My Leica and me: fair weather or foul

Since rediscovering the joy in photography when I was introduced to the world of the Leica M system rangefinder photography, I can safely say that I have followed the gospel as preached by my Leica guru Thorsten Overgaard….wear a camera! I travel frequently and my Leica M9P travels everywhere but everywhere with me…usually with my trusty 35mm F1.4 summilux in tow…I think this is just a killer combination; it’s compact and is great for everything from portraits to street photography to scenery, never needs flash etc etc. Rarely am I tempted to bring any other lens along when I want to travel light….if I do, then it’s the 21mm F3.4 super-elmar and v v occasionally the 50 noctilux F0.95 but what a heavy beast this is. Instead of my usual nature slanted travelogue, I thought this blog post would be about the more challenging situations my Leica and I get into and how it coped with extremes of weather and conditions…some of my friends comment that I am crazy to bring such expensive gear to these inclement places and I usually simply reply that in such difficult and challenging places I need to have the best equipment to take the pictures I want to take…after all…what’s the use of having a pristine camera without the pictures?? First things first, here’s my M9P when it was fairly new and before it travelled the world much with me. The leather half case from Ciesta of Korea has been marvellous, taking the brunt and protecting the camera from drops of 2-3 feet and bumps on many occasions. The first drop was barely a month after I bought the camera but thankfully I had the Ciesta case on at the time…

My old faithful...the M9P with the 35mm f1.4 summilux..a killer combination

When new…the M9P with the 35mm f1.4 summilux..a killer combination

  After using and loving the pictures that came out of this killer combination, I soon started bringing it everywhere with me, to events, meals, meetings, walks, travel etc etc.  Then I was invited out to a fishing trip in Rompin Malaysia where we’d spend 2 days at sea on a small fishing boat and only come on land to sleep…this was of course when the camera was maybe 6 months old and I agonised about whether to bring it out to sea where wind, rain, sun and salty sea water would all threaten the M9P….my camera owning friends all said “You can’t be serious about bringing such an expensive camera to sea!”    But I rationalised that I don’t go to sea very often and I really wanted to take pictures of the fishing trip and that I would be careful etc etc and in the end just decided that I’d use my camera and not wrap it in cottonwool….of course I took some precautions…keeping the camera in a bag when the sea was rough etc. But I was so glad I had it with me when picture taking time came around….

the jetty at rompin

the jetty at rompin

 

the fishing...

the fishing…

 

and a small grouper

and a small grouper

  The Leica came out entirely unscathed by this maritime jaunt and it was soon my regular companion at sea for all my fishing trips….But the most challenging fishing trip came just a couple of months ago when with 6 other fisherman, we set sail from Kuching in Sarawak, East Malaysia for a 3 night live aboard a small fishing vessel….the omens were not good…as soon as we boarded the boat, the heavens opened; thankfully my M9P was in my trustworthy Lowepro and none the worse…even managed a few night pictures…

safe mooring for the night while sitting out the rain

safe mooring for the night while sitting out the rain

 

with the dawn we headed to see...

with the dawn we headed to sea..

 

rods at the ready

rods at the ready

 

Me & my M9P at the ready

Me & my M9P at the ready

red snapper being reeled in...

red snapper being reeled in…

 

14 kg Grouper

14 kg Grouper

 

banded sea snake surfaces...

banded sea snake surfaces…this was taken from about 20m with the 35mmsummilux and cropped

 

displays...

displays…

 

and then heads down to the depths...

and then heads down to the depths…

 

pretty cloud formations by day..

pretty cloud formations by day..

 

gorgeous sunsets by night

gorgeous sunsets by night

 

red snappers. groupers, sweetlips etc

red snappers. groupers, sweetlips etc

 

safely docked on return

safely docked on return

 

And of course, I also go snorkelling in our tropical waters and this trip was to Redang Island on the East coast of West Malaysia…an idyllic island where the waters are clear and the fish and corals colourful and abundant…

 

round the island by speedboat...

round the island by speedboat…

 

clear waters shot from the boat with the M9P

clear waters shot from the boat with the M9P

 

sunrise over redang

sunrise over redang

 

 

admiring the sunrise

admiring the sunrise

 

swimming in the sunset...

swimming in the sunset…

 On to cooler climes….a trip to the Bavarian alps…where the snow and ice on top of the King’s Lake in south east Germany…the danger came not so much from the cold, snow and ice but from slipping and falling…which indeed I did, and thankfully with no harm to camera…only to my bum and my pride 🙂

the mountain peak

the mountain peak

 

the steep icy path above Konigsee

the steep icy path above Konigsee

But colder still….how about Wulanhaote in Inner Mongolia in December where the temperatures were -15C!  The consensus seemed to be that it would be OK but that I had to keep the camera and batteries warm and protected and only take it out when taking a picture…actually I could hardly shoot for more than ten minutes before my gloved hands froze… I had to go via Beijing which was cold enough at around zero C and had the time to shoot in Tiananmen first…

