Leica Landscape Photography
Write up from cycling in Fuerteventura, Canary Isles
Leica landscape photography, travelling by bike. This article includes the Leica camera equipment I used, Leica M3 photos and a write of the trip
Back to Fuerteventura – Bikes and Cameras!
After thoroughly enjoying my trip to the Canary Islands last November I decided to make the most of the Black Friday flight deals and book a follow up visit! Three nights stay in Fuertventura but in a different town this time. On my last visit to the island with family I enjoyed the two hours I spent exploring when I went out for a bike ride and took a camera with me. The rest of the holiday I was with family so less photography specific. For this next vacation I would enjoy two full days of photography rather than two hours (and a day either side to prep/ explore/ recover!).
Purto de Rosario
I booked an apartment in the capital of Fuerteventura, Purto de Rosario, so I could see more of the country and get away from the Brits abroad resorts. Last time I had stayed in tourist resort Castillo Caleta de Fuste which was also where Jeff’s bike hire shop “Caleta Cycles” is located (link below if you ever visit and want to cycle). My plan worked well except for the logistics of collecting and dropping off my hire bike which was now an hour away by bus. Doh!
Bad planning and a lot of time wasted (especially on the last day) but I know now for future visits!
Day 1 – Arrival
Collect the bike + Carb load!
My flight out of the UK was delayed by two hours due to the heavy snow which was just starting to settle that morning so that cut into my first day. I collected the hire bike (a Fuji road bike) from Jeff that I knew from my last trip to the island and stocked up on groceries so I had supplies for the four days. I ate as much as I could stomach that night to calorie load ahead of my planned long day on the bike tomorrow.
Day 2 – Blog Diary
Urban photos in Purto de Rosario
I set my alarm before sunrise and walked down to the coast with my cameras. I took a few urban shots of buildings in the low sun then back to the apartment for a second breakfast. I got away on the bike before 10:00 and headed up towards the mountains. I’d missed the very low sun and it was midday before too long. I was still stopping when I saw anything that caught my eye. The camera gear I chose to take with me was minimal. Originally I packed both the Leica M3 film camera and digital Leica M240 camera (as I the backpack had capacity for both cameras) but once I had a 750ml bottle of water in there plus some food and a few other necessities it felt quite weighty so I decided to travel light and carry only one camera.
Day 2 – Camera Gear for day on the bike
- Leica M3 film camera
- Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens
- Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens
- Sekonic Light Meter
- One roll of 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film
- 39mm Yellow filter
- 39mm Circular Polarising filter
Ahead of this trip I ordered a lens to take with me especially. The what turns out to be fantastic Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens. It is a real winner!
Day 2 – Black and White Film
As mentioned in my “Fstoppers.com – 5 Popular B&W Films Compared” post –
“I read an interesting Fstoppers film photography article a few days before flying out on my last photography trip comparing five popular black and white film stocks. I think I was searching for a comparison of Ilford Delta 400 vs. Kodak T-Max 400 film…”
And to recap the my conclusion to the 5 Popular B&W Films Compared post (to put the following thoughts in context) –
“.. Ilford XP2 Super 400 was the clear winner for me for detail captured (in this test example) but the image consisted of varying shades of greys and lacked interest. The film with the most impact for me and seemed to be the best compromise for all desired traits (for me) was the very popular Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film with its classic grain structure, good apparent sharpness and thick blacks”
As mentioned in this post I have shot Kodak Tri-X film in the past but found 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 too grainy for my usual female portraiture style. For my last attempt at landscape photography in Fuerteventura I shot Fujicolor C200 colour negative film. To contrast these images for this trip I wanted to try to shoot punchy black and white landscapes images and I thought the extra grain would suit the often derelict buildings and barren landscapes. As such I loaded a roll of 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film for day 2.
Day 2 – Blog Diary Continued..
