A tradition of street photography

Cruise ships loading before departure.

Make no mistake, I am not comparing what I do to what more famous street photographers have done before me. But it is interesting to look back at what some of the most famous street shooters have done in their lifetime.

Henri Cartier-Bresson comes to mind. Mainly, because I have a whack of books about his work out from the library. Also, the exhibit, Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Modern Century is touring the US. Originally, the show was on at MOMA in NY, currently at the Art Institute in Chicago and followed by a showing at SFMoMA in San Francisco later this year.

And, I also got my hands on a Leica M9 demo with a 28mm lens. So, there I am, not travelling the world in search of compelling images and world changing events, but rather, walking the streets of Victoria in search of the less than banal.

This collection of images were shot with my R-D1 and the M9. Quite a difference in the handling of the two bodies and although my Voigtländer 35mm lens is really quite good, the 50mm isn’t overly impressive. The Leica Elmarit 28mm, f2.8 seems quite good. The Elmarit on the R-D1 works great and 28mm is a good focal length for the camera, translating to 42mm on the cropped sensor.

As the summer winds down, the cruise ships continue to arrive in Victoria for another month. Most of the ships arrive during the day and leave shortly before midnight, giving the passengers only a few hours to visit Victoria’s attractions.

A classic car show outside of the Empress Hotel attracts the tourists.

Buses and pedicabs collect the tourist upon their arrival, taking them to see the inner harbour, castles and gardens. Upon their return to the cruise ship terminal at Ogden Point, the passengers “exit through the gift shop” or at least they line up by it on their way back aboard the ships.

Back to the handling of the M9 compared to the R-D1. The R-D1 fits. The M9 doesn’t. The M9 is too smooth, with nothing to hang onto. The R-D1 has a nice ridge to hook my thumb around on the back of the body. The M9 is completely smooth, front and back. There is an accessory thumb grip available for insertion into the M9 hotshoe that has received very good reviews. Hey, what’s another hundred dollars when you we are talking about a $7,000 camera body?

Another area where I found the M9 could improve was the lack of an exposure lock button. The R-D1 has one just where my thumb sits. Since both camera’s use heavily centre-weighted metering, I often find myself wanting to fix exposure and then recomposing for the shot. This is easy on the R-D1. The M9 solution is to have multiple stops in the shutter release where you are supposed to press down once and then a little further to lock exposure before triggering the shutter release. Let’s just say that I had difficulty mastering this very subtle movement. It certainly didn’t work for me when shooting in high contrast lighting situations and with only a moment to focus, set exposure and compose. In essence, the situation one shoots most street photography.

Not quite so glaring a difference is how the camera’s handle exposure compensation. The R-D1 is completely mechanical, like a film camera. When in Aperture priority mode, I move the the shutter speed dial in 1/3 increments to over or under expose. The M9 can be set to access the exposure compensation with either a menu setting (a pain) or by using the dial on the back of the camera. The dial method works well and is perhaps better than the R-D1’s method, once you are accustomed to it.

I really enjoyed shooting with the M9 and hope that in a couple of years, with the release of the M10, there will be raft of reasonable used cameras on the market. Well, I can certainly hope…

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