Leica M9 in commercial photography

PicturePublished: Detroit Free Press March 6th 2012

Yesterday I had, what our producer described, “a quick shoot”. This is a euphemism for a low-budget assignment. It also means that bringing studio lighting to a client would be an overkill. Well… Actually, in 2009 it would not be an overkill, because Leica M9 did not exist yet, and would have been forced to appear, like a real photographer, with a medium format rig. That includes, among other things, a Delsey airline-compliant roll-away trunk and an airline non-compliant case with two Broncolor Minipuls D160 flashes and a cumbersome bag with three heavy-duty light stands. Did I forget anything? Oh, yes, of course: a Gitzo G320 heavy-duty tripod.

Fortunately, now is 2011, Leica M9 exists, and I carry it in a toy-size camera bag. So, I grabbed the bag and a Gitzo 12-series carbon-fiber tripod, and off I went. In the bag I had three lenses: Noctilux 1/50, Tri-Elmar 4/28-35-50 and  Summilux 1.4/35 pre-ASPH, which I added after some hesitation, just in case.

For a portrait of an owner I had to come up with a way to make the background relevant, yet not too powerful. Noctilux was an obvious choice.


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For a portrait of a chef, who was working on some intricate pastries, 50mm would be too long, but 35mm was just fine. I had to shoot it with the 1.4/35, but for a reason different from the first photo. This time it was just too dark for anything slower than f/1.4. Not that I could not handhold my camera at 1.15 of a second, rather, at such a long shutter speed the chef would be all blurred out, as he was moving swiftly left and right. Lovely bokeh was just an added benefit.


For the last shot Tri-Elmar was ideal. The lens had to be stopped down anyway, and I just had to pick one, which would render specular highlights on wine glasses as stars.

Everything was done handheld, without any added lighting. In a point-and-shoot kind of way. Thanks to modern technology (I mean, I downloaded pictures to my MacBook Pro, picked these three shots, cropped the last one and had them displayed in all 16-bit grandeur), the client had an opportunity to shake off his suspicions of my non-professionalism almost before they were born.

Then we had a five-minute-long “weather talk”, I picked up my toy camera bag and a useless tripod, and waved everybody goodbye. No roller bags, no flashes, no assistant… Go Leica! 🙂

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