It's been a while, quite a while.......The last couple of months has served as a reminder of the fragility of those things we often take for granted, what should have been a period of fun and adventure took a somewhat unexpected turn of unwelcome events. Without going in to too much detail we were unable to make our planned overseas trip due to some unforeseen medical issues which are thankfully now resolved; I'm pleased to say Mrs Howe is making a speedy recovery, evidenced by her ability to assign chores to your's truly........ The trip is currently being rescheduled for later in the year and will be both well deserved and needed by that time.
One obvious side effect of those events has been to keep me from my cameras and consequently from this website, whilst that has in some ways been frustrating it has given me time to focus on where I go from here and to some degree it was responsible for leading me back to the East Cape.
Remarkably, those days spent out in the remote East Cape are the first occasion "ever" that I have been out alone with the camera for more than just a few hours, previously and like the majority of people I've had to make do with snatching moments here and there along with making the most of family excursions and holidays, the harsh reality is that I have spent very little time taking photographs and I need to reverse that, for a while at least.
So, as a prequel to future photographic adventures stirring in my mind and in an effort to reacquaint myself with the camera I decided that another visit to the East Cape would be a sensible place to start. If you're interested you can see images from my previous road trip HERE.
As usual I packed too much gear but in fairness I was able to find the time to use most of it and even though I only managed a couple of full days shooting I was reasonably satisfied with the results under the circumstances!!
It's fair to say there were a couple of things I really wanted to get out of this trip and by and large I managed that.
Familiarise myself with the camera, it's very much like riding a bike, you never forget but you may wobble a bit at first and a big part of photography is confidence!!
Use a few of the lenses I've acquired this year that I just have not used enough for one reason or another. 21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph - 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph, 90mm Leica Summicron f/2
Last time I made this journey I captured many of my favourite images with the current 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph however I resisted the urge to take that and instead went for the 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1
Something I've been aware of for a while is that I've neglected what I would describe as "localised beauty" in search of that grand, expansive, mega image.......warning, if you do this you will be frustrated!! There was a need to get back seeing things for what they are and spotting that beauty that exists around us. Hopefully this would also produce a more balance narrative and give a true insight in to the region for those that have not visited it.
I really wanted more contact with the local indigenous population, the Maori. If I could achieve this it would really make my trip worthwhile.
For ease of reference I've decided to post the images by lens. POLITENOTICE........there are a lot of images in this post!!!!
21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph
I've made no secret of the fact that I am a big advocate of Voigtlander glass, it really does represent some of the best value offerings in what can be a very expensive rangefinder niche.......some will tell you that if you can afford the Leica M body you can and should buy the Leica glass, this is nonsense. The Leica glass is superior but in truth if your budget is Voigtlander you're not going to be disappointed.
My wide option for this trip would usually have been the remarkable 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 which I reviewed HERE. However I was keen to use the 21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph because despite having fooled around with it I had not really put it to good use.
Image 1 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 2 - Leica M9
The Leaning Tree - Leica M Monochrom
The Leaning Tree has been selected by the Editors as aLeica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.
Image 4 - Leica M9
Returning - Leica M Monochrom
Returning has been selected by the Editors as aLeica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.
I've been here before with this image and image 11 below, I'm not one for returning to past scenes but there is something about this tree!! My previous images were taken with the M9 and 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5, as the sky was more dramatic this time I felt it would be interesting to see the same shot from the Leica M Monochrom and 21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph.
Image 6 - Leica M9
Look carefully, yes those are bullet holes in the signs, there is more than a hint of the "Wild West" about this region. There are more signs than people........I read with interest several homemade sigs such as "No Hunting, do not shoot stock" clearly rustling is an issue out here. My particular favourite from this trip was "No Trespassing, No Junk Mail, No Bullshit" it's always good to know where you stand.....
Image 7 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 8 - Leica M9
Image 9 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 10 - Leica M9 B&W Conversion
Image 11 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 12 - Leica M9
Image 13 - Leica M Monochrom
Waipiro Bay, Tokamaru Bay, Tolaga Bay all exhibit architectural evidence of more prosperous times but now appear to be clinging to a fragile existence.
Image 14 - Leica M9 B&W Conversion
Image 14 - Leica M9 B&W ConversionImage 15 - Leica M Monochrom
Notes and first impressions of the 21mm Voigtlander Ultron f/1.8 Asph:
All of the images above were shot with an ND8 filter.
Lens coded as Leica 21mm f/2.8 11134 (Incidentally this is the code I would recommend for the 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5)
As I expected the lens is excellent and if your specific requirements mean you need that extra speed offered by this lens then it's certainly the way to go, in all honestly on this occasion I could have taken all these images comfortably with the much lighter and smaller 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5. The one advantage the 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 has over this lens is size and weight, regardless of what's in my bag I can always add the 15mm, with the 21mm it's going to be at the expense of something else. The lens does exhibit vignetting if uncoded - this is corrected easily is PP, code the lens as indicated above and you will significantly reduce the vignetting along with the potential colour shift.
