Nauti Strap: Cascade Wrist Strap and Vector Wrist Strap

Cascade_largeNauti Strap is a new camera strap company started by photographer and blogger Tyson Robichaud. He sent me examples of the four different straps he manufactures and asked me if I’d like to give them a test drive. This being a blog about the M Monochrom, I picked the two Wrist straps I would use when shooting with the Monochrom and gave them a spin.

Camera straps are a very personal business. Depending on your size, build, shooting preference and the gear you carry, the kind of strap that works best is much a matter of personal preference. When shooting on the street, which is my preference with the M Monochrom, I rarely carry a camera bag. Instead, I put my gear in a small light backpack. Because of this a wrist strap works well as it makes removing the camera from my pack one easy motion. I slip my hand through the strap and I am ready to shoot as I pull the camera from my bag.

A wrist strap is also great when you are wearing a jacket with large pockets. Because a wrist strap takes up very little room, the camera and strap can travel in the jacket pocket and is ready to use at a moments notice. On a cold day I could keep the strap attached, and shove both camera and hand into my pocket, much more practical than a neck strap.

Vector Wrist Strap barely visible on my right wrist.

Vector Wrist Strap barely visible on my right wrist.

The M Monochrom is probably at the outer limits of weight for comfortable wrist strap use but it is a good option for working quickly. Wrist straps work very well with diminutive micro 4/3 cameras and many mirrorless models such as the Leica T or X.

So what’s so special about the Nauti Strap?

The answer is obvious, the material. Nauti Straps are made of high performance sailing line and the fasteners attached using nautical rope splicing techniques. Nauti Strap maker, Robichaud, worked in the yacht racing industry for 15 years and his fondness for this tough material must have inspired his designs.

Cascade Wrist Strap

Cascade Wrist Strap

If you have ever sailed, the materials used will be familiar and reassuring. The way the straps join to the 15mm split ring, that holds the camera, is elegant and extremely well crafted. The Cascade Wrist Strap, pictured above, uses a dual braided round rope. The loop that goes around the users wrist can be adjusted to any size using a rubber o ring. This strap tends to hold its shape, and the round rope tends to be more “nautical” than the other material that is used in making Nauti Straps.

The Nauti Strap Vector Wrist Strap is made of a “High Tenacity Polyester blended with Vectran fiber” and the cord has a flat profile. The material is smooth and very comfortable, yet I’m sure it could easily hold my camera, me, and maybe even a Smart Car aloft. It is very pliable, making the strap virtually disappear when my attached camera is shoved into a bag or pocket. It also, like the Cascade, has an o ring that allows the user to adjust the size of the wrist opening. Of the two straps I tested this was my favorite, because it added almost no weight or bulk to my kit, and after wearing it I even had to check once if it was still around my wrist.

Vector Wrist Strap

Vector Wrist Strap

If you have a fondness for sailing, find sliding clips and extra nylon webbing annoying, or simply appreciate an original design, then Nauti Straps will make you happy. When design is practical and elegantly solves a problem then it is successful. Nauti Straps meet both the practical and elegant test, and at only $25* for the Nauti Vector and $37* for the Cascade, they also meet the “value” test.

Nauti Strap Web Site

Tyson Robichaud

*Price as of 7/25/16, prices subject to change.

Ben Folds

"Bearded Selfie 2015" ©Ben Folds

“Bearded Selfie 2015” ©Ben Folds

The more you know about Ben Folds the more you understand that he is driven to create. A successful pop musician with his band The Ben Folds Five, an accomplished solo artist with his category bending release So There, and an insightful judge on the television program The Sing Off. No matter what the medium, Ben is going to explore the possibilities. The creative process for Folds is a continuum, not a series of categories.

I emailed Ben and asked if he wouldn’t mind answering a few questions on another of his many talents, photography.

Q: Are there any photographers or artists that have influenced the way you make or think about images.

