Steve Huff, one of my favorite photography bloggers has put up my guest blog today!
Most of the time when traveling, I find myself going from city to town and back to a city again. Sometimes I almost forget there’s more than that. When I hired a little motor bike and just cruised out of the town Pushkar, I noticed everything changed. Landscape, there’s no surprise, but also the contact with the people I met along the way.
There was no hassle, asking for money or trying to sell me anything anymore. People were open and friendly, inviting and very photo genetic. I wrote a blog a while ago, about sending a private driver back home and taking the bus between destinations. I’m still very happy i did, but after a day driving around on my little moped, I guess next time I’ll be traveling with a drivers license for a motorbike. That way I can buy myself a cheap motor and travel the country on my own. Bringing only my small Leica kit - same as I have with me now - and some necessities like underware, there will be no trouble with luggage and it will bring me at places I’ll otherwise won’t see.
So, at least I have found my reason to stay traveling and go back to beautiful India again and again! ;-)
If you like to see these pictures and some more in higher resolution, check my Flickr account
As the albums on my Flickr page and my facebook are starting to become a bit abundant, I decided to start selecting a bit stricter. Also I decided to delete some of the pictures in my facebook albums. Not that they are bad, but some others are just a better and in the end you only want to keep the best.
For me it’s one of the hardest things to do: “killing your darlings”. Especially because they are not only my darlings, they are also part of my journey. Of course I don’t throw them away, But in the end nobody wants to relive the hours and hours you spend behind a projector at your grandparents. And nobody really wants to see the wedding book with 750 pictures of your uncle dancing the cha cha cha or your nephew spoiling tomato soup on his mini smoking. Most of the time 50 pictures is enough, after that, attention most of the time decreases rapidly. Often less is more, so choices must me made.
What makes me decide which picture stays in and which one goes, is hard to tell. Most of the time it’s a gut feeling. It’s easy to select the ones that have to stay in for sure. The diamonds. Thing is; if I only leave those, I’ll end up posting maybe 5 pictures out of all (not each) albums. I’d like to think I’m my most critical judge. So after selecting these I go on.
I try to look at the balance in my story. I can have ten women sitting in their door opening, but I only need one. Again everything is just a gut feeling. Which woman gives me the feeling I can’t leave her out. Because of the way she looks, or her colorful sari or the beautiful woodwork of the doorposts. Looking at the light, composition, technique is another way to get rid of some of my babies. Even though sometimes it’s the one that breaks all the rules that stays in. Just because the “feel” is right.
In the end it’s all just a matter of taste. Which ones do I like the most? Which ones give me the uncontrollable urge to show them to the rest of the world? Which ones do I think people like to talk about? Which ones do I think tell the story?
Luckily, here I can make a separation again. Here on my blog, I tell you how I work and what problems I encounter. I show you some of the shots that either clarify my story or some that I just think you should really see. At my facebook page, I now show you the ones that I really think are good. This differs from time to time. I add pictures and I take some of. Same goes for my website, only on my facebook, I also give you updates about the trip, some behind the scene photos and every now and again a link that I think you should check. On my Flickr account I post a lot more. This is the place where people tend to go to browse pictures, just like they browse youtube for videos. So make your pick, or check them all… Hope you like what you see!
Sitting in a car heading for Rajasthan, I had the feeling that I had made a wrong decision. It’s a great way to travel through Rajasthan -the part of India I’m traveling now - but it’s just not me. I need to be amongst the people.
Not exactly sure what it was that made me feel this way I endured a little bit longer. I don’t mind changing my mind all of a sudden, but I do want to know why I change it. It wasn’t the driver. Even though his English was very poor, he was very polite and he had no problem taking me wherever I wanted. This was the reason I took the car in the first place. The idea of not planning a train ahead, being able to stop at every location on my way sounded very appealing and practical for my photography. A flat tire even gave me a sudden feel of adventure, although it was solved quickly.
