I’m pretty sure that everyone will agree with me: waking up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday sucks, especially if you had a long day the day before.
Since I’m approaching the tail-end of my current graduate class, it’s starting to become a non-stop cadence of projects until the end of June. This is a normal, albeit very fast paced, occurrence…but since our final project require me to work with a group of strangers, it’s trickier than you think.
Needless to say, I finished my portion of the project early, therefore affording me the time to enjoy this long Memorial Day weekend with my camera (Amy is out of town with her girlfriends in New York City).
One of my friends and mentor asked if I was interested in coming out to Cars and Coffee in Great Falls, VA since this might be one of his last visits to Virginia for a long time since he had taken up a CFO position in Boston.
So I reluctantly threw some clothes on, grabbed my camera and headed out the door.
Photos taken with the Leica M9 + Summicron 50mm f/2
If you’re into photography, then you know that the world of Instagram has changed the way photographs are shared around the world. This introduction also changed the way photographers want to differentiate themselves and create their “look”, the concept of how the photographs are interpreted, each with its own character.
We’re talking about Instagram filters.
The problem with these filters, however, is that are usually indiscriminately heavy handed. Some people use these filters as a crutch to cover up their poor composition by making the colors more interesting. Or the trendy look that crank up the contrast or just desaturated to the point where half of your Instagram feeds look the same.
In the article (linked above) bring up a great point about Instagram:
“They’re diluting their own work and style by focusing on what will grow their account instead of focusing on developing themselves artistically.”
These “hipster filters” as I call them are typically too trendy for my liking; overall muting the natural beauty that the camera and lens has to offer. For example, if you shoot a Leica M camera, using one of these filters will kill the signature micro-contrast look that Leica optics are known for, sometimes flattening the image (there is nothing wrong if you want your photo too look flat, just not my cup of tea).
That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to edit my image to edit them to my liking. On the contrary, I very rarely not edit my images as part of my post-processing workflow. There are a few exceptions to this, especially if you’re a Leica shooter. I’ve noticed with my Leica cameras, that they have the most accurate and organic rendering of tones, especially paired with a Leica lens. I don’t want to take anything away from that beautiful rendering, especially when you pay a premium for that image quality and the shooting experience.
However, there are a set of presets that I want to talk about here.
These presets are impressive to say the least as they don’t too much from the original rendering. I liked them so much, I’ve purchased threeof her set of presets in the past two years because I loved the way they supplemented your images without taking too much away from the original. Her colors are used by world-renowned travel, wedding and lifestyle photographers, all swear by her presets as part of their post-processing workflow. Impressive resume references don’t you think?
Let me show you two examples.
The difference is not drastic, but it’s a noticeable in a pleasing way.
Don’t get me wrong, the stock photo actually looks pretty damn good, especially with the rendering you get out of the Carl-Zeiss Biogon lens. However, I felt the need to warm it a little bit based on the context of the photo with the cherry blossom and the mother’s “warmth” holding her baby.
I recommend checking her out if you prefer your images to look less “film like” and a more subtle, modern take on the aesthetics of your images.
To me, there is nothing better and relaxing than being outside and absorbing all the visceral senses. The warmth of the sun. The wetness from the rain. The breeze against your face on warm day.
This penchant for sunlight and fresh air partially led me to photography in the first place, therefore if there is a chance of nice weather, you’ll find me outside with my camera. Unfortunately, my time outdoors have been truncated substantially since starting graduate school last summer, making my time being outdoors somewhat of a luxury, something I can no longer take for granted.
Despite these challenges, I always try to steal an hour or two doing some light outdoor activities. Whether they’re just short walks outside on sidewalk or a short two-hour hike on a local trail. It’s less likely I’ll be doing the latter due to the time commitment involved, such as organizing and driving.
However, I learned something the other day that would scratch my need for a local hike itch.
I’ve recently moved to a new apartment in Ashburn, VA this past January, near the Broadlands (it was a 10 minute move from my old townhouse that I’ve rented with a friend of mine), and my sister (who is also learning the strings on photography with her own Leica M9) had a couple of photos on her Flickr page that showed a trail she was on with her puppy “Pepper“. I looked up the trail on the Google machine, and behold…there was a trail five minutes from where I lived.
That wasn’t the biggest surprise however.
There were several hiking trails and parks outside the desginated National Parks that I liked to frequent. These particular parks were smaller in scale and under a county sponsored organization known as NOVA Parks, but they were good enough for me who was looking for something short and close.
That morning, I tricked Amy into coming out with me on a “short walk” since the weather was finally nice outside after suffering through a few days of rain. Little did she know that she was ill-prepared for this hike since trail on Beaverdam was very wet and muddy. I was fortunately wearing my Salomon Speedcross 4 trail shoes, but Amy underestimated the trail and left her Salomon shoes at home. She was not very happy about the muddy conditions, so to make up for it, I piggyback carried her over some of the nastiest parts of the trail.
She seemed to enjoy that (the piggyback riding, not the trail).
