Causeway Bay, Leica and the power of red!

The public transport photo in one of my previous blog posts was taken from the pedestrian flyover pictured above. This spot is also a nice spot from where to take photos of vehicles as they round the curves. But what looks interesting to the eye often comes out as dull and boring in camera. But sometimes, when there’s a splash of red, things do come out slightly more interesting.

Hong Kong Public transport

I really like walking the streets of HK. There’s so much to see. Causeway Bay is a wonderful place for this but only if the weather is nice – in summers the place is suffocating because of the crowds. This photo was taken yesterday from one of the pedestrian flyovers. On day walks, I will usually carry a film camera. However, yesterday I was going late in the afternoon and it was cloudy and threatening rain. So I grabbed the Leica MP with the 35 Lux. What attracted me to the scene was the number of buses and trams which appeared on the scene at the same time. They almost form leading lines drawing the eyes deeper into the scene. And one great thing about commercialism – the colors on some of the vehicles are brilliant!

Hong Kong harbourfront – Leica

I’m not quite sure what to make of the new harbour front in Hong Kong. While I miss the larger harbour, I do appreciate the walking areas and the event space, which seems to be hosting some really good stuff nowadays.

This photo was taken yesterday (14 Mar 2015) with a Leica MP (Type 240) and the Voigtlander 21 mm color skopar. It was deliberately underexposed and then post-processed in Lightroom using Gary Tyson’s Polaroid Colour preset and finished with some dodging/ burning and some added grain.

PMQ Hong Kong with Leica and Voigtlander Color Skopar

We went to PMQ for the first time yesterday! Unbelievable, given its been open for a while already. Its actually quite nice with some nice restaurants, cafes, bakeries and boutiques. My favorite HK blog Bluebalu has covered PMQ in a few posts. Decisions, decisions, decisions! What photo gear to take. Film was out given night time and changing light.  In the end I picked up my Leica with the 35 Lux and the Voigtlander 21mm f4 color skopar.

I’ve discovered that the Voigtlander smears quite a bit, throwing a magenta color cast.  But still, its a nice wide angle that would work well for the photos I wanted to capture.  Here are three randomly selected from the ones I took.

PMQ 2

PMQ 3

 

Hong Kong Streets

Hong Kong’s streets are great to generally wander about taking photos.  March is a particularly nice time because its not so hot and humid and yet the cold of Dec/ Jan has lifted.

Lately, I’ve been using the Leica MP (Type 240) on my walkabouts. Coupled with the 35mm Summilux, its a great combination. The above photo was taken in Central, just opposite Fringe Club. The photo also brings up an interesting topic – on sharpness and grain. This photo is far from sharp, its actually quite blurry because of the slow shutter speed (1/15 sec). But that was a deliberate decision in order to create the right atmosphere. I think this photo would have looked quite boring as a super sharp image and without the car behind. Likewise, the grain adds to the atmosphere of the night photo.

The two photos below, were taken in Causeway Bay, on a Saturday afternoon. Probably amongst the busiest locations in HK at its busiest of times. I have seen this guy several times at the same location. And doing the same thing – holding an advertising board and busy with his phone.

Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

I have no idea who this character is! But its quite impactful and there were obviously hordes of people taking selfies and photos with it.

Who is this?  - Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM Biogon T* on Sony A7R

The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM Biogon T*.  This is  small but not insubstantial lens for Leica M mount. I use this on my Sony A7R as well as my Leica M-P.  And I love it. There is a perennial debate about this lens vs the Leica 35mm summicron.  I’m not going to go into a technical debate here. Ken Rockwell and Steve Huff have written about this. Personally, for my needs, the Zeiss is all I want. I also have the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, which is just sensational but the Zeiss comes really close for a tiny fraction of the cost.  Very often, when I just want to carry one lens, I find myself reaching for the Zeiss for its light weight and sensational 3D pop, color and contrast.  The Leica summilux scores on build quality, 1 stop advantage and the smoothness of out of focus transitions.

I love how the focus transitions on this image. And who wouldn’t love an Alpaca!
Zeiss Alpaca

The sharpness and contrast on this image are so beautiful.
Zeiss Doorway

And finally, here is the Zeiss color! This Peruvian girl is making natural dyes.
Zeiss Girl with Dye

Voigtlander 21 f4 Color Skopar

I so wanted a 21mm lens for my Leica MP (Typ 240).  But I had doubts as well.  The primary issue is of course that Leica does not have 21mm framelines, which means that one has to compose using live view and focus using the range finder. Clumsy but one gets the hang of it. But I did not want to spend too much money given its not a daily use lens. In the end, I decided on the Voigtlander 21 f4 Color Skopar. Not as expensive as the Leica or the Zeiss offerings, But at the same time, very sharp and has good character.  Also, the f4 aperture means that its really small and light –  I have literally carried it in the pocket of my cargo pants and its been perfectly fine.

The photo below was taken on my second day with this lens. I love the reflection of the evening’s city lights on the car.  This composition was pointed out to me by my daughter –  I was originally taking this from too far out.  The photo was given some additional oomph through the use of the Kodachrome 64 preset by Gary Tyson of F8 Photography in Hong Kong.

Sony A7R + Leica 35 Summilux: Wow!

To my eyes – and I have not done any scientific tests to confirm it – the Sony A7R has the best dynamic range of any camera that I have used. While I loved my Canon 5d2 (sold) for its “will never fail me, no matter what the circumstance” character and still love the Olympus OM-D EM-5 for its versatility, none of them yield RAW files that have the same malleability. Combine this with the sharpness of the Leica 35 Summilux and you have a cracker of a walkabout combination. It’s light and has stunning resolution!

Take this photo for example. The amount of detail I managed to recover from the highlight and the amount I have been able to push the deep shadows is just incredible. This was a strongly backlight seen and all the faces were rendered in deep shadow. Yet, after some minor Lightroom work, the photo is nicely balanced, with great color and contrast and very little noise.

Summilux goodness

I have quite a few lenses 🙂 But there’s no doubt absolutely in my mind that the Leica 35mm 1.4 Summilux is the best lens that I have ever used. The sharpness and the booked are just beautiful. And there’s something about the rendering that is just so sumptuous. This photo was taken with the Sony A7R using the Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter in Jacob’s Creet Retreat in the Barossa Valley. While this lens has been designed to be sensational at f1.4, that does not mean it does not sing at narrower apertures. Infant, it remains outstanding across apertures. This was taken at around f4.