Chinese soldiers marching at dawn in Beijing

Chinese soldiers marching at dawn in Beijing

 

solitary guard in Tiananmen

solitary guard in Tiananmen

 

sunrise over tiananmen

sunrise over tiananmen

 

and so on to mongolia…

Genghiz Khan' statue in Mongolia

Genghiz Khan’s  statue in Mongolia

so cold that the river began freezing over

so cold that the river began freezing over

 

well dressed for the weather

well dressed for the weather

 

iridescent clouds over mongolia

iridescent clouds over mongolia

sunset in wulanhaote

sunset in wulanhaote

The Leica M9P did not miss a beat despite being in such extreme cold….so we’ve been to the tropical seas and to the frozen lands of Mongolia…where next?  The active volcano Mount Bromo in Java, Indonesia….where the volcanic dust and sand storms would challenge the integrity of the M9P to the limit…rising at 330am to catch the dawn also meant that it was pretty cold….

 

the sun rose about 5am...

the sun rose about 5am…

 

the clouds moved in...

the clouds moved in…

 

and transformed the landscape

and transformed the landscape

 

surrounding mount bromo with a sea of cloud

surrounding mount bromo with a sea of cloud

 

which extended deep into the valley

which extended deep into the valley

 

a sight to behold....

a sight to behold….

The star studded night sky with shooting star

The star studded night sky with shooting star

 

shooting on the whispering sands below Bromo

shooting on the whispering sands below Bromo

 

black volcanic sand which was everywhere..blown by the wind...and into our cameras...

black volcanic sand which was everywhere..blown by the wind…and into our cameras…

 

I rode one of these ponies to get to the rim of the volcano...

I rode one of these ponies to get to the rim of the volcano…

Mount Bromo spewing ash...pardon the dirty sensor...

Mount Bromo spewing ash…pardon the dirty sensor…

But fell into the volcanic sand with the M9P getting completely covered in volcanic dust...

But fell into the volcanic sand with the M9P getting completely covered in volcanic dust…This was probably the worst thing that ever happened to my camera in all my travels….but I learnt how to handle this catastrophe thanks to my photographer guide, Steve Chong.  I dusted off as much of the surface sand as I could and did not take the lens off the camera.  When I got back to Singapore, I used a high powered vacuum cleaner and sucked all over the camera carefully.   Finally I took the lens off expecting a crunchy noise but was pleasantly surprised that the seals on all the camera openings had prevented any ingress of sand at all…and we were up and running again after a sensor clean….

 Another hazardous activity although more hazardous to me than the Leica is shooting snakes and bugs in the forest,,,mostly by night…here the Malayan Blue Coral snake, one of the most venomous snakes around…..

The Malayan  Blue coral snake shot using the M9P and 75mm summilux

The Malayan Blue coral snake shot using the M9P and 75mm summilux

 

the night sky and moon can be spectacular

the night sky and moon  as seen from the forest at midnight can be spectacular

How water resistant is the M9P? It’s not weather sealed as the latest M240 is but I had the opportunity to test this when we visited the waterfalls at Trawas in Java Indonesia….this involved a 1km trek along the river and passing directly under some waterfalls to get to our final destination….I couldn’t resist pointing my camera directly up at the water cascading down…….

 

looking up at the waterfall

looking up at the waterfall

and another view...

and another view…

a beautiful place indeed, well worth the trek..

Trawas: a beautiful place indeed, well worth the trek..

the part where an arc of waterfalls sprays onto visitors below

the part where an arc of waterfalls sprays onto visitors below

The M9p behaved flawlessly despite being under the falls for a few minutes!  On this same trip we stopped at Papuma beach….where yet more sand and sea threatened the Leica….

water feature at Papuma

water feature at Papuma

morning mist

morning mist

Family bonding

Family bonding

contemplating the dawn

contemplating the dawn

So should we be carrying our expensive cameras to inhospitable and challenging environments? Based on my experience with the Leica M9P, a resounding yes…it’s fallen on concrete, onto snow and ice, into volcanic ash….it’s been in extreme subzero temperatures and in hot tropical and Indian subcontinent summers….it’s been ‘waterfalled’ on and buffeted by sand storms and never missed a beat….

my trusty Leica M9P such as it is today, dented hood and all

my trusty Leica M9P such as it is today, dented hood and all

After all, if we are going to unusual places that we may never go again, I would rather have my favourite camera with me rather than a point and shoot. I also know now that the M9P is well built and tough and likely more so now with the weather sealed M240…..I just wonder about the Monochrom now!  

I leave you with this shot of me and my Leica on the edge of a cliff in Java…..

My Leica and me...

My Leica and me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “My Leica and me: fair weather or foul

  1. I’ve just purchased my M9P. I’ve been shooting an MP for a few years.thanks for sharing your shots. Not sure about the snakes though ;0)

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