Leica Virgin – The Leica M8 in Paris

In the immortal words of the great millennial poet – Oops! I did it again.

April 2018 saw me buy another camera. Another Leica camera. This time, it was the most Australian of Leica cameras, the M8.

Maaaaaaaaaate!

If you don’t know anything about the Leica M8, the one thing you need to know up front is that it was Leica’s first digital M model and as such, it was very basic. The other essentials can be gathered from this nice little 5-minute video.

Note: the M8.2 in this video is not just the same model as mine. It’s actually the camera I’ve bought. Yes, the M8.2 shown and used in this video is now sitting on a shelf in my living room.

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In May 2018 I took a 4-day trip to Paris. The purpose of the trip was pure tourism. A mate of mine from Australia was on this side of the world visiting Morocco and the UK and she included a few days in Paris on the tail end so we could catch up while she was on this side of the planet. Nat and I spent the whole time wandering and capturing the sights of this truly amazing city.

While photography wasn’t the objective of this trip, plenty of photos were taken. I gave the Leica M8 a thorough workout, keen to see both the colour rendering and the black and white performance of this beautiful little camera.

With its small sensor (only 10mp), you’re never going to enlarge an M8 photo much beyond A2 size. Those small-ish images sure can be beautiful, though.

I came away VERY happy with the best-value Leica M you can buy.

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To Paris, then. What can I say about this city without wrapping it in bejewelled clichés?

It’s not the most fascinating cultural melting pot in the world (that would be London) or the most energetic city I’ve seen (that would be New York). Paris is, quite simply, the most beautiful city I’ve visited.

Paris has a reputation for style, art and decadence, and after just four days there, even a doofus like me can tell you that its reputation is well deserved. Paris is elegant, beautiful, indulgent, confident, creative and saturated with detail.

Like all worthy creators, Paris has suffered for its art. It spawned leaders so consumed with beauty and the indulgences thereof that the have-nots rose up and took back what was theirs. They claimed their city in the name of liberté, fraternité, égalité and in doing so, they began a movement that changed the world.

Thankfully, they had the sense to differentiate between the beauty that made Paris great and the aristocracy that abused its subjects to indulge in it.

On The Street

As always, click to enlarge.

Buskers in one of the entrances to the Louvre….

There were plenty of painters along the banks of the Seine. This was one of many capturing Notre Dame Cathedral.

Below, one of the many Citroen 2CV tourist taxis we saw around Paris.

I’ve always said you have to see a car in its native environment to really appreciate why they’re made the way they are. The 2CV is gorgeous in any environment. In Paris, it’s one of the most delightful automotive sights you could ever see.

Sadly, there was/is a heavy police presence in Paris. These gents were guarding Notre Dame.

Notre Dame details, captured with a 30+ year old 90mm lens.

A photo shoot outside Notre Dame.

Two forms of fashion…..

More 2CV tourist taxis. Part of me wishes we’d made use of one but the tourist buses were much more cost effective. Budgets matter sometimes.

A glimpse…..

The Eiffel Tower really is gorgeous and there’s something comforting about just how visible it is. It’s a splendid reference point. No matter where you see it from, you’re reminded that you’re in Paris.

Tourist snap, Montmatre.

The gargoyles all around Paris are a great indicator has to how much even the smallest details mattered to the city’s architects. The attention to detail in this city is just amazing and the gargoyles of Montmatre are a wonderful example.

Monks need sunnies, too, OK?

A street portrait in progress, captured from inside a cafe.

The view from Montmatre, with 2CV in the foreground, of course.

We didn’t make much use of Paris’ subway, the Metropolitain, but I spent a lot of time admiring the old-school subway entrance signs that are dotted around the city.

Sunset after a storm….

The Pig’s Foot.

Sculpture outside Les Halles train station.

Another storm, another sunset….

Joan of Arc, in colour,

And in black and white.