While cycling around Fuerteventura in the sunshine I found the sights that caught my attention the most were the windmill structures, big and small ones and in varying degrees of decay. It got to one stage and I was trying not to take another windmill shot! My choice of lenses, 50mm and 90mm was working well to capture these stand-alone structures but once I got up into the mountains I wished I had the 28mm to capture the wider vistas (or even wider) and the 135mm to capture a cropped part of a scene. I skipped a few photo opportunities with a plan to return tomorrow with a wide lens and longer (135mm) lens. After half a day of cycling it was clear that the subjects I was photographing in Fuertventura just repeated themselves across the island. A reader commented on my last cycling-photography blog post that my images were mere snap shots rather than landscapes as I was constantly on the move clicking anything “good” that I spotted. I think this is a fair comment but compared to my usual portraiture I will stick to calling it landscape photography as I am after all photographing the landscape (and there is not a model in sight!)(sadly ha!).
By mid-afternoon on Day 2 I was on the wrong side of the island compared to where the apartment was and I knew I’d have a head wind coming off the coast on the way back. This took my focus off the photography a little and it became a race against the daylight to get back to Puerto del Rosario before dark. The sun sets on the opposite side of the island to the capital so once the sun drops behind the mountains it starts to go dark really fast. I was running low on energy and fluids (having drank all 3x 750ml bottles I was carrying) so I stopped at a fuel station and bought a can of full fat coke (great sugar/ caffeine hit) and some water. A hand full of jelly babies on top and that powdered me home arriving just before 17:00. 64 miles cycled and over 5000ft of climbing. I ate and drank as much as I could to refuel that evening and was in bed before 21:00. (Normally I get to bed in the early hours of the morning in the UK, burning the candle and both ends most days as I always have more to do than hours in a day!)
Day 3 – Blog Diary
I tried to prep as much as I could last night so to be up and out early to make the most of the low sun. I was on the road for just after 8:00 and had my bike lights on as it wasn’t that light yet outside. There was broken cloud cover and quite high winds so the clouds were moving overhead fast making the landscape change continuously before my eyes. The sun was partly illuminating the mountains tops and bits of the valley not in shade from the high ground. For a few seconds a scene looked amazing then it was gone again. These conditions don’t suit the happy snapper landscape photographer such as myself as by the time I saw a photo, stopped my bike, got my camera out, checked the polarizing filter orientation etc etc the photo opportunity had gone again. For once I found myself stopping when I saw a good photo then pausing to wait for the nice light to return (hoping that it would!). I didn’t wait long enough to get the killer shot in some cases as I had ground to cover and cycling to do (in my head anyway). I did enjoy the play of light and the light or shadow hitting the foreground, middle and horizon. Far more interesting than an evenly lit landscape on a blue sky day. It was a good experience and I see now why ‘proper’ landscape photographers sit for hours waiting to capture the one perfect image when the clouds part and the sunlight breaks through to illuminate the scene.
Day 3 – Leica Camera Gear
- Leica M3 film camera
- Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 lens
- Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens
- Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens
- Sekonic Light Meter
- One roll of 35mm Kodak Ektar 100 colour film
- 39mm Circular Polarising filter
Day 3 – Colour Film for Landscape Photography
For day 3 once I had finished the few frames left of black and white film I decided to load a roll of 35mm Kodak Ektar 100 colour film for nice saturated blue tones in the sky. The idea was nice but I continued to view the scenes I was seeing in black and white in my head so I think many of the resulting colour images may look better converted to monochrome. I originally packed two lenses for the day, the 28mm Elmarit-M and the 135mm Elmar lens. I had a bit of room left in my back so I added the 50mm Summarit-M lens for a normal view. I really enjoyed using the 135mm as it is a lens I have not used so much in the past with models. It was great to crop interesting features on a landscape from a distance. As with my cycling yesterday by the afternoon I found myself miles away from home (the apartment) short on water and food and into a headwind. As with yesterday, the focus on photography stopped and the focus on getting home before dark started again. I got home by 17:30 and just before it was dark but it meant I took less photos (and had half a roll of film not used). I had cycled 80 miles with a moving time of 5 hours and had climbed over 5000ft again.
