Atlantic waves Gloucester, MAAtlantic waves Gloucester, MASummer surf along the back shore of Gloucester.

Welcome to the K.R. Williamson PhotoBlog | Great photos and the stories behind them | All things photo | My opinions on the photographic world | Leica, Canon, and Sony experiences and thoughts

Leica Wide Angle Legacy Glass & the Leica M240 a Review

November 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

M-P 240 & legacy glassLeica M-P 240 with Leica 28mm Elmarit V1 and 21mm Super Angulon V1The ultimate in Leica wide angle legacy glass with the Leica M-P 240. Two of my favorite Leica lenses were made in the 1960's for use on the Leica M3 and M4. They are two of the most exquisite lenses that Leica ever made. The 21mm Super Angulon f3.4 made by Schneider (for Leica) gained legendary status when it was produced in 1964 and is still a beautiful lens. The 28mm Elmarit f2.8 is also a stunning lens and built just a year later in 1965. The design of both lenses used a long rear element that receded back into the camera close to the film plane which was fine with cameras like the M2, M3, and M4 but in 1971 with the introduction of the M5 made the design obsolete as the onboard light meter was unusable. For film camera use these lenses are still sought after for the cameras mentioned.

Leica 21mm SA and 28mm Elmarit V1 Leica 21mm SA and 28mm Elmarit V1 Two of the best legacy wide angle lenses offered by Leica.

That being said I was always curious as to what would happen on digital Leica's. I read up on them and found the issue was that the rear element receded to close to the sensor and therefore created magenta edging and inaccurate meter reading especially with the 21 SA. When I purchased my M9 I was excited to try them out. At the time both lenses had not been CLA'd and were not clean and did not work properly. The 28 Elmarit was pretty clean but the lubrication was very stiff and the focus was difficult to use. I did use it however and really enjoyed it. So when I switched over to the M-P 240 I had both lenses CLA'd and was thrilled with the results.

Right away I found that the 21 SA (now clean) was an incredible lens. Much like what I remembered when I was using it with my film Leica's. The magenta edges and terrible meter readings made me rethink how I use it. 

As you can see by this image the magenta sides are pretty ugly. Corner Fix has been known to correct this issue although I have not tried it. My solution was to use this as a B&W only lens. The meter issue is a Leica problem where the rear element is to close to the shutter to accurately represent what the sensor is seeing. So the solution is to shoot in Live View or use the Visoflex EVF. I like to use the EVF as I can see the whole field of view and the meter gives an accurate reading off the sensor.

I don't mind the vignetting, it adds to the image. The B&W jpgs out of the M-P 240 are absolutely stunning and I love going out to shoot with this lens with the camera setup to shoot B&W. Some of my best images since purchasing the M240 have been using this setup.

The interesting thing with this lens is that with the EVF you can focus this lens down to 26" which is near impossible with film unless you measure it, so chock one up for digital.

The 28mm Elmarit now focuses much smoother since being CLA'd. It is a dream lens to use. Now let me say the version I have is a rare bird. It is a version 1 made in Wetzlar. A valuable piece to say the least and very collectible.

Right away I found that the corner magenta fringing was minor and could not be seen in most cases. The meter reading was still off a bit so shooting with matrix metering, Live View, or with the Visoflex EVF worked perfectly. I love to use this lens for street shooting with the lens set to f8 and focused to about 4ft to infinity. It works great in this configuration but I try to figure out the exposure beforehand and manually set it.

This image was made with the camera in Live View at f2.8. I focused with the camera sitting on the table without these two gentlemen knowing what I was up to. 

The same was done with this shot but I have cropped out the edges as they are distracting. I tend to use the matrix meter for exposure with this lens and manually use the frame line selector to show me the field of view. Pushing the frame selector switch to the right reveals the 28mm frame line. 

Overall these two lenses are well worth it depending on their use. You can find newer versions of the 28 Elmarit f2.8 and at a reasonable price so not many folks use this much older 60's version even though it provides beautiful results. I also own the Leica 21mm Super Elmar f 3.4 which is the upgraded version of the SA and has been described as the best 21mm M lens ever made and I tend to agree. It is superb.