We walked past this building at least once a day. On our final day, for reasons unknown to us, they decorated it…..

Sign outside an American-style diner.

On a fine night, the restaurants of the 1st Arrondissement are packed full. In many of them, the chairs face the street – people wanting to watch others and happy to be seen doing so.

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Monet’s Garden

This was an unexpected pleasure. I knew Nat had booked us on a tour to Versailles. What I didn’t know is that the tour also included a visit to Claude Monet’s house.

Monet discovered Giverny on a train ride. Moved by the surroundings and the beautiful natural light, he decided to rent a place there. Long story, short – Monet discovered and then nurtured the environment that inspired his life’s work. It’s an inspiring story.

His house has two main gardens – a flower garden on the main plot and a Japanese garden across the road. The colour palette and atmosphere should be familiar to anyone who’s seen Monet’s work.

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The Louvre

Imagine The Louvre as the world’s artistic heart. Its beat is steady at one beat per day. Every day, nearly 30,000 art-starved human ‘blood cells’ from all around the world enter its chambers. They emerge through the day, oxygenated with artistic endeavour and passion that they will take with them on their forward travels.

The next day, 30,000 more come. And on and on…..

The Louvre is a spectacle. The scale of the place defies description. It would take days to walk through, weeks to appreciate and more than a lifetime to learn all that it has to offer.

Yes, we saw the Mona Lisa, but my personal favourite was Venus de Milo.

This is the painting that sits opposite the Mona Lisa. It’s Huuuuuuge. To get a sense of the scale, ignore the people in the foreground and focus on the people to the right, standing right next to the painting.

The first structures that make up the Louvre we know today were built in the 1100’s and were part of the fortifications of Paris. The structure was expanded over the centuries and at one time, the Louvre was a royal palace. To get a proper sense of this palatial history, look up at the ceilings:

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The Palace of Versailles

If you want a reason for the French Revolution in a nutshell, take a look at the Palace of Versailles. While the country at large was struggling, its people hungry, the royals were spending the modern equivalent of over $2Billion USD (bear in mind that 1600-era economies weren’t particularly large) on an indulgence.

The Palace of Versailles started life in the early 1600’s as a hunting lodge but the ascension of Louis XIV to the throne saw it transformed into the sprawling, opulent estate we see today. It was so opulent, in fact, that Louis pretty much refused to leave and made it the seat of the French monarchy and government in 1682, providing rooms for his 3000 most loved courtiers at the palace and 17,000 more in the village of Versailles.

Subsequent additions by Louis XV and Louis XVI made it even more luxurious but all that came to a sudden end in 1789 with the beginning of the French Revolution. The Palace was emptied of its furnishings, though thankfully, it wasn’t destroyed.

While once a statement of greed and indulgence, the Palace of Versailles is now one of the republic’s great ambassadors. It stands as a monument to that particularly French commitment to doing things in very grand style.

As it says on one of its buildings – “For all the glories of France”

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All the photos above were taken with the Leica M8.2.

Lenses used were a 35mm Summicron f2 and an old 90mm Tele-Elmarit f2.8.

The minimal processing that was done (light and contrast mostly, very minimal colour processing in order to preserve the unique nature of the CCD sensor) was done in Lightroom. This includes all the black and white conversions.

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2 Comments

  1. I do enjoy your travel blogs, Steve. The 2cv is on my list of future purchases, reckon it would sit nicely beside an old 96 or 93b – the shot of one overlooking Montmatre looks like a postcard, very nice. Also, by coincidence, I was listening to Satie when I read this…

  2. Very nice pics Swade! Miss you car stuff though… what about your automotive bucket list?

    Just got myself a Alfa 159 SW 1760Tbi with the TI package. Had to have something a bit sensible due to expecting our second child. Beautiful but maybe not the most light and nibble vehicle. I think your love for Alfas (even if we can probably both agree that the Alfa 159 is mainly an Alfa by looks and not soul) had a contributing factor…