The lens exhibits all the sharpness you'd expect with no visible distortion.
35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1
The decision to take this particular lens was one of the more difficult ones. I've shot the current aspherical version more frequently and it's such a great 35mm lens, the temptation to take that was very strong, but in the interests of increasing my understanding of the v.1 lens and because it's smaller and lighter curiosity won out over familiarity. I drifted away from the 35mm focal length for a while in favour of the 50mm as my go to lenses, in truth both have a big part to play in the way I shoot. Could I could manage with these focal lengths alone? Yes I could, so why do I have so many other lenses????
Image 16 - Leica M9
Image 17 - Leica M9 B&W Conversion
Image 18 - Leica M9
Image 19 - Leica M9 B&W Conversion
Image 20 - Leica M9
Image 21 - Leica M9
Image 22 - Leica M9
Image 23 - Leica M9
Thoughts on the 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1
Simply put I love this lens......the way it renders, the smooth transition between in and out of focus areas, it's sharpness wide open and it's divine character. Whilst the latest aspherical version of this lens is also superb I could not say it's better than the v.1, just wonderful in a slightly different way. Some lenses you know you will never part with, these are certainly in that category. I somehow managed to neglect to shoot this lens on the M Monochrom which in part was mostly likely due to it being on the M6 the majority of the time, it's a little disappointing because I'd have been very interested in the results of that combination.[divider]
50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph
I've had so many emails and messages from people asking my opinion of this lens that I had little choice but to take it with me, embarrassingly it's remained virtually unused since it arrived shortly after it was released by Voigtlander.
Image 24 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 25 - Leica M9
Image 26 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 27 - Leica M9 B&W Conversion
Image 30 - Leica M Monochrom
Never, ever miss an opportunity to grab a gear shot if one presents itself!! The more observant amongst you will have noticed that's my Leica M6 in the image, which means there are film images from this trip. I'm really looking forward to seeing those once developed and hopefully there will be something good enough to post.....
Image 31 - Leica M9
Image 32 - Leica M9
Image 33 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 35 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 36 - Leica M9
The Pacific Coast Highway is a must if you want to sample New Zealand in it's rawest glory. Tourism New Zealand continue to advertise this county as "100% Pure" it is not, it is however 100% beautiful and intriguing, it should be at or near the top of anyones list of places to see in the world.
Image 37 - Leica M9 B&W Conversion
Monochrom Sunset - Leica M Monochrom
Monochrom Sunsethas been selected by the Editors as aLeica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.
Thoughts on the 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph
Could this be the best value for money 50mm lens available in M mount, I seriously think it could be! There is a great review of the lens on Steve Huff - HERE anything I said would only be reiterating those observations. Comparisons between lenses are difficult and to varying extents subjective, we all see things a little differently, what we all see the same is the price and at US$899 in black and US$1049 in Chrome it represents unbeatable value for money vs. performance. I buy my Voigtlander lenses from CameraQuest -HERE
90mm Leica Summicron f/2 III (1984)
Easily the most challenging lens out of those I selected, for me at least. I've comparatively little experience with the 90mm focal length when compared to the more mainstream focal lengths, I've seen excellent images produced with this glass on the M Monochrom and it's always fun trying to get to know the unfamiliar.
Image 39 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 40 - Leica M9
Whilst I like to get as close as possible to my subject whenever possible this was one definite advantage of having the 90mm with me. Why couldn't I get closer here? Well, don't be fooled by the appearance of this house, it does not mean it isn't occupied. There is a lot of this in the East Cape, certainly it came as a surprise to me, there's almost a third world feel to some parts of this country.
Image 41 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 43 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 44 - Leica M9
Yep, this is the mail box of choice in some of the settlements I passed through, I could have photographed any number of microwave mailboxes, recycling at it's best. I should add that in my time here the most impressive "Kiwi" mailbox I have seen was actually a tumble dryer, on a post.........
Image 45 - Leica M Monochrom
Image 46 - Leica M9
Image 47 - Leica M9
Image 51 - Leica M Monochrom
Thoughts on the 90mm Summicron f/2 III (1984)
I would need to shoot this lens more extensively and with more varied subject matter to form any firm opinion on it's suitability to my personal needs but I'm definitely keen to do that. What did I establish, well I certainly I found it difficult to nail focus at times even with the 1.4x finder!!
It was great to get out with the camera, to free my mind and open my eyes once again. I achieved most of what I'd hoped although I failed miserably in my efforts to engage with the local population however few in numbers they are, that said I hope I've given a taste and feel for the landscape of the East Cape. I appreciate there were a lot of images in the post, thanks for persevering with them, as ever I'm always delighted to hear what you think to any aspect of it.
Good to be back......:)
Processing - LR4 & Silver Efex Pro 2