Home Cameras/Lenses Leica New Orleans to Chicago with the Leica Q: A camera for all...

New Orleans to Chicago with the Leica Q: A camera for all occasions

  This young lady, waiting for her car outside my hotel in New Orleans, sportingly allowed me to take a photo
This young lady, waiting for her car outside my hotel in New Orleans, sportingly allowed me to take a photo

Back in May my wife and I went on a long American road trip, driving from New Orleans through the Mississippi Delta up the River Road alongside the Mississippi to Memphis and then on to finish in Chicago. It was certainly a long stretch — 2400 kilometers or nearly 1,500 miles.

  Barman at Seaworthy Restaurant, New Orleans, pouring me a beer
Barman at Seaworthy Restaurant, New Orleans, pouring me a beer

It was far from being a drive through touristy USA but, as well as wanting to visit some famous cities, we wanted to understand just a little about the divide which has opened up between the prosperous east and west coasts of the US and the so called flyover states and to perhaps understand how so many people voted for Trump.

They’ll never turn their props again. Atchafalaya  Basin Landing, Louisiana

Our starting point, New Orleans, is a lively city and we enjoyed the time we spent there although much of the famed French Quarter is very touristy and in some parts downright tacky.

Sadly much of the south is very rundown and poverty stricken. The once grand old river towns of Natchez and Vicksburg are now shadows of their former selves. The river trade has gone except for the tourist boats. Enormous barge trains ply the river but now they head straight up or downstream to and from New Orleans which is one of the biggest ports in the US.

  Above: Cottonpickers once called this home, Louisiana. Below: Jesus saves but not this one — abandoned Baptist church, Louisiana.
Above: Cottonpickers once called this home, Louisiana. Below: Jesus saves but not this one — abandoned Baptist church, Louisiana.

We spent a few days in Memphis and, of course, visited Graceland . You cannot visit Memphis without visiting Graceland even if you are not an Elvis fan. As well as Graceland the excellent National Museum of Civil Rights in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated is really well worth visiting. If you stay In Memphis make sure that you fit in a stay at the venerable Peabody Hotel. It is a wonderful place and it is famous for its ducks — an extraordinary spectacle.

  A good-natured gang, only too keen to have their photo taken. Vicksburg.
A good-natured gang, only too keen to have their photo taken. Vicksburg.
  The boys electioneering on local elections day, Clarksdale, Mississippi.
The boys electioneering on local elections day, Clarksdale, Mississippi.

We ended up in Chicago on a Sunday morning at the end of May. A strong wind was blowing off the lake and we thought that we had arrived in the middle of winter. We flew home from Chicago via LA.  Sydney Airport at 6.00 on a winter’s morning felt positively balmy after Chicago.

  Abe in his roadside Bar-B-Q, Charleston, Mississippi.
Abe in his roadside Bar-B-Q, Charleston, Mississippi.

I took just one camera with me — my new Leica Q. I don’t shoot tourist sites — I leave that to my wife — and I am not a big fan of most street photography which I regard as rather pointless and, dare I say it, lazy. What I do photograph are people. I really like people and find them fascinating and usually friendly. I always endeavour to photograph people with their consent and usually I get into a conversation with them before asking permission, so most of my photos have a narrative behind them. I very rarely get a refusal and usually I get enthusiastic participation. One subject on this trip asked for prints of the photos and gave me his address. He should now have the prints.

  Jerome, night porter at these toney apartments, central Chigaco at 6.30 am. He welcomed the opportunity for a good chat.
Jerome, night porter at these toney apartments, central Chigaco at 6.30 am. He welcomed the opportunity for a good chat.

I really enjoy using the Q. I only shoot colour nowadays and I only shoot jpegs. I know “real” photographers only shoot RAW( DNG) but the jpegs from the Q are superb. so why should I spend time converting RAW files when Leica have done the hard work for me with very well tuned jpeg algorithms? It’s all about the photographs not the gear or the software you use. I am pleased with the photos I bought back from the trip and, so as far as I am concerned, the formula worked.

