London on Leica

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Projects | 41 Comments
London on Leica

A couple of weeks ago my wife Rebecca and I went to London for a long weekend to explore the city and meet up with a few fellow photographers for LNDNWLK, which we organized together with Mathieu and Heather from MirrorLessons.

This was our first trip to London together and we really enjoyed every minute of it. London is a very beautiful place and we both liked the feel of it a lot. It’s very open and multicultural, very modern but also has a lot of the old European traditions and charm you would expect in a city with that heritage.

It was fun meeting up with so many nice people and fellow photographers. The atmosphere during the photo walk was very relaxed and inviting. Afterwards everyone met up for a nice dinner in a local pub. I was amazed by the variety of photographers participating, the amount of friends made and the interesting conversations shared. I’m already looking forward to the next LNDNWLK which will hopefully take place in late summer this year.

This trip was also a little bit of an experiment for me. I had just sold my Fuji X-Pro1 a few weeks before and this was my first time traveling with just my film cameras. I brought both my Leicas with me and shot Portra 400 NC (expired) in my MP and Tri-X 400 in my M2. My exposures on the M2 were pure guesswork and I was really amazed by what Tri-X could handle. I exposed in a range from “-2” to “+4” stops and every single shot came out ok without having to push or pull.

I was a little nervous about flying through Heathrow Airport because I had heard before that the security personnel in London do not hand check photographic film (which cannot be x-rayed). I was incredibly lucky and the staff agreed to hand check all of my film, which was very kind and helpful.

All color images below were taken with the Leica MP and the Carl Zeiss C Sonnar T* 1.5/50 ZM on Kodak Portra 400 NC, all B&W images were shot with the Leica M2 and the Nokton 50mm 1.5 ASPH VM on Kodak Tri-X 400. All images scanned and processed by Richard Photo Lab in California:






















  1. Neill Soden
    9. April 2014


    I don’t know how you do it, but your photos are brilliant. You take photos of simple things that I would never have thought of to taken, and you make them stand out somehow.

    Very nice body of work!

  2. Johnny
    9. April 2014

    Neill, thank you so much for your kind feedback.

    I’m really happy you enjoyed the post! London is a very photogenic place and I really enjoyed spending time there. I love taking pictures of places I’ve never visited before. What interests me is usually a bit off the grid, I like exploring little details over well known landmarks. So what you see here is basically just what’s left over if you take these away. It’s often nothing special but it reflects the mood for me.

  3. Jade Sheldon-Burnsed
    9. April 2014

    Missing London so much today after seeing these beautiful photos. I will always dream of living there someday…

  4. Johnny
    9. April 2014

    Thank you very much, Jade.

    I remember how much you guys both enjoyed London and I can see now why you would like to live there one day. Rebecca and I have talked about that too. I hope your dream will come true.

  5. Joey
    9. April 2014

    Great stuff as always! I love the final shot in particular, simply for all the hidden images.


  6. Johnny
    9. April 2014

    Joey, thank you very much! I’m happy you enjoyed the post! :)

  7. Adam Fedrau
    10. April 2014

    Wow great work Johnny!!! I always get such a sense for the places you photograph from your pictures. You have an uncanny ability to express the “feel” of a place through imagery.

    Still working without a Color PAC at RPL?


  8. Johnny
    10. April 2014

    Thank you so much, Adam.

    I have a Color PAC with RPL now that incorporates all of my scanning preferences. It does not change the colors of the original film and it works with all available film stocks including B&W. Feel free to use it for your own work if you like!

  9. Graham Ashton
    10. April 2014

    Wonderful shots. I wanted to be on that walk, but it clashed with a conference unfortunately.

    I don’t suppose you know what the lab used to develop your Tri-X in do you? The tones are lovely, and I’m currently experimenting with developers for Tri-X.


  10. Johnny
    10. April 2014

    Graham, thank you!

    I would have loved to meet you at the walk, maybe next time will work out for you. I passed your compliments on to Richard Photo Lab. They use XTOL with Refrema dip & dunk processors. :)

  11. Ray
    10. April 2014

    Just love the series of images taken on your walk, Johnny. The performance differences in the two lenses is fun to explore here. But I have to say, the NC film blows me away. The unique color of the NC is just amazing and really wish Kodak would bring that back. Sad that they tried to kill two birds by almost blending the NC and VC formats – though I love shooting Portra 400 – I’d rather shoot Portra 400 NC all the time. Luckily, I have 6 rolls of NC arriving today and am so excited to see what I can do with them. Worthy of a jaunt down to Boston.

    Again, this series of images is just delightful for me to see – the Tri-X is gorgeous with your eye – the contrasts are just amazing, especially given you were guessing! MAN, just awesome.

    The Larose

  12. Johnny
    10. April 2014

    Thank you so much, Ray! I’m very happy you enjoyed the shots.

    I would have loved to show a couple of more shots with the lenses side by side as you don’t see much depth of field in the pictures I share here from the Sonnar. But I really like both of them quite a bit.

    You are exactly right about Portra 400 NC. Even though the new Portra 400 is technically better, I really love the tonality of this film. I was really sad when Kodak announced its discontinuation and I wish they hadn’t done that. It’s very special in 35mm but I like it even better in 120. I can’t wait to see your shots from Boston with that film!

    Thank you again, my friend. Means a lot!

  13. José Galhoz
    12. April 2014

    Lovely stuff…

    My favorite camera is and probably will always be the Leica M6 but I’m afraid that with all the intermediate processes (developing, scanning) an error could ruin that shot (THE ONE).

    Although I like to use color, I’m finding color (specially in street photography) quite disturbing. Anyway, congratulations, job well done!

  14. Johnny
    12. April 2014

    José, thank you for your feedback. I can relate to that.

    Coming from digital I had a little bit of an uneasy feeling with film for a long time. But after guessing exposures and home developing Tri-X in our kitchen sink I can assure you that film is a lot more robust than you would think. ;)

    Over time my fear changed from “what if I lose that shot” to “what if I don’t like the look of it”. I didn’t ever miss a shot because I shoot film. And even if – there’s probably another one to be happy about right around the corner.

  15. Adam Fedrau
    13. April 2014

    Thank you so much for the offer Johnny!

    Do you have your B&W scanned on the Frontier as well? I am assuming that the different scanner would still affect the look of B&W scans?


  16. Johnny
    13. April 2014

    No problem, Adam.

    The scanner does affect the look of the results, but RPL scans B&W on the Noritsu. I’m not a huge fan of color negative film being scanned with it but the B&Ws come out really great.

  17. Wim
    13. April 2014

    Great work Johnny!

  18. Johnny
    13. April 2014

    Thank you, Wim! Glad you like it! :)

  19. Dave
    14. April 2014


    I’ve always found your work inspiring, and I enjoy how you can evoke emotion in your images with the simplest of subjects. It’s really quite masterful. A question for you, if you don’t mind: what factor(s) has led most to the development of your photographic vision?

    Thanks for creating and sharing,


  20. Johnny
    14. April 2014

    Dave, thank you so much for your kind words.

    I think the most important factor for me personally is to not look left and right too much. I strongly feel that everything you take in affects your own vision and that’s not helpful. Inspiration does not come from the outside.

    I have shared a few more thoughts about that here if you are interested. :)

  21. Qinyi Liu
    14. April 2014

    I’m so jealous that you still have Portra 400 NC in stock. =D

  22. Johnny
    14. April 2014

    Haha! Thank you, Qinyi! ;)

    I stocked up on Portra 400 NC in 2010 when Kodak announced it would be discontinued and I kept most of it in the fridge since then. I only shoot it for special occasions. Sadly I didn’t think far enough and only bought 35mm. But you can still find it in 120 on Ebay sometimes.

  23. Dani
    21. April 2014

    Amazing images! Love your work Johnny!

  24. Johnny
    21. April 2014

    Thank you, Dani. I’m happy you enjoyed the post!

  25. Robert Quiet
    23. April 2014

    Amazing tones in the opening photo! Fantastic B&W in the last photo, with your self portrait! And great photos in between!


  26. Johnny
    23. April 2014

    Robert, thank you so much! I’m glad you like these.

  27. London on Leica | Johnny Patience | Full Frame ...
    25. April 2014

    […] This was our first trip to London together and we really enjoyed every minute of it. London is a very beautiful place and we both liked the feel of it a lot. […]

  28. Tracy Clayton
    27. April 2014

    Another great photoset. Your work always gives me the kick in the pants to go out and shoot.


  29. Johnny
    28. April 2014

    Thanks so much, Tracy! That’s wonderful to hear! :)

  30. Rebecca Lily
    8. May 2014

    I’m a bit late to the party, but I’ve enjoyed coming back to this post again and again since you blogged it. It’s a lot of fun seeing London through your eyes. It’s also interesting that while we were together the whole time, our images from this trip are much different.

    I love all of the pictures, but I think my favorite is the last one.

  31. Johnny
    8. May 2014

    Thank you for your kind words and the wonderful time spent, Rebecca.

    I’m happy you liked the post. I love yours so much and I’m fascinated about how different our pictures from London came out. Don’t forget, I’m your biggest fan! :)

  32. Mike
    8. May 2014


    How could I have missed this?! London is my favourite city in the world, and you’ve shown it beautifully (as usual). You have a distinctive style that is instantly recognizable.



