Mount San Jacinto

Coachella Valley is a really interesting place. To the Northeast, towards Joshua Tree National Park, it’s a desert-like landscape. Very dry and rocky. To the Southwest there are huge mountains rising, on top of which there is actual vegetation. You wonder where these trees get their water from when down in the valley there is hardly any flora growing on its own without sprinklers. But you quickly forget that head-scratching action once you are stunned by the gorgeous view over the valley down below from atop Mt. San Jacinto.

Overlooking Coachella Valley | Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. | 1/180s | f/8 | ISO 320

Overlooking Coachella Valley | Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. | 1/180s | f/8 | ISO 320

Waiting (The Lomo Edition)

A good friend of mine who also happens to be a photographer and 2D/3D artist (check out his blog: https://groetzschel.wordpress.com) got me a set of Lomography slide films for my last birthday. Which by the way is almost a year ago, so shame on me for waiting so long to get the first film exposed and developed. I wasn’t really sure what would come out of it as long as the film was stuck in the camera. But no risk no fun right? On my trip to California I finally was able to finish the film.

I have to say that cross-developing is really a beast of its own. It does not work for every subject and in every lighting condition. On this particular flavor of film you need lots of light and contrast. Also since green is getting really pushed it doesn’t work with too much vegetation like trees and grass. The whole image then receives a very greenish tint which doesn’t look particularly pleasing. Blue and red on the other hand work very nicely with the “Lomography XPro 200“.

Leica MP | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | Lomography XPro 200

Leica MP | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | Lomography XPro 200

Joshua Tree

Next stop on my way down South: Joshua Tree National Park. Heard a lot of it, but have never been there before. Some education upfront: I didn’t really know that the namesake Joshua Tree was actually a cactus. Once you see one, however, it becomes very obvious. And you see lots of them.

Kudos by the way to the Park Rangers who are running the visitor center, recommend hikes for every taste and agility and maintain the numerous trails. Very friendly and well organized. What may have helped though is that at this time of the year the park was fairly empty. Which was great – so I even got to see a rattle snake that otherwise probably would have hidden under a stone. Speaking of stones – what looks like gravel are actually really big stones.

 

Feast

I believe I had already mentioned that we went for lunch to the Santa Cruz Pier? And it turned out to be the place to have a proper feast. Although the whole pier felt like time-warped from the 1950s into nowadays the food selection was certainly superb. No matter where you turned you saw fresh seafood and fish everywhere. Not sure if they also served the seals that were resting peacefully under the pier :).

Santa Cruz Pier | Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320 | 1/350s | f1.4

Santa Cruz Pier | Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320 | 1/350s | f/1.4

Santa Cruz

We are still on the Pier in Santa Cruz. Considering it was end of April it was unusually warm already. But fortunately in particular Northern California had seen considerably more rain than in recent years. So chances are high that we might not see a drought as bad as in previous years. Would be a great relief to the region.

Santa Cruz Pier | Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320 | 1/3000s | f/2

California

I have been to Northern California a couple of times. This time I wanted to head down south. Some had warned me about L.A. It’s a dump compared to San Francisco, many said. Turned out: not so much. Quite the opposite is true. And it also turned out that there seems to be a competition going on between the two cities, quite like between Cologne and Düsseldorf in Germany. And equally on mainly friendly terms, taking the competition very lightly. A couple I met in Malibu went as far as saying that L.A.ers don’t even really care about S.F. (and the alleged competition).

But enough said. Over the coming days and weeks I will be posting some of the photos I took on my trip. So make sure you check back from time to time :).

At the Santa Cruz Pier. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/1500s | f/4 | ISO 320

At the Santa Cruz Pier. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/1500s | f/4 | ISO 320

I started off my trip in the Bay Area (actually attending a business meeting). On a quick side trip from Los Gatos we went for lunch to the Santa Cruz Pier where this photo was taken. Lunch was great too. Although I don’t really fancy deep-fried seafood, these were probably about the best fried oysters, clams and crabs I had ever eaten :).

Digital Natives

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/125s | f/2 | ISO 320

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | 1/125s | f/2 | ISO 320

It’s been a while since I had last published a new post on my blog. I guess it’s one of those times when your interests drift off, you start to explore other things, but eventually you get back to where you had left things.

