The Leica Year – Prelude

The LMMM challenge I set myself earlier this year was an attempt to figure out if I wanted to challenge myself with the Leica Year. Yes! I am ready (almost).

The source / inspiration for this challenge is a post by Mike Johnston in his TOP blog: ‘The Leica as Teacher’ post. Top make things harder for myself, I am combining this with the ‘Train your brain to guess exposure’ – exercise again set forth by Mike.

Here is a summary of rules / goals I plan to abide by:
1. Leica year is from March 24, 2014 to March 24, 2015.
2. Use one Leica Rangefinder for this one year- I bought myself a Leica M6 TTL.
2. Use the camera with only one lens, single focal length the whole year – Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 is my choice.
3. Shoot only one type of black and white film – Tri-X 400
4. Develop my own film
5. Pick standard developer, standard time – Kodak D-76, (development time to be set later)
6. Do not use light meter for exposure – I will use my M6 with battery removed.
7. Carry camera everywhere.
8. Shoot 2-6 film rolls per week
9. In a notebook write down exposure settings , and maybe scene details for every shot
10. Proof roll films and file them in a notebook. File exposure notes as well.
11. Get 1-6 work prints per roll
12. Every 5-10 rolls or so, get a ‘nice print’ made

Another blog I found helped me formulate my goals and what I plan to do: Tripodplaces.

What do I get out of this?

Here is what Mike says:
“A year with a single Leica and a single lens, looking at light and ignoring color, will teach you as much about actually seeing photographs as three years in any photo school, and as much as ten or fifteen years (or more) of mucking about buying and selling and shopping for gear like the average hobbyist.”

and from here:

“If you’re a younger photographer, you may also have heard tales you found hard to believe, of grizzled old pros and hard-bitten photojournalists working in the days before light meters were common, guessing their exposures by looking at the light. If you’ve grown up with automatically-coupled, multi-segmented in-camera metering, letting the camera set itself and barely paying attention to what was going on, such feats may seem as unreal and unlikely as the exploits of Hercules.”


“What is it? Essentially, it’s a way to train yourself to guess exposures, just like those semi-mythical pros from days of yore. Don’t guffaw—read on. If you’re willing to do the work to train your brain, guessing can actually be an appropriate substitute for more technically precise methodologies.”


“What’s so great about training your brain to guess exposures is, rather, the way it heightens your conscious awareness of what you’re doing, and your intuitive feeling for light. You’ve made yourself into a sort of servo-mechanism. As you go back and forth from guessing the light to inspecting your negs, guessing the light to inspecting your negs, you quickly perceive—visually, not based on numbers in a book or computer—what exposure each type of light requires. You acquire a real sense of how to handle difficult scenes. Your confidence grows and grows. ”

and finally,

“What’s really required is awareness. Either by taking notes or just remembering, you have to be fully mindful of what you’ve done—and then, of what you get”.

I like that. I would love to become one of those ‘semi-mythical pros’ who’s not mythical, and who’s not a pro! But I will settle for learning to be a better photographer – however much the ‘better’ might be compared to my skill now.