When I feel a little nostalgic I love to pull one of these lenses out and go for a walk and see what I can find. It brings me back to my film days at the beginning of my career and brings me closer to my photographic heritage when I was a much younger man.

Breakthrough Photography filter system rolling review

September 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Over the last year I have been using different filter systems. Honestly I have not been able to use them very often. I was using the Tiffen system of ND filters which included 4 stop and 10 stop glass filters. They are well built and the holder is top notch. The problem is that the 10 stop added a horrible green cast to my files. Not good. So I then turned to Breakthrough Photography. An American company with a stellar reputation. That being said I was shocked when I received my filters, holder, and magnetic adapter ring as the 82mm adapter ring would not turn. So I very quickly got in touch with them and a new one was on the way and the bogus one was on it's way back to them.

I purchased a 6 stop dark cpl filter which includes a circular polarizer with the 6 stop all in one filter. I did this with three magnetic adapter rings, a 62, 77, and an 82mm. This was to fit my Canon and Sony lenses. I also purchased a 100mm square filter holder and a 100x150mm 3 stop soft GND (graduated neutral density) filter. More to come on this later.

So I went out this morning to shoot with some moving water and learned quite a bit along the way. This new system works quite well. I removed my B+W filter from the front of my 70-200 and attached the magnetic 77mm filter adapter which the 6 stop dark cpl slips into. The magnetic filter attaches to the adapter easily and it stays put. Since this filter is a cpl I use the knurled ring on the adapter to adjust the strength of the cpl. Nice touch but still a little wonky as it does not move very well and is quite thin.


The exposures on these wave photos were at 400 ISO @ 0.6 sec at f14. I like to work in the same way every time I go out. A repeatable system or process is essential when trying to make sure every thing you do can be repeated every time. I forgot that this time out and almost lost my 77mm filter adapter. After I removed my B+W filter from my lens and was trying to attach the adapter I lost control of it and it bounced down the rocks and into a pool of sea water. Bummer! It works fine but when I got home I soaked it in fresh water to try and get rid of the salt water. No damage so it will be fine. Normally with the water so close to my car I would attach everything in the car but this time I forgot, uggh.

At six stops of ND I did not expect any color change and their was non. Superb results but there was not much color involved so i converted these images to B&W in silver Efex Pro 2.

The ease of use of the system works fine. It can be a little nerve wracking getting the filter out of the mag adapter ring but with a little practice it work out easily.

Next I will shoot some color images and some GND work with the rest of the system. so far so good.


B&W imagery - discovering light and texture

September 19, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

When I started my photographic journey as a teenager black and white imagery was all there was. Color was a small printed image or slide that you looked at on a screen or in a scrapbook. What I learned was that the world was made up of light and dark and that I needed to adjust my exposure and development to create the image I wanted. 

Fast forward to my college years full of shooting and developing B&W film. You see I was in charge of the student association darkroom and the year book photo staff for about three years. Then onto my career as a photojournalist. Again seeing and developing for the light. You might say B&W imagery has been my life.


When my career as a photojournalist changed to that as a photo editor I had to make sure digital images had enough tonal contrast to produce high quality B&W images for print. Again, B&W imagery. 


Then my career as a photojournalist was over after 38 years. I started shooting in the mornings on a short walk around town with my Leica going back to my formative years shooting B&W. 


What I discovered was that I was shooting the light and texture not the color. This guided me to  the Nik Collection of B&W presets known as Silver Efex Pro 2. It’s a great tool that gives you incredible control over the B&W image. There is a really cool zone graduated bar at the bottom of the app that is such a huge help. Back in school I studied the zone system. As a photojournalist I employed it almost every day in one form or another. Using this tool brings me back almost into the darkroom. So now I always look at what the B&W alternative is or I convert it right away because that's how I envisioned it when I made the image. 

Working in B&W is an incredible way to discover light and texture. It forces you to look at these elements of an image and to feel the subject. The images in this blog post were made in Oregon while I was on vacation. I was there to enjoy being with family and not take to many photos. I carried the camera with me only once and these are the images that resulted. All of them were visualized as B&W. Ordinary objects that are interesting - because they are B&W not because they are color. They are about light and texture. Learning to see the light is often taught in workshops but not often learned. What I teach in my workshops is to feel the light. Feel what it is doing to your emotions as it plays on your subject. Feel the textures as they come out in the shadows and adds depth to your images. 

