A couple of years ago we spent a few days in Lisbon and I took the Leica M9. I was prompted to put these images up after seeing some travel images taken by a friend Alina who seems to have managed to spend much of her life travelling and is there at the moment.

Often I think it would be good to lead my whole life with the eyes of a tourist, I guess one would live a bit like Wilko Johnson after the news but before the other news, the pavements might shimmer and glow. Whilst mentioning Wilko might I suggest you have a quick look at the work of Charlie Chan a man who does good things with a variety of tools including the odd Leica? Indeed one of his Leicas is really odd (I use the term warmly) as Mr Overgaard agrees.

We all have a ‘to-do’ list, mine is invariably longer than it ought to be. When I developed this new photography website site I remember thinking that I needed to create a travel-photography section and somehow didn’t get round to it so this is a start.

Low Light Photography With a Leica M9

These shots were taken with a Leica M9 wearing either the 50 Lux or the 28 Cron (both asph) and in a way some of my frustrations with the camera are here to be seen in some of the low light shots where, quite frankly I don’t know what I was trying to do! I’ve just had another look at them and can’t offer any explanation to the exposure settings.

I am also old enough to remember not remembering what film was in the Nikkormats; I had a chrome and a black one. In an act of perversity the black one was usually the colour camera, in my head a splash of colour sat better on a glossy black background, probably a Dark Side of the Moon thing.

I recognise I’m not a ‘fast thinker’ and acknowledge that part of my motorcycling technique is looking a long way ahead and giving myself time to react. So I have tried to develop techniques that avoid ‘Doh!’ moments both on the bike and with a camera.

My camera settings are chosen so that I am supported on those occasions when I get so engrossed in the action that I forget to adjust the camera. Some time ago I set Nikons to auto ISO however it’s never occurred to me to do the same on the M9, in fact I only just recently realised it did it. I guess though the Nikons do show what is set (or chosen) in the viewfinder, the Leica just starts flashing. I seem not to notice that the red number is flashing.

Standing in the Shadows

The bottom line though is that the Leica M9 isn’t very good at high ISO and I like the idea of lurking in the shadows with a camera. I’ve left the dancing shot in the gallery below as I originally worked it but I think when I first output the file I tried too hard. I’ve never quite overcome the desire for perfection, it gets in the way. To be fair it’s a tiny crop, we were in a small bar and I couldn’t get close enough to frame as I would have wanted. But I think my temptation was to over-sharpen. When I looked at it I was shooting at ƒ/1.4 and 1/90th maybe they were moving faster than I remember.
A re-visit of the image is shown to the left.

As I say nowadays I tend to use the auto ISO setting, it does what I would invariably end up doing anyway. The decision process is along the lines of:

  • What aperture do I want?
  • What shutter speed is on offer?
  • What compromise needs to be made with the image quality as a result of ISO?
  • Can I afford a body with a better dynamic range?

I’ve just recently been teaching someone on a one-to-one basis and it seemed odd to explain the above, obviously as commercial photographers we just do these things without having to articulate them. These images though are what this commercial photographer likes to do when travelling which I hope is reassuring.

By the way, Lisbon was fantastic.

Gallery of Travel Photographs From Lisbon