The Winterless North with Leica Film Cameras

By October 16, 2014Blog, Film, Photo Essay

The Winterless North with Leica Film Cameras

It’s that time again, by that I mean I’ve been able to fabricate another road-trip opportunity and with it a chance to visit another part of New Zealand, one that I haven’t explored before. As a continuation of my enthusiasm for shooting film I’d maybe crack out a Leica film camera or two.

Route –

Head to Cape Reinga at the extreme tip of the North Island, taking in a few other random places such as Matauri Bay, Kaeo, Kaikohe and Rawene along the way before returning via the Kauri Coast. Experience has taught me to have a plan to fall back on but to follow my nose most of the time……

Gear –

  • Leica M7 & Leica M3 DS
  • 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph
  • 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph
  • 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 Asph

You’ll no doubt be impressed by how light I was traveling!!

FIlm –

I grabbed a random handful of films, well 24 rolls to be exact, safe in the knowledge that there’s absolutely no way I’d be able to shoot that many rolls in a few days but I did manage 12 which for me, is quite a lot.

  • Kodak Ektar 100
  • Kodak Portra 400
  • Agfa Vista 200
  • Fuji Superior 400
  • Fuji Velvia 50
  • Fuji Astia 100f
  • TMAX 100
  • TRI X 400

Developing –

I’ve developed the C41 films myself in the JOBO CPP2 using the same Digibase C41 Pre-mixed kit I’ve used recently. Likewise I’ve also developed the B&W, this time using XTOL. I’ve not got my E6 Chemicals yet so these were kindly developed by the awesome Film Soup.

Recipies –


TRI-X 400 – HERE

C41 – HERE

Scanning –

Colour Scanning done on the Imacon 848, the images in this post have formed part of my learning curve with the scanner and FlexColour software, I’m getting close to being happy. The B&W’s were done on the Reflecta Proscan 7200 with Vuescan, why? Well at the moment I’m a little further away from B&W scans that I like when using the Imacon.

So, the photographs! It’s been some time since I did a huge self indulgent post so here goes, a selection of my favourites from the trip.

Leica Film Camera 1

Leica Film Camera 2

Leica Film Camera 3

Leica Film Camera 4

Leica Film Camera 5

Leica Film Camera 42

Leica Film Camera 6

I’ve shared the following two images, not for any photographic merit but because each was in it’s own way a memorable and culturally significant moment for me. 

I returned to camp at Matauri Bay as the sun began to set, removing my camera bag from the car I could hear the unmistakable sound of singing coming from the direction of the beach. On further investigation I established that the only possible source could be a guy sat some 40 meters away on the edge of the dunes. Closing the distance between us, my presence was acknowledged by the nod of a head and a smile, I moved closer. “I’m visiting my cousin, he lives on the beach down there” he said pointing to a collection of ancient caravans and ramshackle hut’s that made up small settlement at the far end of the beach. “When I visit, I always come here and sing under the shelter of the Waka, so the spirits of my ancestors know I’ve been back” he proclaimed, and so it went that after the formalities of a handshake and the exchanging of names that he shared with me the history of his iwi, tīpuna, their land and customs. His outward appearance was every inch the Maori Warrior but his spirit was kind, he was a truly gentle soul.

Leica Film Camera 7

There are no such things as strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet!! I don’t know where that saying originated but I can’t help but think it was based on someones experiences in New Zealand!!!

People, especially in small towns are more likely to engage in conversation with a stranger, put a film camera in the strangers hand and they are more likely still!! Throw in an English accent and well you can pretty much speak to anyone, anywhere……..I’ll remember this lady with Ta Moko for a long time, having stopped to chat briefly we exchanged a hongi, my first in a “real life” situation. It’s such a unique greeting and I find it, like many Maori customs to be deeply spiritual. It probably strikes more of a chord with me because I wouldn’t ever have considered myself to be prone to “spiritual” experiences.

Leica Film Camera 8

Reflecting on both of these encounters the photographer in me got lost in the moment, it’s not the first time it’s happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last. If I could only manage to link the meaningful exchange to a meaningful image that would be something special. On occasion, I’m still rushing the photograph in these moments, when the reality is that there is absolutely no need to.

Leica Film Camera 9

Leica Film Camera 10

Leica Film Camera 11

Taratara, the enormous outcrop seen in the distance of the shot above really is a spectacular sight, I tried for a couple of hours to find a good vantage point with a view to returning the following day, alas I just couldn’t find one. What I did achieve was the glow in Portra 400 when rated at 100, nice.

Leica Film Camera 12

Leica Film Camera 40

I’ve included this one for my mate Dave Powell at Shoot Tokyo he is the master of the cone photograph, this one is clearly missing in action……

Leica Film Camera 13

Leica Film Camera 14

Leica Film Camera 15

Leica Film Camera 16

As much of NZ is relatively rural the fire service is operated by volunteer’s, here is a fire fighter from the small town of Rawene.