One of the things I like to do at my workshops is to gather in the early morning after sunrise and ask my students to close there eyes and use their other senses to experience the light and their surroundings whether it be bright sun, cloudy, rainy, misty etc. Smelling how the light is burning off the haze or starting to heat up the things around you. I then ask them to think about what they have felt and then try to photograph what they have experienced. 


Next time you are out in the early morning try this exercise. I think you will find it will help you make images that mean something.






Checking out the Sony 20mm pancake lens

August 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment


I have had this lens for a while now but since I own two lenses that cover that focal length I don't even look at it. I pulled it out yesterday to try it for silent street photography and only managed to pull off a few shots. Nothing spectacular but I was just testing it out. It focuses fast and is a f2.8 lens so for inside work it's not bad. I was using this lens on the Sony a6300 with silent shooting turned on.

This image was made inside a coffee shop at 1/125 sec at 2.8 at ISO 1600. With the camera on silent shooting this makes street shooting outside a no brainer with this lens. I was surprised at how sharp it is all the way around wide open. I also use back button focus which is a pain when you are not looking at the subject. Normally I put the camera around my neck and just shoot blind at whatever is moving. 

Lightroom opened the shadows a bit to much and I did not mess around with these that much to make them perfect. One thing you must do is turn on profile corrections as it changes things a little. I then went out and did some other things just for fun.

This image was shot at 5.6 and is really pretty good. I expected the focus to carry a little further at f 5.6 than it did. When I blow it up you can see it's starting to get a little soft on some of the boats int he background. 

This shot was also made at f 5.6 and you can see not much depth of field close up even on a crop camera. I am pretty happy with this lens and will continue to use it for a few things here and there. It's a great stealth lens and easy to use.


Check out The Cape Ann Photo Tours Blog about one of my students shooting a mini travel story during one of our tours

Looking for abstracts

August 16, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Abstract images come in all forms. There is a great place in Rockport that just begs you to look for unusual images. The outside of the Cape Ann Tool Company is just such a place. The orange insulation is starting to degrade after many years and has turned into a really cool place to look for abstracts. 

Last Thursday I was with clients from NJ and we were waiting for late afternoon light on this building which is the best time to make images of it. As we got there the heavens opened up and we had to wait about 15 minutes for it to clear before we could shoot. What we got was exactly what I was looking for, great shadows and super contrast.

Cape Ann Tool Company after rainCape Ann Tool Company after rainOutside of the Cape Ann Tool Company at Pigeon Cove in Rockport, MA. The water and the light created some great opportunities. 


abstarct-1Abstract-1Cape Ann Tool Company outside walls abstract.

Abstract-2Abstract-2Cape Ann Tool Company abstract

photographing the abstractPhoto graphing the abstractOne of my clients from NJ photographs the abstract outside walls of the Cape Ann Tool Company.

Morning walk with the Sony a6300

December 08, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

As many of you know I find it very therapeutic to get out early in the morning and go for a short walk with a camera. This morning I went out with the Sony a6300 and the Sony/Zeiss 16-70. This is a great range for general photography and this lens is really nice. It is very sharp with great contrast. 

The image above is one of those images that give me a sense of order with all the shapes, lines, windows, etc. I have passed by this image a few times but the light was not right. Today it was really nice.

I loved the way the light played across the back of the RAA and the door in all it's purple color. The shingles even though they are mostly gray also had some color. The light is what makes this image for me.

The steeple on the UU church in Rockport has been reconstructed and is now straight and beautiful. I have photographed it a number of times but it's always with some interesting clouds which were in evidence today. I was able to pull them out with Silver Efex Pro plugin in Lightroom.

Finally - this shot of a snowblower chained to a spiral staircase reminded me that snow is not far ahead with it in the forecast for this weekend. The camera and lens performed well. However I have noticed that the a6300 eats batteries. It does not seem to matter if the camera is off or not. When I finished my shooting this morning it was down to 50%. I started out shooting at 75% and only made a few images. The camera was off for some of that time. So a word to the wise have plenty of batteries with this camera. The lens seems to be a soft in the corners wide open which is bothersome. This image was at about 50mm in 35 terms at f4 and is soft at the bottom corners. Note to self, shoot above f4.



