Photoessay: Paris part three: some architectural cliches

Finishing this three-part series on Paris are some architectural shots and general cityscapes; the grandeur, oldness and overall feel of the place is something that’s evident the moment you start walking around. Capturing the atmosphere in a photograph of a relatively static scene that both invokes some feeling (and not a postcard) isn’t so easy to do; there are only so many angles of the Eiffel tower that work compositionally.

This series shot with a Leica M8, 21/1.4 ASPH and 50/1.1 in 2009, except for the Eiffel Tower shot which was with a D200 and 17-55 in 2007.

_M8_L1025381bw copy

_M8_L1025982 copy

_M8_L1025414bw copy

_M8_L1025232 copy

_M8_L1025256bw copy

_M212668bw copy.jpg

_M8_L1025318 copy

_M8_L1025915 copy

_M8_L1025340 copy

_M8_L1025554 copy

_M8_L1025970bw copy

_M8_L1025374 copy

_M8_L1025394 copy

_M8_L1025272 copy

____________

If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting the site via Paypal (mingthein2@gmail.com); Ming Thein’s Email School of Photography – learn exactly what you want to learn, when you want to learn it or our Photoshop workflow DVDs.  You can also get your gear from Amazon.com via this referral link.  Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the Flickr group!

Photoessay: Paris part two: the streets, in B&W

Part two continues with a series from my last visit; focusing on the people of Paris. This is a place where hyperfocal shooting, honing your distance-estimation skills and shooting like a stealth ninja are the order of the day.

This series shot in 2009 with a Leica M8, the 21/1.4 ASPH and Voigtlander 50/1.1.

_M8_L1025697bw copy

_M8_L1026180bw copy

_M8_L1025793bw copy

_M8_L1025458bw copy

_M8_L1025280bw copy

_M8_L1025308bw copy

_M8_L1026056bw copy

_M8_L1025558bw copy

_M8_L1025296bw copy

_M8_L1026350bw copy

_M8_L1025617bw copy

_M8_L1025748bw copy

_M8_L1025435bw copy

_M8_L1025455bw copy

_M8_L1026132bw copy

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Photoessay: Paris part one: color vignettes

One of the spiritual homes of street photography, Paris is actually quite a challenging environment to shoot in – partially because the people are rather unfriendly, and because the urban space itself isn’t really human scale. The left bank is much more conducive to shooting.

This series is a mix of images from 2007 and 2009; shot with a Leica M8, 21/1.4 ASPH, 50/1.1 and Nikon D200 with 17-55/2.8.

_M8_L1025466 copy

_M8_L1026299 copy

_M8_L1026229 copy

_M8_L1026085 copy

_M8_L1025241 copy

_M8_L1025305 copy

_M212811 copy.jpg

_M8_L1025260 copy

_M212319 copy.jpg

_M8_L1025741 copy

_M8_L1026176 copy

_M8_L1025475 copy

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Travel minimalism: one lens to go

_M8_L1025017 copy
Canterbury in autumn. Leica M8, 21/1.4 ASPH

Every time I travel for personal purposes, I’m always torn between experiencing the place, and photographing the place. Photography is such a part of me that sometimes I feel that I experience and understand things more through trying to capture the essence of them. Or perhaps it’s because doing so forces you into conscientious observer mode, and this in turn makes one’s mind more receptive to things, and more willing to question what you see and find juxtapositions or contrasts.

_M8_L1024931bw copy
Canterbury Cathedral crypt. Leica M8, 21/1.4 ASPH

That aside one of the things which inevitably keeps me up the night before departure is trying to figure out what to bring equipment-wise. If it’s on assignment, then I bring everything I might possibly need, plus spares – to hell with overweight baggage, if you don’t have it, it could mean a lost job – on the other hand, if I’m traveling for myself, I’d rather carry as little gear as possible. Well, little enough that I don’t notice it after walking around for hours on end, but with sufficient coverage that I don’t get frustrated and feel like I missed a rare photographic opportunity because I didn’t bring along a wide angle. Or something along those lines.

_M8_L1026056bw copy
A Parisian in her natural habitat. Leica M8, 21/1.4 ASPH

My last personal vacation saw me bringing an Olympus Pen Mini, the 14-42 kit lens and a Panasonic 20/1.7 pancake. We went to the beach. Frankly this made the choice easy as I didn’t really want to expose any of the more expensive gear to moisture, salt and sand; the M9-P definitely would not have been suitable, and the D800 might have produced great landscapes, but it would also have worked fine as a boat anchor.

_M8_L1026132bw copy
Three conversations, Paris. Leica M8, 21/1.4 ASPH

I’ve been trying to fine-tune this over the years. I’ve been on trips where I did carry coverage from 14-450mm and a spare body; whilst I got some great images, I also had a sore back, and landed up leaving everything but one body and the 24-70 zoom in the hotel room for the last week. More crucially, I felt the images produced from that trip lacked focus; I brought everything, so subconsciously I was actually trying to capture everything. The upshot is a set of images that isn’t as strong as it could have been, and worse still, experiencing that slightly chaotic panicky feeling that you just might have missed a shot opportunity somewhere.