Leica Film Camera 17

Leica M3 – Zone Focus, shot  from the hip, not done that since the X100 days!!!

Leica Film Camera 18

Leica Film Camera 19

I’ve developed a couple of habits over time, good and bad……

Bad, loading film and only advancing one frame, very annoying!!! Sod’s law dictates that on the three rolls of film where I did this, the first shot of which only half was exposed correctly were shots that I really, really wanted.

Good, my continued inclination to drive down random side roads, whilst this does considerably slow progress to a given destination it does yield the occasion benefit.

I followed one such road for several kilometers until it eventually ended at a deserted white sand beach, deserted that is apart from a small campervan. You see these vans in NZ, half a million km’s on the clock, no doubt carried endless numbers of travelers around the island before eventually being sold on and on and on. It appeared to be empty but as I began to walk away from it a voice yelled out “Kia Ora Bro!” as I turned a face popped up in the rear window. Five minutes later and I was sat at a makeshift table and chairs sharing a cup of tea with this generous stranger. The kiwi’s call it having a yarn and as we sat putting the world to rights, sipping tea and discussing the beauty of the “winterless north” he made an admission……” The truth is I was only hitting the road for a few weeks, in actual fact I was supposed to be back at work by now, well 2 months ago to be honest!!!” We cracked up, New Zealand can do this to you, “Shit! I need to do a lot better than you” I said.

Leica Film Camera 37

The Generous Stranger I mentioned above, I wonder if he’s returned to work yet…….doubtful 🙂

Leica Film Camera 20

Leica Film Camera 21

Leica Film Camera 22

Leica Film Camera 23

Leica Film Camera 39

Leica Film Camera 24

Leica Film Camera 25

Leica Film Camera 26

Leica Film Camera 38

Leica Film Camera 27

It was the run up to the election here in NZ, I wouldn’t expect you to know, in fact you could almost live here and not realise……even the most popular candidate isn’t always the most popular, if you get my drift.

Leica Film Camera 28

Leica Film Camera 29

Leica Film Camera 30b

Entrance to 90 mile Beach, tracks in the sand made by the tourist buses that literally hurtle down the beach.

Leica Film Camera 31

Leica Film Camera 32

Leica Film Camera 33

Leica Film Camera 41

I took only a small number of shots using the 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5, this image taken with the M7 is exhibiting a huge amount of vignetting, as did the others. Not something I’ve experienced when using the lens on the M6, has anyone else found this I wonder?

Leica Film Camera 34

It’s always enjoyable visiting places you’ve not been to before, especially so if photography is your passion. Feasting your eyes on the previously unseen will always, without fail, give you that buzz of excitement and anticipation. What’s becoming equally exciting and enjoyable for me is meeting and talking to people. I lost track of how many of these brief encounters I had on this trip but I can tell you there were many. Is it remarkable that there wasn’t one negative experience? Not even a declined photograph.

Leica Film Camera 35

For me, there’s always a period of reflection when you return from a trip. With the exception of the E6 processing this entire analog post is my own work from start to finish. When you actually stop and think about the process it’s actually a little bit daunting, that said it’s also incredibly satisfying.

Breaking it down, from seeing a photograph, executing the shot, developing the film and getting a scan you’re happy with there’s actually quite a lot of margin for error…..Had I shot these images on digital I’d have known immediately if I’d got the shot, there’s no risk to processing them and they could have been posted within a couple of days, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s a negative in fact most of the time that suits! I’m not saying these are the best photographs I’ve ever taken either but I’m going to put my neck on the line and say that right now they are the ones that have given me the most satisfaction.Something else I’ve tried to work on is being present in the moment, actually just enjoying it for what it is and not as dashing around chasing photographs. It’s a work in progress….

Leica Film Camera 36

The sun sets on Matauri Bay and the end of another little adventure, till next time. Jason.


  • John Lockwood says:

    Looks like you’re getting along quite well with the JOBO and Imacon and enjoying the process, formerly known as craftsmanship.

    Had to laugh at your opening: “fabricate another road-trip opportunity”. Sounds like you enjoyed your trip. I agree with your feelings on “being present”. Something about a film camera, the pace, the latency, allows this. What was the response of your portrait subjects to your film cameras? Certainly the lack of chimping increases rapport with your subject.

    • janrzm says:

      Getting the JOBO has been one of the best decisions I’ve made, I love it. I need to do more on the Imacon to improve my technique. I do love that these are all my own work though, that makes it a bit special.

