Winter may not seem the ideal time to hire a camper van and hit the road, however, this is New Zealand and the weather gods have been good to us. Also the camper hire is much cheaper for obvious reasons. Thanks to the friendly and professional Craig & Karen of for the van hire. It was now time for Dad, Zac and Mitch to hit the road on their first road trip together.

We’ve seen much of what the North Island has to offer, all that really remained was the East Cape. This area was at the heart of the Land Wars between the British Empire and Maori, its steeped in history and natural beauty. If you want to experience raw New Zealand, this is undoubtably where you need to go.

This post is heavy on both images and thoughts, many more than I would normally include in a post but please humor me, it’s been a while. Also I’m delighted to say it contains no less than seven Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shots in the M9 & M Analogue formats.

I suppose I should add that this wasn’t a photographic trip, it was father and sons spending time together and having fun, but there should be a photographic recorded of that, right???? I’ll touch on this a little more later.

On Gear – This is the first occasion that I’ve really had a serious dilemma around what to carry with me, a clear indication that too much choice can sometimes be a bad thing. Even before this trip was planned I had been giving thought to maybe selling some of my equipment, in fact there have been a couple of occasions recently when I’ve considered selling all of it but thats a different story…….So, what to take, I wanted to keep it light and simple so I packed my bag with the following.

  • Leica M9 – Limit myself to one body
  • 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph – I’ve never really taken to this lens, my first instinct was to take the 35 Lux but I thought I’d maybe try out a long exposure or two, I have the adaptors to get from 39mm to 72mm for the Light Craft Workshop ND500 so this was in.
  • 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – Probably my favorite lens at the moment.

I then added

  • 15mm VC Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 – on the basis that its so small and light that I may as well have it with me.

and then

  • Leica M3 – What about a film option, yes I should really try to get through some film, this camera is a fairly recent acquisition so in it went.
  • Gossen Pilot – Accurate manual metering, needed for the M3

oh, and what about

  • Leica M6 – Sometimes its just a little more convenient to have built in metering….

and there it was, the simple lightweight bag was now packed to capacity and not so light either. Too much choice you see.

On Doing the Right Thing – Hopefully others amongst you will have experience of what I’m about to say, it may be more relevant to the male photographers though. I’ve already mentioned this trip was not about taking photographs, I will be the first to admit that if we’re doing something as a family and I go in to camera mode then its generally at the expense of me joining in, to be blunt multi tasking is not a facet of mine. So I took photographs only when they could be taken with the minimum of disruption to our trip, this was so, so difficult……I lost count of how many shots I drove past, arriving at a location only to be frustrated by the light, then driving away knowing full well that light would be perfect if you just hung around for another hour or so, all very difficult to do. I’ve learnt that photography is in the main a selfish pursuit, one that is best undertaken alone or in the company of other togs, so it’s important to do the right thing sometimes, to engage with the kids, not the camera and most importantly to have fun.

Rope Swing – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

 35mm summicron f/2 asph Rope-Swing-Leica-M9-with-35mm-Summicron-f2

On the 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph-  I came to own this lens by default, it was with the used Leica M9 that I bought, whilst I fully expected it to be exactly what I wanted in a lens we’ve never really hit it off. In actual fact its not that long ago that it was up for sale, I can say now how pleased I am that it didn’t sell. I am seeing this lens in a whole new light, I could easily have managed on this trip with this lens alone. 

Realisation – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

35mm summicron f/2 asph Realisation

Tokamaru Bay – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

35mm summicron f/2 asph Tokamaru-Bay-

Tokamaru Bay has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

To the Cape – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph

35mm summicron f/2 asph To-the-Cape

To the Cape has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

On Long Exposure – I’ve not used the Leica M9 for long exposures before so here is the Long Exposure set-up I used on the Leica M9:  35mm Summicron f/2 Asph, 39-52 Step up ring, 52-72 Step up ring and 72mm Light Craft Workshop ND500 Filter. If it sounds a bit agricultural thats because it is, sure its ugly, but it works. I have to say it always depresses me to see how dusty the sensor is despite all the precautions I take, its also very tedious removing those dust spots from the image. This was a prime example of needing to hang around just a bit longer for a more spectacular sky, still there’s always next time.

Tolaga Bay – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph and ND500 Fliter


On B&W – I make no secret of my preference for B&W over colour, it just makes sense to me. An image that is “nice” in colour can be transformed by B&W processing. 

