Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Getting Comfortable with the Leica M2

Colorado Trip, Part 2 of 3
I acquired my Leica M2 in 2014, and over the span of 4 years, I never took it along as my only 35 mm film camera. That changed on my trip to Colorado earlier this month.  Yes, I packed the Nikon D300 as my main camera, but as it turned out, the M2 was often my walk-around camera as the trip went on.   Mostly, I shot b&w film with it, and the more I used it, the more I felt at ease with it.  One could say that we "bonded" on the trip.  After finally going through 1000 images in Lightroom from the D300, and then developing and scanning the 7 rolls of film from the M2, the film was a more relaxing and I think, more rewarding process.  First of all, nearly all of my M2 shots were what I would call "dead on" in terms of exposure.  Yeah, b&w film has enough latitude to cover minor exposure errors, but the thing is, being in an all-manual, no built-in meter situation made me think more about the image and proper settings before I pressed the shutter button.  In outdoor situations in the SW, it's almost always sunny-16 during the day, and my years of experience, intuition, and sometimes my pocket light meter, got me through the rest.
Our condo, Avon, CO. Ilford HP-5+

Avon, CO. Ilford HP-5+

Bev and Adrienne, Bob's Place tavern.  Ilford HP-5+

I wanted to test myself this time -- what could I expect if I went somewhere and ONLY shot with a rangefinder?  As I grew more relaxed with the Leica, it became all the easier to shoot anything with it.  At heart, I have always been an SLR user, and of course, there are many situations when an SLR's capabilities will favor its use.  Long lenses and rangefinder cameras just are not a good combo.  My M2 has the Canadian-made 35mm f/1.4 Summilux, and is that lens sharp.  In the process, I found that the 35mm point of view was a really great choice for the landscape and skies of the West.  The more I shot, the better I felt about my choice.  As I am going through the negatives now, I am very pleased with my results.
Vail, CO  Ilford HP-5+

Pioneer Cemetery, Glenwood Springs CO
Ilford HP-5+

Pioneer Cemetery, Glenwood Springs CO
Ilford HP-5+

Pioneer Cemetery, Glenwood Springs CO
Ilford HP-5+

Somewhere, I saw a line that basically said that B&W is an interpretation of the scene, not as how it really looks.  And of course, that is true.  There are many instances when I see something colorful and knowing that it's the colors that make the image, I don't take a b&w photo.  In the West, however, the  landscape and skies are contrasty, the landscape structured, and oooh the shadows!    The Saguaro cacti in Tuscon were tremendous, and even more so  when I shot them with the M2.  My films were Ilford HP-5+,  Kodak Tmax 400, Ultrafine Xtreme 400, and Agfa APX 100.  All look great.   I didn't use any filters over the 35mm lens, as I don't have an adapter for filters.  Still, the shots look fine.

With a camera such as the M2, I wasn't fiddling with the camera.  I was more connected to my final images than I was with the D300, for sure.  The M2 is simple, easy to use, and has a great lens. The viewfinder is wonderful, and of course, the camera is lighter around the neck than the D300 or any other film SLR.

I think now, that I could be fully confident of coming back with great photos from a long trip with nothing but the M2, a bunch of  film, and a simple light meter. Thanks to this latest trip, I also opened my eyes to what I can do when I am not thinking about the equipment.

Gore Creek, Vail, CO  Ilford HP-5+

Saguaro National Park, Agfa APX100

outside Mission San Xavier. Tmax 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

4th Avenue, Tucson, AZ. Ultrafine Xtreme 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

4th Ave., Tucson, AZ. Ultrafine Xtreme 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

Tucson, AZ. Tmax 400

Mission San Xavier, Tmax 400

4th Ave., Tucson, AZ. Ultrafine Xtreme 400


Marcus Peddle said...

Great photos. That lens really is sharp, isn't it? I only have a 50mm lens for my Zeiss Ikon ZM but never feel the need to buy another.
I once took the Nikon D300 to Malaysia for a month with just a 35mm lens attached. I think there was just one time I felt the need for a slightly longer lens. It's very liberating to restrict yourself sometimes. Last summer I went to Canada with my D810 and a 24-85mm zoom. I regretted it almost as soon as I pitched in Newfoundland. Much too heavy. I'm now looking at getting a Fuji X-T3 and avoiding some neck pain everytime I go out to make photos.

Jim Grey said...

Terrific shots!

Michele said...

Thank you! The M2 was my fist camera (it was actually my grandfather's), and I am still using it. What a great camera!
I organised recently an exhibition to show my (first) 50 years of photo portraits, and on the poster of the event... there it is, the Leica M2 in my hands (a while ago...).
Thanks, Mark. I follow regularly your blog and I have indicated it among the photo links in mine (
Never get tired of photography!

mfophotos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mfophotos said...

Marcus, Jim and Michele:

Thank you for your comments. I think it's easy to forget that in the creative process, simplicity is your friend. I love gear as much as anyone, otherwise, I would not have this blog. But as I have matured as a photographer, I think I have come to a few conclusions.
1. Reliability of my equipment is important, and knowing that a certain lens/camera combo will give X results.
2. Think less about the gear and more on the subject and my approach.
3. Knowing a certain film will respond in a predictable way is important.
4. Serendipity is great when you are prepared for it.