I have been shooting with my Leica M9 for the last three years and it has been a real photographic learning curve. I bought the camera just after my father’s death as a present to myself and to try and embrace the Arts (dad was an artist and I think anything related to art makes me feel his presence).
I love street and humanist photography. Most of my photography heroes use or used Leica’s at some point in their careers. I wanted to emulate them and feel like a real photographer so I thought Leica would bring me closer to my goal. For the first two years I exclusively shot with a 35mm lens and then in the last year added the 90mm, 50mm and 18mm to my repertoire.
Leica has been my greatest teacher, it’s a beautiful camera to hold and the moment you take grasp of it you feel that you are holding a magnificent piece of kit, rich in history. In short, it makes you feel like a photographer/artist. And while it is true that it does not matter which camera you use, I think when you are learning your mindset is the most important asset you can have. So if you feel like a photographer you start to behave and act like a photographer.
I’ve always thought that you need to eat sleep and feel like a photographer to improve. This includes endless practice, dreaming photographs, shooting non-stop and immersing yourself in anything related to photography. Look at other photographers’ pictures and see what makes them great. Everywhere I go I see pictures and If I don’t have my camera, I imagine the picture and click with my eyes as if I squeezing the shutter of my camera. For the last three years this has been what Leica has done for me, it has made me think image, it has made me think light and depth of field, it has made me think more about composition. Using manual focus you are in total control of everything. Leica makes you think and feel.
I love my Leica but the last year I have been taking pictures for other people. I have tried to make my Leica work for all situations, sometimes with great difficulty. As much as I love my Leica it also has its weaknesses and the Leica M9 is not a great performer in low light (the majority of events I have been shooting have all been indoor and in poor lighting conditions). I have been using Nikons, which I generally hire from Fixation in Vauxhall for anything in poorly lit conditions.
Over the last year as a way to expose myself to a variety of different styles of photography, I have attended many courses at Nikon School and last weekend I was on their Urban Dance course. Low light and movement, the perfect storm for my biggest weakness. Nikon School kindly gave me a Nikon D750 camera to use.
It was an amazing experience and insight into shooting with low light conditions. It has made me rethink how I should approach the way I decide to create a photograph in poorly lit conditions. I do not have much flash experience but this is an area I really want to explore, it opens up so many possibilities.
I have always avoided flash, and tell people I am a natural light photographer. I think I have been cheating and deceiving myself by avoiding flash. Flash used correctly can help you achieve so many different effects and the fact that you can shoot at a higher shutter speed just means that your focus will be spot on, camera blur can be something that you create as an effect and not an accident.
My Leica M is a great art, travel and general walk around camera but certain situations arise when you need something more appropriate for the task at hand. Nikon have a great range of DSLRs to deal with pretty much all types of photography. Sometimes I also love the ease of Auto Focus, the range of lens and amazing low light performance (I don’t choose Nikon’s other brands but for my personal use I love to work with them). I am familiar with the dials and Nikon School offers you insights and courses into all types of photography. The support and back-up is fantastic and their cameras and lens are always readily available to hire.
Leica also run amazing courses at Leica Akademie I try and go on as many courses as possible, time and finances permitting, I believe you learn a lot from interacting with other like minded people.
P.S Leica, I will always love you, even though your sometimes very frustrating to use. I promise to keep growing as a photographer and I will embrace all styles and techniques, I am on a life journey to improve my ability and learn from others so that I may be the best that I can and to try and produce images that might one day move someone.
Here are a few shots from my day at Nikon School