Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lieca O Street Photography Drifting around Toronto

Drifting takes up most of my free time these days. It's my term for walking around Toronto with a camera and trying to make a photo or two. This year I'm drifting with the Leica O and I'm starting to get the hang of things with the camera.

I usually start off at Union Station if I take the train into the city and head up Bay or Yonge with my camera set and ready to shoot. I usually walk down the shadow side of the street since this provides even light and nicer light on peoples faces. 

If I decide to switch to the full-sun side of the street I have to adjust the camera for the new exposure. Everyone knows this but with the Leica O changing exposure isn't always that easy.

First you have to replace the lens cap, I've been getting better at remembering to do this. Then you fire off a frame and wind the film half way until two little dots line up. With the dots in the right spot I can push down on the shutter speed dial and rotate the dial to the next speed. 

Of course they're not shutter speeds but shutter slot widths. 10mm is what I use the most often because it's about 1/100 second. If I move across the street I have to change this to a 2mm slot width which gives me a shutter speed of about 1/500 second. Now with the new slot width set, I finish winding the film to the next frame and I'm ready to shoot.

Of course I also have to adjust the aperture for the bright side of the street. You have to remove the lens cap and reach into the front part of the lens and adjust the aperture. The minimal aperture is f12 which means the minimal exposure I can get is 1/500 at f12 which works out perfect in full sun for ISO 400 film like the Ilford XP2 I've been using. 

If you forget to finish winding the film and try to adjust the aperture first you fog both the previous frame and the next frame since the un-cocked shutter is in the open position and the film is protected by the lens cap. I've made all these mistakes more than once and a sheet of contacts has both blank frames from changing speeds and fogged frames from winding without the cap on.

Sometimes the picture has moved on before I get everything set but I was able to make this shot in Toronto's Chinatown when I met a dragon on the corner.

This is me shooting with the camera. There is no viewfinder but just a rifle sight style framing device. You hold the camera about 30 cm from your eye, similar to people using a modern digital with LiveView. The more things change the more they stay the same.

-Rob Skeoch 

 Although I've worked as a photographer all my life, I'm currently back at school trying to finish my Masters of Fine Art Degree at the Maine Media Workshops and College. 

Norman Mauskopf is one of my mentors on a project that ties together street photography and a touch of the history of photography as I drift through Toronto using a Leica O camera that was designed in 1923. You can learn more about the Leica 0 here.  

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