_0011006bw copy
Tate Modern yard, London. Ricoh GR Digital III

My preferred travel kit is a moderate wide, and a moderate telephoto – both fast – and one body. I might carry a spare compact or something similar as a backup, just in case. I’ve gone with the D700, 24/1.4 and 85/1.4 – this is an absolutely fantastic and hugely flexible combination – plus a spare compact, either the Fuji X100, Leica D-Lux 5, or my favorite, the Ricoh GR-Digital III. Most recently, I spent two weeks in Europe with an M9-P, 28 and 50mm lenses, plus the Pen Mini and 45/1.8 (giving me 90mm in a pocket). This was also an excellent combination, and in some ways better than the Nikon based setup due to weight and instant availability of the telephoto. However, it lagged hugely in low light performance. I think the next trip I take will probably be Micro 4/3 based; an OM-D and Pen Mini with 12, 20 and 45mm lenses will cover the vast majority of situations handily. And not weigh very much, either.

_0011022 copy
Piccadilly Circus, London. Ricoh GR Digital III

So what’s all of this talk about a single lens?** Or single camera? There are advantages to this approach: firstly, you’re unencumbered and free to enjoy the atmosphere, people and culture without feeling like a packhorse; a small camera around your neck is probably much easier to manage than an entire backpack full of lenses. Also, you don’t have to worry as much about security – frankly, carrying several Leica f1.4 Summiluxes and a Noctilux around even safe Singapore made me pretty nervous.

**Let me clarify: I don’t mean going with a 28-300, though I suppose this might be a viable option for some situations. That lens has more compromises than strengths, and if you don’t know how to manage your perspectives properly, then you’ll land up with weak images too, because you’ll always be trying to ‘zoom in’.

_0011001bw copy
The Shard, under construction. Ricoh GR Digital III

The main advantage, however, is that it frees up your mind from having to think about what perspective to take for a scene. Do you find the essence in the details, or do you go for something wider and more encompassing, with context? Trouble is, there is often no right answer – and from experience, I know that inevitably you’ll land up trying to make both work and being satisfied with neither. On the other hand, if you’ve got just one focal length, then you can pre visualize what your frame will look like; with sufficient experience, your eye naturally looks for compositions that fit within the perspective and angle of view of the lens you’ve got. Thus: instead of wondering what perspective to use, you’re free to spent that mental capacity on fine-tuning the elements inside the frame of the only perspective you have. It can be liberating – providing you’re thinking about the photograph, and not about the equipment you left at home. There’s also the side benefit of not having to change lenses, and thus always being ready.

_7017234bw copy
The doorway, Hanoi. Nikon D700, 85/1.4 G

I actually did this on several occasions. At the end of 2009, I made short trips to Oxford, Canterbury and Paris; for these I brought two lenses (21 and 50mm for the M8) but only used the 21. I did it again in 2010; the first trip saw me bringing a D700 and several lenses, plus the Ricoh GR-Digital III; I only used the Ricoh and its fixed 28mm because it was both much more convenient, as well as matching the way my eye was tuned at the time after my first Leica-M experience. I got wiser on the second trip and left everything behind except the GR-Digital III. Hanoi later that year saw me using only the D700 and 85/1.4 G.

_7017494 copy
A Vietnamese stereotype. Hanoi. Nikon D700, 85/1.4 G

If you are going to try this exercise, I’d recommend going for a wide normal rather than an ultra wide or a tele; for the simple reason that these are the most flexible focal lengths to use. 35-50mm can appear wide or moderately telephoto depending on how you choose to use the foreground elements in your scene. And at some point, chances are you’ll probably want to take a photo of yourself or your traveling companion (or both of you, or your family…you get the point) – and it’s generally much easier with something wide or normal than say a 300mm.

_M9P1_L1005025 copy
Prague castle and stars. Leica M9-P, 28/2.8 ASPH

Some people may find a telephoto easier to use in these kinds of situations because they can snipe from a distance; I’d personally advise against it because it’s very difficult to make images with context; and that’s one of the cornerstones of travel photography. The bokeh may be great, but if the background gives you no clue as to where the subject is, then the image could well have been shot anywhere – and that somewhat defeats the point of travel photography.

_M9P1_L1004062 copy
A Viennese moment. Leica M9-P, 28/2.8 ASPH

Personally, if I had to pick, I’d go with either a 28mm, or a 35mm – depending on whether my images would likely be more people-biased (longer), or more location-biased (wider). And it’d have to be fast, too; I’d be using the lens at night, and anything slower than 2.8 wouldn’t cut it. Frankly, in some situations, even f2.8 may be a little borderline. Finally, it’d have to go on something small, light and unobtrusive; responsiveness is important because your ability to anticipate things will be a little bit diminished thanks to the foreign environment. Right now, my choice is probably between the Olympus OM-D and Panasonic 20/1.7, the Ricoh GR-Digital III/ IV, or the Leica M9-P and a 35/1.4 ASPH FLE.

Give it a try. On your next trip, just use a 35 or 50 prime for at least a day or two; if it makes you feel better, bring along your zooms too, but don’t use them until you absolutely feel that you’re missing shots. MT

_M9P1_L1013074 copy
Wat Arun and Boat, Bangkok. Leica M9-P, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26,010 other followers

%d bloggers like this: