alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘Monochrom’ category

An eye for detail – just one reason why I love the Leica Monochrom

I have now been using a Leica M Monochrom for eighteen months or so and there are many reasons why I have grown to love this camera. It was a fairly steep learning curve switching to a camera which has no colour sensor – each pixel only records luminance resulting in a black and white file with any number of shades of grey in between.

The fact it is rangefinder with its split frame manual focusing mechanism was an added hurdle for me to get over. Initially it was difficult enough to focus a still subject let alone a moving one, as is the case here. Even more challenging when using the 50mm Summilux f1.4 nearly wide open. The depth of field is so narrow I would be the first to say that a little bit of lady luck is required to get the main subject of the picture in sharp focus. When it happens though, you can jump for joy because the level of detail captured is quite extraordinary.

I very much doubt this image would win any prizes and I have used it simply to illustrate a particular point; and that is quite simply the level of detail or resolution captured by this camera.

For reference the final image (at the bottom of this post) is a fairly mild square crop of the original RAW file which has been processed in Lightroom 5. There are some adjustments but principally the addition of contrast, clarity and a tone for effect, but no sharpening. I repeat no sharpening.

The original image is shown below with just the processing applied and no crop.

 

Un-cropped image

 

Next is a much more detailed crop. You can now see the exceptional level of detail captured by the Leica Monochrom.

 

A tight crop

 

If you are yet to be impressed, below is an even tighter crop. The number of eyelashes can almost be counted and if you look closely veins are visible in the eye itself. If nothing else this image confirms my good fortune when I focused on the eye.

 

An even tighter crop

 

And by way of a reminder the final image which is how I imagined the picture might look when I pressed the shutter. I knew I wanted the eye to be at the centre of the viewers attention, but the photograph also needed to include part of the leather harness to add context and another element of interest. The harness also confirms you are looking at the horse’s head in profile and not straight on.

 

The finished photograph

 

As I said at the outset there are many reasons why I love this camera. It can be a frustrating and quirky tool at times, but get to know its ways, and I defy any photographer not to be impressed by the quality of file it can deliver when coupled with an equally exceptional fast Leica lens. It has a purity and a simplicity to its operation which places the photographer in complete control. You need to consider every step, every setting but the rewards are more than worthwhile.

I would strongly urge you to click on each image to view a larger version. This post is all about ‘detail’ and it’s only by looking at a bigger version that you will truly appreciate the output of the Leica Monochrom. 

Trees in the mist – an opportunity taken

It’s not very often that I am out and about with my camera when it’s misty. This may be because we don’t seem to experience these conditions very often. Alternatively it could just be that I am too lazy to get up early enough to take some shots, and before the rising sun has had a chance to mess things up!

 

 

A few days ago we had a lot of rain and after a cold, dry and still night I was hoping that we might get some mist the following morning. We did, and for once I was mentally prepared. My wife and I, together with our dog, went out for a walk and I had my camera. One camera, my Monochrom; just my 50mm Summilux prime lens to keep it simple, and these are the images I was able to make. I hope you like them.

 

 

 

 

 

To view a larger version, just click on an image and it will open in a new window.

Creative use of depth of field in Snowdonia

Sunlit fern

Sunlit fern

 

It was not until the summer of last year that I finally decided to go full frame, and purchased a second hand Leica Monochrom. I had previously used APS-C (Nikon) and Micro 4/3rds (Olympus) cameras. One of the principal reasons for my decision was the potential to use minimal depth of field more creatively in my work. The combination of a full frame (35mm) sensor, coupled with a large aperture, has given me photographic opportunities which were simply not possible before.

However just blurring the background doesn’t necessarily giving a pleasing result. The out of focus areas are still important to the overall appearance of the image. Blurred shapes, tones and arrears of light of shade still influence how the image is viewed, even though the eye may initially be drawn to the main subject of the picture which is in sharp focus.

