UPDATE: I am not going to be able to "feature" all the comments that deserve to be singled out—there will be many good comments in the Comments section, and I'm very sorry, but I'm just not going to be able to upload to the site all the pictures people have sent me.
Here's the code you can use to upload an image to the Comments section: <img src=”http://image.jpg”>, where the bit in quotes is the URL of your picture on the web. It's important that the picture not be more than 470 pixels wide, or the blog template will truncate it.
Thanks to everyone who has responded to this post, and I apologize again to anyone I will miss. No judgment intended, I assure you! And thanks to everybody who replied. —Mike
A year (and a couple of months) ago, I wrote a piece called "The Leica as Teacher" which got a wide response across the web. (There was also a follow-up article, called "Why It Has To Be a Leica," followed finally by a bit of mild backpedaling called "Variations on a Theme." Some months later, we also published a counterpoint, written by John Camp.)
I know a number of people actually followed through and carried out that "Leica for a Year" learning experience, because I've heard from a number of you throughout the year. Some people settled on some variation or other—a Leica with one lens but with color film, or "one camera one lens" but a different kind of camera and lens, or one digital camera with only one prime lens.
I don't know how many of those who tried the exercise will be visiting TOP today or even this week, and would see this, but I thought that today, in honor of Cartier-Bresson's birthday (he was born on this day in 1908), I'd ask to hear from people who actually carried out the "one Leica one year" exercise (or tried to): What did you do? How did it go, and what did you get from it? Are you happy you did it?
H.C.-B., who would have been 102 today. Photo by Jane Bown
If you'd like to link to one of the pictures you took, please do.
Hope to hear from those of you who were inspired by that article.
P.S. If you know of someone who did the experiment, would you please shoot them a link to this request? As ever, you can use the "Send this post to a friend" speedlink below. Thanks.
UPDATE: There is a group pool called "A Leica Year" on flickr that has 499 photographs posted to it, that was inspired by my article. I had no idea. Just found out about this today.
I'm looking forward to spending some time with those pictures. Go, guys!
(Thanks to reader David Riedel for telling me about this.)
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Jan Kwarnmark: "Though I've been taking pictures for more than 40 years, I bought a Leica M6 and a 50mm lens. Maybe I was a little fed up with all digital files. But I have not been quite true to your suggestions. I bought a 28mm lens and I kept using my EOS 5D. I thought I did not have to learn from the Leica what it is to photograph. So I did it just for fun and for the delight of squeezing the shutter. It has been with me almost every day and become like a drug. I've taken some 60 films. If I have the Leica in town I never get bored. There are always potential pictures to look for.
"This one I took when I was biking home one day in April. The boys were actually trying to photograph each other jumping with the bikes. They had new DSLRs and hardly knew what buttons to press. As teacher I was very happy to show them a little about their cameras. (Do I hear anyone say: They should have bought Leicas!?) You can see one of them lying on his back.
"Yes, I am happy that I bought the Leica."
Featured Comment by charlie: "I did it...or I am doing it.
"I bought an M6 and Zeiss 35mm ƒ/2.8 lens. Shot a roll of Portra 400 and Ilford XP-2 and then settled on the standard choice and bought a brick of Tri-x.
"Prior to that I had shot a D700 (for 9 months) and couple of primes, and an Olympus DSLR for five years. My first intro was 25 years ago in college and only ever dabbled over the years, even when working in a pro lab.
"It has been a little over two months now and I could not be happier with my decision. It is what I have wanted for 20 years. I take fewer images but I feel more intimately involved in the process, and I got back on the 'street' which I love doing.
"I took this a step further and even asked Mike how long he thought film would be available. I don't plan on this ending in a year's time, or any other arbitrary time frame. At least for B&W street stuff, I think I am set forever.
"Very hard for me to choose photos when asked but here is one I like. This is my friend Ted, who I met one morning for breakfast a couple months ago. It was the first time we had seen each other in a decade. Ted also takes photographs, and upon seeing the M6 he exclaimed, 'Perfect. You will never need another camera, ever.'
"Thanks for the kick in the pants, Mike, and I look forward to hearing from and about other people's journey as well."
Featured Comment by Warren Markert: "I did a year with a variation, the Voigtander Bessa-R and the cheapest 50mm Russian lens I could find. I still have it and am still shooting film (Tri-X). I think the love of film is what I gained most over this time as my digital camera has still not come out of the cupboard. Choosing a picture is tricky but here is one (below)."
Featured Comment by Joel: "I did a variation on your challenge. I pulled out my old K1000 from high school and college and started shooting, at first with the 50mm ƒ/2 and then a 28mm and 135mm I got for a song on craigslist.
"I've had such a great time shooting, mostly T-Max but some Tri-X. I've found it very liberating to be divorced from the LCD. I've built a small darkroom and have been working on developing and printing what I've been shooting. It has been far more rewarding and creatively satisfying then I expected it would be.
