The LEICA Diaries - Part Eleven

Of the five rolls I've shot using the Leica M2, this is without a doubt my favourite pic. I find it mesmerising, although it's a simple shot. Some of you may be sitting there thinking, "What the hell's this? What happened to the misty landscapes?" Well, all I can say is that I like it and there's no accounting for taste. I like the contrast between the hard, man-made edges and the natural, free form look of the water. I'll shut up about it now because praising one's own photographs is a bit sad.

Would I have taken this pic with the OM2N? All I can say is that I've visited this beach-side play park in Arbroath quite a few times and never even thought of it. It's a photograph of a corner of the kids'  paddling pool in the park in case you haven't figured it out yet.

It could be the Leica - or the rangefinder style of photography - encourages me to look slightly differently at the world. Or it could be that Ralph Gibson (sorry to go on about him again) used a film Leica and I love his photography and may have been sub-consciously chasing what I think of as a similar style.

It's easy with a Leica to imagine you're following in the footsteps of your favourite photographers - all complete rubbish, of course, but very appealing to those open to self-delusion.

I used to think all this stuff about Leica changing the way you viewed a scene was a load of rubbish - and that was just a couple of months ago. But what can I say? There is something going on here that seems peculiar to the Leica. I know there is at least one regular reader about to throw his morning coffee at his laptop after reading that but I've certainly not experienced it with the Konica Hexar AF, the only other rangefinder-like camera (it's autofocus but you look through a window) I've used quite often in the past.

Old pals

I experienced this Leica mystique last week when I was walking off Monifieth beach having taken a few shots and - feel free to laugh here - the M2 felt like a pal. As if we were a team. I've not had that with any other camera, not even my much-loved Rolleiflex 2.8F.

It's been suggested that this type of photograph might be the result of going out with just a camera and a standard lens and that any 35mm camera might have produced the same results. That's certainly an argument but I've had spells in the past where I've stuck with just one lens for lengthy periods, most notably the 50mm f2 macro on the OM2N, yet I don't think I've come close to getting the graphic, more minimalist shots that I've been getting with the M2.

The shot above isn't quite the full 35mm frame. That's because, try as I might, the sun's position was such that there was no way I could keep my own shadow out of the right hand side of the image. I leaned out of the way as far as I could whilst still being able to take the photograph and then cropped myself out of the Tmax 400 negative at the scanning stage. If only were always so easy to deal with troublesome people in life. :)

You might also like:

The Leica Diaries - Parts 1-10


  1. Hi Bruce, The effect your M2 is having on your photography is real. The difference in your latest photos prove this.
    I've experienced the same thing. Its not easy to explain, even to yourself. Indeed I think you may explain it away. My opinion is that this phenomena is best left a mystery. Something to enjoy as a Leica user.

  2. I don't think you changed the subjects and the way "You" look at... just because a Leica or a rangefinder.... Maybe the rf fits better your way of taking photos, the handling, the framing etc.... But a camera can never change your vision... You took dull weather landscapes before while now you try to find particulars, graphic plays of lights and shadows or lines and curves... How can this "philosophical" change in your approach be done just by a camera...? ;-)

    Btw..... maybe I'll buy a Leica soon (R for now.... as I just tested one and liked very much)... but this is another story... ;-) ,-)

  3. I agree with Mr Anonymous above. But I find this is not just limited to my Leica. I take different photos depending on what camera I'm carrying, Rolleiflex, Rollei 35, Nikon FM, Leica. The camera seems to have it's own style and knows what photos it likes to take.

  4. The affinity that a Leica user has for his M cameras ( both analog and digital ) is ineffable and is a bit irrational. However, there is something about how the camera feels in the hand. And yes, there is an instant connection to all who have used Leica cameras in the past.


  5. It was once suggested by Charles Eames that a certain amount of difficulty was necessary for artistic production. His example was that, given a lump of Plasticine, few would produce anything worthwhile, but given a lump of marble, something better would emerge.
    So, I'm wondering if the initial struggles with the Leica have freed your inner talent, by occupying and diverting your conscious mind so that it stops interfering with the mysterious business of making images. It might be that having only one lens has helped by forcing you pay closer attention to framing the random world.
    Or you may simply have been rangefinder/one-lens/one-camera man all the time and finally, you've discovered your true love. You do seem to be getting the sort of pictures you want to get, if that sounds like a sensible way to put it..

    [Not a drop of coffee spilled so far. Can't be me.]

  6. One lens... one camera.... is another story itself (regardless of rangefinder/slr/tlr), because this approach force us to concentrate more on the subject/s, the framing ad the way we look at the world around us. I experienced this especially with folding MF cameras (I bought.."only" 7 of these during last year) or tlr's (such as my Rolleiflex or my Lubitel). In this case, I have nothing to mess about, I have only one choice and... if I want to change my perspective, I have to find a different point of view.... I have to think about it! Since then, I almost don't miss a shot.... I get exactly what I expected to get!. With just one lens.. we are forced to think better, to think deeper on what we're doing... we think about Photography in that precise moment... nothing less, nothing more.... So, we do our job!

    Btw.... I love gears... and in a couple of hours I'll go to buy a Leica R (can't afford an M now) ..... ;-) ;-)

  7. I really like this image too Bruce. For me (I now use a Leica M4 with 50 Summicron) there is definitely something about the design that make the camera both extremely pleasurable to use (such a satisfying shutter clic and feel to it) and simultaneously invisible to use, it seems to have a way of getting out of the way so you can just focus (pardon the pun) on whatever image you want to take.

    Often the images don't even look that great through the viewfinder, so you have to use your imagination a bit - imagination that is then rewarded when you see the final image.

    So for me it is very much about design.

    Antonio Aparicio

  8. I think Bruce, that the camera has got out of your way and just let you develop your vision. It could all change again in a few months, but enjoy the journey in the meantime - you are producing some lovely pictures - my one caveat is that I would have sat my shadow slap bang in the frame if I couldn't have kept it out of it - something like 'how can you tell when an elephant has been in your fridge . . . big footprints in the butter . . '
    I have actually seen this affinity with a camera with you with your standard Rollei stuff too . . . and the Mamiya press . . .

  9. p.s. Wouldn't mind owning a print of this one bruce...

    Antonio Aparicio

  10. Hi Bruce,
    I'm curious as to why you think the Leica gives you something your Hexar didn't...I've never peeped through the viewfinder of a Hexar, but I would think that it has those traits common to all rangefinders: everything in focus and a view that extends beyond the frame-lines. By the way, I dig the image too!

  11. If you go on luminous landscape site great article on returning to film from a digital photographer.

  12. albertovaltellina@gmail.com26 April 2017 at 23:08

    Dear Bruce, I'm at the end of the Diaries. I was "made" in 1960 and "bought" in 1961, like your M2. After some 20 years of professional photography and more of no photographs at all, I got back to images with a Fujifilm X 100 T. After two months quite bored of digital, I bought a Leica IIIg with a Voigtlander new 35mm and then a M2 with Summaron 35mm. These two are great and I can understand you very well, even if I never watch through the viewfinder: love crooked images, "slightly out of focus"... Thank you! Great blog! All my Very Best, Alberto

  13. There's certainly something about a Leica!

    If I thing about it, my Leica IIIa is simply the worst, most convoluted camera on earth. With squinty viewfinder and separate, minuscule rangefinder. Bottom loading and cutting the film leader, annoying rewind knob etc etc etc. But each time I'm out with it I simply love it.

    Difficulty certainly fuels creativity!