunrise, but sunset was, if less dramatic, at least more easily able to be captured with benefit of a graduated ND filter; the light was fairly constant between sky and canyon floor. And yes, while made blurry by a slow exposure, the water really is that color.

Sigoldugljufur

The next morning we set off toward Landmannalaugar, the heart the Highlands, and on the way there, the wind picked up and began to howl. The sandy surface produced so much dust it didn’t take long for one of my lenses to cease working. But while en route, we saw a heard of sheep on what looked like Mars, and it was magic.

On our return that afternoon, the dust storm was so severe — a steady 60-mph wind with higher gusts darkening the sky and getting grit into surface crevices — our evening plans to return to a crater lake for sunset was put off. Fortunately, Brynjar reached into his magic bag of local waterfalls and produced what you see below. For the first time, though, the gale force winds were at our backs threatening to push us and our tripods into the abyss. Once again, the water really was this color.

The next morning brought no respite from the wind and we were seeming prisoners of the dormitory-like hotel we were in. Until Brynjar and the trip’s leaders thought to bring us to a valley far below the windy surface, which was so nice, we deemed it Paradise. Of course the sun came out while we hiked down into it.

After a visit to an authentic Viking village, we were essentially confined to quarters overnight. But the next day was epic — a drive from the Highlands to the sea, through the most spectacular county yet. I’ll post below photos that reflect our journey, pausing to set up the finale. You’ll understand how staggeringly beautiful this day was, along the stops we made to climb hillsides for pictures. Most importantly, think of the entire journey as inside the caldera, inside a massive volcano, like an expanded trip to Yellowstone with thermal activity and visible craters a subset of the larger volcanic terrain.

The pictures above give a sense of how we traveled — on a one-lane dirt road crossing rivers without bridges. At the far end of the photo directly above, we entered a valley from which we could see the enormous glacier that sits at the top of the eastern portion of the Highlands, and then after crossing the river several times — the last time with an impossible-seeming gulf between us and the distant shore — we rose up through steep hills on an almost nonexistent road to come face-to-face with what was, across the valley, an enormous waterfall.

Ófaerufoss

Ófaerufoss is the tallest waterfall in Iceland, and the distance from camera to falls is so great it seems dwarfed. I’ve no idea how far away that is, but certainly more than two miles. As the sun fell, the valley itself was one of the coolest things imaginable, a fitting end to an extraordinary day.

We made our way to the coast, and a more modern hotel in an actual town, and when we got there, the gale-force wind had receded. The next morning brought us to an extraordinary canyon.

Skaftárhreppur

Skaftárhreppur seems like it could have been in Kauai, another volcanic island, with its carved contours and lush green flank. We were now close to the glacier that sits like a threatening cap to the region, and as we proceeded on our journey, were told about the nearby volcano that, 200-years earlier, had proved more toxic than any in the planet’s history. At last we came to the lagoon where the ice flows from calved blocks off the glacier begin to float toward the sea and I came across the most extraordinary sight imaginable.

A Thai Buddhist monk was there – it wasn’t an apparition, he really was there — and while the ND filter I had on flattened the blue of the water and ice, I still treasure this picture, the sheer weirdness of the juxtaposition of a monk in robes at Jökulsárlón.

That evening we returned for the Blue Hour and the ice flow was magnificent.

By now, I was getting the hang of long-exposure photography, with the middle image above shot without filter, but at ISO 100, f/10 and an exposure of 1.6 seconds. I love what the camera captured.

The next morning we went to nearby Diamond Beach to catch the ice flows as they break into chunks and hit the shore.

We’d been up early — 4:15 a.m. departure from the hotel — and so we went back for a nap.

By early afternoon, we headed to Stoknes, one of the most spectacular beaches in Iceland, with dramatic black sand and a peak at the end. But the clouds rolled in, and the only image I care to share is one from the dunes.

On our final day’s drive back to Reykjavík, we stopped at an amazing cluster of structures, abandoned it seemed.

It was spooky, being amidst these abandoned farm buildings with their sod roofs. You could certainly see why whomever first settled here wanted to do so, given the twin waterfalls coming down from behind the structures and the view looking out.

We had one more planned stop. Just beyond Vik, we wanted to capture the famed Three Sisters, those rock formations in the water one often sees in black and white. But the viewpoint we went to also would allow us to see puffins, the only wildlife other than sheep we would have seen on our eight-day journey. Alas, we were met with 90-mph winds — no, really — and had to do the drunken hurricane walk to get to a position where we could get any images at all. Thank Heaven for Optical Image Stabilization and high ISOs, for there is no way I otherwise could have taken the image below with a 90-280 zoom lens.

It was an extraordinary journey, inside the volcano and back to the sea. I am grateful to the Leica Store Miami for having put together this Photo Adventure, as they called it, and for the good-natured crew who met the call and traveled, hours each day, in our bus up and down mountains and across rivers. This is, of course, a curated subset of the roughly 100 GBs of photos I took, and entire categories of images are missing — the glaciers, much of the morning at the ice beach, etc. But these are images I’m pleased with, and willing to share.

For a different take go to this site’s sister — JohnBuckleyInBlackandWhiteandColor.com. And follow tulip_frenzy on Instagram.