  Adrienne, cook at Roy
Adrienne, cook at Roy’s Store, Charleston, Mississippi. Roy’s is one of the last remaining country stores in Mississippi and has been in business for over 100 years.

You can find a much more detailed account of my river road trip and more photos in a number of posts on my blog at The Rolling Road and I will be posting the final parts of the saga on the blog in the next few weeks.


  It was cold at 6.45 am in Chicago when I spotted this lady waiting at a bus stop and well rugged up.
It was cold at 6.45 am in Chicago when I spotted this lady waiting at a bus stop and well rugged up.


  1. Lovely article and photos John. As a jazz and blues fan that would be my dream trip. In the early 1920s Louis Armstrong travelled from New Orleans to Chicago and in the early 1940s Muddy Waters travelled from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Chicago. So did countless thousands of others, but those two (and some others like them) changed the sound of 20th popular music in a way which eventually spread throughout the world. Despite being a huge source of modern popular music, Mississippi is the poorest state in the US. A friend of mine arrived in Clarksdale on a bus about two years ago to be greeted by the mayor who asked him if he wanted to buy some property locally (he was either an estate agent or a lawyer or both in his ‘day job’). Most towns in Mississippi have a declining population. Morgan Freeman went against the tide when he opened his ‘Ground Zero’ blues bar in Clarksdale.

    I am attending the LHSA AGM in Chicago next October and I hope to visit New Orleans afterwards. I will bring my M10 with me unless that gets banned by US authorities. It will not go in the hold. I would bring a cheap camera or even some old film cameras if they ban digital cameras from carry on luggage.

    I have also read your Rolling Road posts about your trip. A lovely series.


  2. I don’t agree that street photography is pointless and lazy….it’s like many genres where the content, light, composition, capturing the emotion of the moment, and spontaneity….are crucial….yes, I too shoot people, but interacting with their environment and going about their ordinary lives in extraordinary ways…and to capture the beauty in everyday life is demanding and very hard work..most of my street work has been inspired by that of brilliant artists like Henri Cartier Bresson, Bill Brandt, and David Gibson…I certainly don’t see all their work as pointless and lazy..have you seen David Gibson shot of an empty street in Glasgow…certainly doesn’t lack mood or interest, even if no person is in the frame…sir, you do Street photography a disservice with your ill thought remarks….and stretch the definition of diversity, but I respect you’re right to your opinion…good luck in your photography journey ☺️

    • John -below-when I first read your comment I thought that I had accidentally clicked on one of those pugnacious forums and not tranquil Macfilos. Anyway whilst I have no desire to engage in a pugnacious exchange I feel that I should respond to your sharp response.
      You have misunderstood what I said. I do not say that all street photography is pointless or lazy or indeed that street photography is pointless or lazy. I say that "most" street photography is pointless and lazy. The key word in that sentence is "most". I stand by that comment.
      I totally agree with you that there are many brilliant practitioners of great street photography. The problem is that the genre has become a hunting ground for photographers who are not in anyway great practitioners of the genre. Take a look any number of online photography forums featuring "street" and you will see thousands of photographs which will have you asking "what is the point of that?"
      To say that all street photography is good because there are some great street photographers is a bit like saying all painting is good because of Degas,Michelangelo,Rembrandt etc.
      My comments were not" ill thought" at all -"carefully considered" is a more apt term I would argue. Anyway best wishes.

  3. I really appreciate this post, John, to which I had been looking forward. I think the images are superb (of course!), and in particular I like the way you shoot people with a 28mm lens and avoid facial distortion by how much of them you include in the frame. How would you say doing this trip with the Q is different from what doing it with the X1, your previous favourite would have been?

    • John , if I am really honest with myself I have to admit that I could probably have taken most of these photos with the X1 and they would have come out as well !

      It’s nice to have the really fast autofocus on the Q. And there is no doubt that the IQ on the Q is stunning and having the ability to shoot at F1.7 is a benefit but on the other hand the CCD sensor in the X1 although it is old technology does produce very mellow images.