With photography I had experienced that many times before. For me it seems to come and go in waves. In the meantime I have gotten used to it. I know it will come back. So during those times when the interest in photography seems to wear off I know it’s only temporary. And to be completely truthful I think that’s even a good thing. As long as it is a hobby, from time to time you need some distance to be able to appreciate it – with a new and fresh perspective. It may also help shape your way of taking photos.

But enough said, here you go. Enjoy a new picture taken at Cologne Airport a couple of days ago.

Strawberry Picking

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

Being the photographer can have multiple advantages. For starters you are rarely to be seen on photographs yourself and not less importantly you can’t be recruited for other work since your hands are busy holding a camera and taking photos.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

These circumstances came in handy last weekend when me and my friends decided to go pick strawberries. The only strawberries I picked ended up in my tummy. The rest wasn’t my responsibility :). However, I felt responsible enough to help eating the home-made strawberry pancakes after our successful picking exercise (of which there are no photos since they disappeared so quickly)…

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

The New “Monochrom”

I was toying with the idea for a while to upgrade my Leica M Monochrom based on the M9 and its CCD sensor (henceforth I shall call it MM9) to the just released new Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246/M246) that is based on the newer Leica M-P and sports a CMOS sensor. There is much said about the differences between the two sensor types, so I won’t repeat them all, but I believe there is a lot of merit to both technologies. And in all truth if Leica wouldn’t have made me an undeniable offer to swap my MM9 for the new M246 then I would have probably stayed with the MM9. There was really very little I would have to complain about the MM9. So we part ways with one or two tears in my eye :).

The new M246 feels like a modern camera and much less like a “classic” like the MM9 did. It’s still very hefty and solid. But it’s also snappier, quicker and much more silent (the strange shutter noise of the MM9 was one of the complaints I had). The LCD display on the back can finally be used to assess the image you have just taken. The small low-res screen on the MM9 that seemed to be a left-over from another century was good for navigating the menus, but forget about using it for telling whether an image was a hit or miss – in particular if you nailed the focus or not. Before using Live View and only reading about it I would have never thought I would find it useful. Mainly because I’m a real fan of the rangefinder. But if you want to shoot from a different perspective (i.e. from the ground or high up) you can’t focus with the rangefinder unless you are a contortionist. Live View really comes in handy here. The focus peaking is not only a nice to have, but when using LV it’s a must. Otherwise it would be very hard to determine focus on the LCD. In addition with Live View you can use all sorts of wide-angle or tele lenses (and from the R-series) that would otherwise require an additional rangefinder module specifically for that lens. That said, that is not a concern for me since I only use a 35 and 50mm lens on my Leicas (for now).

But the most important part is certainly image quality. It’s very hard to top the image quality of the “old” MM9. Its way of rendering is very unique. Almost film-like. That’s what made the initial “Monochrom” so special and that is the reason why I loved it so much. So I was somewhat hesitant if the new M246 would really deliver a better image quality. I haven’t used the M246 enough to be able to make a final judgement, but what I can say is that the images look different. In particular the highlights seem to have a very nice “glow” that gives the image a certain “aura”. It’s very hard to describe, but it’s something special. Where the MM9 was prone to blow the highlights and you in general would have to use exposure compensation by minus 1/3 stop the new M246 isn’t blowing the highlights at all but keeps a nice structure in it. Which is I believe one of the hardest things to achieve for a digital sensor since the tonal difference in the highlights is so minute that both hardware and software need to be very sophisticated to keep them as separate tones.

But pictures tell more than thousand words. So here is one of the first images I took with the new “Monochrom” on a trip to Berlin at Leipzig Hbf (Central Station). Please note that the image is processed in Lightroom CC 2015 and Silver Efex Pro with the Tri-X preset. So the “grain” you see is not from the M246 itself but added in post. I will for sure continue to post my experiences with my new “Monokuro”.

Make sure you click the image to see the full-res version.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) | Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH. | ISO 320

Update (6/26/15): For a comparison of the actual image quality with the “old” MM9 I have posted a completely unedited version of the above photo below (again, click to enlarge to see a full-res version). L2460008_unedited_fullres

Christopher Street Day (aka Gay Pride)

Shooting something as colorful as a Christopher Street Day parade in black-and-white film sounds crazy? Yes, it certainly does. Nevertheless I thought stepping out of the boundaries of conventional thinking and photographing couldn’t hurt when making photos of an unconventional parade :).

All photos are taken with a Leica MP,  Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH., Agfa APX 100 and hand-developed in A49.

(Click on gallery to enlarge)