Thursday, July 31, 2014


A while ago we decided to spend a month in the Dominican Republic.  We were not interested in the typical tourist spots; instead we looked for an area away from it all.  We found this on the Samana peninsula, more specifically in Las Terrenas with its incredible Playa Bonita.

After arriving in Puerto Plata, we had to set out on an adventurous two and a half hour ride by van to Las Terrenas.  People definitely drive differently there.  But we made it without incident in spite of the driving and roads that consisted of more pot holes than asphalt.

We settled in at the Hotel Coyamar, a very nice but small, ten room establishment.  After spending an evening in the Coya Bar we settled in for the night, looking forward to exploring the surroundings.

The hotel was only a few feet from the Playa Bonita, a beautiful bay overlooking the ocean.  What followed were four weeks of total relaxation with great weather, great food and great people.

Hotel Coyamar

Evening at the Coya Bar

View of the Playa Bonita from the hotel

Playa Bonita

This restaurant served incredibly delicious grilled fish

Las Terrenas

Last evening at the Playa Bonita

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Volumes have been written about this topic and probably without exception, it is always mentioned that there are really no rules that are carved in stone.  What we do have is a number of guidelines, all designed to help us create better pictures.  However, these should not be looked upon as a replacement for visually evaluating whatever we try to photograph.  What we see in the viewfinder of our cameras remains as important as ever.  One piece of advice that I always give is “if it looks good, shoot it.”

Some individuals intuitively use good composition and end up with good pictures.  For them the guidelines of composition will turn into an explanation of why their pictures look good.  For the majority, however, these guidelines will help to create better pictures by simply evaluating what is seen in the viewfinder, applying some of these guidelines and thus end up with better pictures than what otherwise might have been the case.

It is not the purpose of this article to touch on each and every one of these rules.  Instead I will concentrate on just the most important ones in order to keep this from getting too tedious.

Of all these guidelines, without question the most useful one is the rule of thirds.  Here we divide the image seen in the viewfinder by two evenly spaced vertical and horizontal lines.  This will help composition in a variety of ways.  Not only does it  lead to better placement of the main object of the picture, it also suggests better placement of the horizon as well as placement of other important aspects of the picture.


In these four examples I used the rule of thirds by placing the main subject onto one of the four areas where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.  Especial with cameras where the autofocus sensor is in the center of the viewfinder, it is almost intuitive to place the main subject in the center.  That usually has the result of the picture looking somewhat static.  Applying the rule of thirds usually will lead to a noticeable improvement of the picture.

Of course, this brings up the question which of the four intersection point to place the subject on.  In the first example, the upper left intersection point is most advantageous in order to emphasize the height of the flying bird.  In addition, it is usually better to place a moving subject such that it appears to be moving into the picture, with space in front to move towards.

For the second example there is no clear advantage of one over the other.  Here it is simply a matter of what one feels looks best.

The third example is similar to the first one, again leaving room in front of the bird to move towards.  I chose the lower right intersection point since the bird just took off, flying low across the surface of the water.

The fourth example was taken from a low vantage point, leading to an upward camera angle.  Therefore the picture looks better with the bird up high in the picture with space in front of the bird.  The upper right intersecting point is the best choice in this case.


Another aspect of good composition is lines and diagonals.  They help to lead the eye toward the subject and into the picture.  The path in this photograph shows strong lines.  The main subject was best placed on the lower left intersection point because this way the lines lead to the impression of the bikers moving forward and into the picture.


Even though placing the subject into the center of the picture usually will lead to a static looking image, there are times when this is actually advantageous, as in this case.  This picture contains some very strong lines which all lead the eye toward the main subject.  Utilizing these lines actually made for a better picture by placing the subject into the center. 

Another aspect of the composition of this picture is the cropping.  Some photographs simply look better when cropped from the typical format of the camera.  The horizontal emphasis  of this picture by cropping the top and the bottom further enhance the subject position within the picture.


The horizontal and vertical lines of the rule of thirds also give an indication of proper placement of strong verticals or horizontals within the picture, like the horizon in this case.  The lower horizontal is advantageous because it not only eliminated empty grass space in front of the buffaloes it also allowed to take advantage of the marvelous clouds and blue sky.

