by Jonathan Slack
We’ve been in China for a little over two weeks visiting our son, walking in the countryside, meeting people and generally having a fantastic time. I wrote my report on the Leica Q on the flight out to China, now, on the flight back I’m writing a short field report with a few photos.
At heart I’m an M shooter, and lots of the images on our trip have been taken with an M-P or a new Monochrom 246, but normally I would also take a dSLR or a mirrorless camera with a zoom lens to compliment the rangefinders. This time I just took the Q, the idea being to thoroughly examine how far one could succeed using it as a travel camera.
I’ve covered the features and options of the camera in my previous report, so this one is simply as a photographer. All the images are processed to a greater or lesser extent: some are cropped, some at very high ISO, there are macros, landscapes and ‘street’ photographs, I haven’t given the exposure details this time; if it’s important to you then you can look at the exif information.
China is a fabulous place, and the people are friendly and hospitable – we were lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Beijing with a Chinese family, our son and his girlfriend acting as interpreter and tour arranger, so you’ll see a cast of characters re-occurring in these pictures.
Two weeks is not nearly long enough to present any meaningful critique of a society, and anyway, that’s never been the intent of my photography, but it is long enough to try and show a snapshot of a vibrant and exciting country.
The spring crop from the tea plantations at Longjing produce some of the most valued (and most expensive) tea in the world. The harvesting had finished when we were there, but there was still some of the vivid greens of springtime to be seen. 28mm is a great focal length to make the most of this kind of scenery, and the lens on the Q produces wonderful results, sharp from corner to corner.
A multi purpose cabinet found in a shady corner
This shot was taken out of the window of a fast moving taxi. I set the shutter speed to 1/1000 second, and the Aperture to f5.6 and allowed the Auto ISO to get the correct exposure (in this case 320 ISO). The AF really is startlingly good here I was pointing backwards towards the truck, and technically at least the image is a total success.
I used this technique a lot the smaller aperture to give a sensible depth of field and allow for focusing errors, but in truth there were very few errors, I even managed to get some decent sharp images shooting from the bullet train at over 300 km per hour.
We spent two days walking the Huihang Salt Road it was very hot, pretty steep and very beautiful. We were asked in to have tea with some locals in their house, this shot was taken in a dark and ramshackle storage room with pretty dodgy lighting. I shot it at f1.7 to create a little more atmosphere, which allowed me to use 200 ISO and 1/60 second.
I found this magazine sitting on top of a pile of sand out in the countryside. I shot it at f2.8 to keep the magazine in focus, and waited for the sunshine so that it only illuminated the closest area.
We spent quite a lot of time in shady bars chatting with our son’s friends. The picture on the left was taken at 10,000 ISO and the one on the right at 3200. Both are cropped fairly considerably from the original. I was expecting to have to use Manual focus, but the AF still performed excellently, even in really low light conditions.
A long trek up on paths through woodland to a breathtaking view over an unrenovated (and theoretically closed) section of the Great Wall was the start of a memorable day. Two hours scrambling over broken paving stones on sometimes scarily steep sections brought us to the renovated section seen in the top photo. Our car was waiting for us in the top right hand corner. Sometimes the program mode used wider apertures than one might normally have chosen a clear invitation to stop being lazy and select a manual Aperture.
The street vendors of Beijing provide wonderful opportunities, in the old days I would have used a smaller aperture and zone focus for these shots, but with the Q I took the easy option and used the face recognition, sometimes shooting from the hip. This worked surprisingly well, of course I got a lot of poor images, but they were pretty much universally technically successful. If you can see it the camera can take it!
Tiananmen Square at sunset is a rare treat. There were hundreds and hundreds of Chinese photographers all with Canons or Nikons and tripods. In fact, during the whole trip I saw one Olympus OMD camera and one beautiful field camera, every other ‘serious’ camera was a Nikon or Canon; not a single Leica and no Sony A7 or dSLR cameras.
I’ve tried for a heroic feel for these two shots. The second shot of Erica shows how much detail can be pulled out of the shadow areas; the face was extremely underexposed as a result of avoiding overexposing the sky.
A travel camera must be ready to catch fleeting moments at unexpected times. This means that it must wake from sleep, focus and make an image as quickly as possible, half a second can easily make the difference between what you want and a missed opportunity.
The ‘macro’ mode on the Q allows shooting up to 6cm from the front of the lens together with the fine bokeh, this gives lots of opportunities for close up shots. Here the manual focusing also comes into it’s own.
On our last day we went for a long walk from Yunki Valley over Wuyun mountain through the bamboo forests and tea plantations and down the terraces to Longjing. It was misty, the temperature in the 30s, and humidity up around 90%, added to this it was raining much of the time. I felt it was my duty to give the camera a proper workout under the conditions it was left switched on for the whole day (just about using up a full battery). Of course it’s not weather sealed, so I did my best not to let the rain get on the camera too much but it did get wet. At any rate, it performed immaculately.
I’ve tried to show a number of situations where the Leica Q has proved to be a useful travel camera – some of these images are quite tightly cropped, but I’m sure that most would make nice A2 sized prints, and all would manage a good A3 image.
For a Lightroom Gallery with more images click here
It’s been fun writing this short article and picking the images – I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride, whether or not you’re in the market for a Leica Q.
I’d like to thank all my patient and innocent victims; as always, if you see an image of yourself here that you don’t like, tell me and I’ll remove it. On the other hand, if you do like it and would like a print, then send me an email and I’ll do my best to get you one.
I’d like to thank very much all the people who have already donated to Emma’s Cancer Research fund raising. Some people have been incredibly kind . .
If you haven’t donated yet – There’s Still Time:
Emma Slack Cancer Research donation page
My wife, Emma Slack, Is doing the 12th Annual Pink Ladies Tractor Road Run in aid of Cancer Research