Traveling With an M9

Posted by: Classic Connection

I’ve been a devoted Leica enthusiast for the last 30 years – starting off with a classic IIIc Sharksin when I was 16, and have used just about every model since (or so it seems!).

Early last year I took the plunge into the world of Leica digital and bought myself an M9.  The latest digital technology wrapped around a traditional M body was a real attraction for me, not to mention the ability to use both modern and vintage lenses.  As a result, the goal was for the M9 to replace my M-series and screw mount film cameras.

I quickly found out that the M9 was also an ideal traveling companion.  The camera turned out to be quite dependable, and I never gave a backup body a second thought.  Whether I was exploring Europe or North America, the M9 inspired the confidence that I’d get the best images, and worked every day, every time.

In September of this year my wife and I traveled through parts of Arizona and New Mexico.  We thought we’d see the countryside a bit differently this time around, so we rented an old Airstream trailer and a Chevy Suburban from a fellow in Phoenix and hit the dusty trail.

As I’ve normally shot our vacations photos in black and white, this trip was no exception.  It was only natural, given much of the subject matter we encountered – amazing Southwest landscapes, historic sites and of course, Route 66.  My method was to set the camera to shoot both DNG and JPEG basic, with the colour saturation set to black and white.  This made it helpful for me to ‘visualize’ the scenes in black and white.

A few things I learned while traveling with this great camera:

i) Bring a good dust blower.  One thing that I didn’t have with me was a good blower to get rid of dust on the sensor.  This wasn’t so much of a problem during the trip, but later when I was working on the photos at home.  Bottom line, more dust = more time in front of the computer;

ii) Bring an extra battery and the charger.  I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find that the M9’s battery doesn’t last as long as I’d like.  So to avoid being caught on a day hike with a dead battery, I made sure to have a second battery and to keep them both fully charged;

iii) Be sure to have plenty of memory cards!  On this 10-day trip I had six 8GB cards, so I never had to worry about running short of memory;

iv) Travel light!  One of the dangers of travel is the temptation to take too much equipment.  I’ve definitely learned this the hard way (think sore shoulders and a stiff back), and have tried to become a ‘minimalist’ traveler, or at least my interpretation of it!  Along with my M9 body, I brought 4 lenses – my 50/2 Summicron, 35/1.7 Voigtlander, 21/4 Voigtlander and a 75/2.5 Summarit.  I managed to put all of the lenses to use, and never felt overburdened.  This made for a much more comfortable traveling experience, and I was able to truly focus upon the images and not so much the equipment.  Oh yeah, and have a good time too!

My lens of choice during this trip was the 50/2 Summicron – for me this provided the most versatility due to its angle of view, its f/2 aperture, and my confidence in its optical abilities throughout the range.

The light in this region of the United States is incredible – crystal-clear skies, dramatic shadows, and it presents the photographer to make great photos at almost any time of the day.  This can present a bit of a challenge to the photographer, particularly due to the contrasty lighting conditions.  As far as metering goes for most of the photos, I pretty well exposed right down the middle and the camera took care of the rest.  With the M9, I’ve never found it advantageous to under or over expose.  As far as that camera goes (and many others I’ve used), proper exposure was key.

For me, the digital M represents the highest expression of Leica’s commitment to their heritage and tradition while at the same time acknowledging the inevitable technological progress that is permeating today’s photography.  I can’t wait for our next traveling adventure!

Vince Lupo has been taking photos since he was 12 years old.  Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Vince has a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree from Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.  He is also co-owner of Direction One, Inc., a commercial photography firm in Baltimore, Maryland.  He specializes in architectural interiors, food, people, and of course, Leica!  He can be reached through his website, , or email .

NY Times Photo Info

While visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Reims, France, I sat on a stone bench across from this little prayer area. After a couple of minutes, this lady walked up to the little altar. She just stood there, motionless. Her hair, her dress, her white high heels all seemed to be such a contrast with the rest of the environment. I took about four shots before she walked away. I never did see her face.

Taken with the M9 with a 35/1.7 Voigtlander lens, ISO 400, 1/15th @ f/2.  This photo appeared in late 2012 in the New York Times.