Day 3 – Lens Filters for Leica Landscape Photography
For day 3 I only used the 39mm circular polarizing filter as I was using colour film but for day 2 I stacked a 39mm yellow filter and the 39mm CPL filter. I loved how the 39mm filters fit all of my Leica lenses but the CPL filter was a bit of a faff, especially when I was using a deep lens hood on the 90mm and 135mm lenses. If you missed it I explained the difference of using lens filters with Leica film cameras compared to say an SLR camera in my post titled “Lens Filters for Leica M Cameras” (linked below).
Landscape Photographers on YouTube – Get Inspired!
Prior to my vacation I had spent yet more countless hours on YouTube, this time looking at landscape photographers. If you watch YouTube a lot you will know once you watch a few videos it starts to recommend similar videos to view. Soon I found myself watching multiple videos from two landscape photographers that impressed me/ caught my attention.
Landscape photographers that inspired me
Both “Paul G Johnson” and “Thomas Heaton” happen to be based in the UK but that was just by chance. I found Paul fun to listen to and I enjoyed his quirky British personality. Paul is also a fan of Thomas (which is probably how I found him). Thomas seems to be taking the landscape photography world by storm. He is good at what he does but he is an excellent speaker too (I think). I believe we will see a lot more of him in the years to come if you follow this genre of photography.
Paul G Johnson YouTube (Sample!)
Thomas Heaton YouTube (Sample!)
Do you use the Flickr website and did you ever wonder who shot the Flickr cover image of the green tent on the hillside. It was Tom! Small world eh! If you enjoy landscape photography or just want to give it a try I highly recommend both of these landscape photographers to get you started or give you some inspiration. It certainly got me inspired ahead of my cycling trip/ holiday.
On my last day I only had time to return my bike back to Jeff and then it was time to catch my flight home to England. At the time of flying home I was really happy with my camera and lens choice on the whole.
Leica M3 & Lens Choice
The lenses I took which all had 39mm filter threads and that were relatively compact worked really well for travelling light with camera equipment. I think I preferred shooting black and white film to colour as I think I often see the world in B&W tones. Next time I will take only B&W film to shoot. The Leica M3 with the big Leica viewfinder was a great choice to focus the 90mm and 135mm longer lenses. I enjoyed the long lenses especially because of how they compressed a scene.
The 90mm Leica Macro-Elmar-M is really fantastic as it packs down so small for a long lens. (See my Macro-Elmar lens review link below).
28mm vs 21mm
I found the 28mm focal length not wide enough in some situations so next time I will also take a 21mm lens. I found I was happy with just one 35mm film camera and didn’t see the need for anything else. I absolutely loved the cycling and exploring aspect of the trip in the sunshine. A near perfect holiday for me combining two of my favourite past times.
A big thanks to Jeff at Caleta Cycles for a very well maintained speed machine (road bike!). It was not the top of the range he offers but it looked very well looked after and the gear and brakes were setup perfectly. For a guy with road bikes, single speed bikes and the TT bike I used for the Ironman triathlon event last year this is all very important!
Updated Conclusion (added at later date)
After developing the black and white film (I still haven’t developed the colour film), I thought it would perhaps be nice to take a compact medium format camera or something will a larger negative size to capture greater detail in the scene next time. I struggled to take 36 photos in a day so I rather take 10-16 higher quality images on a bigger film format.
Possible cameras for next trip
Possible cameras I might take next time include the Fuji GA645 AF camera as it is small yet captures super sharp images. The Fuji GF670 would be fantastic if I wanted maximum detail and 6×7 negatives (without taking a 4×5 camera!). It folds down small and again has a great lens. Lastly I might take my Hasselblad XPan as it would suit the sweeping vista landscapes in Tenerife. The 2x 35mm negative size in panoramic mode is similar to the detail captured with a medium format camera. (Both my XPan and Fuji GF670 are away to be recalibrated but it they get back to me in time I am tempted to take one!) I will also take a trusty Leica film camera but will leave the digital Leica M240 cameras at home.