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.
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……
- 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!!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 M3 – Zone Focus, shot from the hip, not done that since the X100 days!!!
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.
The Generous Stranger I mentioned above, I wonder if he’s returned to work yet…….doubtful 🙂
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.
Entrance to 90 mile Beach, tracks in the sand made by the tourist buses that literally hurtle down the beach.
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?
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.
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….
The sun sets on Matauri Bay and the end of another little adventure, till next time. Jason.