This week on conversing cameras we talk with someone I've had the privilege of working with for several years now. Peter Horan and I have been talking about cameras, their impact on our photography, and how to best find the right photographic tool for the right situations. It's something I'm deeply passionate about and I'm always endeared to those who take photographic gear as seriously as I do, Peter is one of those people. When I asked Peter to chat about his photography in our blog segment here I was very excited at his recommendation to talk a bit about what has been the focus of his work recently, photographing with the M10 Monochrom rangefinder. I hope you gain some inspiration for Peter's work as I have. So, without further ado...
About Peter Horan
Fine Art & Landscape Photographer
Q: What's currently in your Camera kit that sees frequent use?
A: Like many photographers, I have migrated through different cameras and camera systems over time. For many years, I was principally a Canon shooter and I have taken many photos of which I am really proud on the 5D series with L lenses. But my work really began to change six or seven years ago when I fell under the Leica spell. It started out simply enough with the first Q. It was easy, relatively cheap, had autofocus and took amazing photos. But, as so often happens, I started to care about "the Leica look"... that very subjective and highly theoretical, aesthetic. As I did, I moved into rangefinders and the most eccentric choice of all--the Leica Monochrom series. My "go to" kit right now is Leica M10 Monochrom with the 50mm APO Summicron f2 lens. I often have a 28mm, 75mm and 135mm lens in the bag. On road trips, I also bring the Leica Q2 which is an amazing all day carrying camera. I have started to experiment with the SL2S but that hasn't replaced the M10M as the first camera that I reach for.
Q: What got you interested in photography, where would you say you started from?
A: I grew up backpacking and into adulthood, I would often strap on a pack and head out into the wilderness. I wanted to be able to share that beauty with friends and family. So, I started as just another "postcard" and "snapshot" photographer trying to take pretty pictures of pretty scenery. Over time, I became frustrated. The quality of the pictures was great--in that they were clear and sharp and had pleasing colors. Currently, anyone with a modern smartphone can do about as well--and that is praise not a slam. So the challenge was how to start making pictures that went deeper and did a better job of communicating what it felt like to be standing in those places and not just capture what I saw. From there it was a slippery slope. I started taking classes and workshops, reading books and experimenting. The Leica Monochrom M10 is, for me, the ultimate aid to **making** pictures rather than just **taking** pictures. Each image requires me to stop and think about my composition, the way that light and shadows fall, the lines and structure of a scene. I have gone back and studied the techniques that the earlier generations of photographers used to see what I can learn. The journey continues.
Q: What kind of photography do you enjoy and how does that relate to some of the tools you use?
A: Right now I am primarily working with B&W landscapes. As a result of a Leica webcast last year, I met Phil Blair who is a featured Leica shooter. I have been working with him to really refine my technique. Ansel Adams' photos are great (at least in part) because of the way that he manages the full range of light and shadow--the Zone System. The Leica M10 Monochrom is the ultimate tool for this type of work. The dynamic range is awesome, the sharpness is beyond belief. And the Leica M series lenses are well matched to get the most out of that body. After seeing a major exhibit of Adams' work in Portland, I started experimenting with color filters on the B&W body. That's an old school technique that informs many of the classic images from the 20th century. The M10M is an incredibly sophisticated camera, but what's interesting is that it still puts the burden on me, as the photographer, to make the decisions. It is the antithesis of point and shoot. That makes it a better, richer experience for me. It puts more of me into every photo that I make.
Q: You Mentioned Ansel Adams who really perfected Black and White Landscape photography. He shot Black and White film; his process was purely void of color when capturing and editing. Do you find that using the Monochom and only having the option of shooting a Black and White image influences the way you think, compose and create?
A: Absolutely. Black and white photos are about light and shadow, lines and shapes. There are a lot of photos which would be great in color that I need to walk away from while shooting the Monochrom. But that's OK. One of the concepts behind the M10 Monochrom is that putting the color filter in front of the sensor dramatically reduces the amount of information that's available t o the sensor. All of that extra information translates into more detail in the image. While taking the waterfall images, I was thinking about painting that scene in shades of gray. In color, it would have been accurate. The viewer would have seen the falls. In B&W, I hope that the viewer feels the cold and the spray along with me.
Q: I can tell you have a love for the outdoors and landscapes from enjoying your work through Instagram the past few years. Do you have a favorite place you've been and photographed? A Favorite moment behind the camera that has stuck with you recently?
A: I really love the parks of the west. I almost said national parks but I also love the state parks in Oregon, Utah and California. We are just back from Death Valley and Anza Borrego so they are top of mind. But I also love Zion, Bryce and Arches.
Q: Well, you can't argue with those places! Utah has to be one of my personal favorites and Anza Borrego used to be one of my favorite places to photograph when I lived in the Desert. Let's say you are headed out on an all-day adventure and you could only bring one camera and one lens, and leave all the other gear at home. What would you pick Q2? Monochrom with one lens?
A: That depends on the intention. I was just going out and “might” take some photos, I would take the Q2. It’s great for reacting to a wide range of opportunities. But if I was going out with the intention of traveling light but also getting some keepers, I would take the M10M and either the 35 Summilux FLE or the 50 f2 apo. I tend to “see” in the 50mm format but for a one lens solution, the 35mm field of view is a little more flexible.
Q: You've named some personal favorite photographers of mine including our good friend Philip Blair (who I need to get on here for this) But, What are your top three favorite photographers that you gain insight and inspiration from?
A: Along with Phil Blair, I learn a lot by studying the work of Alan Schaller, Bronfer from Israel, and my friend, Chris Michel. They each constantly surprise and inspire me
Q: What's on the horizon for your Peter? Any big Photography trips coming up? Any new tools making it into your camera bag that you are looking forward to trying?
A: This year’s big photo expedition is with Chris Michel on a small boat heading in Svalbard. We were supposed to go in April of 2020 but were put on ice by the pandemic. That should be the trip of a lifetime. I love the northern latitudes including Iceland and Greenland. I will take the SL2S on that trip.