Auf Wiedersehen, Leica

Honestly, I had never imagined that this day will come, and yet it came to me all of a sudden. The day when I decided to pack it back into its box and say “Auf Wiedersehen” (or goodbye) to it… the day my Leica M-P Typ 240 leaves me and move on to its new owner.

This is the camera that was most hated by the Leica fans. Bulky, heavy, it shoot video, it uses EVF… everything that’s “not Leica” present here, in the iconic body of a Leica M rangefinder. Despite that, I believe this camera is a very important milestone in Leica M history. It marked the transition of a tradition rangefinder camera to a modern one, it served Leica well as a platform to test out a few ideas (like the cost down version of Typ 262, the screen-less M-D and so on) and not to mentioned all the cash cow limited edition Leica managed to release along the years. Without all these, I would argue that the M10 will not be as great of a camera as it is today.

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“But why?” That’s the question I got from everyone. Nothing major, really. It’s just that I’m currently undergoing some self reflection phase (which I often do once in a while) and decided to make some tweaks and changes to things in my life. Just like with my film photography, I was thinking about having a short break from the M-P as well, at least for now. I had shot some pictures with this camera that I really loved, and despite all the complaints I have on the M-P and Leica Singapore’s customer service, I still enjoyed every moments and frustrations I endured with it. It’s something that I’ll cherish as a part of my journey in photography for the days to come.

So after selling my M-P off, what’s next? M-10P? Well, I don’t know. At least for the short term, it’s unlikely. I still enjoy shooting with rangefinder camera, that’s for sure. Will I ever get back to owning a Leica M? Probably, but no one knows what the future lies. So we’ll just have to wait and see. But for now, I’m only left with a Fujifilm X100F camera with the two conversion lenses. Maybe this will be my pure setup for next year? Or maybe I will buy something else since the market is so on fire with full frame mirrorless camera nowadays? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Till then.

It’s been a year…

Yup. It’s been a year since the last time I actually touch my Leica M camera. Did I lost my love to it? Well, not really. I bet I will still enjoy using one when I pick it up. Life has been busy and fast paced that I don’t really have time to “slow down” myself. I had been using mainly my Fujifilm X100F for the past one year. Is it a better camera? Well, certainly not. There are so many shortfalls on this camera that drove me nuts at times, but then again, as you worked around its limitations, you will still be able to live with it. Each camera has their pros and cons to begin with.

So why am I not using it more often? For the things I shot for the past one year, they are mainly activities and events surrounding my study, which either was fast paced or require the use of flash. Can a Leica M shoot fast pace subject? Of course it can. Can a Leica M shoot with flash? Of course it can. On the first point, I would probably put the blame on myself for not being able to use the camera fluently. On the second point, I’m still new to using flash, and I don’t think I can juggle between focusing, composing and setting up flash at the same time.

There are limitations on me, and certainly there are limitations as well on the camera. But when it comes to making a decision on which camera to use, I had decided to walk the easier path: go with automation. For my personal stuff I can afford to make mistakes and not getting the shot, but for things that I need to deliver, I will have to use something that I’m more comfortable with in delivering the required result, and in this case, I have chosen to use my X100F over my M.

And then I started to ponder again whether I should still keep my Leica M. For me, what I enjoyed the most is the experience of shooting with a rangefinder, not a Leica. Perhaps I should just use my Zeiss Ikon when I wanted to fiddle with rangefinder camera. But that brings up another question to ponder… should I still continue to shoot film? I sold off my Fujifilm GW690III Medium Format Film camera recently, I had enough fun with medium format, and the problem dealing with medium format film was a pain that overweights the joy of using one. I’ll talk about this more in a separate post.

I still has an affection to analogue photography. I’ll continue to shoot film for the time being, but as my favourite films are being axed from the production one after another, I may stop shooting film eventually. As for my Leica M? I’ll probably need to pick it up for a spin again someday and asked myself what to do next. Till then.

The Story Behind The Picture: Sunset at Tokyo Skytree

I took this shot earlier this year in April 2017. It was during my trip to Japan, chasing over full bloom of cherry blossoms. For most part of my trip, the weather was cloudy and overcast throughout the day. The sky finally cleared on my last day in Japan, and I was happened to be in Tokyo. After checking through some recommendations on where to shoot for sunset, I decided to take a shot of the Tokyo Skytree during sunset blue hour.

I took a walk to the Jukken Bashi Bridge, it has a nice stream of river (Kitajukken gawa river) leading towards the Tokyo Skytree Tower. I picked my spot, setup the tripod and camera and waited for the nice light to come. I’m shooting with my Leica M-P Typ 240 with the Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH lens. For the scene, I decided to add ND filters (6 stops if I remembered correctly) and shoot bracketed shots instead. Sadly, 21mm lens simply not wide enough to capture the tower together with it’s reflection in whole. Anyway, I’ll just make do with what I have for now.

While waiting for the sun to set, an elder Japanese man stopped by besides me with his camera, I believe it’s an Olympus E-M5 or E-M1. While we both wait for the sun to set, he started to initiate conversation with me in Japanese. I can speak a little, so I just tried my best to understand him and respond accordingly. Sensing that I’m not local, he asked where I came from, when I told him Malaysia, he smiled and said that his grandfather was in Malaysia during the war, but he had never been there before.

Perhaps he felt a bit awkward for bringing up a rather sensitive part of the history. There was a moment of silence until I break the ice again by asking him whether he shoot often. We chatted a bit on photography and then he showed me some of the images he took. Then came another young man who stood beside us shooting the same scene. The elder man chatted with him as well while waiting for the sun to set.

