Plane spotting

July 18 this year was, for the time being, my last day in the USA after having been there a lot in the last three years. I went to Revere Beach and was a bit amused by all of the planes from Logan airport constantly flying above the people in the water.

I only had the 35mm Summicron with me, so this is what I got. Taken with the M8.2 at ISO 160 and converted using TrueGrain. Rotated by one tiny degree to make the horizon level - the joys of digital image manipulation...



Did I already know René Burri's "Wilted Lotus Blossoms" when I took this photo? I hope not, 'cause otherwise this would look like a pretty pathetic attempt at it. Anyway, see the title. In German, I'd probably call it "Jugendsünde".

You might also notice the vertical stripes at the bottom of the picture which I think look like bromide drags. This must have been one of the first films I developed myself and it seems I made a mistake there...

Taken with the Nikon and the 50mm lens in January 1995 on Ilford Delta 100. The river is the Ihme in Hanover.


Looking at me

I was walking behind this father and his son and for some reason decided to take a photo of them. That image was boring and not worth mentioning. However, at that moment the boy turned around - probably hearing or sensing what I was doing - and looked at me. Which resulted in this picture which I really like because of his intense and inquiring gaze.

And to drop the name of another famous photographer - this photo reminds me of William Klein whom I once heard saying that in each of his pictures there was someone looking at him. But other than that this photo was taken in New York there's obviously not much else that connects it to Klein.

Taken 1998 with the M4-P on Tri-X.



I sometimes mention influences although I'm hopefully perfectly clear each time that I'm not seeing myself on the same level as much greater photographers. In this case, I see - with hindsight - some influence from the early work (before World War II) of Cartier-Bresson (except that he probably would have disapproved of the skewed horizon).  In fact, I think HCB's early photos are much stronger and much more interesting than most of what he did during his time with Magnum. But that's just me.

Lisbon in 1999, M4-P, Tri-X.


Part four

I only had the idea of a series of views out of windows after working on this blog, but it seems I started pretty early to shoot out of hotel windows. This is a view of the Old City of Jerusalem on August 18, 1995. Those obviously were the good old days when you could still smoke in hotels.

The Nikon with the 50mm lens on Tri-X.


Green bunker

This really isn't a remarkable photo, but it's here for two reasons:

One is that this is from the first roll of color film (Fuji Superia Reala 100, by the way) that I ever put through my M4-P. I don't know what its previous owner did, but - who knows - maybe it had never seen a color film in its almost 30 years of existence.

The second reason is that this is a picture of an old bunker only two blocks away from where we live which is demolished right now. Every photo captures a little bit of the past, but some more than others.

Taken on June 20 this year.


Street jumble

I was very briefly considering to dedicate this photo to Daido Moriyama.  Not, of course, because I think that my pictures could be compared with his, but maybe because this one was inspired by him in one way or the other. But I'd rather not in order not to do him injustice.

Taken on November 14, 2008 in Tokyo (Minami-Aoyama) with the M8.2 at ISO 640 and converted using Silver Efex Pro. The lens was the 28mm Elmarit and the shutter speed was a whopping 15th of a second.


Two ladies

A delivery truck blocked a part of the sidewalk and I witnessed what was almost a collision between three pedestrians which ended in lots of laughter. I stayed there hoping to catch a similar scene which I did. Shortly thereafter, though, these two ladies made my day by passing by.

Rome in November 1997, the M4-P and Tri-X.


The juggler

A juggler I saw in London. I filled half a roll of Tri-X while watching his performance, but the last frame - where he takes a bow at the end - is the one I eventually liked best.

March 26, 1996 near Covent Garden with the M4-P and the 35mm Summicron - f/5.6 and 1/125.



Nice skirt, isn't it? And what you see in the background is the river Elbe and a part of Hamburg's harbor.

Taken in 2002 with the M4-P on Tri-X.



I saw how the little girl on the scooter tried to pass the guy who almost blocked the whole sidewalk with his garbage can. I followed her for a short time and took two shots when she finally succeeded. This is number two.

NYC, on March 21, 2009. Taken with the M8.2 at ISO 320, converted using TrueGrain.



A very nice and sunny morning in Cambridge, MA, albeit very cold. In fact, it was so cold that I was happy to have my trusty M4-P with me. I doubt that the batteries of a digital camera would have lasted very long.

Taken on January 31, 2009 with Kodak BW400CN. And in case you think that I'm kind of "promiscuous" with films - I'm not. Except for my very first year of photography (and a few indoor shootings where I used Neopan 1600) I've always used Tri-X until my preferred lab stopped developing films in 2008. Only then did I start trying out various C41 black-and-white films as replacement candidates. I'm not even sure if I will stay with one of them. Maybe I'll eventually start doing my own development again and then I'll of course return to Tri-X. So, stay tuned...


Part 3

Yet another view out of a window - this time from a boring chain hotel in Cambridge, MA on December 8, 2008.  This seems to become a kind of a series.

Taken with the M8.2 at ISO 320, converted using Silver Efex Pro.



This is the first photo on this blog that was cropped, albeit only by two or three percents at the top edge. I usually refrain from cropping and with film photos I'd rather not use a picture instead of taking something away, but in this case it was a digital photo and by cropping away a distracting car tire, the composition became much stronger in my opinion.

Taken on May 2 this year with the digital Leica and the 35mm Summicron in Oslo at ISO 160. Converted with Silver Efex Pro.


The couple

A very peaceful scene behind Hanover's main train station. This old couple stood there without moving for quite some time and - without talking - watched at something I couldn't see. I circled around them and took several shots trying out various ways to frame them and they didn't notice me. (Needless to say, I only took pictures from behind in order not to disturb them.)

May 1995, FM2, 50mm, Tri-X.


