Photo opportunities, especially some rather weird ones, may sometimes catch you by surprise. Such as the time when glancing up while buying some groceries put me face to face with Spiderman. Bad news, Spidey, Leica M shoots quicker than you move.
2011 - Leica M8, 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 160
Pretty heavy contrast and saturation adjustments were applied in Photoshop to give this photo a more cartoony look. The lens used was the Leica Summicron-M 50/2.
As everyone who has ever touched a rangefinder camera has heard from several sources, you cannot shoot sports with a rangefinder. A big DSLR with a long tele or a zoom lens is indeed the usual weapon of choice in sports photography even for rangefinder users like myself. For sports, you often want to use long lenses as it is otherwise difficult or even impossible to get close enough to the action, and you want to have quick autofocus and a high frame rate to track your subjects and not miss the action.
With all that in mind I went and shot some sports equipped with a Leica M8 and a Voigtländer 50/1.1 Nokton lens. And I made things worse by using the lens mostly wide open. Number of shots missed due to shortish focal length? Probably about a zillion, give or take two. My approach however is not thinking in terms of what cannot be done; always think what can be done and have some fun instead. (And I had a DSLR with a tele lens with me, too, which really makes this a moot point to begin with.) Number of shots missed due to manual focusing at f/1.1? Basically zero. One was clearly off but useable, and a few others missed the critical focus by a small margin. The AF on my Canon failed much more than that.
Let's see some pictures then
The event is the Disc Golf European Open 2011, held in Nokia, Finland. This is the first round of the tournament, with scenes from three holes featuring Nikko Locastro and Jeremy Koling of U.S., Ilari Tuoma of Finland, and Mats Strömgren of Sweden. Locastro entered the tournament as number one in the world; see the PDGA World Ranking System here.
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/1000, f/1.1, ISO 160
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/180, ISO 160
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/360, ISO 320
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/180, f/1.1, ISO 160
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/360, f/1.1, ISO 160
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/500, f/1.1, ISO 160
European Open 2011 - Leica M8, 1/3000, f/1.1, ISO 160
Back to camera talk
High frame rate is close to mandatory — while good timing really is mandatory — in sports photography. With a measly 2-fps rate the M8 sure is lacking in the frame-rate department. This is not necessarily a problem in all sports, but for disc golf the rate is clearly too low. The throwing action is quick, and two consecutive frames at 2 fps fail to catch the visually most interesting moments around the release of the disc. Sure, with good timing you can capture one of these moments, but you miss two or three equally interesting frames. In terms of focal length, you probably want to be at least around a 100-mm equivalent to shoot the action, preferably between 150 and 500 mm. A big lens on a big camera makes certain things much easier.
The moral of the story however is that you can shoot sports with pretty much any camera, you only need to adapt your style to the equipment and the environment. With a relatively short lens, you either need to get closer or you end up with pictures of tiny people in distance (see above for a couple of examples). Just think what you want to achieve. Turns out I liked many of the Leica shots for their mood much better than the closer and more action-oriented DSLR images from this outing. Perhaps I need to post a few of those for comparison.
Rumour, or leicarumors.com to be exact, has it that the Leica M9-P will be released later this month with the first special limited edition already made public. Of course, this piece of news has the Leica fans and foes of the interweb buzzing. What I personally find most interesting is the potential effect on second-hand pricing of the original M9. I guess I am not in the target group of this cool new U-Can't-Touch-This edition, although I would gladly use one.
Browsing through some of my Bangkok photographs I came across one with a mosaic Space Invader character. These little creatures are the work of a French artist (you can read more in a wikipedia article about the Invader and the characters inspired by the Space Invaders game), although I assume there are some copycats, too. I remember seeing many an invader during my travels and often photographing them. Here are some I could find from my archives.
Let's start with Paris, where the Invader started his project in 1998. These two photographs were taken with the excellent Sigma DP1 camera, which I have since sold.
Paris, 2008 - Sigma DP1, 1/500, f/7.1, ISO 200
Paris, 2008 - Sigma DP1, 1/160, f/8, ISO 100
The next two photographs I composed with some colour repetition in mind. The first one connects the invader to the person walking the road below via repeating colours. The second photograph is the one from Bangkok that inspired this blog post. The yellowish orange colour of the wrist band is repeated in the mosaic. In addition, the pattern of the legs is repeated in the tentacles of the invader. Not the greatest framing, but I quite like it.
