#006: The one about the Leica and mobile phones

I recently came into the possession of a Leica M9-P along with the Leica 28 Elmarit lens. It’s currently on a long-term loan to me (Thank you Auntie Bee!). Funnily enough this marks the first full frame camera I have shot with. Which is also a compliment to what you can get out of an APS-C and Micro Four Thirds crop sensors these days.

I’ve been getting used to it and its full manual controls over the past month. Quite the difference from the snappy Olympus EM1 that I have.  First thing I noticed is how heavy the Leica is, not something I was expecting at first. Secondly the fixed focal length at 28mm was also something I had to get used to, as I don’t usually shoot at that wide an angle on the streets, nor do I photograph landscapes that much either. Zone focusing was something I had to get used to pretty quick too. My first few shots all looked crazy wide (to me), all my subjects were so small I the photos. My photo brain is just wired to the 35mm focal length I think. And so, what does one do when the photos you take aren’t good enough? … you move in closer ;)

I tend to not shoot "people on their mobile phones" on the street. This type of street photography isn't new, you can see it all over instagram or any other photo sharing site these days. Not only is it a cliché in street photography, but it just doesn't make for an exciting street photograph. But if I do shoot it, which is rare, it is probably because something interesting is happening around the subject, and how they are totally oblivious to it because they are glued to their little screens. And then how they just move on, unconscious to the world around them. It’s like the new sixth sense us urban humans have developed, to be able to walk whilst staring not at the road ahead but at our tiny screens and yet be able to avoid crashing into all that is in front of us. Though some of us tend avoid them too as they walk straight at us. They just expertly navigate the streets, wayfaring small moments at a time as they glance away to get bearings, then carrying on faced down, guided by that self-assured developed sixth sense. Although there are funny videos and pictures of these people and their failed sixth sense: knocking, falling, crashing into all manner of things on the street. Staring at phones while walking is a pedestrian hazard. I too am guilty of doing it, though thankfully no comical incidents so far. Touch wood.

This got me thinking of how best to test out the Leica with the 28mm lens on the streets of London. It was also a test for me to see how close I could get to these urban wayfarers without them noticing me. Capturing their expressions or expressionless faces as they are glued to the world within their mobile phones and not the ones they are actively in. Most of the photos were taken at about a pre-focused distance of 1 to 1.5 metres , as I moved towards or away from them. It was a fun series to do and the process was educational for me, both on learning to use the new camera with this new wide focal length and getting closer to subjects on the street. A few hundred shots later and the collection below is what I’m happy with. Not sure if I will continue with this series in the future but for now I hope you enjoy what I could get.


#005: The Malta Experience

Malta is a small island country in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. We made a 48-hour weekend trip in April. Kind of a last-minute on the spur of the moment decision. Unfortunately, turns out we ended up arriving on the one weekend where we had some not-so-great-weather, as there was a wide spread dust storm blanketing the city. Blown up from the north of Africa. So, most of the days were overcast with a slight yellow-ish tint in the sky. Nevertheless, it was a great warm weekend away from the cold of London.

You could go around the island in a day and you can get a public bus passes that lets you hop on and off where you want around the island. We spent the first day roaming around Valetta, the capital city. The second day, we went to Mdina and then to Sliema. Visiting these three areas of Malta would give you a great overview of the new and the old Malta, as well as a view of its country side. Mdina is an old city fortress in the middle of the island. Sliema is the newer side of the island with more modern looking apartments and shopping. There is also another island called Gozo which you can visit via ferry, but you'd need more time to visit that, which we didn't have on this trip.

The weekend that we were there, there was also the celebration of the Feast of St. Publius. Part of the celebration included revelers gathering around the streets facing residential apartments and jumping to catch all sorts of toys and items that are thrown from the balconies . It was fun to see this tradition playing out, as it wasn’t something we were expecting to see on the trip. We saw it when passing on a bus and rushed to get off at the next stop to take a look.

We tried to squeeze in a trip the Popeye Village, the movie set for the 1980 Musical Production 'Popeye' starring Robin Williams as Popeye the Sailor Man, but the limited time and the weather kept us away from it. Judging by the photos I saw of it, it looks like a fun trip to do, if you get the chance.

I did not set out to make my blogs posts like this into a travel blog, even though the last few entries have been about my trips. The next one will hopefully be about street photography and stuff I do when shooting on the streets.

All photos taken with the Fujifilm X100S.