BF: I love the photography of the mid 20th Century. I just like the approach, the tone.  It’s like the whole art form and it’s business, in journalism and in fine art, became incredibly well oiled.  Especially, for me, the black and white photography. Eugene Smith is a great example.  And some of it is due to his bold printing. Bill Brandt is a favorite, completely different type of photographer. Everyone loves Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Erwitt of course, and of course the humor and wit combined with an often heartbreaking story appeals to me, as that’s what I aspire to musically.

Q: You print many of your images yourself. What does printing bring to your creative process?

BF: Printing is a huge part of it. Imagining what you’ll be holding in your hand as you make an exposure is big for me.  It doesn’t have to be for everyone. I also like the process of getting it to paper.  I spent a lot of time in a dark room over the years and that informs the way that I print digitally, and what I ask for when for instance Digital Silver Imaging works with me. I like staying in the parameters of basic contrast/exposure adjustments with some dodging and burning.  There are so many amazing images to be made in the moment, that creating something that didn’t happen, via photoshop and cloning… not interesting to me.

"Smokers Adelaide" ©Ben Folds

“Smokers Adelaide” ©Ben Folds

Q: I understand that you shoot with both Leica M3 film cameras and a digital M Monochrom. How, if at all, does film vs. digital influence how you work?

BF: It’s nice to have an idea of what happens when light is touching the sensor or a piece of film.  And to know the difference. The look of what you’ve shot depends on knowing something about these things.

I know that I like overexposing Tri-X and under developing it for certain scenes.  I know what that will mean.  With the Monochrom, you can under expose and it’s amazing how much shadow detail you can dig out.  Then knowing how to get the feel I want with curves or with Silver Efex works for me.  It’s mostly again, about shooting, knowing that I can get what I see in the print.  Everyone knows the frustration of pointing a camera at something that’s beautiful to them and it just doesn’t look right in the end. You see one thing and it turns out the camera, by default, did not agree.  I feel the same about analog recording – as long as I know what I want to hear on the other end, I have a method of getting there with different tools. All that said, film makes me happiest.  So does tape.  Mainly because I don’t overindulge in analog. I go for a take, or a shot without feeling I should bracket on either side.

Q: Do you always carry a camera with you?

BF: No. Because when I’ve got my camera I’m obsessed with that and don’t live normally.  I’m always seeing things as if I might photograph them, and there’s something fun about that. But when I venture out with the camera I turn into a little bit of an absent citizen, off in the clouds.

Shot by Ben with his M Monochrom the night before this interview. ©Ben Folds

Shot by Ben with his M Monochrom the night before this interview. ©Ben Folds

Q: I’m trying not be “master of the obvious,” but you’ve excelled as a musician, a performer, composer, a photographer, and a television personality, is there some other creative medium that calls to you that we just don’t know about?

BF: I’m currently writing a book. It’s all sort of the same thing in a way. Just different techniques.  Framing, for instance. Writing is all about framing, as is songwriting and photography. What you leave inside the magical dimensions and what lies outside, either conspicuously absent or ignored.  It’s the kind of stuff that can drive you crazy!

"Bonnaroo-2008" ©Ben Folds

“Bonnaroo-2008” ©Ben Folds

Q: I find the images you make from the stage looking out at the audience fascinating. What happens to the dynamic when you are the focus of attention and you point a camera out at a large group?

BF: Then you get a photo of people paying attention to you, which is obvious, but if you think about it, most of photographing people is about being invisible to an extent.  So my shots from stage, or of press photographers pointing their cameras at me have a different effect.  Really, I guess not many people spend most of their lives on a stage, so seeing that relationship is probably unique.

"Me n Elvis" ©Ben Folds

“Me n Elvis” ©Ben Folds

Q: You make lots of great portraits and self portraits. If you could photograph anyone, who would you have sit in front of your camera?