      Well, I may as well be honest…I’m lucky Mrs Howe humours me. Absolutely right about being present, I got more out of this trip than photographs for sure. The film cameras are a great talking point, people are genuinely interested in them, a point reiterated to me by Nasir when I caught up with him. I’m doing everything right apart from rushing some shots and not making the most of a situation, experience will hopefully fill that gap in time.


  • mark henson says:

    hi Jason,
    I really enjoy reading about your adventures and looking these places up on google maps! The reader really gets a feel for the landscape and the friendliness of the people you met on your way, great pictures do that!!

    • janrzm says:

      Hey Mark,

      Thank you, it’s such an interesting place, the people are a little bit special here that’s for sure. Pleased you found it interesting.

      Take care.

  • Nasir Hamid says:

    A nice set of images and a great write-up. I’ve got two words for you, pure photography. That’s what this is. Silver and light. Nice and simple 🙂

    Film is like preparing a home cooked meal from hand picked ingredients. Digital is like going to Mickey D’s.

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Nasir,

      It really is back to basics and growing from there, if I look at it as a whole it’s certainly the biggest sense of achievement I’ve had on this journey so far. I actually feel like I own the images.

      That’s a great analogy, I’m probably the kind of guy that needs a big mac every now and then though!!! For the foreseeable future it’s more home cooking!!


  • Anjolie says:

    Another wonderful set! NZ is so beautiful. And, it looks as though you’ve found a nice groove with your workflow too. I’m looking forward when you start processing slide film at home

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Anjolie, yes it’s certainly a stunning country. My film workflow is as good as it’s ever been, which is a relief. Hopefully I will be successful with E6….. 🙂

  • nobsta says:

    Great images, especially the B&W portraits. And the best one at last: sunset on Matauri Bay. Thank you for sharing …

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Nobsta,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Matauri Bay is such a beautiful place, I forgot to mention in my post that it is also the final resting place of the Rainbow Warrior.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Mike Bouchier says:

    What a great post Jason!

    I have to admit, this is the first time I have visited your site for a while and have thoroughly enjoyed catching up with your work.
    I visited Northland a few years ago and was struck by the beauty and sparseness of the region, your images capture the uniqueness of the landscape and the people perfectly.
    With regards to your spiritual encounter I am extremely jealous. To have exchanged a Hongi and have learned the history of the Iwi of the man singing to his ancestors must have been humbling.
    Stand out images for me, the lighthouse at Cape Reinga (love the Blue of the sky), the shells on the beach and the portrait shots.

    • janrzm says:

      Hey Mike thanks.

      Welcome back!! 🙂

      It’s certainly another special place, NZ has so many. Those encounters along with several others will stay with me forever, taking the time to stop and talk to people along the way really enriches the photographic experience.

      All the best, Jason.

  • N3553R says:

    Great write up, sounds like a trip you will remember for the rest of your life. The photos are very nice, the black and whites are especially beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    • janrzm says:


      Thank you, definitely a memorable trip and hopefully many more to come. Thanks for stopping by and I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

      All the best, Jason.

  • Gary says:

    Looks like a nice road-trip Jason. You’re certainly seeing a bit of this country.
    This, and plenty of other sites, has me salivating about getting back into a bit of film, although it will be B&W for me, as I like the processing as much as the shooting.

    • janrzm says:

      Hey Gary,

      Yes I’m definitely seeing a lot of NZ, much I’ve not yet discovered though.

      Do yourself a favour and get yourself a nice M6 😉

  • Gary says:

    Yes Jason, thinking in that direction, already have my old 50 Summicron back. Even a nice M3 or M4 would be good.
    In the interim I will “fiddle” with the SL and 50/2, plus will run a rill through the old Model 1A,
    Un-coated lens will make for “interesting” results no doubt.

    • janrzm says:

      I’m sure I saw you sniffing around an camera on TM recently!! 😉 I keep looking at M4’s more because I’ve not got one than actually wanting one I think…. I use the VC II meter on my M3 and its very good, I like the convenience of the internal meters though.

  • Philipp says:

    Love this! Great set of images 🙂 I’d love to know which photo was shot on which film though 🙂

    • janrzm says:

      Hey Philipp,

      Good to hear!! Yes, it was probably a little remiss of me to not include that at the time….I’ll see about adding it.

      I was just looking at your Flickr images of the US trip, that Portra 160 is lovely! What was your route?

      • Philipp says:

        Sorry for the late reply, I kind of forgot about commenting here 😉 Yes I was very pleased with the Portra160, especially since I got a great deal on it due to short expirary dates 🙂 The route was something like LA – Morro Bay – San Francisco – Yosemite – Death Valley – Valley of Fire – Zion – Bryce Canyon – Lake Powell – Grand Canyon – Kingman – Las Vegas. And a couple of shorter stops along the way.

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