While the unrest in North Africa and Middle East as well as the earthquake, tsunami, and the resulting nuclear crisis in Japan understandably grab most of our attention, Thailand is also facing some severe problems. The heavy rains in the south of Thailand have resulted in flooding that has so far killed at least 15 people, and already some 80 districts in eight provinces have been declared disaster areas. Last year about 200 people were killed in the floods in the south of Thailand.
One of the areas that has been hit the hardest is the popular holiday destination, Koh Samui, where more than 10 000 tourists are currently stranded. What western media usually fails to mention is that there are also about 50 000 local residents on the island. Having left Koh Samui about two weeks ago, this was the worst of rain I faced. A fortnight later things have changed.
Bo Phut, Koh Samui, 2011 - Leica M8, 1/180, ISO 160
Chaweng, Koh Samui, 2011 - Leica M8, 1/125, ISO 160
As you have perhaps seen in my latest post I have planned on using the Cosina Voigtländer 75/2.5 Color-Heliar telephoto lens on the Leica M8. The goal was to have fun with this lens and especially test its usefulness for travel photography. The playground for this little experiment is Thailand, and below you can find a small set of photographs at the Bangkok Grand Palace.
A short telephoto lens is often seen as a portrait lens. Certainly, the CV 75/2.5 fits the part. For someone looking specifically for a portrait lens, there is a another good Voigtländer alternative: the new 75/1.8 Heliar. While the CV 75/2.5 is sharp across the aperture range, the CV 75/1.8 is said to give a softer look wide open. A razor-sharp portrait is seldom appreciated. You don't want your portraits to look like this:
2011 - Leica M8, 1/500, ISO 160
CV 75/2.5 as a travel lens
Few of us enjoy a large and heavy kit for travel. The CV 75/2.5 is only 64.5 mm long and weighs merely 230 g. The newer CV 75/1.8 is hardly that much bigger at 73.8 mm although at 427 g it weighs almost twice as much as the tiny 75/2.5. For travel any reduction in bulk or weight is however warmly welcomed.
In addition to portraits, a telephoto lens is useful for excluding unwanted distractions from your photographs, photographing details, and compressing landscapes and distant views. Below you can find examples of all three. It would have been difficult to avoid the crowds of tourist in the first photograph with a wider lens. Much the same is achieved with a telephoto lens in the third photo. More importantly, the scale of the buildings is better perceived due to the compression effect. I have included 100% crops of both close and more distant details to give some idea of the lens sharpness (see the links). I can say this is one sharp lens even wide open.
2011 - Leica M8, 1/1000, ISO 160
2011 - Leica M8, 1/750, ISO 160
2011 - Leica M8, 1/1000, ISO 160
Perhaps the only minor gripe I have about this lens is its close focus distance, which is unfortunately limited to 1 m. A 0.7-m limit would make it much more useful, especially for travel when you wish to get by with as little gear as possible. The CV 75/1.8 focuses down to 0.9 m, so it is only slightly better in this respect.
The next couple of weeks, I will be mostly using the Voigtländer 75/2.5 Color-Heliar and a couple of other lenses with the Leica M8 and Voigtländer Bessa R2A. The Voigtländer 75/2.5 is the new lens on the block for me and the first 75-mm lens I will be using on a rangefinder camera. Based on its reputation, I don't think I will be disappointed. So, I hope to share some photographs taken — and some user experiences — with this tiny tele in March.
Already seen, already photographed. I sometimes hear the argument that everything has been photographed. Why would you then take a picture of the same scene, building, flower, bug - or even person - which has already been photographed a million times before? To see how it looks when you click the shutter yourself I guess.
Sometimes you know that not only has a similar photograph been taken before by many others, but you have taken it yourself at least once. This is often the case with scenes close to home or your favourite destination, even more so with pets and portraits of family members. Sometimes it's however something mundane far away from home, like this scene in Rethymnon, Crete, which I photographed twice. I have to admit the second image was simply a snap that I quickly took, when witnessing a moment of photographic déjà vu.
Rethymnon, Crete, 2008 - Canon EOS-30D, 1/500, f/7.1, ISO 100
Rethymnon, Crete, 2010 - Leica M8, 1/250, ISO 160
The lens on the Canon 30D was the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. On M8, I believe it was the Voigtländer 35/1.4 Nokton SC. Note the difference in quality of light. Neither is excellent, but the difference is huge. The photo from 2008 was taken in late morning light, the photo from 2010 in the middle of the day beneath the hot Mediterranean sun.