Tag Archives: Rangefinder

Leica Overview & History Video

Leica M3Jim Wagner, a 20 year veteran of Leica recently presented an overview and history of Leica, the M system, and the rangefinder.  Jim does a great job in this 1 hour and 8 minute presentation discussing the advantages, challenges, and dynamics regarding the rangefinder experience.  It may seem like a long presentation at 1 hr and 8 min, but the time flew by for me.  There are a lot of good reminders as well as golden nuggets about rangefinder and street photography in this presentation.  Jim did a great job explaining hyperfocal and scale focusing techniques that can be applied to any real camera.  Being able to capture the elements/subjects that you want in focus in your photograph are key for a number of obvious reasons.  By using the aforementioned focusing techniques a street photographer can use his lens wide open in low light situations and still get the desired area(s) in focus while allowing the others to be out of focus per his creative vision.  One of the things that I like most about Leica equipment is they are designed and made for real photographers.  Even in 2013 Leica prints the DOF data on their lenses when all the contemporary lenses no longer include it.  This is one reason why I like the older lenses from any manufacturer.  I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did.  Even if your not a Leica lover, there are a lot of good information in this presentation that photographers can leverage in their own gear.

Henri_Cartier-BressonElliot Erwitt is probably one of the most famous photographers that is known for using Leica equipment.  Erwitt born in 1928 in Paris made his mark as an advertising and documentary photographer before becoming known around the world for his famous black and white prints of ironic and absurd situations withing everyday life. He was able to do this because he had the agility to do it and also because he was part of the scene and knew how to apply real photography techniques such as zone and hyperfocal focusing.   Erwitt was a student of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” as evidenced in his work.    Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) is another famous photographer that was an early adopter of the 35mm format and Henri is widely known as the father of modern-day photojournalism. Cartier-Bresson is recognized as the original “street photographer” by many and I have to say I can’t argue that statement.  He cut the path for the rest of us and now we get to imitate and possibly find something new to share.  One of my favorite Cartier-Bresson photograph’s is the “bicycle” posted in this article.  In this particular photo it is clear to me that he picked his spot, made his focus calculations and patiently waited for his subject (the bicycle) to enter the scene.  This also brings up another advantage of rangefinders over DSLR cameras, because we are able to see outside our image area which gives us an advantage and makes us more responsive.  If you are looking for some inspiration, head over to your local or online book store and get any of Henri’s books and you will be mesmerized and inspired.

I recently bought a 1954 Leica M3 as illustrated at the top of this article.  Because of Leica’s commitment to their original design, I can use lenses made today in 2013 on my M3 from 1954, and with a simple adapter I can even use the earliest Leica lenses from 100 years ago.  I decided to go with a vintage 1930’s screw mount uncoated lens because I wanted some character and uniqueness to my images that I couldn’t get with my SLR cameras such as the Nikon FE2 from the 1980’s.

Leica Overview Video

Tim Layton

Mamiya 7 Rangefinder vs. Nikon D7000

© Tim Layton Sr.I recently went on a photo hunt with my kids and we stumbled only a historic church dating back to the 1850’s.  I took my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder loaded with Tri-X 400 and Abby was using the Nikon P7000 and Alec was using the Canon G10.  I had loaded the Nikon D7000 with my gear because I was planning on using the HD video but along the way I had an idea.  I thought it might be interesting to take some similar photos with the Mamiya 7 and the Nikon D7000 and post the results so you can view the differences for yourself.  Keep in mind I am not suggesting this is a rationale or even appropriate one on one comparison between the two camera systems or even between the two mediums (digital vs. film).

© Tim Layton Sr.I am often asked the differences between film and digital and I always start with my standard line that one is not better than the other, just different.  For my black and white fine art photography I use film exclusively and typically always large format.  I am able to control every aspect of the creative process and it meets my artistic vision.  I would also say that I personally feel that film and digital images typically just look different.  It is hard to put your finger on the differences unless you are comparing two specific images side by side, but in general I would say film has more character, superior tonal gradation for black and white and the images have a presence that is unlike digital.  Those observations are my own biases as a fine art photographer and I am sure another photographer may have completely different opinions. The idea of this article today is to take one specific scene and compare the photographs side by side and allow you form your own thoughts and opinions about this one example.  Also, keep in mind you are limited to whatever you are viewing on your monitor and I frankly have no idea what that is.  I produced the images in this article via a calibrated workflow system but I am not sure what that means to you and your viewing experience.  The best comparison in my mind would be to make prints of each and view them.