After a few encounters with the mud, I was starting to think that the muddy portions of the trail were far and few.
I was wrong.
The trail was in such bad shape from the previous rain, that over half of the trail were just spots of mud and water. Some even as long as 100 feet.
Unsurprisingly, this required more a lot of work for both my shoes and legs as I was carrying another human being on my back, therefore sinking my feet into the mud at a much faster rate.
To say that I got a workout while carrying Amy on my back would be an understatement. I jokingly thought of this moment as one of those “this is why I lift” memes as carrying Amy on my back gave my legs a nice workout, playing well with my Apple Watch as my heart rate rose to a warm 130 BPM.
The trail ended on the northern half of the trail, which led us to a public park where little league baseball and soccer games were usually held. Since we both refused to double-back and go back on the same (muddy) trail again to get to my car, we’ve decided it was a better idea to just Uber from where we were to the car.
I promised Amy that we would eat Acai bowls at Robeks after the hike, so we ended the morning there, but it was a nice experience to go out and explore a new trail. Albeit I got my Salomon trail shoes dirty, they more than paid their weight in gold as I used them in the exact situation they were designed for. I only wished that I had purchased the GTX (Gore-Tex) waterproof version instead, but for $60 on sale (vs. $130 for the GTX models), I’m more than satisfied with their performance.
If anyone reading this love to be outdoors, I would look at your local county’s parks because you will never know what trails you may find for a quick hit of nature.
Thanks for reading!
All images were taken with the Leica M9 with the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2 lens.
Edited in Adobe Lightroom with Leica “Embedded” Color Profile with VSCO Fujifilm Astia 100F – preset.
We had a rare change in weather (for the better) where the temperature rose to the 70’s degrees Fahrenheit. To take advantage of this, Amy and I decided to go out on a day date in the city during the Cherry Blossom bloom by the Tidal Basin.
Photos were taken with the Leica M9
Switching perspectives now with photos taken by Amy
As the sun was setting, it was about that time to grab dinner and our friend Katie recommended a Filipino Restaurant in Columbia Heights called the “Purple Patch“.
I have to admit that I was very impressed with the food there, especially their desserts which Amy and I had devoured like fat asses after our entrees.
The small restaurant is located in the lower levels of the of another restaurant, which gives it a cozy atmosphere.
More photos by Amy
After dinner, we took the Metro back home and ended the long day.
I guess you could call this Part II of my previous post since it happened on the same day and in the same city, but this was easily my favorite part of the day.
After we separated from the Instagram meet at the Capitol, we all then decided to make the trip to Union Market for late lunch. It wasn’t a long walk per say, but it definitely burned some calories and I’ve managed to hit most of my walking goals for the day by the time we’ve reached our destination.
Union Market, if you don’t know already, is a place where you can artisan food and organic groceries located in an industrial park area where most people go for their trendy Instagram photos.
Amy and I were pretty excited as we both were planning for this all day, but what awaited us exceeded our expectations.
After you pass the picnic tables and the assortment of chairs filled with people stuffing food in their mouths, you enter through the large glass door – where you will suddenly become overwhelmed with the smell of food.
Your senses are on “can I have some more?” mode
Right away your eyes dart left and right as you try to take in what is going on around you.
“Where do I even start?”
You’ll ask yourself this as your natural instincts tell you to start from the left of the building and then walk around the various kiosks serving anywhere from Asian food to Ethiopian delicacies.
“Am I in heaven?”
“Am I in heaven?”
I’m pretty sure that was what I thought when I walked past the first couple of kiosks that served what looked like…really fucking good food.
I swiveled by head around to take in all the information around me and then checked on Amy to make sure she didn’t get swallowed by the crowds (or her hunger), but sure enough, she was smiling as she was recording a video clip on Snapchat.
Amy and I both couldn’t decide where to eat first, so walked around and lapped the building until we saw Ben holding some Korean tacos.
I looked over to what sounded like Amy and sure enough, she was gleefully pointing at the empanada shop next to us while I was ordering my Coconut Thai Basil Dumpling from what looked like a soul food kiosk that specialized in chicken broth based soups.
I’m telling you this now…shit just got real…
Amy loves empanadas and it’s probably one of her top favorite foods of all time (there are literally hundreds of foods that she likes) – actually, I think she just likes everything.
While my food was getting made, I continued to take picture to capture some street photography indoors.
For those of you that have never been to these hashtag meets, in this case, @walkwithlocals – it’s a meetup of sorts with a bunch of local instagram photographers that go on a photowalks in various parts of the DC area.
The meetup location and time was at the historical Lincoln Park, east of the Capitol at 11:32am. Despite my best efforts of leaving my place early and grabbing coffee at my favorite coffee shop, alas using the Silver Line on the Metro from Reston-Whiele to Eastern Market took longer than anticipated, therefore Amy and I ended up being 30 minutes late.
We were lucky, however, because by the time we were about 3 blocks away from the park, we could see a large crowd of people walking towards the Capitol.
“Hmmm…I wonder who these people could be?”
The massive mob of people turned out to be the exact group we were trying to meet up with and if the size of the group didn’t give it away, all the cameras around each person’s neck gave it away.
Strangers from various parts both in and out of the city, showed up today to meet with other photographers with their love for photography. You will meet people of all different backgrounds – from lifestyle photographers to food photographers.
When you’re surrounded by people with a common interest such as photography, you can’t help but notice the gear slung over their shoulders and necks.
General Survey on DSLRs
Most of the people (around 80%) had both Canon and Nikon DSLRs with kit lenses, while the small 1% came with their full-frame counterparts with f/2.8 zooms. The remaining 19% were the mirrorless crew (Fujifilm and Sony) and one shooter with a Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) with a 50mm Summilux.
This mental survey reminded me that majority of people still used DSLRs, but mirrorless made a big presence as well compared to where we were a few years ago.
I have an affinity for mirrorless cameras and DSLRs are going the way of the dinosaurs, people will get tired of carrying bigger and clunkier systems, unless you still think carrying a DSLR makes you look “professional” to impress people or clients. Don’t get me started with that
Once the group reached the Capitol, some people just hung out and socialized – trading business cards, introduced each other and some were partaking in a couple of photoshoots.
I myself, was talking to strangers – more interested in hearing about how they got into photography and how they grew into becoming better photographers.
After about 30 minutes of socializing, we took a group picture in front of the Capitol building and departed ways.
Most of the people planned to make a stop at Union Market and that is where our adventure will head to next in the next update.
Photos taken with the Leica M9 + SUMMICRON 50mm f/2 V3
You know what I love about having happy hour with a group of friends that all happen to love photography? It turns into our own low key version of “Beers and Cameras” and today’s location was at Ocelot Brewery, located in the industrial park area of Dulles, Virginia.
With a venue chosen and gear packed, today in particular was a special day because some of us were introducing our new Leicas for the first time.
Ben recently picked up a second-hand Leica CL.
Asif picked up a second-hand Leica M5.
Yours truly picked up a second-hand Leica M9 with a 50mm Summicron f/2 V3 (1969-1979). There is a fantastic first-hand review about the legendary Leica M9 from someone that came from DSLRs: ShootTokyo
Right away, one of the first things I’ve noticed while I ran these photos through Lightroom is the lovely color rendering and the contrast due to the combination of the Leica M9’s CCD sensor (developed by Kodak back in 2009) and the vintage Summicron from the ’70s.
The LCD Screen is Shit
The other thing that I have to get used to is not using the rear LCD screen to “chimp” after taking the shot. The LCD screen is considered “vintage” now in 2018 (think of the time when we all thought the original iPhone had “good screen” back in 2007-2010). The screen is so shitty that I don’t even bother using it to actually check the photo other than to check my exposure.
Don’t even think about exceeding the ISO past 800. We’re talking about old sensor technology where ISO 800 was considered “high-tech” back in 2009. Shoot the Leica M9 like a digital-film camera: ignore the LCD screen, learn to use manual controls, and understand manipulating exposure/light both in and off camera.
56K of Buffering
After you take a photo, give it about 10 seconds for the buffer to fully clear before your next shot. Due to the slower-than-2018 processor technology and the M9’s finicky nature with high-speed memory cards (use 16GB 40-45 MB/s cards only). Again, treat the M9 like an old-school digital-film camera.
What is Sharpness?
Despite these quirks (it’s almost a decade old), the camera is capable of pulling some amazing images from the sensor thanks to the CCD sensor designed to simulate Kodachrome film stock. Paired with a Leica M lens (Summicron f/2.0 to a Summilux f/1.4), you will get that amazing micro-contrast “3D” pop effect known as the “Leica look” that no other camera on the planet can emulate.
I’ve been drunk with this stuff since my Leica Q and its excellent Summilux 28mm f/1.7. That lens is just stunning.
Remember – you can always sharpen photos in post, but you cannon create micro-contrast in post.
What Leica does understand better than anyone else, is that absolute sharpness (resolving power) of the lens means little if the images don’t look great. Something I’ve also been guilty of chasing since my Sony A7 full-frame days with my Carl Zeiss and G Master lenses. I loved how sharp they looked, but the images looked cold and sterile in comparison.
Almost too clinical.
A Sincere Camera
Despite these drawbacks and limitations with the Leica M9, there is also something liberating about these limitations.
No AF – learn to take your time and learn to use zone focusing like a proper rangefinder camera. You will soon learn that this method is even faster than auto-focus (unless you use the Leica Q, just throw that guy in AF 99% of the time and you will get a lot of keepers).
No EVF – learn to expose and compose with your eyes prior to taking the shot.
Slow Buffer – you can’t run and gun with this camera. This will force you to be patient and compose properly.
No LIVE View – Use the viewfinder like you’re supposed to.
Shit LCD Screen – Don’t even bother checking your images.
Pretty much what this camera is trying to tell you is this: “it’s on you”
This camera will make you a better photographer.
It will force you into becoming a better photographer.