BF: Ha. Anyone really.  I’m okay with portraits if there’s a reason and if someone is giving me time. I can make it comfortable after a while and I consider it a great opportunity. I don’t dig fake light, mostly because I never learned it, so when the time is right for light and I have an excuse to photograph, it’s fun. Otherwise, because my gig normally is being in FRONT of a camera, I’m not sure I’m good at candid photos. I scare the scene no matter how much tip toeing I do. In fact, it’s probably my timidity and shyness that causes me problems there.  Funny for a performer to say…


To see more of Ben’s images, buy a print, or find out more about his music visit his web site.

One Mobile Device to Rule Them All

Leica-35mmLeica just announced a partnership with Chinese mobile device company Huawei. The speculation is that Leica will provide high quality optics for Huawei cell phones. Again Leica has shown that it is a different company than the slow-moving, traditional camera manufacturer of my youth. Although high quality optics on a mobile device is not a new concept, Nokia has already manufactured a cell phone with a Zeiss lens,  this partnership is intriguing.

With the quality of electronics improving at breakneck speed, is the “one-device” concept the future of photography?

I can hear the moans of my brethren now. But what if the conventional wisdom was turned on its head? What if your beloved Leica was also your mobile device?

This concept is close to becoming a reality. Both Nikon and Samsung have produced 16MP point and shoots with the Android operating system builtin. The idea is appealing. Why not put an M mount on your iPhone 10? Just think about it,  your trusty Summicron-M 35/F2 would always be by your side, ready for that “decisive moment.” When traveling you could take a professional quality photo, make a 4k movie, surf the web and make a phone call all with the same device.  My back feels better already.

One thing is certain, the vast majority of people are using cellular phones to make still images and movies. Why not make them with good glass? Sorry gotta go, my Monochrom is ringing.

Mitchell Hartman

©Mitchell hartman

©Mitchell Hartman

It happened in Brooklyn. My company, Digital Silver Imaging, and Leica partnered to host a container at Photoville. My job was to hang out, collect names of potential customers, and answer questions.

I enjoy these events. You get a chance to talk to people of all different stripes. I was speaking with a friendly fellow about the usual photo topics when the conversation turned to printing. The photographer I was speaking with knew of my company and said that he printed his own photos, but he liked to print on newsprint.

“Okay…why newsprint,” I asked.

This was my introduction to Mitchell Hartman, a talented photographer who’s images tell a hundred stories of New York and the New Yorkers that ride the subway.

Elliot Erwitt said it best, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Every Mitchell Hartman photograph tells a story, a story about the banality of our existence, the joy of an unexpected smile, beauty, and alienation. The narrative that unfolds maybe all the viewers creation but all are compelling.

©Mitchell Hartman

©Mitchell Hartman

Here is what Mitchell had to say about his photographs:

Q: Your series “Passengers” is all shot in and around the New York City Subway. The light in those images is so emotive, so dramatic, the exact opposite of what the actual “in-color” visual experience is like. Can you tell us what goes on in “the mind’s eye” of Mitchell Hartman when you are in the subway?

MH: That’s actually an amusing question as I have no control over the light source as it’s mostly provided by the subway system. What I do add in “post” is control contrast (micro-contrast) and do “burn and dodge” to add drama to the image. This is done with Silver Efex Pro mostly, where I can control where I place lights and darks with their “Upoint” system.

Q: Your website is, I think that’s a tip off. Your images are so wonderfully grainy, what is it about grain that is important to your vision and your images?

MH: I am shooting NYC, to me,  and in this instance people in the subway,  is about monochromatics, line and tone. The grain, is sometimes created by the high ISO,   I am shooting at ( mostly around 6400-12800),  creates the gritty feeling I think emphasis NYC.  Some of the “grain” is generated by a software that a friend custom made for me that puts different grain values in different light levels. I can actually put small amounts of grain in the highlight for instance, over what I put into the midtones. I can also adjust the size and quality of that grain, making it look like it was shot with film developed in Acufine or D76 or even Tetnal developers. This takes the image way from the “digital” feel you get when shooting with Digital Cameras.