I think it was the fact that everything was going smooth. To smooth. He took me from city to city, hotel to hotel. The hotels were good, even though they had weddings going on with loud music, had good restaurants and great rooms. The driver used B routes so there was plenty to see during our long drives. It was perfect and easy.
I think my decision is best compared with the Leica I’m working with. The driver and his fancy hotels were like my old Nikons on program mode. Everything was great, effortless and without trouble. But if I compare the pictures I took with my DSLR while traveling, they tend to have a lack of story. They are good photos but they miss some sort of depth.
If I read back the blogs about the time I started with the Leica M9 in Cuba, I struggled. But it’s that struggle that made the journey. It’s the cursing and the discomfort that makes me want to see and learn more. My first trip in India was a 37 hour bus-ride to Kashmere and I remember vividly how things looked, smelt and how I was feeling at the time. Now, nearly 2 months later, it has been one of the best parts of my trip. Maybe not photography wise , but definitely when it comes down to traveling India. Of course I did take some pictures in the towns that the car had dropped me. This is something I can do where ever I am, and independent of how I got there. A few I’ve posted here and the rest is on my fb page or at my Flickr page. I even grabbed the Leica M9 a couple of times instead of the Monochrom. Not because I was doubting, like I did before, but because I like to change things up every now and again.
After two days in the car, I send the driver back to Delhi and booked myself on a train from Bikaner to Jodpur. Instead of traveling through Radjashan in a car for the upcoming two weeks, I’ll be struggling and cursing while booking train-tickets. There will be families cramped up against me in a bus, little children that follow me around through the streets and beggars asking me for money. And I’m looking forward to it!
So here we are again… deciding to go color or monochrome. I just arrived in Mumbai and walked around for about an hour. Already I love it - probably because of the wonderful weather up here - and already I got lost in one of the slums. My first instinct was to grab the M9, thinking the Leica Monochrom wouldn’t do justice to the upbeat atmosphere that is going around in the slums. The colors are beautiful, the people friendly and they have no problem with posing in front of the camera. Another big difference, they don’t ask money for it! (Except for the kids – that or chocolate.)
So I took the pictures I took with the M9 and converted them in Silver Efex Pro. I think they look stunning (and I, purposely, didn’t use the color sliders) BUT… what I assumed did happen with a few pictures. They get a drama feel that I think doesn’t completely do justice to the atmosphere that was there… Even though I really like them in black & white. Dilemma. Especially if you take in account that quite a few pictures didn’t work out so well because of slow shutterspeed - 1/15 sec, because I didn’t want to use to high ISO with the M9. Witch is no problem for the Monochrom. ( Hopefully the M is going to be as good as they say it is!) I should have brought a second 35mm instead of the 75mm (as I rarely use it) then it would have been easier to switch cameras. Now, for comfort, I decide up front what to shoot with.
Hope to hear your opinions. On my facebookpage I posted an album with some more color vs black & white that I shot in this hour.
Because it’s really getting winter in Varanasi now, the Ganga river is producing a lot of fog. This mist stays pretty much all day and makes it quite difficult to photograph in the gahts (the steps down to the Ganga) because disability is not that good. So I do what I like to do most anyways, I try to get lost in the small alleys and streets that form the city of Varanasi. Here a complete different world enfolds and shows me a city that is constantly changing and at the same time provides me with a pictures that could have been taken 50 years ago. Because the fog filters out most of the sun and the streets are very narrow, I often shoot at 800 ISO or even higher, when using the Monochrom. Using the M9 I try to stay at 400. Getting spoiled with the little noise the Monochrom gives.
a lot of the pictures are taken in the little alleyways at points where the light does fall in because a building or part of a building is “missing” or because a staircase to a roof, provides a small ray of light. These situations are ideal for the Monochrom. Beautiful contrasts are the result and this is exactly what you want with this camera. At night the fog is gone and the lights in the gahts make beautiful contrast. At these times, the Ganga is a perfect backdrop. Still sometimes I just really need to switch to the M9 because, even though I started looking in a complete different way at colors - more from a contrast perspective - I know a color picture when I see one.
