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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 06-29-2012   #26
kbg32
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I have been enjoying the OMD as a street compliment/alternative to my Leica M.

http://keithgoldstein.me/
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Old 06-29-2012   #27
mrmeadows
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duane Pandorf View Post
So would your statement above include the Ricoh GXR-M? Their module is specifically designed for M mount lenses.
I guess I've here-to-fore rejected the GXR-M, in large part because the viewfinder is an extra box sitting atop the body which seems a bit kludgy. But following your favorable description and Bill's positive comments, I took another look at Michael Reichmann's review of the GXR over at Luminous Landscape. Together you three are causing me to seriously reconsider the GXR-M. This could end up resulting in a costly experiment. (But not too costly, right?)

--- Mike
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Old 06-29-2012   #28
Rico
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I don't mind a heavy rig at events but, for street, I do set a weight limit of 800g (camera+lens). I also want full manual control and no shutter lag. I get all that from Leica M, Contax T, my small Contax SLRs and Nikon D3000. My P&S models (Contax T3, Lumix FX150) are small enough, but aren't ideal for street.
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Old 06-29-2012   #29
froyd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightfly View Post
I assume from the phrasing of the question that this is digital only?

iPhone 4s & GRD III if that's the case, otherwise GR-1 or M4-P + CV 28.

My cellphone camera is sub par, so I'm not talking from personal experience, however, to Bill's list I would add some of the higher end cellphones, which can be as discreet a camera as one could wish (especially if the artificial shutter sound is disabled).

As for my personal use, I don't have a digital yet, but my out and about camera is a Contax G1. Despite the viewfinder I find it more pleasurable to have along on long walks than the heavier M4. I know, I'm a wuss!
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Old 06-30-2012   #30
Peter_S
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I do not shoot street much (anymore), but the most success I had was the combination M6 + 50mm (+ Gossen meter) and M8 + 35mm (hence ca. 50mm equiv.). Wide angle (21-35mm) and hyperfocal shooting with rather large DOF never worked well for me on the street. I also prevision a photo best in 50mm.

I learned to guess well where 5m are and how to point the camera to frame without using the VF. What I think is 5m away and should be in focus is now reasonably sharp even at f/2.8 - I certainly get more keepers than with the Leica X1 or Contax T3, or Contax G2 with the various lenses (21-45mm).

I think now for me M7 (AE does help me a lot in the street)+ Sonnar/Planar 50mm + forgiving FP4+ film are perfect. Silent, precise and by now very intuitive and in-tune with my photographic brain.
M8.2 + 35mm would work equally I guess, but the shutter of the M8 was too loud for my liking.

Tbilisi Metro. M6, Sonnar C, HP5+ (1600 ASA), Gossen Digisix.


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Old 06-30-2012   #31
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My favourite digital street camera remains the GRD from Ricoh. I've never come across a more versatile camera in such a small unobtrusive package. And the monochrome jpegs are quite usable - although I usually shoot raw.

I recently bought a Fuji X100 but haven't tried it out yet (it hasn't stopped raining in Britain for the last 4 weeks). I got this for the quiet shutter and IQ mainly.

I have also recently acquired a Nex 7 which has been a revelation - it is really just a tiny digital back and I am putting a lot of old glass back into use. The IQ is really impressive - I thought it would be a lot worse coming from a full frame A900 to APS-C. I love my Sony A900, but taking it out on the street has become a drag due to the weight, especially with the 24-70mm zoom I use. Plus it can hardly be described as quiet or discreet.
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Lots of Nikon SLRs and manual lenses.

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Old 06-30-2012   #32
Nikkor AIS
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Over the years , I have just about every format out there and several differnt brands.

I have a love hate relationship with digtial and am doing my best to kick the nasty habbit.

Right now I just getting back into shooting with Leica's after dumping all my leica M system about a year ago.

I got a minty 35 1.2 on it's way and right now I am looking for a body that will make my dreams come true.

Latley I have been doing most of my street with a 200 1.8 EFL /and a 400 2.8 EF and almost always have a twin lens Rollie around my neck whn shooting street.



It seems that everyone has there own defintion of what street is and as they say size is relative.

Over the years I have noticed that it really dosnt matter what camera i have. So I have kind of switched it around to keep it fresh.

I did my best to be invisible shooting Leica's but for some reason being 6'3 and 240 pounds they can still see me.


Often I will start off a conversation with a longer bit of glass and end up chatting and working up close and personal with the Rollie twin.

