Shooting Autumn with a Leica M9
In this day of whiz-bang do everything cameras it is almost impossible to not be able to take any shot you want. Super intelligent auto focus settings can track whatever you please. Vari-angle touch screen LCD’s enable shooting from just about any angle. High Dynamic Range settings, in-camera focus stacking, and pixel shifting for increased resolution leave your imagination free to create whatever you desire. While I do own and enjoy using a Fujifilm X-T3 and, although it may not be the latest in tech, it enables me to shoot practically anyway I choose with great results. But I still find myself taking my Leica M9 camera with me as I head out the door.
I purchased a used M9 a couple of years ago, at the urging of my wife, along with a Summicron-M 50mm (Ver3). I wanted to explore rangefinder photography again after being immersed in the DSLR/Mirrorless world since I started shooting digital. I often purchased old rangefinders (Konica, Olympus, etc.) in my film era and enjoyed using them as a carryall camera. I have wanted a Leica ever since I was a teenager but they were always out of reach financially. When I eventually had a good enough job to purchase a used M3 or M4 I had already given up on film photography and was yet to dabble in digital. And, of course, when I got fully immersed in digital the Leica’s again were out of reach – until a number of years later when my wife saw the used M9 in a camera store while I was looking at purchasing the Fuji.
The M9 was almost a throwback for me. The manual focus, simple controls, limited ISO usability, and early tech (almost useless) LCD screen with no live-view felt like I was shooting with a film camera. It was, and is, wonderful. However I quickly realized the shooting style I became accustomed to with modern cameras was going to have to change. I couldn’t focus very close and I had to learn to interpret the viewfinder frame lines to semi-accurately compose. It took some practice but I found focusing with the rangefinder as quick and easy as I remembered with the film cameras.
Subject-wise I decided the Leica was going to be my go-to camera for urban and travel photography. I was still going to use the Fujifilm for my nature outings and any situation where I need a longer telephoto. But this year being 2020 as it was with the pandemic and shutdowns I haven’t been able to enjoy much photography at all. My photo excursions have been limited to an occasional visit to the city park or, more often, my backyard. The cameras have been mostly idle.
Fast forward to October.
I always like to shoot some fall color photos every year and decided to try so again. Mind you I do not live in an area of spectacular scenery so my autumn photos are not that awesome. I just shoot whatever catches my eye when I’m out. I did decide to try to shoot as much as possible with the Leica simple because I like the look of the photos it captures. I could easily shoot with mu Fujifilm and take advantage of the telephoto or close focus abilities but I like the idea of limitations that the Leica provides. Focusing with the rangefinder can get a little tough when looking at the repeating patterns of nature. It can be a bit disorienting when looking through the viewfinder and think you have the subject lined up in the rangefinder window only to find out not. I have to actually crouch down for low angle shots and don’t have the luxury of using the LCD screen for focusing and composition. Plus I cannot focus any closer the 0.7m, so leaf details are out also.
That being said I still like the nature images I get with the M9. They are pretty straightforward as my abstract thinking chops are still a little rusty this year, but they make me happy. Along with the aforementioned Summicron 50mm I have added an Elmarit 90mm and Elmarit 28mm ASPH to the kit. Pretty modest lenses in the Leica world but they all perform admirably.
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