Photography had always been a passion, but I never really thought of it as a potential career. It was something I did when I was younger as a hobby, but nothing more than that, although I knew I wanted to do something in the creative field.
My first introduction to Leica was when I owned an old M6 about 12 years ago. I was actually finishing my photography degree when I started a part-time job at Leica around the time everything was going digital. When the Akademie kicked off, I started doing little bits of training here and there, and then I just got more drawn into it as it developed.
I mostly shoot with the M rangefinder cameras and currently use the M Typ 240, the latest digital range. I normally just use a 35mm lens, which is really well suited for street photography - it allows you to get up close and shoot quickly without people being aware you're around.
Of course, with street photography, it's inevitable that people will see you at some point. The thing with the rangefinder and the Leica design is that it looks so much like a traditional film camera, which people don't seem to react badly to. If you're confident in your approach, people tend not to really mind, and a smile afterwards diffuses nine out of ten tense situations!
Generally speaking, when I street shoot, there's never any fixed plan. I try to go with no preconceived ideas because that in turn can inhibit what I shoot. I prefer to look back and add context and try to understand it on a greater level afterwards.
I recently returned from honeymoon in California. The only US city I'd been to before was New York, so the West Coast was a very different experience. We started in San Francisco, then went north to the wine region, then on to Yosemite and the Big Sur coastal route, finishing in LA. It wasn't a photography trip, but I wanted to come back with a representation of California.
I was surprised by how I got into the landscapes in Yosemite. Normally my work is character driven, but if you're in Yosemite it's impossible not to take landscape photographs. Personally, it was some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen – it's difficult to take a bad shot!
That said, I would certainly love to return to some of the backstreets of LA and San Francisco, but it takes time to get to know your surroundings. I've been on a few trips to Istanbul recently and at first I was walking all over the place, but on the last few trips I've stuck to one neighbourhood to get to know the people - eventually you start to blend in. If I had time, I would love to go back to San Francisco - there are so many stories to tell.
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