We took our shots when the light was finally right. Later on, I decided to stay a little longer while the elder man started packing his stuff and prepared to leave. “Here, this is for you.” To my surprise, the elder man actually gave me a few prints he took of Mount Fuji. Lovely indeed. I thanked him for the nice souvenir and greeted him farewell.

Some say “music brings people of different languages and backgrounds together”, I believe “art” does. Music, drawings, sculptures, dance, photography and so on. Its very nice and heart warming to meet up with like minded people, especially locals, while travelling overseas. Hopefully I will get this kind of encounter in the future too.

Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Last year was the first time I got a taste of Formula 1 live action courtesy of my friend. I got to watch the Free Practice 1 and 2 sessions and I must say I was hooked by it. Hence, I decided to purchase a full 3 days ticket myself for this year’s Singapore Grand Prix. There was talk that this might be the last time for Singapore to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but in the end it was good to hear that they will continue to host until 2021.

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Singapore Grand Prix has always been a special one. It’s on with the longest lap time and the most turns and corners. It’s a street circuit that built from all the familiar streets that I passed by on daily basis. Hence, it added a touch of familiarity and coziness when seeing the Formula 1 race cars blazing passed all the familiar landmarks around the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

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If you are a Formula 1 or racing fan, please try to experience the race in live for at least once in your lifetime. The roaring of engines, the smell of burning fuel, the smoke from brushing rubber, and above all, the atmosphere and the crowd is simply amazing. Singapore Grand Prix goes a step further as you will get to be just a few feet away from the race track due to the street circuit’s design, which literally puts you in the action itself. Other than the race itself, there were other races such as the Ferrari Challenge and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia going on throughout the weekend. Besides that, there were also concerts and performances by popular artists around the world. I went for the One Republic concert on Friday and it was awesome!

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I spent time exploring every corner of the tracks on Friday and snapped some pictures along the way. On Saturday, the qualifying session was so intense that I can feel the rush of adrenaline and the increase of my heart beat! In the end, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel managed to snatch pole position ahead of the Red Bull duos. Yes, I’m a big fan of Ferrari team.

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The race day itself was eventful. I was there right before the first corner, and once in a blue moon, the cars from the front row got wiped out. Yes, my Ferraris and a Red Bull just crashed right in front of my eyes during the first ever night race in wet condition. What the hell had gone wrong?? Anyway, the remaining part of the race was just cheering for Ricciardo whenever the safety car was out and he got to close down the gap with Hamilton. Too bad he failed to seize the opportunity in the end. Hamilton drove a better strategy and race overall.

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There goes my first experience of a full weekend of Formula 1 Grand Prix. Very interesting and addicting indeed. Will I be back again next year? Probably I’ll just go for one day instead, we’ll see. These are pictures taken throughout the weekend. Most of the pictures were taken during the free practice sessions. I didn’t want to waste it for not indulging on the actual moment itself. I can live with less picture, so I just enjoy every moment to the fullest. Till then, looking forward for more Formula 1 Grand Prix experience in the future.

The story behind the picture: Tokyo Tower

During my trip to Tokyo in March 2016, I wanted to capture the Tokyo skyline under sunset. I planned for a few possible spots, and I decided to try out shooting from Tokyo City View at Roppongi Hills. I dropped by the viewing deck early as I wasn’t familiar with the area and would like to do some scouting before deciding where to shoot.

After looking around, I decided on my composition and planted my tripod and camera, getting everything ready and setup for the shot. For this shot I’m mounting my Leica M-P Typ 240 with Leica Super-Elmar-M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH. No filter was used as I will be pressing the lens as close to the window as possible in order to reduce the reflection and glare. Additional dark cloth was used to cover the lens to ensure all lights were cut out from reflecting on the window.

The sky wasn’t promising being cloudy and overcast, but I’ll just wait and hope for the best. While waiting for sun to set, another young man came and sat beside me with his camera and tripod as well. I gave him a smile and leave up some space for him. After being quiet for awhile, the young man said to me: “This is probably the first time I saw a Leica mounted on a tripod.”

We laughed about it badly. Thereafter, we started chatting while waiting for the sun to set. He came from Thailand and he mentioned that he was surprised that a lot of Thais travel to Japan. We talked about photography as well, and after awhile, another guy stopped by with his camera and tripod and seated right beside us. He’s Japanese, and he asked us in Japanese: “Are you guys coming for the diamond light up of Tokyo Tower as well?”

The Thai was puzzled as he couldn’t understand Japanese. I do understand what he said, but was trying hard to figure out what is “diamond light up”. The Japanese man then show us the Tokyo Tower website on his phone, with details on the light up for tonight and when the lights will come up and so on. Apparently, that day was 14 of March, which was “White Day” or “White Valentines Day”. It’s widely celebrated in Japan, but not in my home country. And on that day, there will be a special “diamond light up” on Tokyo Tower instead of the usual one.

The three of us started chatting while waiting. The Japanese said that he came specifically for the special light up, and we talked a bit about where to shoot, what to eat as well. I’m acting as a translator in between, it was really fun chatting with someone unknown while traveling aboard. You get to see their views, and we get to share our interest in photography together. When the sun set and lights up, everyone got busy and started shooting.

It’s very interesting to talk to people from different nationalities, face to face about photography, about traveling. Although we do not know each other, but the common interest between us has managed to connect us together at that point of time. Lovely indeed, and when I think back on that moment, I still feel a bit of warmth in my heart. It’s a memory that I will cherish for years to come.