Since I was shooting Tri-X 400 in the Mamiya 7 I needed to convert the RAW color digital files from the Nikon D7000 to black and white images.  I created two versions of the black and white photos from the D7000.  First, I did a simple black and white conversion using Photoshop CS5.  Next, I used Silver Efex Pro 2 and added Tri-X 400 film grain and painted in some additional contrast to try and get the digital image as close as possible to what my film images looks like.  The photos are below with the appropriate titles above each.  I used a 43mm lens on the Mamiya 7 Rangefinder (~21mm on 35mm) and a 24mm on the Nikon D7000.

After you look at the photos be sure to submit your comments below and tell me what you think.

Mamiya 7 Rangefinder

[singlepic id=931 w=640 h= float=center]

Nikon D7000 Photoshop CS5 Black and White Conversion

[singlepic id=929 w=640 h= float=center]

Nikon D7000 Silver Efex Pro 2 Black and White Conversion

[singlepic id=930 w=640 h= float=center]

Nikon D7000 RAW color Photo

[singlepic id=928 w=640 h= float=center]

Mamiya 7 Rangefinder Adventure at Pickle Springs Natural Area

Pickle Springs Natural Area is a unique natural refuge located in Ste. Genevieve county off highway 32 and AA.  You will see everything from small waterfalls to cool box canyons at the natural area.  You can see from the map on the left that Pickle Springs is located in the upper region of the Ozarks and Southeast Missouri.  Many people find the name sort of odd.  The land was originally owned by William Pickle.  Pickle was an immigrant from England in 1842 and he acquired the land in 1848.  It is my understanding that Pickle was killed during the Civil War by a band of renegades.  Pickle Springs flows into Pickle Creek which is accessible via Hawn State Park.

Our Adventure

My son Alec and I got up on Saturday morning at 3:45 a.m. and headed for the morning blue light at Pickle Springs.  We arrived right on queue and made our way the Dome Rock that overlooks the valley.  This spot is ideal for a sunset photo but I wanted to check it out at daybreak too.  The top of Dome Rock is absolutely beautiful and the view of course is simply beautiful.  If you are looking for an easy hike (less than 20 minutes) and a relaxing and beautiful place to watch the sun set then Dome Rock is your place.  From the trailhead we headed to the right.  The trail is about 2 miles and you can hike it in about 1 hour without stopping and more like 2 hours if you are stopping and taking photographs.

Photo by Alec LaytonOur first stop was Headwall Falls.  This is an area that is beautiful in person but extremely difficult to photograph.  I was fighting the clock against sunrise so I enjoyed the view but kept moving.  The next stop was Rockpile Canyon.  One thing that struck me immediately about Pickle Springs was the raw natural beauty and how it drew me in to want to know more.  The rocks are nothing short of amazing throughout the area and I truly enjoyed looking at them.  From Rockpile Canyon we made our way across Pickle Spring where we found a bridge and large stone slab where the water fell to the creek below (see photo 7 below).  We kept moving and climbed our way to Dome Rock where we waited for the morning light to reveal itself to us (see photos 1, 2 and 3 below).  The view from Dome Rock really is beautiful and extremely relaxing.  It is a place where you could sit in the shade and not have a care in the world.

As you will see from the photo to the left I mounted my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder on a tripod and worked a couple different angles and perspectives of the lone tree hanging over Dome Rock.  After reviewing my photos from the day I want to return and find some additional perspectives that capture more of the natural scene.  The view towards the valley is due west so this is a perfect location for sunset photos.  I am absolutely planning to return in the Fall when the colors change.  The morning light was simply perfect and we both said that even if we didn’t capture a keeper today that we still enjoyed our time at Pickle Springs.  I will briefly mention that Pickle Springs is a Missouri Natural Area and national landmark so please be careful and kind when you visit.  Leave things where they are and don’t be touching and moving things.  Look at the beautiful flowers and plants but don’t touch them.  I will also warn you the area has a lot of poison ivy so I wouldn’t get off the trail too far.  It is okay to bring your dog on a leash if you want.