"I'm not a professional photographer; it's always been just a hobby. Now though I feel like I really own my creativity, I'm not just skilled in the technical functions of a camera or accompanying software. It feels more mine, I'm threaded more into it from composition to print. Even on the digital stuff I still shoot.
"It wasn't a Leica and it wasn't one lens or even the only camera I shot but I'm really glad I took part in some way. Thank you!"
Featured Comment by Paul McEvoy: "Hi Mike, I have thought about the article much in the meantime. For most of the last year, a Leica M seemed like a dream. But through some events that involved the death of a very distant non-blood relative and a generous graduation present from nursing school, I recently ended up with a Leica M6 and a 35mm ƒ/2.
"But that's not the story. I ended up starting something I think you mentioned in passing, the large-format-year. While waiting for the Leica, I bought a basket case of a 5x7 camera on ebay and restored it. I've been using that along side the Leica and a Mamiya C330 for the last couple of months. But I find myself dreaming about this camera and really enjoying the process of using it for portraits. It's got me totally excited again about photography and really excited about my own photography practice.
"So...my camera: 5x7 Eastman No. 33, my film is HP5 Plus (one of the few available in 5x7, 120 and 35mm) and my lens is a 180mm Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar.
"I do hope to make use of the Leica again, but right now I'm happy to take a picture a day with the big camera.
"Thanks for the inspiration.
"P.S. Here are the pictures I've taken so far, and here's my current favorite."
Mike replies: Fine work, Paul. I also did "a year with a view camera" at one point in my journey, although I've never written about it. Most popular work I ever did—people loved it. I've never gotten so many compliments as I did that year.
Featured Comment by Richard Howe: "Just spent a couple of hours going through the whole set of 'A Leica Year' on flickr—what fun! And so many, many fabulous pictures. This convinces me, I'm going to have to try it myself!"
Chad Freeman of Seattle is making a blog of his year. (See his comment in the Comments section.)
Featured Comment by Tom: "Hi, I make the experiment since 1.1.2010. I am from Germany and use a Leica MP and a 50mm Summilux. I take pictures with Kodak TMAX and develop all the pictures themselves, it makes me great fun and I always have more fun on photography. Unfortunately, my English is not good and therefore I let Google translate ;) Here I have created a homepage. But it is only in German. Thanks for the inspiration! cu Tom
"German: Hallo, ich mache das Experiment seit dem 1.1.2010. Ich komme aus Deutschland und nutze eine Leica MP und eine Summilux 50mm. Ich fotografiere nur mit Kodak TMAX und entwickle alle Bilder selbst. Es macht mir großen Spaß und ich habe immer mehr Freude am Fotografieren. Leider ist mein Englisch nicht gut und ich lasse daher Google übersetzen ;) Hier habe ich eine Homepage angelegt. Sie ist aber nur in deutsch. Danke für die Inspiration! cu Tom"
Above: Near the train station in Osaka, July 2010, by Semilog (see his comment in the Comments section). M6, 35/2.8 Biogon-C ("favorite 35, ever"), Neopan 1600 @ EI1600, XTOL 1:1.
Aaron Greenman (above and below) has been shooting for a year with an M8 and the 50mm ƒ/1.4 Summilux ASPH. See the "Exhibits" section of his website.
Featured Comment by John Woods: "I am now seventy and have been disabled by polio since 1946. That did not stop an active photographic career with Nikon (starting with the F) and Hasselblad. But nowadays those cameras are proving a little heavy so I decided to buy a baby camera for everyday use. Knowing my interests, the owner of my favourite camera shop in St James's talked me out of a true baby camera and suggested I try a Leica M. I remembered reading your article and thought, let's try one for a year. So I bought a second-hand M8 (which had been factory uograded to 8.2) plus a 35mm ƒ/2 summicron. Joy! Back to the photography of my school days when I was an enthusiastic member of the Brighton & Hove camera club (I still have the mounted copy of the first photo I submitted to the annual Club competition).
"Each time I buy a new camera I decide on a test project. For the Leica this was to record the changing seasons viewed from the second floor window of my home on the Riviera. This project ends with my (first) Year with a Leica. But the pleasure of always having the M8 with me when I go out will not stop. The image quality is, of course, great. And the opportunities have increased greatly because I always have the M8 with me. Your article tipped the balance in favour of the Leica M when I was choosing a 'baby camera.' Thank you."
Featured [partial] Comment by Bernard Scharp: "...What did I learn? First of all, to 'see' with my 'one lens.' Looking around I can frame a 50mm without really trying. This also helps in the second part: Seeing pictures. Even when I'm not actively photographing, for example when cycling, I often look around, and just take 'mind pictures' of things around me. If I see one that catches my eye, I stop, take out the camera and take it. In the same vein, I've started to just take 'photography walks.' Not going to a specific destination, but just a walk around the neighbourhood carrying my camera, just to see what I stumble upon....
