Neptune State Park, Florence, Oregon

The Oregon Coast

I've lived in Oregon a bit over a year and a half now, but hadn't been to the coast until last week. We had a reason to be in Portland, and decided to take our time driving home down the coast, splitting it into two days. Many photographic opportunities ensued!

The Leica S2

So, I have in my possession this silly little camera you may or may not have heard of. It's the Leica S2, which is the medium format Leica in a dSLR-type body. I've never been a Leica fan-boy, but I'm sure that's because I've never owned, or even shot with one. Ever so slightly out of my price-range, y'know?! Heck I've never even shot with a medium format digital before. The last MF camera I had was my dad's Mamiya 645 (not counting a plastic Holga currently gathering dust on my shelf) and it's been probably 15 years since I used the Mamiya. But this opportunity arrose for me to use Leica's über high-end camera for a little while, and obviously I didn't say no. The camera arrived just before the holidays and I wasn't able to do anything worthy until just now. (And no, Leica didn't send this to me. It's the personal property of a friend who is out of the country for a spell and didn't need it).

The way I see it, this camera is for two things — studio and landscape. It's not a street-photography camera, it's not a vacation camera, it's not a sports camera, it's not a lot of things. I haven't shot in the studio with it yet; that's next. I'm working on that project and will of course talk about it here when ready. For now though, I needed to see what this could do in the great wide open of the Oregon coast.

The Journey

If you were following me on Instagram @PhotoJoseph last week, you would have seen the litany of photos shared. And frankly, I got some great shots with that little iPhone and silly filters. In fact, one I enjoyed so much turned into the inspiration for the image you see above.

This location, just a pull-off at the side of the road in Neptune State Park, was one of those that looked great driving by, but when I stopped and pulled out the gear, the scene just went kind of m'eh on me. It's gorgeous, obviously, but the light was coming right into the camera in a not very nice way, and the foreground was somewhat dull, so I fired off a few shots with the Leica just to have them, then before leaving whipped out the iPhone and fired a frame using the built-in HDR mode, which I then brought to Instagram for filtering and sharing.


It was later when looking at that photo that I realized just how much I liked the shot — the iPhone shot — and was immediately hoping I could do something similar with the Leica file!


So, is it somewhat blasphemous that the first Leica S2 file I'm showing is one that I treated to look, well, like an Instagram file? I hope not… I really liked the treatment and aimed to get a similar look using Nik's Color Efex Pro 4 (btw if you buy that or any Nik plugin, be sure to use the code "ApertureExpert" for 15% off).

Dynamic Range

The other reason I started with this file was to see what the dynamic range was like in it. As you can tell, there's a pretty wide range of light to dark here, and I thought it a good test of what the Leica file can do. Leica's shoot DNG by the way, which Aperture does not render very well. I will write about that on ApertureExpert soon, and discuss my workflow for getting around the issue. But anyway I wanted to see what I could do with the image, and I was very, very impressed.

Here's a side-by-side of the original to the treated file. Click either one to open larger. And below that is the Instagram photo that inspired it all!

Original Leica photo

The Aperture and Nik Color Efex Pro 4 treated Leica photo

The iPhone Instagram photo that inspired the conversion!

Talk about sloppy… the iPhone photo has a beautiful spray from the waves, notably missing in the Leica shot. D'oh!

I have many more share-worthy photos from this trip, and will be posting them here. I also shot a couple of scenes with the Olympus OMD E-M5 side-by-side with the Leica. The OMD is a Micro four-thirds camera which I'm very impressed with. I'll be showing those photos side by side, too.

Nik Creative Training

I have video training called the "Nik Creative Effects Workshop" that goes into all kinds of details on how to get the most out of these plugins. Be sure to check that out! Plus if you have Color Efex Pro 4, which is what I used for the file above, you can download my recipe (preset) for free below. This is just the final iteration of the recipe, and of course is very much customized for this image. Also most of the filters had control points (which are removed from the recipe), so you'll really need to turn each filter on and off on your image and add or remove the effect selectively, but here's the recipe if you want to check it out! [Download here]