This example combines several aspects of good composition.  The strong diagonal lines of the background lead to the main subject, the statue, in the center.  In addition, the columns create a strong pattern which is another element of composition.  Finally, the lady viewing the statue creates a second important viewpoint of the picture.  The placement on the lower left intersecting point very much adds to the composition, as do the strong colors in the otherwise subdued colors of the picture, especially the bright, red hair.


This is another example of strong subject placement, in this case on the right vertical line.  The picture would have had a lot less impact had the subject been placed in the center.  In addition the picture is further enhanced by the pattern of the seats in both the foreground and especially the background.  Finally, the cropping of the original eliminated distracting dark areas both in the foreground and background.


Placing the subject on the lower left intersecting point emphasized the upward camera angle without allowing it to appear distant as it would have been the case had it been placed on the upper left intersection point.  In addition, the mostly black background creates a lot of so called dead space.  This is often preferable over background detail which would be distracting.  Finally, the violin bow is a strong line, leading to the main subject of the picture.


In portraits it is generally preferable to have more space in front of the face than in back.  Choosing to place the subject in the left vertical of the rule of thirds assured proper subject placement in this case.


There are, however, times when the rule of thirds does not apply, as in this case.  The strong face of the person in this picture was emphasized by the close up of it.  Since it fills the entire frame, there was no other choice than to center it.  Anything else would have been distracting.


Another element of good composition are curves or s-lines.  As in this example, they are an interesting element of the picture that helps to lead the eye into the picture.


Of course, these elements of good composition don’t apply just to photography.  They have been applied by the great masters for years, just as in this case of the painting “The Bridge At Argenteuil” by Claude Monet.  It contains numerous elements of good composition.   The bridge shows several strong lines, including a pattern created by the upright pillars and it also leads the eye toward the background.    The sailboat in the foreground is placed in the lower left intersection point of the rule of thirds.  The mast the boom and the bow sprit of the boat also form very strong lines.  The combination of all of these elements of good composition ultimately make for a very interesting picture.

There are certainly additional rules of composition.  As mentioned above, to keep this article from becoming too long and possibly too confusing, I tried to concentrate on the most useful ones here.  Applying these when possible or warranted will lead to better pictures and over time, photographers will get used to it to the extent that these rules and their application will become second nature.  At that point, we will bridge the difference between just taking pictures and creating photographs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


An interesting, but relatively unknown fact is that NASA initially had chosen the Leica MDa as the camera to be used on their lunar missions.  The reason was weight.  Of all the systems for the Apollo missions, one could never be tested because of the low gravity of the moon.  That was the take-off module.  To gain as much of a weight advantage as possible, NASA did everything they could to save weight.  That included the camera equipment.  The Leica MDa with 35mm f/1.4 Summilux was definitely lighter than anything Hasselblad, their regular camera of choice, had to offer.  Leitz modified several cameras and lenses to feature large levers to allow camera operation with the bulky gloves of the space suits.  The astronauts chosen for the lunar missions all received extensive training in the use of the camera.

NASA Leica MDa.  Modifications appear to be a soft shutter release, a larger shutter speed dial, an enlarged film wind lever a large rewind knob and an enlarged lever to open the camera.  The top of the camera also has a beefed up plate with an accessory show attached.  There is also an electronic connection of an unknown purpose in place of the PC connection.
Modifications of the lens are large levers for the aperture and focus settings, all designed for easy operation with the gloves of the space suits.

Yet, as is common knowledge, the Leica never made it to the moon.  The credit goes to one engineer who figured out that the interchangeable film backs for the Hasselblad were lighter than the Leica MDa with its Summilux lens.  Subsequently NASA decided to use the Hasselblad after all.  The Saturn 5 rockets had no problem delivering the payload to the moon.  For the return trip it was subsequently decided to remove the film backs from the cameras and to leave the cameras and lenses on the moon where they still reside today.  A total of 12 Hasselblad cameras and lenses are sitting in the lunar dust, ready to be picked up.