East Cape Horses – Leica M9, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE


East Cape Horses has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

Long Shadows – Leica M9, 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5


Long Shadows has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

On Film –  Having gone to the trouble of taking both the M3 and M6 with me I only actually shot the ends of the rolls already in the cameras, in the case of the M3 this was Ilford HP5+ 400 and in the M6 I had Kodak TMAX 400 that I was pushing to ISO 1600 as part of another project. In truth I didn’t need these cameras with me but I’m happy to have these images all the same. Being totally truthful, of all these images in this post, the ones shot on film resonate with me the most, when I am more proficient with both film camera and developing I fully expect it to be my medium of choice. 

Campsite Capers – Leica M3, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE


Local Transport – Leica M3, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE


Beach Pose – Leica M3, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE


On Film vs. Digital – Here are two images, in both digital and film, more or less the same composition, DOF is different due to the ISO of the film in the M6 and 1/1000 sec max shutter speed. This scene is probably my favorite from the trip, I have a preference, what do you think?

End of the Road – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph


End of the Road has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

End of the Road – Leica M6, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph Kodak TMAX 400 pushed to ISO 1600


End of the Road has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

 Some Final Thoughts  – Most importantly I managed to have a great time with my kids and to learn a couple of things about them that I didn’t know before, it’s great to see their sense of humor developing, to share a joke, have a laugh and be silly together. Whats more I managed to get some decent images along the way. I will definitely be returning to the East Cape, photographically it has so much to offer. What do I feel is missing from my post?  There is no engagement with the local population, this is the land of the Maori after all, fascial tattoos (Ta Moko) are common place, kids ride bareback horses in the streets, shoes on feet and even glass in windows are not considered necessary by many. It’s a captivating place with an intriguing and friendly population, I wish I had just been able to convey that in my images. I will return…..

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this, its appreciated. All the best, Jason.

The remnants of my images of the East Cape.

Misty Mornings – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph


Springvale Bridge – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph


Bleached Bones – 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE 


The Cape – 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE


No Country for Old Men – Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 Asph


No Country for Old Men has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.



  • Andy J says:

    Great work Jason. Misty morning shot is a stunner. As for the film/digi comparison, hmmmm, hard to say as you pushed the tri-x. Would prefer to see a transparency shot to compare. To be honest I’ve given up on whether I like one or the other, I like both for different reasons. One thing I do know, I get more pleasure from shooting film and a sense of satisfaction that digital has never given me 🙂

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Andy, that’s really satisfying coming from you. Yes I take your point, not a direct comparison. I’m thinking now that I maybe took a shot of this with the M6 and Fuji Velvia 50….roll still in the camera. That would be interesting also, If I have I will update the post at a later date. With regards the TMAX 400 That was my first attempt at pushing it, for 2 stops I was really happy with it, you have way more experience….I may be looking for tips at some point. Cheers, Jason

  • Jason Byrne says:

    Hey jase

    Another enjoyable post to read. I’m glad you had a good time with the boys. It’s perhaps something I need to do!

    I’m a fan of colour, as you will have seen from my images, but I always enjoy your B&W work. However this time with “End of the road”, it definitely works better in colour for me.

    Misty mornings is an awesome photo. Well seen and very well taken. Great job.

    We really must have a photog day/weekend out soon!



    • janrzm says:

      Hi Jay, Thanks for the kind words, it’s really satisfying when them come from a talented tog, as for the road trip I can highly recommend it!

      End of the Road, I’m preferring the colour image at the moment too, it will probably change over the next week or so though……

      Yes I like the idea of that, lets sort something out soon.

  • Mark says:

    Great post, Jason. Love the photos. Outstanding. Liked the End of the Road in colour best. Interesting to see these as this time last year I also went round the Cape in a campervan — see my Campervan Capers album on Facebook. The kids found it very bumpy in the back though. I agree about photos and family; a difficult balance and I had to whizz past many a scene i’d preferred to have stopped for. My lot have endless patience with me though.

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Mark, I’m finding it reassuring to hear comments on here and various social media sites that I am not alone in finding it difficult to mix the photography and family….I really enjoyed your post and I owe you a thank you because it made me realise that doing the trip in winter wasn’t a bad idea!! Cheers, Jason.