The main photograph I have included in this entry is I think a good example of what I am trying to say. Taken on my recent trip to Snowdonia, the bright early morning sun was shining on small area of bracken in a wooded glade, whilst a path in the middle ground weaved its way down to the waters edge of Llyn Dinas.  I tried to visualise how the background elements of the image would be rendered when out of focus and whether or not the shapes of the trees would enhance the overall composition. You can of course try and visualise what the image might look like if everything had been in focus. I didn’t take a shot with a small aperture opening so I cannot make this comparison. My feeling is that there would be too much going on. The foreground and background would be fighting for attention. By using a narrow depth of field I have been able to isolate the sunlit fern which is the principle point of interest. The blurred background informs the viewer about the setting, complimenting the main subject and enhancing the overall appearance, but in my opinion it is no longer a distraction.

Here is another example – This image was taken in the woods near Capel Curig.

 

Autumn saplings

Autumn saplings

 

I am not saying there isn’t a place for landscape images which are very sharp from front to back. I take a good many myself, but increasingly I prefer to shoot wide open (50mm at f1.4) and by doing so I add another dimension to the composition, which until last year was not possible.

Click on either image to view a larger version which will open in a new window. By doing so I think you will appreciate the photograph just that little bit more.

Thwarted by the flower arrangers at Hardham Church

St Botolphs, Hardham

St Botolphs, Hardham

 

I guess the title of this post requires an explanation.

Quite simply I had visited this small church to the south of Pulborough in West Sussex previously, but not with a camera, nor with the time to take any photographs. Nevertheless this brief encounter was enough to entice me back when the opportunity arose. I returned last Saturday, having already given some thought to the shots I wanted to take, what lens I might use and how the images might be processed afterwards. Call it pre-visualisation if you like, but that sounds rather pretentious. In truth I was just looking forward to spending more time with my camera in a church dating back to C1050 with some of the finest wall paintings in the county.

I opened the door and was warmly greeted by a retired couple. I immediately noticed a tarpaulin on the floor and a few buckets strewn around containing withered flowers. I made polite conversation but this couple were not visiting the church, they had come to arrange the flowers ready for the services scheduled for the following day. I tried to establish how long they might be before completing their task for the day, but it soon became apparent they were going to be some time. There was no way I could concentrate on taking photographs, and even if I could, it was a practical impossibility with so much debris in the aisle.  I had been thwarted by the flower arrangers.

I will return another day, but for now I hope you enjoy the one image I could take……..the pretty exterior of St Botolphs Church in Hardham.

 

Portrait of a Highland Cow – turning imagination into reality.

Highland cow

Highland cow

 

Sometimes, but certainly not always, I have a clear idea of the image I am trying to make even before I set out to take the photograph. This portrait of a Highland cow is a case in point.

From a lighting point of view I knew that I wanted the subject to be side/back lit, with bright sun to provide shadow areas and lots of contrast; although I was quite sure I would be adding more in post processing. The background also needed to be quite dark, so that the illuminated silhouette and backlit hairs of the animal would stand out. Compositionally I thought portrait would work better than a landscape, nor did I want to include the whole head or indeed both horns. As magnificent as they are one horn would be sufficient.

When it came to taking the shot, I deliberately included more in the frame so that I could crop later. I chose an aperture which would hopefully give me enough depth of field so that the nostrils, horn and hair on the top of the head were all sharp, but the neck or any visible part of the body were out of focus.

In many ways deciding what I wanted from the shot was easier than taking it! Animals move, they don’t pose for the photographer, The lighting was critical so the cow had to be facing the right way and just at the point when you are about to release the shutter, their head turns away and you have to be patient for the next opportunity. I took a number of shots which were out of focus, poorly composed or the background too confusing.  There was a fence between me and the small herd of cattle, so I was restricted in my movement, but I felt more comfortable than being in the field with them! Finally I thought I had captured something which I could work on and you have now seen the end result.

These wonderful creatures are full of character. You sort of know that they can see you even though their long hair prevents you from seeing their eyes. They know you are there, wondering why you want to point this black object in their faces. However their initial curiosity does bring them nearer to you, before they decide that grazing on grass and straw is more interesting than a photographer who wants to turn his imagination into reality.

This image was taken with a Leica M Monochrom and 90mm Summarit f2.4 lens at f4, 1/2500 and ISO 320.

Do click on the image to view a larger version, particularly if you want to see the level of detail which has been captured.