6 min read #Photoessays #NorthAmerica
I’ve owned the Leica Q for a bit more than a year now. It continues to impress and satisfy me as much as it did soon after I purchased it.
As I’ve traveled around the world with it strapped to my side, the Q has reminded me time and time again of its versatility. It’s a versatility that comes not from a long list of features, but from razor-sharp focus in its design.
Every interaction is delightfully tactile. The aperture ring and shutter speed dial are weighted just enough to enable precise use without being too heavy. The software menus are intuitive and quick. The lack of superfluous features guarantees that I’ll find the control I seek every time.
I recently had yet another chance to put the Leica Q through its paces in our latest trip to Portland. From the streets of the Pearl District to the mountainous landscape seen from Mt. Hood to the serenity of the Japanese garden, the Q never failed to keep up.
While I do occasionally have time to plan out shots, on the streets the most compelling photographs are only available to capture in a narrow period of time. Hence, I usually find myself setting the aperture and shutter speed to fixed values and then letting autofocus and auto-ISO take care of the rest. The fast f/1.7 aperture and deep field of focus offered by the 28mm lens allow for a wide operating range without fear of blurring either due to movement or shallow depth of field.
On this trip, I focused my short time in the Pearl District on capturing the effects of long shadows produced by the late winter sunrise. The sensor’s excellent dynamic range enabled capturing detail both in light and dark.
After a brief night and morning in Portland, we drove out of the city to Timberline Lodge, a ski lodge perched on the side of Mt. Hood. It was constructed in the 1930s as part of the Great Depression-era Works Progress Administration. If you have seen Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining, you may recognize the lodge since it was used for exterior shots of the movie’s fictitious Overlook Hotel.
In the calm and slowly-changing scenery at the lodge, I spent more time setting up and capturing shots. No longer constrained by the ephemerality of photo opportunities on the streets, I could experiment more with composition and depth of field. The wide 28mm lens on the Q is perfect for capturing landscapes and buildings.
In every visit to Portland, I had always wanted to stop at the Portland Japanese Garden. However, I either didn’t have the time or the garden was closed for its recent extensive renovations. On our latest trip, we finally had the chance.
I think it was well worth the wait because I’m now convinced it is my favorite of the Japanese gardens I have visited in the US. I love that it strikes the perfect balance between old and new. Over the last half-century, it has continuously changed, with small additions every few years.
My favorite of those additions is the beautiful, arched Kotoji lantern gifted by the Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa, Japan. It’s a nearly identical sibling to one at Kenroku-en which serves as a symbol for that garden and for the city of Kanazawa. It gracefully sits on two arched feet, one on land and one in the water. You can see the picture I took of Portland’s lantern further on in this post.
Photographing a Japanese garden is one of those creative acts that feels less about the end product and more about the motions required to actually perform the work. The tranquility of the garden sets the stage. Upon that stage, the flora, fauna, man-made objects and other visitors are performers. I’m just an observer, walking and taking it all in by looking through my camera.
The Japanese garden brings out the duality of the Q, a state between existence and nonexistence. When I hold it and consider it, its appearance communicates a clear sense of function and capability. However, when I was deep in the act of photography as I walked through the garden, I saw right through the viewfinder and forget the object I was holding. In fact, it felt more like a bodily appendage than a man-made object.
This latest trip to Portland reaffirmed my feeling that the Leica Q is the best camera I have ever owned. For someone like me who prefers to only own one digital camera at a time, the Q is the perfect one camera for every situation. It fulfills my needs but does nothing more.
Thanks to Q for reading drafts of this.