Feelin the Bern

January 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Last Friday I put myself on the schedule to photograph the phenomena known as Bernie mania. Here in Massachusetts it is gaining steam but honestly I think Hillary has it wrapped up. But, since I'm a political animal of sorts I wanted to see what kind of folks showed up for this event. It was interesting standing there watching who showed up. Old left wing liberals 60-80+ (throwbacks from the sixties) came in fairly early, on time for the most part. Then later on the young folks seeking better economic equality came in. It was an interesting mix. Great folks nun the less. As a documentary photographer I was disappointed in the photographic opportunities. There just wasn't much to shoot. There was a band playing and they turned the lights mostly off so things were kind of dicey for available light shots. I brought along the Sony Nex-7 and the Leica 35 Summicron looking for some interesting candid shots but I was not real happy with what I got. I will post some later. The shot below I like. It's of a woman checking her phone under the Bernie banner. This shot was made with the Canon 5D mk3 and the 24-70 f4 L. The ISO was an amazing 10,000, shot at 1/160s at 4.5 with a focal length of 33mm.

Feelin the BernFeeling the BernDee Cuffe of Marlbehead checks her phone under a "Feel the Bern" sign at a Bernie Sanders event Friday night Jan. 15, 2015 at the ICC hall in Beverly.

Meg Worrick - an inspiration in Dance

January 14, 2016  •  1 Comment

One thing I really don't like to do is to parachute into a story and try to come up with decent photos that tell it. This was the case when working on a story about Meg Worrick a young girl with Cerebral Palsy who inspires by doing what she can while dancing. She is involved with a dance class in Marblehead which has been a big part of her life. She arrives in a wheel chair and has to climb 17 steps to get to the dance studio. Each step rise has an inspiring word on it that helps her get to the top. Unfortunately for me I was not there when she did that so I missed the beginning of the story. I did however get her practicing with her dance friends and that was inspiring to see. I used the Canon 5D Mk3 with the 24-70 f4 IS and the Canon 7D mk2 with the 100 f2. Here are just a few of the images I made. This is true community journalism at it's best. I will post the story and more photos when we publish it in Wicked Local Marblehead.

dancingDancers dreamMeg Worrick strikes a dance pose with other dancers during a rehearsal at A Dancer's Dream Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Wicked Local Staff Photo / Kirk R. Williamson danceDancing with friendsMeg Worrick walks through a dance routine during a rehearsal at A Dancer's Dream Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Wicked Local Staff Photo / Kirk R. Williamson danceSharing a laughMeg Worrick shares a laugh with fellow dancers during a rehearsal at A Dancer's Dream Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Wicked Local Staff Photo / Kirk R. Williamson

danceA little helpMeg Worrick waits to be pulled into a dance routine during a rehearsal at A Dancer's Dream Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Wicked Local Staff Photo / Kirk R. Williamson

Christmas Moon over Thachers Island - The story behind the image

December 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The journey for this image started around Thanksgiving this year more specifically Nov. 25. I was driving home from an assignment in Newbury when the moon made a spectacular appearance. As I drove home along Rt 133 it was dominating the landscape around me. I did not have a tripod with me so I didn't stop to make a shot of it. As I got closer to Gloucester and it started to rise higher and make spectacular imagery everywhere you could see it. People were stopping and taking photos with their phones which at 28mm is kind of useless for various reasons. I vowed at that moment that I would not be caught off-guard again. 


So I started to look for ways to figure out when this would happen again. I found an app for my phone that does just that. The Photographers Ephemeris. Click on the link to see how fantastic it is. So back to the story. A photographer friend and I were talking about how cool it is and discovered that the next full moon was on Christmas Day and would be coming up right between the Thacher Island Twin Lights. So I started to plan my photo shoot for the day before and Christmas Day. The app tells you all you need to know about when the moon will rise, when it will set and for the sun as well. It also gives you the line of sight from any location and where the moon or sun will rise or set in regards to your location. So I set up for it on the day before Christmas as a test. It was going to come up an hour earlier and the luminescent values would be more in line with each other. I waited but the cloud cover kept it hidden for to long. So I decided to try to get the moon going down early Christmas morning since it was going to line up near Annisquam Light but again the cloud cover did not let me see it.


