Leica Landscape Photography

Leica Landscape Photography

…in Fuerteventura, Canary Isles (December 2017)

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

March 2018

New Road

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!).

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!

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Day 1 – Arrival

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.

Fuerteventura Blog

Day 2 – Blog Diary

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.

Leica Photography

Day 2  – Camera Gear

  • 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

L1009548LRL1009540LR

L1009551LR

*New Lens!  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! I have written a review about the lens already (as it has taken me so long to post this blog!)(link below).

Repetition

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.

Postcard from Fuertventura

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!). ☺

Leica Film Landscape Photography

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!)

Leica Landscape Photography

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  – 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

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Day 3 – Colour Film

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 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).

Leica Landscape Photography

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.  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. 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.

Palm Trees, Fuertventura

Conclusion

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. 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). 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 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.

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Film Landscape Photography

Film Landscape Photography

…in Fuerteventura, Canary Isles.

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

December 2017

Leica Landscape Photography

Intro

I just returned from a short vacation to Fuerteventura in the Canary Isles where I met family who were out there on holiday. It was my first visit to this island but I have been to the neighboring island Tenerife a couple of  times. The weather in this part of the world is a real treat when visiting from the UK during the winter as the average temperature in the Canaries is normally in the mid 20s. (degrees Celsius).

Landscape Photography Camera Bag

  • Hasselblad SWC/M camera + finder
  • Hasselblad SWC focus screen + WLF
  • Hasselblad A12 6×6 film back
  • Hasselblad A16 645 film back
  • Leica M4-P camera body (film)
  • Leica M240 camera body (digital)
  • Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 lens
  • Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens
  • Tripod

Before the trip I had bought the Hasselblad SWC/M wide-angle camera with the Zeiss Biogon 38mm f4.5 lens (equivalent to 21mm on a full frame 35mm camera). The SWC/M camera is well suited to landscape photography but I bought it mainly for people photography, weddings, fashion photography and environmental portraits. That said after the purchase the camera I found myself watching 10hrs+ of YouTube landscape photography videos (while eating my evening meals each day). I’ve never studied landscape photography so found certain aspects of the videos both interesting and inspiring.

Hasselblad SWC/M Landscape Photography

Hasselblad SWC/M Landscape Photography

After being inspired by the landscape photography videos I decided to pack my Hasselblad SWC/M to take to Fuerteventura together with a tripod and cable release. Being a family holiday I didn’t have as much flexibility to go and take photos at any time of the day compared to when I travel alone but I did go out early one morning before sunrise to take pictures. I soon realized I really needed to car to get to any of the wow scenes up in the mountains so instead settled for a few simple long exposure shots to blur the sea/ water in my images. It was a surprisingly slow process to me and I only took four images within the hour I was out. There was no sunrise to speak of and the 21mm field of view was often too wide for the scenes I was trying to compose and capture. My first landscape photography experience (with all the gear) was OK but it didn’t blow me away with excitement.

Ironman Training

ironman

Even though my first Ironman triathlon is complete I continue to enjoy training whenever I can and I plan to enter more triathlon events in 2018. My brother and I hired road bikes for three days I was there and we did a ride at first light followed by a run along the coast before breakfast. The next morning we did a 50 mile ride up into the mountains. The sun was already up and the landscape looked breathtaking in the low directional light. I really love the barren landscape in Fuerteventura with the red-yellow sandy ground contrasting nicely against the blue sky, the often derelict buildings littering the hillsides and the various cactus plants providing an assortment of shapes. Trying to take landscape photos in a ‘Brits abroad’ holiday resort yesterday wasn’t really working for me despite it being one of the nicer resorts. Getting out into non tourist parts of Fuerteventura and up into the mountains was much more my thing. I wish I had a camera with me on the bike ride but we only stopped once for a quick selfie at the top so I wouldn’t have had chance to use a camera anyway. It did however get me thinking.

Leica Landscape Photography

On my last morning in Fuerteventura my new plan was to cycle back into the mountains alone to take landscape photos. Sadly the weather had other ideas and I woke to cloud cover and an unlit landscape. I decided to have an extra hour in bed and then run along the coastline instead to give the sun time to burn through the clouds. Sure enough by 10am we had hazy sunshine so after the run and quick breakfast I grabbed my bike and headed off towards the mountains. The original idea was to take both the Hasselblad SWC and a Leica camera and shoot them both handheld in the bright light. Unfortunately both cameras would not fit in the back of my running hydrating vest main pocket. I therefore packed light and took my Leica M4-P film camera with Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 lens, a Sekonic light meter and a spare roll of film. I think I would have chosen a slightly wider lens (15mm, 21mm or 25mm) but 28mm was the widest I had with me. One advantage of the Elmarit-M 28/2.8 is it is nice and compact compared to my 21mm and 25mm Zeiss Biogon lenses. Another benefit of using a 28mm lens is the M4-P has 28mm framelines in the viewfinder to aid composition.