Siesta, part 2

This one is from this year's summer holiday on the small island of Wangerooge. Both my wife and I noticed this couple sleeping in their beach chair and the only camera we had with us was her GX200. My wife took a photo but didn't dare to move close enough to them, so I borrowed the Ricoh, crawled closer (feeling a bit like Capa for a few seconds), and shot this picture. Not a great photo, but I think it's kind of funny. And it's already the second photo in this blog of a siesta at the beach.

(And, while we're at it, always be very careful with cameras on the beach! Sand is at least as dangerous as water and it turned out we had to send the GX200 to Ricoh after the holiday because there was sand in the lens.)

ISO 200, f/10, 1/1000, converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro. The focal length was 7.3mm which would have been 35mm on a film camera.

Update: This photo was published by Spiegel Online on September 28, 2010. I guess I'll rarely have that many people watching one of my photos again.


A frame within a frame

Like many other photographers I'm constantly looking for interesting geometrical figures when shooting. A frame, for me, is especially tempting because it kind of comments on a meta level on the photo it becomes a part of, i.e. on the way you frame the picture. In this case, I followed the two guys carrying the frame and first took a photo with both of them on it, but this one - due to its apparent "incompleteness" and because of the door frame in the background - is better in my opinion.

November 1997 in Rome, Leica and Tri-X as most of the time. By the way, as this is one of several photos that don't mention the focal length I should say that, beginning February 1996 when I bought it, I almost always used the 35mm Summicron on the M4-P, so it's very likely that this one as well as many others were taken with this focal length. However, I don't have any notes so there's always a tiny chance I used the 50mm lens instead. Definitely, all M4-P photos were taken with one of these two lenses, though, so they're always tagged with "Summicron".

Addendum: This photo was featured on LeicaShots on December 7.


The decisive moment

More often than not it's definitely worth staying with a potential subject and shooting until you know you've taken the photo you originally wanted (although maybe only subconsciously). I know that I don't do this often enough when I photograph - trust my instincts and be patient - but in this case I did. Looking at the contact sheet I see that I took a couple of snaps of this little guy (obviously because I like dogs) and then he suddenly decided to lift his leg. That's when everything fell into place.

The old Leica with Tri-X again, 1998 in NYC. (See also here.)



Somewhere in Jerusalem, I forgot the details. I only remember that I thought the girls and the pillars and the plant combined would probably form an interesting composition.

That was on August 8, 1995.  Nikon, 50mm, Tri-X.



Whether this newspaper man in London just didn't like the rainy weather or whether he didn't sell enough on that day or both, I'll never know. But certainly his expression matched what someone had painted on his kiosk.

Taken on March 26, 1996 with the M4-P and the 35mm Summicron on Tri-X. Aperture was f/5.6, shutter speed 1/125.


Another window, same hotel

This is another view out of a window, but obviously a very different landscape and a very different mood. Incidentally, this is the same hotel you already saw about a month ago. And it's the same day, the same camera, the same lens, the same film, so I won't repeat that here.


Do not enter

I took almost the same shot of this street in Boston about two months earlier, but as it was on one of the films that were X-rayed, I went back and tried again. In this case, I think the second attempt was better than the first one, so here you have the digital version of a photo that I originally shot on film.

Taken on December 13, 2008 with the M8.2 at ISO 160. Converted to black and white using TrueGrain.


Three grumpy old men

Japan seems to have a plethora of old men whose main job it is to stand in front of construction sites, parking lots, and other places, doing essentially nothing. Well, OK, sometimes - very rarely - they might open a door or something like that, but most of the time to me it looked as if they were there just to be there.

This is probably a good thing as these guys might otherwise be unemployed and sit at home alone, but - coming from another part of the world - it looked strange to me.

This particular construction site even had three of them. Taken on November 10, 2008 in Tokyo with the M8.2 and a 28mm Elmarit at ISO 320.  Converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro.

Here's an update I received from a Japanese visitor of this blog: "Those grumpy old men are very common in Japan. The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) bullies contractors into hiring them to do practically nothing and then takes a (big) cut. Along with loan sharking, it's one of the ways the Yakuza survives in the modern world."


Accordion with dog

It's time for another dog photo. This is again from Lisbon and I hope it is another one which raises more questions than it answers.  I also like the shades of gray of the accordion and how the patterns of the cobbled pavement fit in with the composition.

I have two versions of this photo which are virtually identical except for where the dog looks to. I'm never totally sure which one is better, but I've chosen this variant today.

M4-P on Tri-X with 35mm Summicron.


Out of the window

Geoff Dyer, in his highly recommendable book The Ongoing Moment, identifies certain subjects that tend to reappear, in one way or the other, throughout the history of photography. While he for example writes about doors, hats, and blind people, the look out of a window isn't mentioned. It definitely is a recurring theme, though, and I'd say there are even two significantly different categories of photos taken out of windows. One is about the search for structure, patterns, and beauty as in Sudek's pictures I already talked about, and one is about looking out into the world and trying to "frame" the feelings of the person behind the window. The most wonderful example of the second category I know is Robert Frank's view out of a hotel window in Butte, Montana.

This view out of a window in Volda, Norway - taken on October 21, 2009 with an Olympus 35 RD on XP2 - is, I think, also of the latter category - although far away from the immense power of Frank's photo. I'll leave it up to the viewer to figure out how I felt on that day.



Like many Italian cities, Genoa has plenty of buildings that decay with a lot of style - something I've rarely seen in other countries. Add the beautiful colors on a sunny day, and there are lots of places you want to turn into photos.

This here is a wall next to a restaurant and I like the "classic" simplicity combined with how the living plant contrasts with the "dead" walls.

M8.2 with the old 50mm Summicron at ISO 160.