Tips & Techniques

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How I load film in my Leica II(D)

By: Philip Dygeus

I know there are books describing this, such as the various editions of the Morgan & Lester "Leica Manual", and that there are videos online as well. That notwithstanding I thought I should make a very brief (just over 30s) video showing how really easy it is to load film in the old and wonderful Barnacks. I have included the video on the below page with some thoughts on the process, which I also include below. I hope this may be of interest.

I use a one of those slightly stiff, credit-sized cards one gets at parking houses. One can use business cards as well, but the benefit of the parking house (and similar) cards is that they are fairly resistant to wear and tear because they have a plasticky surface. Save them and have a bunch around, at home, in the wallet, camera bag, hat, car. At least on my camera a thicker card, like a credit card, won’t fit.

It is sometimes recommended to trim the film’s leader by cutting away a part of the film to lengthen the leader, for instance by using the ABLON template or simply cutting the leader by hand. I don’t do this and have never had loading troubles as a result (I should say, though, that I do cut the leader on bulk loaded rolls, but just to get a leader of similar length and width as that of shop-bought rolls).

Make sure the card goes all the way down. On my camera, there’s an edge close to the bottom which the card has to pass – one can feel it quite clearly inserting the card – so it may help to push the card down at a slight angle.

Ensure that you’ve pushed the film roll and the take-up spool all the way down. You might have to twist the roll’s spool a bit and push on it. Likewise, the take-up spool may need to be twisted-pushed to go all the way in.

Having wound the film, I fire the shutter once (with lens cap on) and then tighten the rewind knob carefully to take up any slack in the film roll. Incidentally, this is the way the Leica Manual (Morgan & Lester, 12th ed., 1951) describes it. Earlier editions of this book recommended to wind the film twice, “to pass the film which was exposed to the light while loading”, and then a third time before beginning to use the camera). I find this wastes too much film and don’t do it. If I’m going to use the camera right away I’ll wind the film once more (and observe the rewind knob turning in the opposite direction of the arrow); otherwise I leave that until later to prevent a frame going off in the camera bag. Btw, a benefit of firing off a frame with the lens cap on is that it helps when scanning the film (with Vuescan at least) because one has a plenty of unexposed film to “Lock exposure” and “Lock film base color”).

Best regards
Philip Dygeus

Control of Background Brightness in Outdoor Portraiture

By: Heinz Richter

Most photographers have the misconception that outdoor portraiture allows no control over background brightness. After all, the sun, the only light source, illuminates the subject and the background with the same intensity. However, some simple methods do offer considerable changes in background brightness.

In bright sunlight, subject and background will be exposed the same if both the subject and the background are both lit by direct light. Obviously, this cannot be changed for the background. We do, however, have considerable control over the illumination of the model’s face. Positioning the model such that it is backlit will put the face in a relatively deep shade. Correcting the exposure for the face requires more exposure. This of course also means more exposure for the background, with the result that the background will be substantially lighter. This is referred to as key shifting. The relatively flat lighting on the face of the model might be less than ideal and side lighting might be a lot more desirable. Repositioning the model to allow side lighting from the sun will bring the exposure of the background back to normal since again both, the light side of the face and the background are lit with the same intensity. However, positioning the model next to a tree will lower the light intensity substantially. In addition, the side of the face facing the tree will be shaded from the ambient light under the tree, allowing the other side of the face to be lighter. This will effectively create soft side lighting. Again, the light intensity on the model’s face is substantially lower than with direct sunlight. The resulting exposure correction will again overexpose the background, resulting in a substantially lighter background.

What if no trees are available?

Any location shoot can only be successful with careful planning ahead. The choice of location will of course predetermine if natural gobos like trees etc. are available. If not, some simple accessories can create the same effects. A piece of black foam core makes a great substitute for the tree. The illumination of the face in these cases is totally dependent on the intensity of the ambient light. Much greater control, and subsequently control over background brightness in the photograph can be exercised with the help of scrims or diffusers. Positioning the model such that the face is crosslit by the sun, and then placing a scrim between the model and the sun will do the following: First of all, the light will be a lot softer, since the harsh sunlight is now diffused. In addition, the scrim will absorb a certain amount of the light, again making it necessary to expose more, which again will render the background lighter. A second or third scrim will of course lower the exposure values on the model even more, making the background even lighter. Yet, the lighting ratio between the lit and the unlit side of the face is again dependent on the ambient light level. Control can be exercised here by blocking the ambient light on the shaded side of the face with gobos at varying distances, subsequently allowing a large amount of control over the final lighting ratio.

