Motion – Silver Efex Pro 2 (short review)

I thought today I would show a before and after picture taken in Chicago using Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2 for post processing.  All my pictures that become black and white are processed through Silver Efex Pro.  I’ve been using it since the first version.  The second version is far better because it has more control sliders and has “U point” technology.  “U point” is unique to Nik Software programs because it allows you to edit only certain parts or colors of your picture instead of making global changes.  I highly recommend the software if you are going to be making black and white pictures.

This picture was taken with my M9.  I was hoping to get a since of motion with the car. I was able to get this by making sure the rest of the scene was in focus.  The initial color picture is boring, changing to black and white and adding some vignetting makes it much more interesting.

Leica Akademie: M9 Shooting Experience – Chicago

This past Saturday I participated in the Leica Akademie M9 Shooting Experience Chicago.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’ve never met any other Leica users with the exception of speaking to Steve Huff, of Steve Huff Photo (the online Leica guru!).  Simply put, the experience was wonderful and could not have expected a better instructor, Leica representative, and professional photographer to guide us through the workshop.  What made the meeting even more pleasurable was interacting with the other participants.

Before the workshop started, I ran into Steve Huff of Steve Huff Photo.  I frequent his site daily and have spoke to him via email a few times and felt he was a terrific guy and after meeting him, it confirmed it.  He reviews many Leica products and other cameras, mostly rangefinders and micro 4/3’s.  He does a phenomenal job and I have to give him credit for guiding me towards Leica.

The workshop started out by meeting the Leica representative Matt Butzow and the instructor Tom Smith.  Next, Matt allowed us to pick a Leica lens to borrow (I wanted to get my hand on the noctilux but unfortunately someone got to it before me).

Next, Tom Smith spent the remaining morning going through the ins and outs of the Leica M9 system.  All I can say is that I learned a tremendous amount and if you are new to Leica or rangefinders in general this is a must do class!

After lunch, Carlos Javier Ortiz presented on his work as a photojournalist and showed many of his ongoing projects.  Some of these projects are listed on his website.  He also showed us a current project that him and other photojournalist around the country are participating in.  The project is called “Facing Change” (I don’t consider it politically motivated) and you can see pictures from the project here.

Next we went out and shot for about an hour.  Like most participants I followed Tom around and he showed us his perspective in street photography and also taught us some invaluable camera tips.

Last, we came back and Tom showed us his typical workflow when downloading pics from his computer and uploading to Lightroom.  I found this info useful, but I have to admit I’m a die hard Apple guy and use Aperture 3.0.

As stated above, I found the workshop a great learning experience and 100% worth the cost.  I’ve heard rumor of maybe a 3 day Leica course in the future in Chicago, I will definitely be there.

If you are interested in Leica Akademie you can see upcoming events here.

P.S.  I mentioned that we did go out and shoot for a while.  Here are a few pics I took (more in the next few days) and you can go to Michael Sullivans flickr page to see pics he took (another Leica shooter at the course, great guy).





Mother & Daughter

We drove up to Chicago this weekend for a short 3 day vacation and for me to participate in the Leica Akademie M9 Shooting Experience.  I’ll post my thoughts and some pictures from the event in a few days.

We’re staying at the Allerton Hotel.  So far it’s been good.  It’s an old hotel but the rooms are very nice.  Here is a pic of Lyla and mommy resting on the bed after a long day of traveling and shopping.

Iowa Countryside

I can remember the many drives from Southern Illinois to Des Moines and how much I would complain that there was absolutely nothing to look at. If you’re not familiar with this part of the country lets just say it is extremely flat and all you see for miles is farm land.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved where I grew up and wouldn’t change it for anything but when you are stuck in a car for 8 hours, it’s nice to have something to look at.

Until recently, I never realized that Iowa actually is not that flat and has many rolling hills. I took this picture just west of Des Moines, it captures the typical farm land scene in this area.


A Kids Perspective

Recently a friend of Serenity’s (my wife) inquired if I would be willing to take a few family pictures.  As much as I enjoy taking pictures, this is still out of my comfort zone.  I don’t envy portrait photographers, there are many things that go into making a great family picture.  For one, you need great lighting and no shadows.  Second, you have to have your subjects position just right so that a proper exposure can be obtained.  Last, trying to coordinate all subjects to look and smile at the camera all at the same time can be especially difficult when dealing with small kids.