An intriguing question is if they might be still able to operate properly after all these years in the extremely harsh environment of the lunar surface.

Since then a few more details about the NASA – Leica connection have emerged.  One virtually unknown fact is that NASA also used the Leicafelx SL.  For what purpose is unknown at this point.  I have also found that in 1966, NASA ordered 150 Leica cameras.  Unfortunately it was not stated which cameras they were.

The camera appears to be without visible modifications other than the deeply knurled shutter speed dial to accommodate the heavy gloves of the space suits.

Already in the earliest stages of the NASA space program, Leica cameras were part of the equation.  One such camera was the Leica Ig.  With this camera astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr., took the first human-shot, color still photographs of the Earth during his three-orbit mission on February 20, 1962. Glenn's pictures paved the way for future Earth photography experiments on American human spaceflight missions.

Because Glenn was wearing a spacesuit, complete with helmet during his February 20, 1962 mission, he could not get his eye close to a built-in viewfinder.  Therefore NASA selected the high-quality Leica Ig camera that allowed them to attach a customized viewfinder on top. This special attachment featured a suction cup on the back side to allow Glenn to easily place the device against the visor when he was required to keep it down. The viewfinder was removable when Glenn did not need his visor down, and a velcro strip on the rounded top let him manage its location inside the spacecraft.  Glenn found the camera easy to use, in part because he could exploit the advantages of zero-gravity.

"When I needed both hands, I just let go of the camera and it floated there in front of me," he said in his later memoir.

The 1957 Leica Ig was the last Leica screwmount model made, with production ending in 1963.  It was the successor to the If and is the only screwmount camera with the word 'Leica' engraved on the front of the camera. This camera had the same profile as the IIIg but without the viewfinder/rangefinder incorporated into the top.  As with both the Ic and If there were two accessory shoes mounted for attaching a separate viewfinder and rangefinder. The rewind knob was partially recessed into the top plate.  As with the Ic and the If, the Ig was intended for scientific or Visoflex use.

A little known fact is that a Leica M3 accompanied the astronauts on a September 1995 Endeavour space shuttle mission.  As reported by the Houston Chronicle…


NASA Photographer Makes History With Trusty Camera


Odds are that Andrew Patnesky, ""Pat" to his colleagues, has used the vintage Leica camera that swings from his leathery neck like an old dog tag to photograph every American astronaut since Alan Shepard.

It was only fitting that the trademark photo gear with the thick rubber band binding its aging components together accompanied a shuttle crew into orbit recently, something the 75-year-old NASA photographer couldn't do.

""I think the world of that camera," said Patnesky, who shuns more modern gear with the automated features that focus and advance film in favor of the all-manual Leica M3.

""I have other cameras, but they don't measure up," he said. ""Anyone can just go shoot. Anyone can be a photographer, but not everyone can be a photojournalist."

Patnesky fretted over the Leica's absence during its orbital journey aboard the shuttle Endeavour last September. The separation was prolonged for several weeks after the shuttle's return so that the Leica could be unpacked and its journey officially documented.

""I feel kind of naked without it," he joked recently, clearly relieved that the old camera was available once again for his patrols of the space center's astronaut training facilities.

Patnesky staked his claim to the government-owned gear when he spotted it in an equipment closet soon after he joined NASA in 1961. The Johnson Space Center, then known as the Manned Spacecraft Center, was just beginning to take shape in Houston.

""None of the other dingbats would use it. So I said, `Hey, give it to me,' " recalled Patnesky, who spares no one, least of all himself, from his playful verbal digs.

Relying on his 21 years of experience as a photographer with the old U.S. Army Air Corps and then its successor, the Air Force, Patnesky began to chronicle, with the trusty Leica, the personalities who led America to the moon.

In those days, he said, the news media was thirsty for a steady stream of photographs of astronauts as they trained for their Apollo flights in exotic locales, from the Gulf of Mexico where they rehearsed post-splashdown procedures in rough seas to the deserts of Mexico.