In this snapshot to the left Alec was standing between two large rocks on top of Dome Rock.  We probably could have stayed at the top of Dome Rock all morning long but we knew we still had over three-fourths of the trail to go so we moved on.  Before working our way over to Owl’s Den Bluff and Spirit Canyon we relaxed for a few minutes, got a drink of cold water and enjoyed the panorama view before loading up our gear and moving on down the trail.  We worked our way around to the Twin Bridges and I stopped and took a photograph looking back over the second bridge towards Bone Creek (see photo 4 below).

© Tim LaytonWe moved on and hiked through High Crossing and Pickle Creek Bridge before stopping and admiring the Keyhole and the Double Arch that you see in the snapshot to the left.  Keep in mind the supporting photos in this article were taken with a small pocket digital compact that we use to document our trips.  The photos really can’t do the area justice.  The Double Arch in person is much larger than presented in this photo and the detail really is amazing.  I was out of film by the time I got to the Double Arch.  I wasn’t disappointed because it gives me something to look forward to on a return trip.  After you get through the Double Arch you work your way through an area called The Slot which is extremely unique because you are hiking between two rock walls that seem like a very large and long hallway or slot.  The Pickle Springs Natural Area was an absolute blast to hike and photograph and I can’t wait to go back again in the Fall or Winter to see how it changes again.

Mamiya 7 Rangefinder Photos

I used my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder today loaded with Tri-X rated at EI 250 and developed in D-76 1+1 for 9 minutes in a steel tank.  I used my standard film development process for the exposures today.  I used the ultra-wide 43mm lens on the Rangefinder for all of my photographs and an aperture of either f/11 or f/16 for all exposures.  My shutter speeds ranged from 1 second to 1/8.  All of the photos below were taken at dawn up until about 7 a.m.

You can click on any of the photos for a larger view and then use your back button to return to the article.

[singlepic id=866 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=867 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=868 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=869 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=870 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=871 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=872 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=873 w=640 h= float=center]

Area History

This scenic natural area contains all sorts of fascinating sandstone rock formations including box canyons and wet weather waterfalls. The sandstone rock here is the Lamotte sandstone that was formed from sandy beaches of a shallow ocean that existed here 500 million years ago. Since then layers of limestone were buried upon this sandstone but millions of years of erosion and uplift of the Ozark plateau have exposed the sandstone we see today. Over the eons, ice, rain, wind, plant roots, and streams have worn away this sandstone to form the many unique geologic features here. Some of the interesting geologic features include a double arch that holds up a shelf of sandstone, narrow slot-like canyons, hoodoos (mound or pillar-like sandstone blocks weathered into unusual shapes), a spring flowing out of sandstone (Pickle Springs), and sandstone talus slopes.

Besides the geology, this site supports over 250 vascular plant species including many uncommon species that are considered glacial relicts. These relict species are those that were more common thousands of the years ago when Missouri’s climate was cold and wet because of glaciation. Since then our climate has warmed and some of the species that were more common back then in Missouri still exist in small micro-climates that mimic the cool, moist conditions of the glacial times. Glacial relict species at Pickle Springs include the four-toed salamander, hay-scented fern, large whorled pogonia, and ground cedar, all species of conservation concern, as well as rattlesnake plantain and shining clubmoss.

The cool, moist conditions of the canyon walls support over 40 species of liverworts – one of the most diverse spots for these primitive plants in Missouri. A good number of mosses and lichens also grow on the sandstone rocks. Keep your eyes out for seven species of ferns, including cinnamon fern, and the uncommon partridge berry. On the ridge tops and upper slopes you will see dry woodlands dominated by white and black oak and shortleaf pine with low bush blueberry and farkleberry in the understory. Sandstone soils are very acidic and so plants that tolerate acidic conditions such as blueberries and dittany thrive here.

Walking along Pickle Creek you might spot a pickerel frog, green frog, or southern leopard frog jump into the water. In the waters of Pickle Springs a type of crustacean, an amphipod, has been described that is known only from here.