The greater embraces the lesser.

I havnt tried any of these smaller formats but they look interesting. Non look smaller than my tiny Rollie so I dont feel out gunned by any stretch of the imagination.


The key , at least for me is to concentrate on being aware for your inviroment and taking advantage of the photographic opportunities that present them selves.

I thinking asking any one camera/System man to cover every possible situation is just asking for trouble.

If you think you got it covered with one camera and one lens. Bless your heart. All the best to you.


Personally I like the challenge of working with and using manual camera's and have even gotten it in my head to start shooting with the 4X5 Speed Graphic . I got a project next Friday and I hope to expose at least 30 frames with the 15 backs I have.











my recent street gear.























Canon 400 2.8 EF L on 5D2 hand held




















200 1.8 EF L on 5D2




Nikkor 18 Ai-S on 5D2



Canon 400 2.8 EF L on 5d2



Nikkor 18 AI-S on 5D2
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Old 06-30-2012   #33
jky
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I don't really have a "street shooting gear". I grab what will fit in the diaper bag & suit the situation (not photographic genre) such as a waterproof camera if I'm taking my daughter to the wading pool. Be it an M9, m43, lx5, fuji xp50 or iPhone... there's no specificity (this includes the D700 I used to have).

Of course having a smaller kit is easier to carry about, but the idea that you can't do SP with a D700/5d/D3 is inaccurate at best.

Shoot with whatever works.
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Old 06-30-2012   #34
Duane Pandorf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrmeadows View Post
I guess I've here-to-fore rejected the GXR-M, in large part because the viewfinder is an extra box sitting atop the body which seems a bit kludgy. But following your favorable description and Bill's positive comments, I took another look at Michael Reichmann's review of the GXR over at Luminous Landscape. Together you three are causing me to seriously reconsider the GXR-M. This could end up resulting in a costly experiment. (But not too costly, right?)

--- Mike
You can rent the GXR-M with the EVF and any of the M mount lenses listed from www.lensrentals.com (I have no affiliation with these people other than just rented a couple Zeiss lenses to test for myself) for a few bucks just to see if it would work.
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Old 06-30-2012   #35
luibargi
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I usually bring two cameras with me: X100 and Canon F-1n+28/f2,8.
In difficult situations, with the F-1n I can disguise my shooting by sliding back the pentaprism and looking straight into the glass below to compose; of course I have to use the zonal focus and sunny 16 rule but people thinks I am an incompetent fumbling with the camera.
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Old 06-30-2012   #36
StillKicking
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For me - my street kit comprises:

- Leica M2 with 35mm Summilux (pre-asph).. for daylight I like Retro 80S and at night NeoPan 1600 (which is still available in Europe) or TriX 400 @1600
- I also carry a M3 with either my Elmar 90mm f4 or Summarit 5cm f1.5

I keep thinking about investing in a digital outfit.. and these days it feels like I'm spoilt for choice.
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Old 06-30-2012   #37
Ronny
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This is taken with GF-1 and 20mm - but I prefer Leica M or iPhone 4S.


P1060957_2_2_2 by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


Patrick by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


P1060374_2 by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


P1050678_2 by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


P1050913_2_2 by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


The shiny Hair by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


Resting by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


P1050677_2 by Ronny Persson, on Flickr
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Old 06-30-2012   #38
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I still prefer shooting street w/ a film Leica M and a 50 or 35, or w/ a pocket camera like an Oly XA. But I've started to shoot some street w/ my E-PL1 and the 20/1.7, and the results from that camera are more than good enough. I now have the 14/2.5 lens for it, but haven't shot much street w/ that lens yet.


Kartnerstrasse by bingley0522, on Flickr
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Old 06-30-2012   #39
cjbecker
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If I happen to shoot street its normally at an event or traveling but its either a 500cm with a 80 or 50 or mostly a rolleocord.
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Old 07-29-2012   #40
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Just starting to play w/digital - got a Panasonic LX-5 recently, don't like the B&W so 35mm it is. My main "street" camera is a Nikon FE w/21mm - small, light, easy-to-use. When I want a change, I'll bring my FED-2b w/35mm, but don't much like rangefinders (quelle horror!).
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Old 07-29-2012   #41
Ronny
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All with Panny 20 mm in Paris


Paris by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


Paris by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


Paris by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


Paris by Ronny Persson, on Flickr


Paris by Ronny Persson, on Flickr
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