  33. Johnny
    9. May 2014

    Mike, thank you so much!

    That’s really such a nice compliment. I’m happy you enjoyed these pictures. I was very curious about London and about how I would see it. I loved it there, no wonder it’s your favorite city in the world.

  34. Sean
    15. July 2014

    Hi Johnny,

    Great photos! I am interested in your choice of lenses. Why the Sonnar and Nokton instead of the Planar or Summilux?

    Also, I notice you are strictly a 50mm man. Do you have a particular preference for this over say a 35mm lens?

    I’m asking as I am finding myself torn between 35mm and 50mm. So I’m actually considering getting a Voigtlander 40mm Ultron for my Nikon FM3a as a compromise. Any thoughts on that lens?

    Thanks, Sean

  35. Johnny
    15. July 2014

    Thank you very much for your kind feedback, Sean.

    I shoot the new 50mm Voigtländer ASPH VM on my M2 and the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm 1.5 on my MP. The lenses are basically polar opposites. The Sonnar has a very vintage Zeiss look and the Voigtländer is a very modern lens and looks very clean. The Sonnar is my favorite 50mm of all times, but it’s a bit more difficult to shoot than the Voigtländer. It’s an old design and it’s more of an artistic lens than a technically perfect lens.

    I shoot the Sonnar because I prefer how it draws over any Leica lens that I’ve seen (well maybe not the 35mm double ASPH). The Voigtländer is much more “clean”, predictable and a little more clinical. It’s so close to the Leica Summilux 50mm 1.4 that I can barely tell these two apart. The only downside is barrel distortion, but that’s easily corrected in LR.

    I use the Voigtländer for most of my B&W work. I like how the lens counterbalances the gritty/grainy/dirty look of Tri-X. The combination Leica M2 + Voigtländer 50mm is also relatively affordable, which makes it easy to not worry about it too much and to bring it with me everywhere I go.

    You’re right, I only shoot 50mm lenses (and the 80mm equivalent on medium format). There is no particular reason behind that. It’s just the focal length that works best for me, personally. I have never tried the 40mm Ultron. But despite the Nokton 50mm 1.5, I prefer Zeiss over Voigtländer.

  36. Joe Vitessa
    25. January 2015

    Very nice blog post!

    Just one thing: You should clarify that film is perfectly safe when X-rayed through carry-on, but not through baggage check. The conventional wisdom is that you should have film rated above 800 ASA hand-checked. Anything 400 and lower is perfectly fine in a carry-on.

  37. Johnny
    25. January 2015

    Thanks very much for your kind feedback and your suggestion, Joe.

    I try to avoid X-ray completely if possible. If you buy fresh film and have it go through a modern machine once or twice it’s very likely that it’ll be alright. But I travel a lot and cannot always buy film on location. Even slower emulsions cannot take dose after dose without an affect. I also don’t always see the latest technology in every country I visit.

    I like to be on the safe side personally and therefore I always ask to have my film hand checked. It’s usually not a problem. Most European airports are very helpful in that regard and all US airports hand check your film without questions if you’re uncomfortable with it going through the X-ray scanner.

  38. Mikey Kay
    6. September 2015


    These photos look absolutely stunning, especially the B&W ones, my favourite style of photography. Your advice on metering with the Tri-X 400 (my B&W film of choice) was an absolute godsend. I can’t thank you enough for your invaluable advice.

    I’ve recently gone back to film for the love and fun of it, and while my photographs have been pleasantly surprising for my first roll, I was seeking more pop and pow in my images. You’ve really helped me and added a real spark in my step for me to want to get out there this weekend and shoot photos that I will hopefully be blown away by.

    Cheers and all the very best! :)


  39. Johnny
    7. September 2015

    Thanks so much, Mikey. Great to hear that you enjoyed this post! :)

    Exposing your film properly will definitely help you a lot with achieving good and consistent results. If you’re interested, here is some more info on metering and exposure (the comments are really helpful too).

  40. Chris Roberts
    8. July 2016

    Hi Johnny,

    Holy blog post resurrection, Batman! :)

    As a full time Londoner, I recognise many of the scenes you have captured, and seeing them through your eyes is fascinating. Thank you! :)

    London is a unique place, and it seems even more so after our recent political surprises in the UK.

  41. Johnny
    9. July 2016

    Chris, thank you so much for your kind feedback.

    I’m always curious to hear what locals think and feel about my pictures. Glad to hear that you enjoyed them! London is indeed a unique place and I am looking forward to going back one day.

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