The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

The Leica Diary, Part III – Focus

Part I of the Leica Diary can be found here. Part II can be found here. Zone focus. Those are the two key words you need to know about focusing with a Leica. If you’ve used a rangefinder before, you already know this; if you haven’t, then read on. Leica cameras don’t focus like the DSLRs, ILC (Interchangeable Lens Compacts like the Olympus E-P2), or point-and-shoot digitals that we’re all used to. For one, Leica lenses are all manual-focus lenses. For another, unlike most other digital cameras today, you’re not focusing through the lens (TTL). You’re actually using a separate viewfinder to do the framing and focusing for you.  Take a look at the image below. It’s a bit hard to capture the view through a Leica’s viewfinder, but see that slightly bright rectangle near the top-left of the circle? That’s your focusing aid. Now, see how the part of the poster that’s in that rectangle is doubled?  Well, on a Leica, you adjust the focus ring of the lens till the two images merge into one. That’s the first way to focus a Leica, and when you’re at a wide-open aperture like f/2.5, it’s the surest way to gain critical focus. But that’s not how zone focusing works. Google defines zone focusing as “A way to focus that utilizes the depth of field scale rather than the actual distance from camera to subject. Zone focusing is most useful for candid, street photography.” To understand this, let’s take a look at the lens barrel of a Leica. In the image below, you’ll see that there are a number of markings...
Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Notable Storytellers – Sara Lando

Welcome to Notable Storytellers, a feature where we point you to some of the best visual storytellers around, from photographers and videographers to VFX and graphic artists. Sara Lando is an Italian photographer who first came to my attention through her work on David Hobby’s Strobist blog. An occasional contributor there, Sara is a commercial photographer based in Milan, Italy. I devour Strobist.com with regularity, and remember seeing Sara introduced as the European correspondent last year. I also remember reading an article by her on photographer Christoph Martin Schmidt. Her recent series of articles, however, weren’t about another photographer, or even a technique – not necessarily, anyway. These were more of an “approach philosophy” piece. I quote David Hobby: Picture a tiny Italian woman gesturing continuously as she uncorks a full brain dump (from a very, very creative mind) on all of the little things that many people never think of when photographing others. As I was listening I kept thinking, “Someone should be writing this stuff down RIGHT NOW.“ I read the article. Then read it again. It was, I realized, pretty damn good. And insightful. So I clicked through to her portfolio, and got a really wide grin on my face. I love finding photographers whose work inspires me. It used to make me groan at the distance I have to cover to get that good, but now it just drives me. Sara’s work is definitely, without a doubt, inspiring. What fascinated me about Sara’s portfolio is the range she covers. Not in terms of subject matter — she sticks mostly to people — but in terms of...
Flashing Above San Francisco

Flashing Above San Francisco

Every so often, we get to talk about our friends, whether they’re doing something awesome in front of a lens, or behind the camera. This time around, it’s both. One of our favorite all-round good guys and awesome photographers, Syl Arena, swung through San Francisco a while back and hung out with our very own Alex Huff. Alex has an awesome (yeah, I’m jealous) view of San Francisco from her balcony, and Syl used the opportunity to do a shoot with the new Canon 600EX-RT flashes and the ST-E3 transmitter. Using the 600EX-RT, Syl balanced the ambient light with flash, resulting in a very cool image. The complete writeup, with breakdown and before/after shots, is on Syl’s blog. Syl also has a piece up about a personal project he did recently, called “The Faces of American Coal.” It’s one of those deeply personal series of images that will resonate with you. They’re up close, intense, and searching. Of course, Syl being the consumate teacher, has also broken down his process for taking the images too, so we get the added bonus of seeing what goes into a project like this. Maine-area folks, a quick heads-up: Syl will be at the Maine Media Workshops, presenting on Canon Speedlites from Aug 19-Aug 25. If you’re around and have never been to one of Syl’s workshops, they’re not to be missed. Head up there and learn about Canon Speedlites from a photographer who’s often cited as knowing as much about Canon Speedlites as many Canon...
Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

Quick samples from the Canon 1Dx and the 600mm f/4L IS II

I spent a weekend shooting with the Canon 1Dx and the new 600mm f/4L IS II, and will be posting a writeup of it soon. In the meantime, here are a few sample images taken with that combo. For what it’s worth, my favorite combination until recently was to shoot with the 1D Mark IV and the old 600mm f/4L IS Mark I. I don’t think it’ll be giving much away to say that the 1DX and the new 600 are officially my new favorite combination for this type of photography. Watch for our writeup of these new beasts from Canon later this...
In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

Behind-the-scenses, how-tos, and technique tutorials are excellent tools to help photographers get better at their trade. Just as important, however, is listening to and understanding the experiences of the shooters you look up to. Here are a couple of videos along that vein.

The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction

The Leica Diary, Part 1: Introduction

These days, it looks like every major camera manufacturer is coming out with a new addition to the MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) class of bodies and lenses. The latest, of course, is Canon, with its EOS-M camera. These units, typically smaller than your average DSLRs, have been getting better and better, packing some serious punch into a very small form factor. Thing is, in all the hype behind cameras like the EOS-M and Fuji’s X100 and X-Pro1 bodies, people forget that MILCs have been around before companies like Sony, Fuji, and Olympus made them popular. Way back in 2006, a good three years before Olympus came out with its retro-styled Micro-Four-Thirds-based camera, Leica introduced its first digital rangefinder, the M8. Powered by a 10.3MP crop sensor, the body retained almost all of the classic Leica styling that’s been aped so much now, and kept the lens mount the same, so that almost all M-series lenses could fit onto this new digital body. The M9, which BorrowLenses.com carries, kept the same general body shape of the M8, but upped the sensor to an 18.3MP full-frame sensor. It also added some very nice features, including better high ISO performance, a better EV compensation system, and exposure bracketing (though it feels kinda weird to try and shoot HDR with a Leica). Leica users also happen to be some of the biggest zealots most passionate folks out there. I’m not talking about the rich guys who like to hang an M9 from their neck for the cache that the little red dot on the camera’s body provides. I’m talking about the guys...

The Internet is Awesome

Google’s Marissa Mayer was recently hired on to helm Yahoo! as their CEO, and photographers who care immensely about Yahoo!’s beleaguered Flickr photo service decided to send her a message. The folks at Yahoo! responded with a kind of “Help us help you” message, and posted the following: Though it isn’t exactly what some folks would have liked, it is nice to see that Yahoo has their ear to the ground and is actually listening to what their users and critics have to say. In recent times, they’ve been facing competition from multiple quarters. Google+, 500px, and even Facebook have improved their photo sharing features. One wonders if the wonderful community that exists on Flickr will eventually fall by the wayside. As fans of the service (and longtime users), we hope Marissa Mayer does, in fact, make Flick awesome...

Zack Arias on DigitalRev

Just a quick “You gotta see this” post for you today. The folks at DigitalRev.com had Zack Arias on their show last week. Zack, who is visiting Hong Kong for a workshop with Joe McNally, appeared on the show that he calls the Top Gear of photography. DigitalRev does a segment called “Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera,” which last featured Chase Jarvis. Now, Zack makes an appearance, shooting with a Kodak C142. The result? Sheer...