Photography and Me

I started out with film photography in the 1970s. In those days I was mostly a Nikon shooter. I used black and white film, Tri-X, developed at home. I enjoyed working in the darkroom although technically I really wasn’t very good at it with all those trays and splashing chemicals to contend with. It was all very messy and expensive. When digital came along in the early 2000’s I jumped and never looked back.

Back Bay storm, 1980s. Nikon N8008s.

As cameras became more sophisticated over the years I took advantage of the improvements. Built-in light meters to start, and then algorithmic flash-balanced auto-exposure and multi-point auto-focus and face tracking. Just click. It was mechanical. The camera did all the work.

Every once in a while, though, I used an old classic, manual-focus lens on my fancy automated digital cameras and it reminded me of how much fun it used to be to have to work at getting a useable photo.

Cheap umbrella, New York. Leica M9. 50mm Summilux.

In that spirit I tried a digital rangefinder, the Leica M9. It took me back to the old days. No auto-focus. Exposure, focus and framing had to be considered for each shot. There was a mindfulness to it. It felt more like a creative process. But since it was also digital and full-frame, it was like having the best of both worlds. It was just what I needed to get out of my mechanical photographic rut. Over time I invested in more Leica gear and aside from using the surprising good iPhone cameras in a pinch (see below), I’m mostly a Leica shooter now, hooked on the optics, build quality and overall experience. (I know, Leica gear is expensive, but I think of it like the mid-life Harley or Corvette I never bought and I feel a little better.)

Tree by the highway. iPhone X.

For travel and landscape I now often use the Leica SL or SL2, mostly with the 24-90mm Vario-Elmarit zoom, an incredible workhorse. It’s a versatile and portable setup that allows for almost medium format quality on the go. Sometimes I bring the longer 90-280 and I’m experimenting with the even longer Sigma 150-600 Sports lens. But those are big and heavy lenses to tote. You can also use classic M-mount lenses on the SL’s with an adaptor—and I frequently do that.

Minot Light. Leica SL2. 600mm Sigma Sports Lens.

For everyday and street photography I use a Leica Q Monochrome or M10-P. On the latter I prefer the 40mm or 50mm focal length and I like to use very fast lenses wide open. For street photography that presents a challenge. I do miss some shots because I don’t nail focus but I’ve found that if I work hard at anticipating subject distances it can work to produce some unique images.

Hawk on a post. Leica M10P. 50mm Summilux.

I take photos to please myself. I don’t aim for technical perfection—just a nice composition of a thing in the world. I process in Lightroom: dodging, burning, cropping, spotting, color and tones, but (almost) no content manipulation.

Seine River in a storm. Leica Q2 Monochrome. 28mm, Summilux.

Photography isn’t a business for me and although I admire those that have made it a profession, that’s not my goal. Apart from family and friends I haven’t shown off my work very much and I thought this site is would be a good way to get it out there. So here it is.

That’s my manifesto. I’m always open to feedback: positive, constructive—or not. I’m jjdaley on the gmail. Also I’m starting to use Glass, so you can chime in there as well. Cheers.