©Mitchell Hartman

Q: Shooting on a subway car has got to be difficult. How do you go about photographing people in such close quarters?

MH: After 9-11 some people were more guarded about being photographed for obvious reasons. But as more and more tourist came to NYC to visit, the people that live here got more used to being in photographs. It’s not as difficult as one thinks to photograph people in NYC. What makes shooting in the subway difficult is making the picture interesting, it has to be more than just people sitting in the train.

Q: Let’s talk cameras, what do you carry with you?

MH: Right now I carry a Leica M246, Monochrom. BTW this series was shot with a lot of different cameras, starting with an M9 to a small Sony RX100 as I explored what would work best with the limitations I have to deal with, like lighting. I try and work at f5.6 -f8 to get some depth of field, and at a shutter speed of at least 1/125-1/160th to help stop the action. So my ISO is usually in the 6400 range. Of course that all changes with the train come out of the tunnel into the sunlight.

©Mitchell Hartman

©Mitchell Hartman

Q: You made three “zines,” of some of your images printed on newsprint, what was your motivation for creating the “zines”?

MH: The zines were a way for people that wanted to collect my work at an affordable price and unique way. They were created and printed by hand to store-bought picture sized (4×6) and were signed and editioned to only 30 editions. I printed them on Newsprint as I originally wanted the entire series printed on Newsprint as a conceptual idea of being in the subway and reading a newspaper. I eventually went to print my larger prints on a more archival Japanese paper that emulated newsprint with tone and thickness.

To see more of Mitchell Hartman’s work, or to purchase a photograph, follow this link.

All images in this post © Mitchell Hartman

Photoville 2015

©Ruddy Roye

©Ruddy Roye

Photoville is about to launch its 2015 incarnation. This free exhibition of exceptional photography from around the globe is a must-see for anyone in the NYC area. 72 shipping containers in Brooklyn Bridge Park will be converted into mini photo galleries.

The creation of Sam Barzilay, Laura Roumanos and Dave Shelley, under the umbrella of United Photo Industries, Photoville has become the largest photographic event in New York city. United Photo Industries have kept the quality level high, as stated on their web page they have provided exhibitions and programing by the following:

“Instagram, The NY Times, TIME Magazine, National Geographic, The Pulitzer Center, the Magnum Foundation, and so many more, Photoville exhibited work by 400 visual artists. Comprised of 62 exhibitions, 45 talks & workshops, 7 night-time events in an outdoor beer garden,…”

Notable exhibitions I am directly involved with are Ruddy Roye, When Living is a Protest,  Debi Cornwall, Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play, (Gitmo on Sale), and in the Leica / Digital Silver Imaging container, Mark Mann, Luminaries.

I will be working the Leica / Digital Silver Imaging container #43,  9/10-9/13/15. Stop by and say hello. Photoville is free and open to the public 9/10-9/13/15, and  9/19-9/20/15.

Leica adds Adobe Lightroom


Leica is now offering Adobe® Lightroom 6 with the purchase of their cameras. If this is the stand alone application, it is a $149 value. For anyone who does not already own Lightroom or Photoshop, this is a welcome bonus. However, if you bought your new Leica before 5/11/15, the offer does not apply.

Bravo Leica for including LR 6 with their new cameras. The problem is that Adobe has a virtual monopoly when it comes to high powered image editing/processing software. The fact that all future Leica users will be Adobe users raises a serious question. Will the mega-corps like Google, Apple and Adobe dominate our future?

Why is this a potentially troubling scenario? When Google purchased Nik Software, the staff began to shrink. Many excellent people worked for Nik, including my friend Dan Hughes. Dan worked to educate Nik users on how to use the Nik product. He ran webinars, and appeared at trade shows, and photo events. Dan was the last real photo person at Nik, he now teaches at RIT. Who works at Google/Nik now? Who knows? I don’t even think Nik has any kind of representation outside of the web.