On Tulip Frenzy’s 11th Birthday

Posted in Leica Images with tags , , , on January 2, 2019 by johnbuckley100

Snake River Overlook NYD 18-5Eleven years ago tomorrow, the very first post of Tulip Frenzy featured a frozen image of the Grand Teton taken from the Snake River Overlook north of the town of Jackson, Wyoming. That first posted picture was taken early in the morning on the day after a snowfall when it was too cold to ski. It was taken with a Leica M8 and, I’m betting, a 50mm Summilux lens.

The picture above, and those that follow, were taken at sunset — which means around 4:45 in Wyoming on New Year’s Day — and using a Leica SL, a different kind of camera, but with the same lineage and spirit.  Along the way, hundreds of posts, many of them photographs, not rock criticism, which was the site’s original purpose. Much has changed in my life and our country.  But I am very happy to have the opportunity to take photos of the Tetons, on freezing cold days, in the company of my family.

2019 is getting off to a nice start.  Enjoy these images. More to come.

Snake River Overlook NYD 18-2

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Snake River Overlook NYD 18-8

Rodeo Night In The Tetons

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 26, 2018 by johnbuckley100

Rodeo Project Supplement-21Over on our sister site, TulipFrenzyPhotography.com, we’ve just added a gallery devoted to the Jackson Hole Rodeo.

It is a wonderful, small-town rodeo with riders, bulls and horses assembled, three times a week in the summer, from around the West.  One of the things we like about it so much is the way they incorporate young riders into the competition. Go to Tulip Frenzy Photography for a variety of galleries that have been updated this summer.  But if you’d like a further preview of some more images from the rodeo, see below.  All images Leica SL.

Rodeo Project Supplement-14

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Rodeo Project Supplement-5

Rodeo Project Supplement-11Rodeo Project Supplement-9Rodeo Project Supplement-12Rodeo Project Supplement-3Rodeo Project Supplement-16Rodeo Project Supplement-18Rodeo Project Supplement-28Rodeo Project Supplement-29Rodeo Project Supplement-34

Out Here In The Fields

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2018 by johnbuckley100

Tetonia-7Leica SL with Super-Vario-Elmar-SL-16-35mm

Teton and Fremont Counties in Idaho can sometimes seem like the red-haired stepchild of Teton County, WY.  They have Teton views, spectacular ones, but Pierre’s Hole is not the same as Jackson Hole, at least in the eyes of tourists and rich folk.  Ah, but in these Idaho counties, around this time of year when it is too smoky to see the Grand Teton from downtown Jackson, they have something special going for them.  We decided to drive over the pass for a look.

Tetonia-3Tetonia-4

These are farming counties.  Yes, many of the people who live there have a tedious and sometimes dangerous commute over the pass to jobs in Jackson, WY: construction, waitering, guiding fishermen, positioning the fannies of Easterners into the embrace of the chairlift that awaits them.  But still, this is farm country.

Tetonia-5

Between Driggs and Ashton, on Route 32, cars and trucks rush on by.  But sometimes it’s fun to mosey along, camera in hand, and pull into turnouts.

Tetonia-6

When I walked behind the silo to take a picture of it, the area around my feet exploded with grasshoppers, moths and butterflies.  I heard them before I set foot there, but couldn’t see them.  A little like Fremont County — you might not notice it until you set foot in it.

Tetonia-2

Tetonia

As we were heading back toward Jackson — with dinner planned at an excellent Thai restaurant in tiny Victor, ID — we saw an old abandoned barn near the road.

Tetonia-8

Tetonia-10

It was a reminder of how harsh life can be out here.  And also how sublime it is, just a few miles away from Jackson Hole, which is considered among the loveliest valleys in the country.  Teton County, ID looked every bit as pretty as its more famous neighbor across the Tetons tonight.

Tetonia-9

The 2018 D.C. Funk Parade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 13, 2018 by johnbuckley100

High Heel Race 2018-18

All images Leica SL and 75mm Noctilux

It almost didn’t happen this year, the Funk Parade.  It’s the city’s greatest single day, and if D.C. had not found a way of bringing it back, we’d be poorer for it.  Thankfully a Kickstarter campaign, the persistence of the organizers, and a groundswell of support prevailed.

Herewith an experiment — trying to use the 75mm Noctilux, with its razor thin focal plane, in bright light at a street event.  We see possibilities.

Here’s the funk.

High Heel Race 2018

High Heel Race 2018-20

High Heel Race 2018-2

High Heel Race 2018-4

High Heel Race 2018-3High Heel Race 2018-5High Heel Race 2018-14High Heel Race 2018-15High Heel Race 2018-7High Heel Race 2018-6High Heel Race 2018-8

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The Tulip Frenzy, 2018

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2018 by johnbuckley100

Tulip Frenzy 18-6

All images Leica SL and Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 with 10X ND Filter

We missed the peak.  Which is what happens when you choose to go away for a week during the period when the Tulip Frenzy might emerge.  God, what a joy it is to see these friends, even if they are past their prime.

Tulip Frenzy 18-4

We can’t account for our love of tulips.  Maybe it’s because their advent signals spring in earnest.  The ephemeral appearance.  Their individuality. How they’re a metaphor for financial excess.  The joy they bring to all. Whatever it is, we’re glad they’re here.  Even as by next week they’ll be gone.

Tulip Frenzy 18-10

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