Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Leica

What makes Leica special?

The Leica was the first practical miniature format camera. Invented by Oskar Barnack in order to take pictures while on his mountain walks.
It actually didn't go into production until over ten years after Barnacks 1913 prototype 'UR-Leica'.
But it's diminutive size and high mechanical and optical quality saw it adopted by many photographers for the new ''repotage'' style, to which the camera leant itself to perfectly.
Many other companies have copied the Leica but none have remained as faithful to the original design idea.
In fact Leica announced just yesterday their new digital rangefinder the M8.
Most people would ask what's the fuss? Why would anyone want a manual focus rangefider digi-cam?
Simple, the Leica remains an original; mechanically and optically equalled but never surpassed, something to aspire to, but most of all it is a joy to use and own.

Early Days
I think most of the best images I've made have been in Black and White.
Personally I feel the colour in some photos can become obstructive in the putting across of what I want to say with my images.

The first photo I took was on Ilford FP4, I exposed, processed and printed it all within a few hours of buying my first camera. Athough now I look back in mild amusement at my early attemtps at the art of photography, those early days of processing my own photos have pretty much driven my desire to perfect my work since.

My first darkroom consisted of a Patterson System 4 Film Tank (which I still own) a Krokus 35mm Enlarger (Polish I think) a safelight and 3 trays.

The chemicals I used were mostly Ilford and my first papers were Kodak Royal Bromesko and Agfa Record Rapid, both lovely papers.

When I look back at my first attempts at printing, I look at the grey dull low contast prints that were 'pulled' out of the developer far too early (they looked OK under red safelight) with a smile.

The picture above was an early photo of mine, taken on FP4 with a 50mm lens (the only lens I owned at the time)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This film has been around since the mid 1930's and for me defines colour photography in the 20th Century.
The image above was taken in the 1950's and is over 50 years old, but still it looks as fresh as the day it was made. No other colour film has the archival qualities of Kodachrome and I believe that also extends to the realm of the digital image.

I came across the slide above in a local second-hand camera shop and have no idea who the lady is in picture, just that this is part of a Italian holiday she and her husband enjoyed before I was born!
The films speed at the time was around 10 ASA (compared to 64 today) so anything but good lighting conditions was a challenge.

Why do I still use this antiquated product?
Simple- it gives good colours, fine grain and has a high sharpness. Other films also posses these qualities but none has the longevity. The slides I take of my children today will be easily accessible long after my death by simply holding them up to the light (try that with a DVD). I doubt a fraction of my digital images will survive, I know for sure I've lost one or two from as little as seven years ago due to CD failure.
So I'm preserving the family memories in the best possible way:-
A Leica loaded with Kodachrome

Kids on beach 2006
Long live Kodachrome!