Companies with no connection to the people involved in the art/business of photography create no customer loyalty. Adobe still has a strong presence in the photo community, and I hope they keep it that way.

By the way if you are looking for an excellent b&w image editing app for a Mac, I recommend Macphun Tonality Pro. A great product backed by photo people. Available through Digital Silver Imaging.

Monochrom 2.0 – the New Typ 246

M-MONOCHROM-CROSS-CATGEORY-TEASER_teaser-480x320It would appear that Leica has done everything right with the second generation of Leica M Monochrom, the Typ 246. As stated on previous posts, this is not a blog that will review equipment, however the improvements appear to be substantive.

Here is the condensed list of upgrades: 24 MP, full frame Maestro Image Processor with 2GB memory buffer, Live View zoom, focus peaking, and 1080 Full-HD video. For those of you that would like to read the full press release:


Leica Camera AG, Wetzlar, is taking the next step forward in its successful digital black-and-white photography concept for the Leica M rangefinder camera system and presents the new Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246). With improved performance and features and a newly developed black-and-white sensor, the camera by far exceeds the high standards set by its predecessor. At the same time, it keeps its core competence sharply in focus: black-and-white pictures with maximum quality in all respects.

The new components of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) are a high-performance Leica Maestro image processor as installed in the current Leica M and a buffer memory with a capacity expanded to two gigabytes. This combination ensures higher speed and makes the Leica M Monochrom even more versatile. For example, as the processor enables extremely fast processing of the image data captured by the sensor, sequences can now be shot much faster and assessed almost instantaneously in review mode on the camera’s monitor. As a further benefit, the Leica Maestro image processor also takes less than two seconds to deliver high-quality JPEG files in addition to the RAW data files in DNG format.

Another highlight of the camera is a new 24-megapixel high-resolution black-and-white sensor in full-frame format without a low-cut filter. As the sensor of the Leica M Monochrom does without a colour filter, which means that interpolation is no longer required for the calculation of luminance values, it enables exceptionally sharp pictures at all sensitivity settings up to ISO 25 000 with exceptional depth, clarity and resolution of details that by far exceed that of colour exposures. Pictures captured with the M Monochrom are uniquely characterised by finely grained rendition of details with no disturbing artefacts. Another advantage of the new sensor is that, in addition to the M-Lens portfolio, almost all lenses of the Leica R series can now be used on the Leica M Monochrom to expand the creative capabilities of the Leica rangefinder system, as is also the case with the Leica M.

The design of the Leica M Monochrom reflects the established philosophy of the Leica rangefinder system and concentrates on particular robustness and discretion. The top deck and baseplate are machined from solid brass blanks and finished in black chrome, whereby the raw materials used are especially homogeneous and sourced only from selected suppliers. The camera body is manufactured from a high-strength magnesium alloy. The extremely scratch-resistant and almost unbreakable sapphire crystal cover glass of the LCD monitor is of equally high quality. It is treated with an anti-reflection protective coating that ensures that photographers can precisely assess and check their images in any lighting situation.

The Live View function of the Leica M Monochrom provides a viable alternative to looking through the viewfinder. The high-resolution 3″ monitor with 921,600 pixels ensures that photographers have complete control of composition, exposure, focusing and depth of field. Live View also offers two additional focusing methods: the up to tenfold magnification in Live View Zoom mode provides full control of the sharpness of details in the subject or the closest focusing distance. In Live View Focus Peaking mode, sharply focused edges in the image are automatically highlighted by coloured lines. Depending on the situation or the photographer’s preferences, the Leica M Monochrom provides a choice of several options for capturing exceptionally sharp pictures.

Thanks to its 1080p full-HD video capability, the M Monochrom can also capture high-quality video in black and white. Video recording can be quickly and conveniently started and stopped with a separate release button. Video sequences can be recorded in Motion JPEG format – that is, in true, individual full frames – which brings enormous advantages for video editing. Thanks to a dedicated adapter, almost all Leica R-series lenses can now be used with all available functions both for shooting video and capturing still pictures. Optimum sound is ensured by the optional Leica microphone adapter set, comprising an adapter and a stereo microphone.