  • Hey Jason. All fantastic images. The film images clearly knock the digital ones out of the park. No comparison…the tones, bokeh etc. on film convey such a wonderful feeling that digital can never match. And Jason your film exposures and development are spot on so there is no need to wait…shoot more film! You are really good at it:)

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks my friend, spoken like a true purist!! You should check out Andy’s film work he is very much a film man. I’ve had several different types B&W of film delivered in the last fortnight so I am going to be pushing ahead and experimenting. The future is film….;-)

  • Andy J says:

    You know what works for me with the End of the Road shot? It’s the contrast between the blue sky and yellow stripe on the tarmac background – I would love to see a Velvia comparison, just for the sheer nerd factor of it all lol

    • janrzm says:

      What appeals in an image is not always obvious, to me anyway. Having given some thought to what you’ve said here in relation to the contrast between the blue sky and the yellow stripe I think you’re spot on. Re: the Velvia comparison we are clearly a pair of nerds…;-)

  • Jason what a wonderful post. I couldn’t stop reading the narrative in between all these amazing images. Excellent work, excellent processing, inspirational, I’d love to visit now, and what a great opportunity to really bond with your children, I’m sure it was an unforgettable experience for all of you.


    • janrzm says:

      Hi Jorge, I really appreciate you taking the time to visit this blog and comment, thanks for the kind words. I will just add that anyone reading this who is not familiar with Jorge’s work would do well to take a look. Cheers Jason

  • […] No Country for Old Men from our East Cape Road Trip – Images and thoughts on Leica gear, Film vs. Digital, B&W and much more. Also includes 7 LFI Leica Fotografie International Master Shots. – […]

  • Hi Jason,

    Beautiful work, my friend. The film shots are spectacular, but I’m loving all of your images here. I don’t know which image I’d pick for “End of the road”… but I’m leaning towards the M9 one for the colour.

    I see you’ve acquired much of the gear I’m using, but the big surprise for me was the 35 ‘cron. I really do think you could have shot the entire trip with just this lens… the images speak for themselves…wow.


    • janrzm says:

      Hi Peter, your comment has given me a welcome “pick me up”, I’ve been suffering with “man flu” today.

      Firstly can I say it’s always immensely satisfying to know you’ve visited this blog, your words and encouragement are greatly appreciated. “End of the Road”, yes the consensus seems to be the M9 colour image, although I fully expected my opinion to have changed by now.

      I have indeed collected much of the same equipment, having been able to make educated decisions thanks to your website…The 35 cron was the star of the show really, had I just taken that I would not have even given a thought to the other lenses.

      Thanks again, Jason.

  • Hi, Just stumbled across your blog via NZ Geographic. Great set of images, looks like an absolutely amazing road trip. You’ve given some inspiration to plan our next roadie!
    Love the B&W conversions too.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Warren, thanks for that, I’m pleased they’ve inspired your next trip, already planning ours too!! Cheers Jason.

  • John Lockwood says:

    Great images and priceless time with your kids. “Road Ends” is a tremendous image. I prefer the B&W one. How about a square crop (I’m an old Hasselblad shooter)? “No Country for Old Men”, besides being a tremendous movie, you’ve created a wonderful image. Love the DOF! Remindes me of an area we vacation.

    Does the M9 look this good naturally in B&W mode or do you have to do a lot of massaging?

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks John, the square crop would work well for the image. I’m a new Hasselblad shooter, having just bought myself a 500c and various Zeiss lenses. Hopefully we’ll see some Medium Format shots on this blog in the future!! I have a rule about post processing, and that is to keep the time spent on each Raw file to a maximum of 5 mins. I’ve recently been playing with the B&W .jpg’s the M9 can produce, they are rich and quite beautiful. Thanks again for the kind words.

  • […] time ago I did a road trip around New Zealand’s stunning East Cape with my young sons (HERE), in preparation for that trip and whilst trying to pack what was clearly too much gear in to my […]

  • This brings back such memories, I have toured this area many times, drove around a few years ago on my return to Aotearoa after 43 years in the New World. Unfortunately I lost all the images I captured and now, with mnd, cannot explore as I once did 🙂 now I will depend on you and others to transport me, many thanks. By the way, that road to nowhere, you sure that’s the east cape? Looks like the road to Palliser. Ignore my pickiness 🙂

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Richard, Thanks I’m pleased it evoked some good memories. That is such a shame about your images, I also suffered a big loss of images about 18 months ago so I know how gut wrenching it is……The East Cape is such an amazing place, I plan on getting back there in the summer. I’ve just had to Google Palliser, (Cape Palliser??) I have never been there but I certainly will try to get the next time we are in Wellington. The End of the Road image was taken on the Pacific Coast Highway close to the Mahia Peninsular. Cheers Jason.

  • […] So, as a prequel to future photographic adventures stirring in my mind and in an effort to reacquaint myself with the camera I decided that another visit to the East Cape would be a sensible place to start. If you’re interested you can see images from my previous road trip HERE. […]

Leave a Reply