Posts from the ‘nature’ 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. 

Highland cattle – “O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road……..”

Highland portrait

Highland portrait


A few days ago I posted a single image of a highland cow, backlit against a dark background which gave me a ‘low key’ image. I was fortunate to be able to return to the same location a day or two later, but this time the  weather and lighting could not have been more different.

Low cloud, drizzle and soft light combined to blank out any distractions, and to all intents and purposes gave me the equivalent of a white studio back cloth with minimal background detail. As a consequence and using different processing the same cattle have now been made into a set of ‘high key’ photographs.


Highland horn

Highland horn


Highland call

Highland call


Highland stand

Highland stand


Arguably the ‘high key’ portraits are less dramatic than the ‘low key’ shot, but in my view they both have their merits. If nothing else this exercise only serves to demonstrate how the same subject can be photographed in the same location but in different weather and light to produce entirely contrasting results.

The ‘low key’ portrait can be seen by clicking in the thumbnail below.

Highland cow

Highland cow

These two alternative approaches and the subject matter reminded me of the lyrics in the song – The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.  –  “O ye’ll take the high road, and I’ll take the low road……..”

Do you have a preference? If so please comment, as I would very much welcome your views.

Personally ‘I’ll take the low road…….”!

Into the woods – a shallow depth of field

Into the woods

Into the woods


Up until the summer of this year I had never used a 35 mm full frame digital camera, nor such a fast lens. This all changed with the arrival of the Leica M Monochrom and a Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux lens. I am only just beginning to appreciate the creative possibilities of this combination.

This image was taken back in September in a wooded copse fairly close to my home. I was largely experimenting at this time and took the shot wide open (f1.4) and focused on the near post of the hand rail. Even though this post was some distance from where I was kneeling, the plane of focus is very narrow. Only the leading edge of the path and the branches of the small holly tree to the left are in sharp focus. Checking the depth of field chart Leica provide for their lenses, at a focusing distance of 5m at f1.4, the depth of field is only 4.6m to 5.5m. i.e less than a metre before things are no longer sharp. This means two things – focusing is critical even on a subject which is not that close to you and secondly and more importantly, the careful selection of the focusing point can greatly influence how the image is rendered. It becomes a creative choice just how much or how little is in focus. I like that!

Had I used my Olympus Micro 4/3rd’s camera with the Panasonic 12 to 35 at 25mm (50mm in 35mm sensor terms) and set at its widest opening of f2.8, the equivalent ‘full frame’ aperture opening would be f5.6 because of the crop factor. As a consequence I suspect all of the handrail would have been in focus, together with the foreground. The background trees may have ‘softened’ a little, but I think the appeal of this picture is how the background is very soft. Call it ‘bokeh’ if you like but it adds depth to the image which would be lost if everything was in sharp focus.

There was very little light when this shot was taken. Not only did I use a fast aperture, the ISO was set at 2000 and this still only gave me a shutter speed of 1/750, so that I could happily hand hold the camera.

As I grow in confidence and develop a greater understanding of how best to use a shallow depth of field I think f1.4 might fast become my favourite aperture setting.


Oh what a tangled web we weave…..

Tangled web

Tangled web


From a very young age I always remember the saying – ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.’ Whilst I have always tried to live my life accordingly, its relationship with the image is quite simply the fact that it was the first thought that entered my mind when I took the shot at the end of October. The cow parsley was absolutely covered in cobwebs, woven in amongst the drying flowers and stems. The dull and damp morning added another ingredient. Poor lighting but I knew I could add contrast in post processing.

Focusing and composition was a challenge, but I was more aware of the background and how it affected the overall appearance of the picture. I didn’t want it to be in focus, far from it, but I did want it to compliment the subject and provide the contrast necessary so that the cobwebs and lower stalks were clearly visible. The dense backdrop of trees provided the dark upper layer and the grasses in the field the paler lower layer.

This photograph may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is very much a feature of the countryside in the autumn.

Tangled web yes, deceitful no; just testimony to the creative talent of the humble and sometimes scary spider!

Early morning walk by Chichester Harbour

Having really enjoyed the results of my visit to East Head last Friday, the next morning my wife and I walked our dog from Dell Quay to Birdham Pool along the footpath which adjoins Chichester Harbour.

When we arrived we immediately enjoyed the early morning light coupled with similar cloud formations to the previous day. The temptation was just too great – the little Olympus E-PL3 with its standard kit lens, had to come out of my jacket pocket and be fired up. A few quick shots later and the pick of the bunch is shown below. It works well in colour but the black and white conversion is my preferred choice.

By the time we had finished our walk and returned to the car, the clouds had lifted to be replaced by clear blue skies and the opportunity to photo the quiet stillness of the early morning had gone. “Win the morning and win the day” as my uncle used to say.

Chichester Harbour at Dell Quay
Olympus E-PL3 14-42mm kit lens @ 27mm f5.6 1/400 ISO200Early morning at Dell Quay

As we neared the end of our walk I spotted a Red Admiral butterfly basking in the autumn sunshine on a oak leaf. Its not my usual style or indeed subject. Firstly its a nature shot and secondly its in colour and not black and white! Nevertheless it was a shot worth taking in my view and I have to say I am pleased with the quality of the image produced by the 14 – 42mm kit lens on the Olympus E-PL3.
Red Admiral butterfly