Friday, August 23, 2013

A Walk In The Woods, With Leica M9 - Composing Differently

Yesterday, I posted an image I made at Manassas National Battlefield, on my way to a hike at the Shenandoah National Park. Here are some shots from the hike itself.
 
I have been in the situation of shooting nature with my M9 recently. Not exactly what most nature photographers grab on their way out, the rangefinder presents challenges. It doesn't play well with long telephoto lenses or macro. This is part of the fun for me. In fact, it forces me to compose differently, maybe even better in some cases.
 
This little white mushroom was sticking out of a bank of green along the trail. If I were carrying my Nikon DSLR, I would have been motivated to grab a macro lens, and show as much detail of the mushroom as possible. It did have an interesting texture; this would not have been a bad idea. But, it would have missed some of the context, the contrast between this little fungus and everything else around it. This month's Whole Lotta Leica Lens, the Summicron 35mm f2, showed that quite well.
 
Shroom, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 35mm f2 Version 3
iso 400, f8, 1/25 sec.
 
Perhaps a little more in the normal Leica realm, I really liked the abstract shapes made by the flowing water, wood, and stone in the creek below. I would have liked to use a neutral density filter and get a longer exposure, to let the water flow even more. I don't carry filters for my Leica lenses.
Creek, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Leica Summicron 35mm f2 Version 3
iso 160, f16, 1/3 sec.

I shot the leaf below from several angles before getting what I wanted. What really attracted me was the reflection of the green leaves and dark tree trunks above the water. This green patch was actually quite small, so my shots with the 35mm wide angle lens included too much. I switched to my lovely little Canon LTM 135mm f3.5 lens. This is an amazingly sharp lens. I was able to get it up on a tripod pretty high, and isolate the reflections from the rest of the scene. The leaf in the water provides an anchor point for the eye.
Summer Reflection, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Canon LTM 135mm f3.5 Lens
iso 400, f5.6, 1/60 sec.

I spied this Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), sunning himself by the creek. My nature photographer instincts kicked in, and I started shooting from afar, to make sure I got a shot of him. Again using the 135mm, a rather modest telephoto length, I kept easing closer and closer. Here's the closest shot I got.
Northern Water Snake, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Canon LTM 135mm f3.5 Lens
iso 320, f6.7, 1/1000 sec.

Upon looking at all of the shots I took when I got home, I discovered the one below. Including the full body of the snake, and more of his surroundings, I actually prefer this one:
Northern Water Snake With Context, by Reed A. George
Leica M9, Canon LTM 135mm f3.5 Lens
iso 320, f6.7, 1/1000 sec.
 
I most definitely would not have made the shot above with a DSLR and long telephoto. Just to be clear, this is not a weakness of the DSLR per se. It is my own way of thinking when I'm using that equipment. I'm really glad that I forced myself to work with what I had.
 
I continue to learn about this interface of equipment and creativity.
 
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