Leica Film Landscape

I had 35mm Fujicolor C200 already loaded in the Leica M4-P and took another roll of C200 with me. Some of the images I was taking suited black and white film but I will convert the colour film to monochrome in post processing. Cycling along the open roads in the sunshine was amazing in itself but then being able to stop at any scene that caught my eye was fantastic. Often when traveling by car it is not possible to stop when I see a photo to capture but on a bike I could stop anywhere even on a busy road and just pull in to get my shot. I cycled 10 miles out stopping along the way taking photos both in front of me with sunshine over my shoulder and also back at the sun in the opposite direction. I wish I had brought a small circular polarizer filter for the Leica to cut through some of the haze but it was a nice practice session regardless.

I was out for 2.5 hours, covered 20 miles or so and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. This may well become my new favorite pastime combining training, exploring and photography and without the restriction of always being reliant on a model for my photography. Model photography is amazing when I have models but can be almost depressing when I have a beautiful location and then no one to photograph. This new past time of cycling and landscape photography means I can visit any country without the limitation of needing to consider if I can find models on my arrival.

Leica Elmarit-M 28mm Landscape

Possible camera gear for my next Leica landscape photography (on bike)

I would take a Leica M4-P film camera again due to the 28mm framelines for composition. I might look to take the Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f2.8 lens and use the full viewfinder area to approximate my field of view. As mentioned I will also consider the 21mm ZM Biogon and the Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5 lens. One observation I didn’t mention above is for some scenes I wanted to compress a scene or take a crop of the landscape and the 28mm lens was too wide. I like the idea of carrying two lenses, one wide lens and a short telephoto lens. Because I need to pack small and light I think both my Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens and Summicron 90mm f2 lens will be too large and heavy. My plan is therefore to try taking a compact 50mm lens instead, the Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens.

Leica Landscape Photography

My landscape photography research suggested that the best lenses to use for landscapes are often wider than the normal 50mm field of view humans see or longer telephoto lenses. That said I love a 50mm focal length for much of my photography so I will see if I can get it to work for me. The other thing I must pack for my next adventure is a circular polarizing filter and some colour filters for black and white photography.  Red and yellow filters will both darken a blue sky and lighten a yellow building or dust track road. Lastly I want to pack better suited film stocks. For black and white film I will try 35mm Fuji Neopan Acros 100 speed film for crisp B&W tones and perhaps Ilford Delta 100 for super high-resolution. For colour negative film I think I would choose Kodak Ektar 100 for saturated colours and fine grain but if I really wanted to invest in the art I would shoot the expensive 35mm Fuji Provia 100 E6 slide film for its superior colours and resolution. Fuji Velvia 100 film is often preferred by landscape photographers due to the super saturated colours but I already have 35mm Provia in my fridge so will try this first. Lastly I would be sure to take my Sekonic light meter as weather and light levels can change especially if cycling up mountains.  I would take the Sekonic L-308s light meter rather than the Sekonic L-758 light meter as it is smaller and light.  If and when I get really keen at landscape photography I will swap to the Sekonicl-758 spot meter for zone metering.

sekonicv2

Taking the Hasselblad SWC exploring

I have certainly not ruled out the Hasselblad SWC for future adventures and I think once I take it on one trip and see the images it would probably come with me on all future landscape trips. The Hassy SWC is a compact camera even if it is heavier than my Leica with lens attached. If I pack the SWC with finder, a few filters and a light meter I should be able to find one of my running rucksacks that will accommodate it’s size.

Bad weather landscape photography

Many of the best landscape photography photos are taken in less than perfect weather conditions, often mist, fog, rain, snow and varying degrees of low light-darkness. As such a tripod is usually a must have. That said, I want to enjoy my cycling as much as the photography and I like being out in the sunshine. If I am only doing fine weather photography at f8-f22 with a shutter speed of 1/60-1/500 I will choose to travel light and without a tripod. A full height tripod is out the question for my current lightweight cycling setup. If I find I enjoy landscape photography enough to do it without including the cycling aspect then I can look to drive to locations in the early hours in potentially bad weather and then take a tripod with me (and as much camera gear as I want in a normal camera rucksack.  If I find myself sticking to landscape photography (and by bike) but decide to do some early morning first light shots I may look to get one of the table top Manfrotto tripods like the Manfrotto PIXI EVO 2 tripod for a ligghtweight option.

manfrottopixi

My next cycling-photography adventure

After three days in the sunshine I am already set to book a follow-up trip cycling holiday / photography adventure to see if I can hone my camera skills and keep fit in the process. I will certainly visit the Canary Isles again for this type of holiday as I love both the landscape and the climate.

Some of my past attempts at landscape photography!

(Approximate order newest to oldest using a variety of cameras)

Hasselblad XPan Panoramic Landscape
Cinestill 800T Film Landscape
Fuji GF670 - Soller, Majorca
Leica M2 Landscape
Leica M2 Landscape
Portland Bill Lighthouse Fisherman
Leica Summicron 50/2
NT Packwood House Estate
ARAX Landscape
Samyang 24mm f1.4
Samyang 24mm f1.4 Landscape
Samyang Summer - 35mm/1.4 @f2 SOOC
Mount Teide, Tenerife
Autumn sunset, Devon

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