Christmas Day was not looking very good weather wise so I was hoping and praying for a Christmas miracle! The sun was out most of the day and when I headed over to Good Harbor Beach to get set up I was disappointed to see that there was a light cloud cover in the horizon. The crowds of people walking on the beach negated any parking close so I decided to drive back to Rockport and see how the horizon was shaping up close up. So I went over to Eden Rd. in Rockport to check it out. It looked to me as though it was getting lighter so I quickly drove back over to Good Harbor getting there at about 4:45 PM with moonrise being at 4:56 PM. I got set up behind my car with the Gitzo tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head holding my Canon 300 f2.8 L with 1.4 tele extender. I used my Canon 5D MK3 in live view on manual with auto white balance set as I knew it was going to change rapidly and I would not be able to keep up with it. I also shot this image in Raw format in Adobe 1998. As the light started to drop my hopes for a great shot were starting to fade as the appointed hour started to arrive. My initial calculations for location were correct the TPE was right on the money. If the cloud cover was not in play the moon would have started it's rise at the North tower and when fully visible would have been nicely placed between the two. But as luck would have it the clouds obscured the initial rising but when it did come up it was really nice. The shot below is the first image I made. You can see how the moon has already progressed to the right past the point where I would have liked it. It's already fully above the horizon but obscured by the clouds.


Moonrise 1Moon starting to rise over Thacher's Island

Here is another shot as it started to come up and brighten the sky a bit more. 

Moonrise 2

Here is the final shot or one of many but the one I like the best without any image merging.

Christmas full moonMoonrise over Thachers IslandThe full moon rises over Thacher's Island in Rockport MA on Christmas Day 2015. Post processing in Lightroom was able to calm down the brightness value of the moon enough to show some of the features. This is only possible because the image was made in Raw and the latitude of the new sensors is unbelievable. I was still not really happy so I tried merging some images that were very close but bracketed a couple of stops on either side. The only problem with the following image is that the red light on the south tower did not merge very well. I had to do some work in Photoshop to optimize things a bit but the image prints very nicely. Merging the bracketed exposures made a huge difference in tonality of the image.

Christmas Moon rises over Thacher's IslandChristmas Moon rise over Thacher's IslandThe Christmas full moon rises over Thacher's Island in Rockport, MA.

I know some of you will like the un-merged shot better and in some ways I do as well. I have made prints of both and the merged shot is clearly better. 


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 24, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

About this time of year I start thinking of where I am going and where I have come from with my photography. It's an interesting trip that brings me back quite a ways. My son Andy visited us this past week leaving on Monday but we had some great conversation. Portland Oregon time of course 3 AM. One of the things we talked about was where technology has taken us and how it has improved things for us but also how it has messed us all up. Here is a quote from Albert Einstein: 


"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."


So even though I sit here at a computer typing this which will eventually go out on the web I still wish we were a bit less advanced. As I have said before even though more photographs are being taken by many more people and mostly by the camera in their phone they really have no idea what they are doing besides stopping the action in the vertical format. If more people would study the photographic process, the way the image is made, they would appreciate it more. Most people don't appreciate the images they make because they are saved on their phone or dumped onto their computer never to be seen again. My congrats to those of you who have made a print or two or put your memories in an on-demand book.


For a couple of years now I have been using a digital Leica M camera because it allows me to think about what I am doing. I focus myself and really pay attention to my exposure because to me that is important. Framing the image is second nature to me now after almost 40 years behind the lens. But the art of focusing and exposure are key elements that most certainly should be well thought out. In today's world these elements are the furthest things from people's mind. The most important thing is the cute selfie face! Ugggh!


So the next time I have mommy or daddy with a camera ask me at a sports event what I have the camera set on my reply will be:

I set my camera on "M" for Master,  I'm way past "P" for professional! The rest is up to you figure it out.


So that's my New Year message! Put the dam phone down and pick up a camera, focus it yourself and determine what the exposure is by using the Master Mode! M

Snow on VinesVines in Fresh Snow, Halibut Pt. State ParkAfter a fresh snowfall I went out to Halibut Pt. State Park in Rockport to see some incredible snow covering everything. It was an experience that I won't forget.

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