At the touch of a button, exposures captured by the M Monochrom can be converted from black and white to a series of characteristic toning effects traditionally used in analogue photography – for example, sepia, cold or selenium toning. All users need to do is save the image in JPEG format and select the desired toning effect – simply and conveniently, and with no need for post-processing. Leica M Monochrom customers can download a free copy of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® from the Leica website for professional post-processing.

From August 2015, a series of specially calculated filters in the colours yellow, green and orange will be available as optional accessories for altering the greyscale conversion of particular colours in the subject when shooting with the Leica M Monochrom. These allow photographers to create unusual moods and effects in their subjects and further expand the creative capabilities of the camera – for instance in landscape or portrait photography.

The Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) will be available from May 2015.”

Your Leica a Future Relic?

"Future Relic" by artist Daniel Arsham

“Future Relic” by artist Daniel Arsham

Several hundred years from now, your Leica M Mononchrom may be unearthed in an archeological dig. That is the premise of artist Daniel Arsham and his project “Future Relics.”

Arsham casts modern day technology like, cell phones and Leica cameras in a variety of materials. He then degrades the cast objects to represent what they will look like coming out of a future archeological dig.

“Future Relics” are interesting objects, and Arsham has expanded his expression with  a supporting video. The video is very stylized, and is more of a performance piece. If you love what Arsham is making, these pieces are for sale through his web site.

The Decisive Moment Back in Print

2Q==Henri Cartier-Bresson’s inspirational book, The Decisive Moment (Images à la Sauvette), has been reissued. The once rare book, now printed by Steidl, is a  “meticulously facsimile” of the original. 

For those not familiar with this book, it is Cartier-Bresson’s greatest hits. Its images are a delight, and I can remember joyfully reviewing an original volume over and over in my college library. I think I can thank The Decisive Moment for lowering my grade in Western Civ. My only regret is that I did not seek out the original when I still had a chance of finding one.

Copies can be purchased from the usual suspects.

5 Reasons You Should be Printing Your Photos

©Andrea Zocchi

©Andrea Zocchi

I am frequently astonished by all the homes, offices, and institutions, that have no original artwork on the walls. Even more astonishing, is the number of photographers I know that, “don’t print.”

So who cares? I want to believe that anyone who shoots with a Leica M Monochrom would care. I also believe that a photographer that is actively working to improve their craft, would also be using all methods available to make a better image. So here are my 5 reasons you should be printing your photos.

1. The best way to evaluate a photograph is through a print. I think we have all had the experience of viewing one of our digital images on screen, and thinking we did a pretty good job. However once printed, the flaws in the image begin to reveal themselves. Without the knowledge of an image’s shortcomings, how can a photographer correct them? Because of its resolution, and ability to present a unified image, the print is the best way to judge image quality.

2. Printing forces you to edit. Editing allows the photographer to get at the core of the artistic intention behind a body of work. Good photographers make good images. Great photographers make great bodies of work.

“The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.”
Ansel Adams

3.  The print has value. I doubt you will see an auctioneer at Christies holding a DVD and boldly announcing, “What will you bid for a digital scan of this Alfred Stieglitz portrait of Georgia O’Keefe?”

4. The print is archival. A good black & white silver gelatin print can take a beating and last over 200 years or maybe more, we are still counting. 

5. Giving that special someone a digital file, via email, is a piss-poor token of appreciation. I am willing to bet that all my readers have at least a few images that are worthy of display. Get them in a frame and on a wall!

If you have a hard drive full of images and no prints you have work to do. By the way, if you own a Leica M Monochrom, our sponsor Digital Silver Imaging will make you a real silver gelatin print for FREE! Click on the banner at the bottom of the page for details.