During one of the Mexican excursions - it was a training jaunt by Shepard and astronaut Edgar Mitchell to prepare for their Apollo 14 flight - an instructor-geologist challenged Patnesky to descend into a rocky crater for photographs.

As he made his way to the crater floor, Patnesky slipped between the boulders. The Leica's fragile view finder broke away, disappearing between the rocks. Rather than replace the camera, though, he obtained a new view finder and lashed it in place with the first of a succession of wide rubber bands, lending the camera its rag tag character.

To this day Patnesky finds the Leica perfect for his needs, rubber bands and all.

With its precise mechanics and acute optics, the old camera makes little shutter noise and requires no flash when its operator is photographing in the Mission Control Center, the space shuttle simulator or the administrative offices.

""I like to shoot on a noninterference basis," he said. ""That is how you get the best shots."

The strategy has permitted Patnesky to photograph all of the American presidents with astronauts from John Kennedy to Bill Clinton. It allowed him to capture the drama of the Challenger accident as it was reflected in the faces of the personnel in Mission Control, as well as the majesty of Anwar Sadat, the late president of Egypt, during a state visit.

His favorite subjects, though, are the astronauts, from the original Mercury explorers to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first lunar explorers, and now the shuttle astronauts and their recent Russian cosmonaut guests.

""My friendship with the astronauts means a helluva lot to me. I admire those guys for all the hours they put in," said Patnesky. ""One way or another I've photographed every one of them."

One of 10 children born to a Pennsylvania coal mining family, he commutes 110 miles to work each day from a home north of Houston and shares time with his wife in a second home near San Antonio.

Wiry and healthy, Patnesky will log his 56th complete year of government service on Oct. 1. He is coy about his retirement plans.

But he feels so strongly about his association with the astronauts that he is willing to part with his Leica when he leaves NASA. He wants it to go on display at the Astronaut Hall of Fame, just outside the gates of the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, Fla.

My continued research into Leica cameras that were used by NASA has yielded another interesting result.  This Leica camera was used in conjunction with a spectrograph and was used on the Gemini V and VIII missions. Longer missions during the Gemini program gave astronauts more time for scientific experiments, often created and monitored by other government agencies or academic institutions. Scientists at the U.S. Weather Bureau (now NOAA) created this camera attachment so it could simultaneously record a spectrum and an infrared image to determine cloud heights.

The camera appears to be a model M3.  It is unknown if any special modification were necessary for this specialized use.

It is not known if any current Leica equipment is being used by NASA.  The delay by Leica to introduce top level digital cameras leads me to believe that other manufacturers might have been chosen.  However, this is an ongoing research project and should new information become available, you will read about here.


I just came across an amazing example of neglect of Leica equipment or camera equipment in general for that matter.  I purchased a number of used Leica accessory items, most of which were in rather good shape.  But one item really stuck out.

It is a Leica Winder M4-2.  I immediately noticed a strange, white discoloring of the bottom of the winder, especially the battery compartment.  Upon closer inspection, the discoloring was actually a layer of gritty deposits.  I loosened the locking screw for the battery compartment, only to find out that it was not coming off.  I had to use considerable force to separate it from the motor.  The inside revealed the culprit for the bad shape everything was in.  The batteries had been left in the compartment for what must be a very long time.  While alkaline batteries are substantially more leak-proof than conventional batteries (which should never be used anyway), they do leak.  And leak they did.  As you can see from the pictures, the entire inside of the battery compartment was covered with the dried out leaked inside of the batteries.  I did not attempt to remove the batteries.  It would have been a waste of time because the unit, including the actual winder, is beyond any possible further service life.

Far be it from me to judge how anyone should use their Leica equipment.  But this is a level of neglect that is hard to excuse.  Simply removing the batteries prior to prolonged storage of the equipment would have easily prevented this disaster…

Monday, July 28, 2014


In comemoration of the 100th anniversary of Leica, WestLicht in Vienna has been offering a number of rare Leica items for sale on a regular basis.  Today a special item appeared on one of their mailings which definitely has added significance.  The promotion is for the last 25 Leica M models made in Solms of which only 3 cameras are left available.