The picture below was shot through the opening in the back of a chair.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but I think it’s what made the shot.  It allowed for me to frame my subjects and also allowed for some candidness.  As you can see, there was no issue in getting their attention.

Our Future @ 8 Weeks

Watching a new born grow is simply amazing.  Our daughter as of yesterday is 10 weeks old.  I can’t believe how fast it has went.  In such a short time she has almost doubled her weight, grown more than 3 inches, and went from sleeping and staring into space, to someone who has a wonderful personality and enjoys to smile, giggle, and show her admiration for her parents (especially mom).

Today’s post is a continuation of my “Our Future” series.  My wife was unsure if she would even cooperate for the pose.  For the first time she was awake for the shot and clearly, didn’t have any problem posing for dad.

P.S.  A friend of mine from San Diego, Elijah Nicolas has a blog (you can see it here) and recently posted a great commercial Google created promoting gmail.  The commercial shows a father creating a gmail account for his newborn and writes to it frequently so that she can have a journal of her early years.  Please watch below (it reminds me of what my wife and I are doing with taking frequent pictures).


The Crossing

The Leica M9 is not only known for its great color pics, it’s probably better known for its black and white images.  I have to admit, the M9 does a phenomenal job of creating black and white pics.  It’s hard to describe what it is but the M9 just has that extra touch when creating these type of images.  I don’t routinely shoot in black and white while using the camera.  I shoot in raw (uncompressed picture format) and then edit it with Niks Software Silver Efex Pro 2.  If you like monochrome images, this is the software to purchase.  I have owned just the aperture plugin and now own the Photoshop CS5 plugin and prefer having the Photoshop plugin because it just makes a new layer instead of altering the original pic like it does in Aperture.

Soon after purchasing my black M9 (I have not moved on to the M9-P) I traveled to Cleveland for a conference and on my way home I stopped and shot a few pics.  This pic, originally in color was edited in Silver Efex Pro 2.  Let me know what you think?

Leica M9-P (chrome) unboxed

I finally received it, the new Leica M9-P in chrome. I purchased it at Dale Photo but you can also pre-order at and be notified when it’s in stock at B & H Photo. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are no internal changes, just cosmetic changes to the body consisting of removal of the front “red dot” and “Leica” logo and placement of an engraved logo on top, a leatherette grip, and a new sapphire anti-reflective LCD cover. I originally chose the black Leica M9 only because there were no chrome available but I was fortunate to get one this time. Personally, even though not as “stealthy” as the black M9-P, the chrome is much more retro and has a more classic look.

Below are pictures from the unboxing.

I hope to have some pics up in a few days taken with the new M9-P but right now here is another picture of my beautiful wife and daughter at our recent trip to the Drive-In to watch Harry Potter (definitely see the admiration my daughter has for her mother in this pic).


If you’re not familiar with Leica, you probably are not aware that they are well known for shooting at low apertures and creating bokeh.  Bokeh is the blur seen in photography or more specifically the quality of the blur.  Each Leica lens is known for there unique bokeh.  Yes, you will find this with almost all other cameras and lenses but many don’t have the quality seen in Leica lenses.  I’ve shot with many Canon dSLR’s and low aperture lenses and have never been impressed as much as I am with the Leica m-mount lenses.

If you would like to read more about “bokeh” I’ll forward you to Steve Huff’s website for an article written by Ashwin Rao’s titled “What is Bokeh?

Below are a few examples of shots taken with my Leica 50mm Summilux and 35mm Summicron.

Leica M9-P

As many of you know Leica announced an updated version of the Leica M9 yesterday, the M9-P.  No internal changes, only visual changes to the body consisting of removal of the front “red dot” and “Leica” logo and placement of an engraved logo on top, a leatherette grip, and a new sapphire anti-reflective lcd cover. Definitely gives the camera a more “retro” and “stealthy” look.  (black or chrome) and B&H Photo now have it listed and for pre-order.

Below are a few pics and video.