What to buy in September 2009

September 21, 2009

The Polaroid Book:
pola book
The Polaroid picture has become an icon of 20th century photography. The possibility to create instant results was a small revolution when it was first presented to the market.
What also made the Polaroid camera special was the close cooperation between famous photographers and Polaroid. People like Ansel Adams contributed to the development of the Polaroid film to achieve the best possible results. The fact that artists embraced this technology lead to a whole new genre of photography.

“The Polaroid Book”, published by TASCHEN, gives a fantastic overview over the range of Polaroid Photography since the 1950. This includes images by Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Danny Lyon, Barbara Hitchcock, Bill Burke, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elliot Erwitt and many others. It also gives an overview of the history of the Polaroid camera, its creator Edwin Land, and all the different models since its introduction in 1954.
It’s a beautiful book to browse through. Highly recommended!

Camera Review: Leicaflex SL

September 20, 2009

leicafx

I do not own this camera. My father does. He bought it sometime in the early 70s and after only one servicing in 2007, it is still serving him perfectly!
So why am I writing about the Leicaflex? Isn’t there the fabulous Leica R9 which is an ergonomic dream (or seems to be)? Well I own a Leica R8 which is a nice camera, apart from being a bit clunky. But last month I had to borrow my father’s Leicaflex since my beloved M6 was damaged. And what happened? I was blown away!

The Leicaflex and its second model “SL” was Leica’s attempt to stay in the professional race after losing the market to SLR cameras in the 1960. Leica had been too comfortable with their very successful M2 and M3 and had not realized that the time of the rangefinder was coming to it’s (temporary) end. By the time they saw it, most professionals had already changed to Nikon, Canon, Pentax etc.
The Leicaflex was the attempt to win back some of that market. Unfortunately it was already too late, the camera didn’t meet the market’s demand and Leica almost went bankrupt. The advanced Leica M5 had also been a flop and it really didn’t look good for the German camera manufacturer.
The Leicaflex was too heavy and big for the photojournalist of the 70s. The optics were fantastic, but also heavy and expensive. Not what the market needed. So the Leicaflex drifted into obscurity and was (and is) mainly used by Leica amateurs who stuck to the system. After Leica started using bodies supplied by Minolta (R-Series) the Leicaflex design got almost forgotten. Today it’s basically a collector’s item.

Unjustified, as I think!

When I tested the Leicaflex SL, the first thing I noticed was the wonderful ergonomics. You don’t believe me? Yes! Even though the camera looks like a brick, it feels good in the hand, perfectly balanced. And the transport lever is the very best what I have ever used. It just fits perfectly with my thumb and moves smoothly when pushed around. The feel of this is even better than shutting the door of a Mercedes Benz! The shutter is an old fashioned “sticking out” shutter. It is positioned in the center of the shutter speed dial an just like the transport lever, it feels just right on the finger. Smooth and “klick”! I love it!
Maya 2009
But, and I think this cannot be repeated often enough: What makes a great camera for me is the size and the brightness of the viewfinder! Only a bright viewfinder gives you the right tool to compose a perfect picture. Nobody can bring all the elements of an image properly together while looking at a (DX-) thumbnail. And that what makes the Leicaflex one of the great cameras, next to the Leica M system and the Hasselblad V system. The viewfinder is huge and super sharp, even dwarfing the Leica R9’s finder which is already probably the best SLR finder in the market. What I like most is the prism which has just a big circle in the middle and is perfect for focusing. There is nothing to obstruct the view, nothing gets cut in half, no blinking lights, no stupid green or orange info bars, (almost) just you and the image.
Ming seminude09
On the bottom you will see the shutter speed (no irritating lights) and on the right the Leicaflex still has one of these “line and circle” things which died out in the 80s, even though it’s so easy to use. Bring the line into the circle by turning the aperture ring and you get the right exposure!

The leicaflex SL is a bargain on the second hand market. Get it with the (outstanding) f2/50mm Summicron and you have a wonderful camera that gives you better SLR quality than 90% of what’s new in the market. After getting used to the handling, you will also find that taking images with this icon is not only a lot of fun but also much easier and more stress free thah with a modern camera full of (useless) functions, menus and dials. Check it out!
Drei Dinge 09

Discovering Berlin!

September 11, 2009

Pierre Vau Tours
Have you ever been to Berlin, Germany’s capital? If not, you have missed out a lot. Berlin is not only in the heart of Europe and the connection point between Eastern and western Europe (along with Vienna); it is also one of the hottest and most trendy places to be. Berlin has its distinctive style, sub culture and fashion which stand clearly out from mainstream Europe.
Along with that, Berlin offers a lot in terms of Architecture, Historical Places, Nature etc etc etc. This is the place where the cold war adversaries met. Traces of that can still be found everywhere, including parts of the Berlin Wall and other historical sites of that period.
Pierre 04
For the photographer Berlin offers numerous opportunities for street photography, people photography, architecture etc. etc. etc.. But where to start and where to go? How do you make the best out of your time and manage to explore a place that has so much to offer?
Pierre 03

The Berlin photographer Pierre Vau offers the chance to explore and discover Berlin in a photographic way. “Capital Colors” is a project that offers custom tailored tours through Berlin. Pierre and his partner Anja Meier will take you through Berlin, they will show you places that you would not have found yourself, angles and perspectives that go far beyond the usual tourist guide tour, and this will be complemented with photo workshops and technical help. In the end you will take home a self made (linen bound) book about Berlin that clearly stands out from the usual pile of snaps!

From the website:
Upon my photographic expedition, I would like to:
– Get to know Berlin better
– Discover places off the beaten path which most visitors to Berlin would never see
– Within the parameters of a city tour, take a photographic course in analog or digital photography
– Help me to explore the full potential of my camera equipment
– Improve my photographic skills
– Find motifs which others don?t find
– Gain skills in the Photoshop photo editing program
– Discuss my photos with experienced photographers in the workshop
– Spend my Berlin stay more effectively and pleasantly thanks to optimal preparation
– Have contact with people who know the nightlife scene and are contemporary witnesses to Berlin?s eventful history
– Also receive guided architectural or art tours when participating in a photo safari
– Logically develop a photographic theme for myself, but I need suggestions for this and the opportunity to realize this
– Have a personal coffee table book created which contains my own photos

Here are some more examples of Pierre Vaus’s Berlin photography:
Pierre 01
Pierre 02

Anyone in Asa who is interested in traveling to Berlin can also contact me and I will help with the set up. I don’t charge a cent!

All images shown here are by Pierre Vau.

Hong Kong

September 10, 2009

Kowloon, May 2009:
Holga in HK 01
This is a tribute to Hong Kong.
I have been to almost every Asian capital, including Singapore, Beijing, Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Phnom Penh, Manila, Kuala Lumpur. I have also travelled cities like Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Dalian and many others. The only place I have never been to is South Asia, i.e. India.
For me, Hong Kong is the most beautiful metropolis in Asia and always worth a visit!

Hong Kong has almost everything of everything. In many aspects, it’s more (traditional) Chinese than most places in China, but also has a large Asian International community which makes it very cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Hong Kong also has a unique style of architecture, basically a cluster of super modern skyscrapers, run down high rise flats, street markets, shopping malls, huge advertising spaces, and most of all people, people people…!
Set into mountains over the sea, Hong Kong also has the perfect combination of “shanshui” (mountains & water) which is essential for the harmony of the Chinese “fengshui” (wind & water). Watching the skyline beneath the hills and across Hong Kong Bay from Kowloon, it’s an amazing sight!

Hong Kong offers plenty of photographic opportunities. The density of buildings and the sheer number of people is challenging, though. The above shot was taken with a HOLGA toy camera, using Kodak Portra 400VC film.

Saigon

September 5, 2009

Saigon 01
In July I went to Vietnam for two days. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) was till pretty much what I remembered from 2004 when my wife and I spend our honeymoon there. It’s a beautiful city, small compared to some other Asian metropolis but still the most vibrant place in Vietnam.
Saigon 06The city is dominated by the Saigon River and the old architecture which is a mix of French colonial building, Art Deko, and of course the concrete of the sixties and the seventies. The people still seem to be stuck between modernity and tradition which might have to do with the fact that many farmers come into town every day to sell their crop on the street. This is why amongst all the modern cars, scooters and smart dressed people you still see a lot of the traditional cone hats which are so typical for Vietnam.
Saigon 03 The architecture and the people are wht give Saigon its uniqueness and special flair. The downtown are is not that big so it makes sense just to walk around and let the impressions sink in. The way will take you along the central squares, the war museum (lots of nasty American weapons displayed), parks, French villas, hotels with big names, all in an atmosphere that makes you feel like being in another era.

For the photographer Saigon is heaven since the (friendly) people and the historical backdrop make it easy to find what you are looking for. It’s hard to escape the stereotype but who cares…

All images were taken with a Leica M6 on Kodak BW400CN film.
Saigon 04

Byfer
Today I would like to talk about someone I have found on the popular internet photo platform “flickr”. I always find it amazing what kind of jewels I sometimes find amongst all the thousands of meaningless uploads.
“Byfer” (his “flickr” name) is a Spanish photographer from Madrid who specializes on portraits, mostly in black and white, MF analog, but also digital. He has a sensational feeling for light and expression. From the technical perspective I find everything flawless. I always wonder how people manage to get analog images that clean…the only other photographer I know who’s images are as clean is Michael Doerr (see link!).

I don’t want to talk too much about Fernando’s work because the images should speak for themselves. You can find them here!
For me this is another example how light, composition, and a feeling for the photographed subject can create something magical. Don’t miss it!