Here is a translation of their announcement:

LEICA M (model 240) silver
with Summilux M 1.4/50mm Asph. chrome

PRICE € 9600 incl 20% VAT.


Leica Camera AG is celebrating "100 Years of Leica Photography". Leica commemorated the anniversary with numerous events, exhibitions and exceptional products and services. Among the highlights is also the move to the ultra-modern new plant in the Leitz Park in Wetzlar. Back to the city where the company was first established, from which the Leica started its triumphal march throughout the world and revolutionized photography. With the last 25 Leica M cameras made ​​in Solms the former company headquarters is receiving this special recognition.

Along with this very special Leica camera we promote the Summilux M 1.4/50mm Asph. chrome - an excellent Standardobjektiv (normal lens):  It offers high-contrast images with high-resolution and detail even at maximum aperture and at its minimum focusing distance. This is made ​​possible through the use of  "floating elements", special glass types with unique refraction properties, and elements with aspherical surfaces. Its properties qualify this lens for available light photography and shooting with selective sharpness.

Simply Irresistible!

The information continues with a report of the sale of a 75 percent stake in their operation to Laica Camera AG.

Ronald Marcel Peters (CFO Leica Camera AG), Peter Coeln (CEO Peter Coeln GesmbH), Alfred Schopf (CEO Leica Camera AG) in the Leica Shop Vienna

Dear Friends of Leica Store and Western light Auctions,

23 years ago we founded the first Leica store in the world, 13 years ago, the Museum of Photography WestLicht, 12 years ago, the auction house WestLicht, two years ago the Leica Store and the Leica Gallery in Vienna next to the opera and in the same year the photo gallery OstLicht. This is a beautiful and successful way in the service of photography.

In the future we will work together with Leica Camera AG, which bought a 74.9% stake in Peter Coeln GesmbH.

The partnership with Leica includes the Leica Shop at Westbahnstrasse, the Leica Store at Walfischgasse and West Photographica Auctions.

The Fotomuseum WestLicht and the photo gallery OstLicht with its important collections will continue to operate independently and are not part of the transaction.

Apart from the fact that the fundamental orientation of our company will not change, this increased cooperation holds many new opportunities for both companies.

I will continue to lead and manage the operations with our wonderful team, even in the long term.

I am pleased that our approach can be continued with the partnership with Leica Camera AG and that we are able to create synergies and strengthen the quality and durability of old and new Leica products. As in the past, we will continue to place great emphasis on customer service and flexibility at the retail level, online trading and the auction operation.

For questions we are at your disposal,

Peter Coeln and team

Leica Shop
Westbahnstraße 40
A-1070 Wien
Tel +43 (0) 1 523 56 59
Fax +43 (0) 1 523 51 77

Opening times
Mon-Fri 10-18 h
Brand New Store
Sat 10-13 h

For reasons of accuracy, we must correct  the statement that their Leica store from 25 years ago was the very first of its kind.  That honor goes to Photo Visuals of Minneapolis, which opened in 1979.  Soon after two additional stores to sell Leica equipment exclusively were Alvin's Photo supply of Pasadena, the first exclusively Leica dealer in California and The Darkroom, the first exclusively Leica store in San Francisco.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


The compact a very light Cambo Actus view camera works on the optical bench principle.  It was especially designed for mirrorless digital cameras but also offers the possibility to use DSLR cameras as well as Micro Fourthirds models.

With this view camera solution the Dutch manufacturer offers tilt, shift as well as swing possibilities especially for mirrorless cameras, making it possible to apply the Scheimpflug principle, the deliberate displacement of the plane of focus and to create selective areas of unsharpness.  The attached cameras function as a digital back for the Cambo Actus.

The displacement of the shift function offers 27 millimeter vertically and 40 millimeters while tilt movements are available up to 22 degrees.  In addition, swing movements are available up to 360 degrees.

The choice of lenses is quite numerous. Besides view camera lenses from various manufacturers with Copal shutters, lenses from Hasselblad C, Leica M39, Mamiya RZ/RB and Mamiya 645 can also be used.  In addition lenses for mirrorless cameras as well as Leica R and Nikon F lenses can be used.  Other lens adapters are currently being designed.

