Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2001/03/25

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Re: Rolleis, M's, and street photography
From: Johnny Deadman <>
Date: Sun, 25 Mar 2001 19:09:31 -0500

on 3/25/01 6:25 PM, Douglas Cooper at wrote:

> The following images offer a nice comparison of the two types on the
> Rolleiflex -- neither has much out of focus, but you can judge sharpness:
> was shot with a 2.8E
> Xenotar (comparable to the Planar), wide open.

That's a riveting picture, Douglas. I've looked at it before and every time
it takes my breath away.
> I did some street shooting with the 3.5F this morning, and really do
> recommend it, yet again, to those accustomed to taking Leicas out into
> traffic.  I held it at waist level, pre-focused, and pretended I was
> examining it for damage -- *nobody* noticed that I was shooting their
> picture.  A Leica would have been more obvious -- hard to misinterpret
> someone with a camera pressed to his eye.

Personally I find this technique quite hard. I don't like zone focussing if
I can help it, especially with a larger format. I tend to have the focus
optic swung out and my eye glued to the box. Even so, people react to the
rolly even less than the Leica, given that they notice it's pointed at them.
They are more likely to notice in the first place, of course.
> Although I've developed a particularly tricky technique with the Leica M:
> triangulation.  This works with unmoving quarry.  First focus on something a
> few feet away from your subject, but at precisely the same distance.  It's
> clear to your prey that *they* are not the subject of your picture.  Then
> move the lens back and forth, still pointing away from them, as if you're
> seeking out the proper framing.  Lastly, swing it absent-mindedly towards
> them -- when they're in frame, take the picture -- then swing it away again
> as if still seeking the perfect frame.  Rarely do they realize that they've
> been shot.  Helps to have a fast shutter speed, as the camera is often still
> in motion when you get the picture.

I used to do this and still do sometimes but after a while I found that I
was getting very good at knowing how far away I was from someone. In
particular, I got a really highly developed sense of where 3,4,6,8,10,12 and
15 feet away looked like (just like you learn exposures when you use a
handheld incident meter consistently). As a result, when I am zone focussing
these days I tend to just stick the focus dial where I feel comfortable that
day -- usually 6-8 feet, but sometimes less, especially with the Rolly (4-6
feet) -- and wait for things to move into the zone. This is how some snipers
work! You'd be surprised how fast you get good at this.

It's just me but I am increasingly uncomfortable working in devious ways. I
really prefer nowadays that the subject knows they're being photographed and
can choose how to react. I don't know why that should be so but as you'll
see from the Rolly page they almost all have eye contact.

I love your sign series too, Douglas. Great stuff.

- -- 
Johnny Deadman