So I finally decided to do the test… I started walking around with the M9 again. See if India really needed the color. I had to see for myself. The pictures I show here are taken with the M9 and afterwards converted with Silver Effex Pro. There are a few (see comments) that I actually took the time to switch and use both monochrom and the M9.
I think it’s fair to say, I really have fallen in love with the Monochrom. Keep in mind that my way of looking at things changed in the past weeks as well. Everything I look at, in my head is converted to B&W, therefor, maybe I don’t see the color contrast anymore. Although I think the lady in yellow, turned towards the blue doors, a high school color contrast, works better and more dramatic in B&W. I didn’t expect that to be honest.
The only picture, according to me, that really needs the color is the one of the women in red. The one with the fire also does better with the fire actually being orange/ yellow. And the man near the fence I actually like more in color as well. The lady in blue on the white chair is a tie, if you ask me… situation changed, so it’s hard to judge.
All in all, I guess I’ll be switching between the Monochrom and the M9 a little bit more. Especially now I’m in Varanasi, witch they say is, the capital of color. Of course just to keep my mind sharp on color as well as B&W and second of all, just because color does have it’s charm as well. Still, the sharpness of the Monochrom, the high ISO that makes it possible to shoot at night as well, the drama of B&W… I really like the Monochrom. I wonder if the M will give me these possibilities in the future…
PS looking back at this post a couple of times, I guess Black & White really is just my thing ;-)
Picture above, shot with the Monochrom
Picture above, shot with the Monochrom
I’m in love… In love with the Leica Monochrom, in love with India, in love with chai tea. Don’t get any ideas please… I’m not planning to blog every day and certainly not twice a day. But, as today was the first day, I do wanted to share it.
During the day I walked around a bit and took care of some stuff for the rest of the trip (like an Indian sim card in my phone) It was nice, beautiful, not to exciting… just a realy nice day. Surprised by the trafic jams, the friendly and sometimes annoyingly sticky people, and the amazing work I could do with my little black and white miracle.
I met some ladies drinking chai. As I shot a picture and showed it to them, they asked why I didn’t use color. So of course I took out the M9 and also shot one for them in color. Immediately I was invited to sit down, have chai, a load of kids around me… perfectly welcomed by Indian hospitality.
At night the party started for me. Cranking up the ISO to 2000 and even 2500, some of the pictures taken almost look like light was abundant. A young mother feeding her child of three months old stole my heart and now it was my turn to arrange the chai tea. The bazaar with it’s small shops and it’s intrusive people made my night complete. Some more pictures are of course to be found at my facebook page or at flickr
Today I had to shoot in a studio. Lights, reflexion boards, thetered shooting, the whole nine yards. The first shoot was with Glennis Grace, a dutch singer. She brought some people with her; hair, make up, styling. Unfortunately this is no environment for my M9. It was great photographing her, as she knew exactly how to pose. When we had the pictures that were necessary for the magazine, I did ask her for a quick picture with the Leica… just to put it up here and on my FB page.
After Glennis, Javier Guzman - dutch comedian - walked in for the next session. He brought just one suit and no make-up and was unbelievably photo genetic (at least that’s my humble opinion.) I love the way he just walks up to the spot and just…. stands there. Natural, no fuss… Javier also gave me 5 minutes extra for a quick Leica shot.
Some days I just have to say it out loud instead of just keeping it for my self… I realy love my job!
A friend of mine is owner of a beachbar in Scheveningen. Or to be precise, he used to be owner, because he sold the place after making it a succes in the past six years. Now his plan is to travel for 5 months through parts of South America and after that is still the great unknown. To me, a decision like his is a bold and impressive move. I’m so proud to know people who do exactly what their hart tells them to do and he is definitely one of them.
His goodbye party was sensational. Every aspect of this mans being was represented: beautiful weather, warm and open people, a brilliant band playing his kind of music. I had the honor and opportunity to document this. Using just the Leica M9 with my 35mm and 75mm I could easily mingle and look from the outside in at the same time… it was all I needed. For more pictures of this beautiful day, you can have a look at my facebook page