Another significant feature of the camera is its size.  With a length of 15 centimeters (6 inch) and a weight of 2 kilogramm (4 pounds 6 oz) this is one of the most compact cameras of this type in the market.

The Cambo Actus is available for 1,499 euros, including the focusing rail, both front and rear standards, the bellows and the camera adapter.

For more information go to:

Friday, July 25, 2014


It is easy to forget that there is a lot more to Leica than just cameras.  One of the absolute leaders in microscope technology is Leica Microsystems.  Just like Leica Camera AG, Leica Microsystems has its headquarters also in Wetzlar.

The University of Marburg is expanding its cooperation with Leica Microsystems: The Institute of Cytobiology is currently one of four institutes in the world to test a microscope with a resolution well below the diffraction limit (nanoscope). “With this new optical nanoscopy called GSDIM (ground state depletion microscopy followed by individual molecule return), resolutions down to 25 nanometers can be achieved. This makes it possible to image sub-cellular structures or protein complexes far beyond the resolving powers of a light microscope,” says cell biologist Prof. Dr. Ralf Jacob. The new technology is being tested in the Imaging Core Facility of the special Cell Biology Research Department 593 (SFB 593) in Marburg.

Leica SR GSD 3D Microscope

Comparison of conventional widefield fluorescence
microsope image with GSDIM image

True-to-detail imaging of the spatial arrangement of proteins and other biomolecules in cells and observing molecular processes – GSDIM makes this possible for researchers due to resolutions beyond the diffraction limit. The more insight science gains into these basic processes of life, the better it can find the causes of previously incurable diseases and develop suitable therapies.

One of the strengths of GSDIM is that it uses conventional fluorescence markers to image proteins or other biomolecules within the cells with sharpness down to a few nanometers. This includes fluorophores which are routinely used in biomedicine.

With GSDIM, the fluorescent molecules in the specimen are almost completely switched off using laser light. However, individual molecules spontaneously return to the fluorescent state, while their neighbors remain non-illuminating. In this way, the signals of individual molecules can be acquired sequentially using a highly sensitive camera system and their spatial position in the specimen can be measured and stored. An extremely high-resolution image can then be created from the position of many thousands of molecules. This enables cell components that are situated very close to one another and cannot be resolved using conventional widefield fluorescence microscopy to be spatially separated and sharply reproduced in an image.

With GSDIM technology, Leica Microsystems is extending its lead as an innovative provider of super-resolution light microscopes and nanoscopes. “With this new widefield microscope system we are extending our super-resolution portfolio and allow even more scientists to benefit from our innovative technology and advance their research,” comments Anja Schué from Leica Microsystems. The current test phase of the microscope is important in this context, as optimal testing can only be done by active scientists like the members of the SFB 593, which is sponsored by the German Research Society. “Our research naturally derives great benefit from being able to work with a microscope like this one,” adds Professor Jacob.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Even today, 25 years after the reunification of Germany, relatively little is known about photographers who worked in the former East Germany.  One of those photographers is Klaus Ender.

Klaus Ender was born in Berlin in 1939.  In 1962 he moved to the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea and fell in love with it.  He was a passionate amateur photographer and was the only East German amateur who managed to publish in major journals such as Das Magazin (The Magazine) and Eulenspiegel and then turn his hobby into a profession. On 10 May 1966 he began his work as a freelance nude and landscape photographer. After only a few years he became one of the top East German photographers and published with more than 50 publishers. In 1972 he left Rügen, because of political pressures and moved to Potsdam.  



He became a commercial photographer and used his free time to pursue his artistic photography.  In 1981 he left the GDR and moved to Austria, where he started over again, penniless and at ground zero.  After only a few years, in 1989, he finally became known internationally.

Companies like Leica, Minox, Zeiss, Hama, B + W, Metz, among others used his photographs for their advertising.

It wasn’t until 1996 that he was able to return to the island of Rügen where he started his career and where he celebrated his 45th anniversary as a professional photographer.

Klaus Ender is one of the few East German photographers who also had an impressive international career.