[See Bernard's complete comment and links in the Comments section. —MJ]
Featured Comment by Phil Gyford: "I didn't do it with a Leica but I did dig out the Pentax K1000 I bought used when I went to college twenty years ago and haven't used for years. I bought a 50mm ƒ/1.7 lens on eBay and have been using nothing but this (aside from some casual phone/point-and-shoot shots occasionally), with Tri-X, for over a year now.
"I've really enjoyed it and it's been a real refresher—I was only using a digital point-and-shoot before, not wanting the bulk and expense of a digital SLR. But I didn't like the pictures it took and wasn't sure what to do next. So black-and-white film on my old SLR was just the change I was after.
"I intended to shoot as much as you suggested, but reality took care of that—I just don't have the time and would have to give other things up to really concentrate on photography that much. I've shot 23 films over the past year, although I sometimes went for weeks or even months without shooting. When I realised I was carrying the camera around a lot but never using it, I stopped taking it everywhere. I didn't like being 'on' all the time, and I valued being able to just be, to walk around without looking for potential shots. I guess I'm not a natural, compulsive photographer!
"But it's been good otherwise. I've thought more about composition. I really love taking my time and valuing each shot, rather than firing off several in one go. It's made me think about what I want from a camera and photography in general. So, many thanks for your idea.
"Here are my 30 favourites from the past year on Flickr."
Featured Comment by JackM: "I know I didn't start this 'a year with a Leica and one lens' on time. I assume you will allow me to start a year late, such as this past June? And you suggested I could do this for free, by selling the equipment a year later for what I paid? I'll let you know how I do, but so far a single lens is all I have needed."
Mike replies: Of course this is just an exercise—never has been anything but—and can be started or finished any time. I hope it's not necessary to point out that there's no moral component to this idea. Nobody "has to" do any particular thing with their photography hobby (note emphasis), and there should be no sense of "I didn't do what Mike said so he probably thinks I'm not a real photographer." Not at all. It's just something that I think could be a valuable learning experience—as my year shooting color film in a 4x5 was a valuable learning experience for me, even though I went right back to shooting 35mm black-and-white afterward.
I wonder if there are still photographers out there who need to do a year with a DSLR!?
Featured Comment by Markus Busch: "No cheating. My Leica Year ended August 18th, 2010. Leica M3, Summicron 50mm, and Tri-X. What a wonderful experience. Thanks for the inspiration, Mike. Here is my Leica year set."
Mike replies: And yet, squares! Interesting. That's definitely not cheating, though. Beautiful work.
Joe Henry (above) uses his Leica MP and 50mm Summicron 90% of the time. This shot was taken with a Nikon 1 soft filter using a step-up ring.
Featured Comment by Stig Dahlin: "Your little push was exactly what I needed! My digital photography felt a bit sloppy and 'unfocused.' Too many pictures, too little content. So I dusted off my battered old M2, bought a 35mm Color-Skopar and a 100-foot can of Tri-X and started. After developing a few rolls I was hooked. Completely! I hadn't thought of the nostalgia. Suddenly it was 1967 again! Soon I had a M6 too, with a Nokton 35mm ƒ/1.4, and I had a great time in the winter darkness. I haven't had so much fun photographically for many years. Well, it was really fun with digital when I started in 2002, but now I feel at home again.
"For color it's still digital, mostly with an LX-3. The DSLRs are mainly used for digitizing the negatives. This picture is taken with a red filter. Don't know if the camera is the M2 or the M6. I have taken around 50 rolls so far and have no intention of stopping.
"Thank you so much for your wonderful blog and the much needed push!"
Featured Comment by Chris Skarbon: "Quite by chance, or perhaps by default—it's the only lens I had for it—I've been using a Carl Zeiss 35mm ƒ/2 on a Contax G2 for the past year, so I guess that qualifies me for your Leica for a year exercise, even if I didn't realize it at the time—and even though it's a Contax and not a Leica. I've since acquired the 28mm, 45mm and 90mm and guess what, I never use them. I'm so used to seeing the world through the 35mm that I don't even think about picking up the 28 or 45, even though they're supposed to be two of the best lenses ever produced for 35mm cameras.
"So, in terms of your experiment, I'd advise anyone to try it for a year and save themselves a heap of money by not buying lenses they'll never use.
"This photo was shot last summer on Lido beach, Venice (Italy, not California) with the aforementioned G2 and 35mm ƒ/2."
Featured Comment by Dan P: "I started in October, and have since sold all my DSLRs and digital gear. I may have found my thing with the M6 and 35 Summilux—a lasting love. As soon as I started getting film back from the lab, I realized that the SLRs made me a color and bokeh aesthete and now I'm way more focused on gesture, light and emotion. Nothing has done more for my photography than this."