How bright the background will be in the photograph will be very much dependent on what we choose for a background in the first place. Needless to say, if a very light background is desired, anything dark like pine trees would be a bad choice to begin with. A relatively light background, like sunlit grassy areas can be rendered quite light with the above method. Sand on a beach, on the other hand, can be rendered virtually white by applying the above controls.

The next question is how to make the background darker. Is that at all possible? Of course it is, within reason.

Here again, the initial choice of background will make a huge difference. But, besides that, there are additional means to effectively render the background darker. Again, the basic light source is sunlight. In order to render the background darker, it is necessary to increase the light level for the model. The resulting exposure changes will then underexpose the background by a certain amount, making it darker. As long as the model’s face is lit by direct sunlight, the initial exposure values for the face and the background are the same. However, reflectors like silver reflectors, positioned to add light to the model, will also increase the exposure value for the model. This also allows a certain amount of control over the lighting ratios. The face, lit evenly with sunlight, will be lighter on one side if that is where the light from a reflector is aimed. Another method would be to have side lighting from the sun and then using reflectors to add front lighting to the face. Not only will this lighten the shadows, making them less harsh, but it will also add light to the sunlit side of the face. This too will increase the exposure value of the face. Again, the resulting exposure correction will underexpose the background, making it darker. How much darker will ultimately depend on the efficiency of the reflector material. Using diffusing reflector material is generally desirable, because it will not cause any distinct shadows like a highly reflective material like a mirror would. This allows more than one such reflector to be used, which would increase the light level for the model even more, resulting in an even darker background. Multiple reflectors will also allow considerable control over the final lighting ratio, since they can be used to add various amounts of light to both the light and darker side of the face. In addition, a reflector can also be used to add a hair light to the set, if such should be necessary.

The above examples are meant to explain the basic approaches available to a photographer to control background brightness with outdoor shoots. I am sure that there are many more examples of how this can be done and how the use of scrims and gobos can offer e great measure of lighting control with outdoor shoots. Photography is, without a doubt, an ongoing learning experience and often there is more than one solution to a problem.

This article was first published on the LEICA Barnack Berek Blog


Battery-Pack Renewal, Motor Drive R8

By: Bill Caldwell

We all have times when we overlook or neglect certain equipment. I had not exercised my film R8 with its Motor Drive R8 (MD-R8) for sometime. The Battery-Pack (Leica 14423, known as the “AKKU – Pack MD – R8”) would not light even one red LED (there are three red LEDs, and all light when the Battery-Pack is fully charged). To put it simply, the Battery-Pack was dead. Unfortunately, I had two Battery-Packs that were in that condition.

The two Battery-Packs were put in succession into their Leica Quick Charger (14424)[see Photo #1], and only one showed any sign of life by lighting one of the three LEDs after charging (approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes according to the manual). Of course, the “Full” green light on the Quick Charger was glowing green even though the two Battery-Packs exhibited either one glowing LED, or none. With that result, I either had to find a new Leica 14424 Battery-Pack, or have my two existing packs fitted with new batteries by a company that rebuilds Ni-MH battery packs.

The third option was to continue to use the Quick Charger to discharge the two battery packs, and then recharge the two packs in succession. The Quick Charger has a “Press for discharge” red button on the top of the unit. While I had pressed that red button with the first Discharge / Charge, I had not held it for a number of seconds. From my experience, one needs to hold that “Press for discharge” button for several seconds to get a full discharge.

The long story short is that after three complete Discharges / Charges, the Battery-Packs were showing more life, one had two glowing red LEDs, and the other had one glowing LED. To let the Ni-MH batteries cool, I alternated the two packs in the Quick Charger. For a single Battery-Pack, I would suggest at least an hour of cooling to prevent over heating before putting it through another Discharge / Charge cycle.

After five cycles (remember each cycle is well over an hour and one-half), the first Battery-Pack was fully charged with three glowing red LEDs. [See, Photo #2.] The second pack took six Discharge / Charge cycles, but it too is now fully charged. Both Battery-Packs were charged over four days ago and are still holding full charges. The MD-R8 contacts were cleaned with a pencil eraser, and the R8, with the MD-R8, and one of the rescued Battery-Packs performed flawless in an afternoon shooting session at an Italian festival here on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

P.S. Ten days later, and the battery charges in both batteries are still holding with three LEDs glowing.


Mounting Screw Mount Lenses

By: Carl Merkin

If you have a problem getting the thread "started" when mounting screw mount lenses to screw mount LEICAS or M-to-LTM adaptors, try taking the lens off the infinity setting seen in photo #1. Turning the focusing scale to the NEAREST distance will hide the inner focusing helix as in photo #2, making it easier to engage the E39 outer thread. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE!