Photos from January 24, 2015.

A weekend away from it all was also an opportunity to try to shoot again with my Leica. I haven’t been doing any photography for a long time, especially with this camera — just having it with me was a minor success, even if I left it in the bag almost the entire time.

Finally, while we were eating a quiet lunch in St. Helena, I got the courage to take the M8 out and to start shooting. It’s frustrating to realize that you have to relearn how to focus and expose manually — even more embarrassing is forgetting to take off the lens cap before pressing the shutter button! But then you remember that photography is about learning how to see, and there is a small joy in experiencing that again as a beginner.

Marie, waiting for food
Marie, waiting for food
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/125sec, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

Marie said she liked this photo of her, but all I can think about is how I focused on the wrong eye and the tight cropping is just a function of the close-focusing limits of the camera rather than any artistic skills on my part.

There is something about shooting with this camera that compels me to prefer black-and-white processing. I long ago set the Leica’s JPEGs to monochrome so I have an inkling of what it might look like post-processing.

Food photography

A camera when dining is always an opportunity for some guilt-free foodspotting. The bread is an opportunity to practice focusing and exposing one’s camera properly:

Bread
Bread
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/125sec, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

I shoot food in color even with this camera. Another advantage of RAW photography.

One thing about this nine year old camera is that when the lighting is good and your exposure is right, it creates a certain look that is so… natural. In the above photo, I hardly did any post-processing—just some straightening and a little to fix the flatness inherent in digital images. (The mouseover shows the default RAW processing in Apple Aperture so you can see the colors as the sensor recorded it.)

It’s hard to get that look with other cameras or in post-processing because I would have chose a different focal length, composition, or the in-camera settings would have inspired me to go a different direction.

Of course, I did pull out my iPhone to photograph also, because it geotags the event correctly, and because it’s much easier when you start getting lazy after the food comes. With a modern phone camera, you have GPS recording, autoexposure, a large depth-of-field, and a close-focusing autofocusing lens in a tiny pocketable package that you are going to be carrying anyway. That’s hard to beat.

But because you have all that, the photo of the same subject can end up being very different!

Here is a photo of my dish (fried chicken with avocado salsa & two-cheese stuffed green chile) taken with my iPhone:

Pollo Loco with Cindy's Fresh Fruit Sparkler al iPhone
Pollo Loco with Cindy’s Fresh Fruit Sparkler al Leica
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

iPhone 6
1/24sec @ f2.2, ISO 250, 4.15mm (29mm)

Processing was mostly to get rid of the loss of contrast due to the subject being back lit (no mouseover).

And here is the same dish shot on my Leica:

Pollo Loco with Cindy's Fresh Fruit Sparkler al Leica
Pollo Loco with Cindy’s Fresh Fruit Sparkler al Leica
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/125sec, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

Slightly more processing on this one than the “bread shot” as the foreground was rather darker than I reckoned and needed to be recovered.

The iPhone’s wide angle lens and close focusing allowed me to show off the dish better, but I prefer the photo from the Leica more — the limitation of the camera meant I had to step further back to shoot with a normal field-of-view allowing the dish to live more in its environment.

Finally, here are two more photographs. The first is Marie’s main dish taken with my iPhone:

Risotto with Wild Mushroom
Risotto with Wild Mushroom
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

iPhone 6
1/30sec @ f2.2, ISO 64, 4.15mm (29mm)

The last is her soup taken with the Leica:

Cream of Fennel Soup
Cream of Fennel Soup
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2 Aspherical
1/125sec, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

By the way, I quite liked my fried chicken, it perfectly matched my modest appetite and utensil-eating proclivities. I believe Marie was happy with her dishes also. 🙂

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