Directions & Access Information

Pickle Springs Natural Area is located on Dorlac Road.  From Interstate 55 go east past Hawn State Park to County Road AA.  Turn left (only option) on AA for about 1.7 miles until you see Dorlac Road (gravel).  Make a left (north) on Dorlac and drive about .4 miles to the parking lot on the right.  The best part is the area opens at 4 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m.

From the junction of Highways 32 and W in Farmington, travel east on Highway 32 for 5 miles, then turn right (east) on Highway AA. Follow Highway AA east for 1.7 miles to Dorlac Road (gravel). Turn left (north) onto Dorlac Road and drive 0.4 mile to the parking lot on the right (east) side.  The area opens at 4 a.m. and closes at 10 pm.

Because of the fragility of the sandstone formations and the rare plants that grow here visitors are strongly encouraged to stay on the excellent Trail Through Time hiking trail. This 2 mile hiking trail loop leads visitors to most of the outstanding rock formations with opportunities to view the interesting plants and animals that inhabit the site’s natural communities. Hunting is prohibited.


Shaw Nature Reserve Garden – Mamiya 7 Rangefinder

I visited the Shaw Nature Reserve and went to the Bascom House and the wildflower garden.  I used my normal T-max 100 rated at EI 64 developed in HC-110B and my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder.  The top two photos I used the 43mm wide angle lens and the last photo I used the 80mm standard lens.

This camera is truly a workhorse that produces top-notch professional photos day in and day out.  I’ve always said that if I had no other choice but to choose one camera, it would be the Mamiya 7 Rangefinder because of the quality prints I can make and the versatility that it affords me.

I metered these photographs using the zone system and looked for my shadow detail and based my exposure on this.  I used my normal development time for the negatives.

[singlepic id=824 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=823 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=825 w=640 h= float=center]


Mamiya 7 Rangefinder Adventure on Pond Road

One of my favorite things to do is to take out my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder and just stumble on to whatever looks interesting to me.  Yesterday I wrote an article on how I use the iPhone to help support my photography workflow and the photos in this article are a result of that work.

I typically mount the 43mm wide angle lens on the Rangefinder because it suits my style of photography and helps me create the print that I see when I am out in the field.  I used Kodak T-max 100 today rated at EI 64.  I rate my T-max 100 at EI 64 based on specific calibration tests in case you are wondering.  You may or may not rate your T-max at EI 64 because of the number of variables involved in developing your personal EI rating for each film and developer combination.

Using the Zone System With the Rangefinder

I use the zone system for my fine art photography.  For these specific photos I defaulted to looking for shadow detail as opposed to placing the subject in a specific zone.  If you are a Mamiya Rangefinder photographer then you might be wondering if I used the internal metering system on the Rangefinder or an external meter.  I have conducted previous tests with the metering system on my Rangefinder and have verified its accuracy.  In fact I rely on it when I photograph transparencies so you know I trust it.  However, there is one shortcoming when using the internal meter on the Rangefinder when using the zone system.  In theory it would work, but unfortunately there are many cases where you are unable to meter for the highlights properly because of the 1/500 shutter speed limitation. For that specific reason I used the Rangefinder in full manual mode today and used my Sekonic L-758 DR meter.  The sky in these photographs ranged from 1/500 to 1/2000 and the Rangefinder would have just shown an error on anything faster than 1/500.

You might be wondering why I am making such a big deal about knowing my highlights when the general rule is to expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights.   One of the reasons is because I want to know the dynamic range of my scene (difference in stops between my shadows and highlights).  For a low contrast scene (i.e. 2 stops) I may want to expand the contrast (e.g., N+1, N+2) a stop or two and on the converse in a very high contrast scene I may want to contract my contrast (i.e., N-1, N-2, etc).  If I am using medium format roll film then depending on my location I may use a couple different backs and group my exposures onto my back by contrast (low, medium, high) and make my decisions about development in a similar fashion as I would if I were shooting sheet film for large format.  Based on my exposure details and film I use all of this information to make a decision about which developer to use and how to apply it to get the negative I want that ultimately produces the print I originally visualized.

When using the zone system for the photographs today I metered for my shadow detail (zone III) so I had to dial in -2 stops on my Sekonic meter to compensate for the shutter speed.  In short, your meter measures at zone V and therefore I needed to adjust for zone III.

The Abandoned House

In this first photograph I used f/11 and metered my shadows at 1/60th and my highlights were 1/1000 for a 4 stop range.  If you look around this scene you will notice I was able to capture and preserve all of the relevant details to include cloud structure.

[singlepic id=819 w=640 h= float=center]

For this second photograph I moved to the right of the house and at an angle that I liked.  I continued with the use of f/11 as my aperture and metered the shadow detail at 1/60th with the highlights (sky) measuring 1/2000.  This puts my dynamic range between my shadow detail and highlights at 5 stops.  Even at 5 stops I am still able to show detail in my highlights as well as my shadows.  This is what the zone system is all about.

[singlepic id=820 w=640 h= float=center]

In this third photo I moved around to the right rear of the house at a 45 degree angle.  My shadow detail was at 1/30th and my highlights were measuring 1/2000 for a 6 stop range.  If you look at the detail in the ivy growing along the roof line and then to the far left of the image you can still see detail in the very few clouds there were at the front of the house.  If there were more clouds then you would be able to see the detail in them.

[singlepic id=821 w=640 h= float=center]

Location Information

As I discussed in my “Using the iPhone as a Photography Tool” article I captured my GPS coordinates for this abandoned house and mapped it with Google maps on the iPhone.  One of the reasons I capture the GPS coordinates with my photos is because I upload them to Panoramio and people using Google maps and Good Earth have the option of viewing my photographs.

Mamiya 7 Rangefinder Adventure at Elephant Rocks Round 2

I recently wrote an article when I first visited Elephant Rocks State Park.  In my first article I wrote about the history of the park so you may want to view that article first if you have not already.  All my images from Elephant Rocks can be viewed in my Flickr set.

For this trip I wanted to take the 1 mile loop around the park and enjoy the scenery.  As I did for my first visit I used my Mamiya 7 Rangefinder and 43mm lens and a roll of Tri-X 400 that was developed in Diafine.  On this particular day it was overcast and there were intermittent showers.  From a photography perspective I love these types of days because the clouds are and skies are so much more interesting.  I’ve included all 10 exposures from the roll.  For medium format 120 roll film in 6×7 format you get 10 frames.

The jewel for the day came when I climbed to the summit of the park and the clouds were rich, full of contrast and just hung there waiting for me to take their photograph.

[singlepic id=799 w=640 h= float=center]

The remaining nine photos were from random locations around the park that caught my eye.  I actually wanted to take a couple more but ran out of film.  That is okay because it will give me something to look forward to when I return in the future.

[singlepic id=800 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=801 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=802 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=803 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=804 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=805 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=806 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=807 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=808 w=640 h= float=center]


Bollinger Mill Mamiya 7 Rangefinder Adventure

I took my son Alec on a day trip to Missouri’s Bollinger Mill state historic site.  The mill is located at 113 Bollinger Mill Road in Burfordville, MO 63739.  The park office phone number is 573-243-4591.  I used my Mamiya 7 Rangefiner with a 43mm wide angle lens shooting my standard Tri-X 400.  Alec shot his Nikon F100 with a Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 G ED lens using Tri-X 400 as well.  All the film was developed via my standard black and white development standards using Diafine.

We had quite a Saturday.  We left the house around 8 a.m. and returned around 7 p.m. some 11 hours later.  Our plan was to just go to Bollinger Mill but we kept running into old barns and abandoned architecture so we just kept going and around 11 hours later we returned home.  We had more unplanned stops and detours than we can even account for at this point.  We have had a lot of rain in the area recently so we ran into flooded roads that ended up leading us down a path that we never imagined and also leading us to some of the best photos of the day.  It was an awesome adventure and journey to say the least.  The photography was unique, compelling and interesting and being able to share that with Alec made it even better.

Here a couple of the photos from the day.

[singlepic id=798 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=797 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=796 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=795 w=640 h= float=center]

[singlepic id=794 w=640 h= float=center]