    • John, I have just had another thought re the Q v the X1. The battery life on the Q is so much better than the battery life with the X1.
      With the Q you can actually take a real lot of photos without worrying about the battery. Indeed with the Q I have given up carrying a spare battery with me for the day.

  4. John, I cannot proceed without trying to dig you out a bit on Trump, it is a bit easy to just leave that comment there… Hanging.

    Perhaps the people that voted for Trump felt that they had had enough of being told by the ruling class that handing the processes of life over to the government would ensure their prosperity. This process has been continuing to various degrees across the west since the 1950’s, and so far the only ones to prosper, are the ones that are telling them this.

    It is nothing more than a tyranny created by the party political system.

    Hopefully there is more to life than the leftist view that sacrifice is good, if we want jam tomorrow. Bevan tried that and we are still waiting for the NHS to be jammy.

    Perhaps Trump is trying to tell them from across the other side of a nest of hostile crocodiles, that all we need is a government that cares about people and the infrastructure in which they live, rather than a process of endlessly extracting what little money they are able to generate in exchange for some nebulous promise.

    Trump has built his magnificent gaudy properties and improved both his environment and his bank balance and he did it with borrowed money, and most people would be unlikely to be as audacious, but the point is good.

    If the government must do something, then perhaps it should make sure that the built environment is a fit place to live and work, not some kind of weird utopian Chaplinesque metropolis.

    People voted for Trump because he is like a breath of fresh air, even if he is mad. I am happy to say that the man is deeply flawed, and extremely unattractive to behold, but in the context of the alternative, which is aggressively trying to use ITS infrastructure (political institutions) to bring him down before he has even started, a beautiful thing to behold.

    People only live short lives when put in context with manmade institutions and as such, people should always trump those institutions when it comes to protection and preservation.

    As an aside, since June 23rd 2016 NOT ONE SINGLE STEP towards Britain leaving the EU has even been attempted. Massive efforts have been made to ensure that the establishment system does not honour the democratic system that they claim to support.

    As far as the rest of this contribution goes John, I love it, it is all about your pictures, not the gear or the endlessly irritating shortcomings of the various softwares. Most of us just want to record memories and one of the best ways of reviving those memories is to grab a suitcase full of pictures from the attic or under the bed, and order a MaccyD, or even to read Mike Evans’s magnificent column.

    Best wishes, StephenJ

    • Hey, Monica(!), I need to moderate here. The fact that Macfilos is a "tranquil place" as John pointed out in another comment is that I avoid politics (and religion….) since this blog is about photography and, occasionally, technology. While we have our differences on cameras, lenses, street photography and a dozen other fairly harmless subjects, I think politics is best left for other forums. Otherwise we will all be getting hot until the collar for no reason. I get this in before John is tempted to reply…..

      • I stand corrected and well and truly admonished, but perhaps John should not have spoiled his column with the very lazy Trump comment then Mike.

        In mitigation, I have not been party political, indeed perhaps I should have pointed out that all of the US political parties are hostile to Trump, including most of his own.

        If anything, my comments were anti-political. Certainly not anything more challenging than suggesting that those "oiks" in the fly over constituencies made a human choice, rather than a political choice.

        Perhaps they too, have had enough of politics?

        • Don’t worry, Stephen. I think most of us are sick of politics these days, with democracy being the least worst of options (did I just invent that?). Let’s hope Macfilos remains a haven of peace and tranquility where we can indulge our hobbies and our passions without having to think of the nasty things in life….

  5. Hello John,
    I did indeed misread you’re comments, and I apologise for the negative response… I like the images in you’re presentation very much, and I am interested in you’re article and the images shot with the Q…I am interested in shooting with one, so you’re comments are helpful. Dare I say, I am thinking of a Q as an alternative to my M9 and 35 chron.

    John H☺️

  6. Not many nature or landscape photos, do you find Q unsuited for this purpose and see it as a portrait or people camera.

  7. I am sure that the Q is an ideal landscape camera-in the right hands. I am not a very accomplished landscape photographer-many others do it so much better than me -and in mitigation I must say that totally flat, featureless landscape of the delta region through which I travelled does not really lend itself to landscape photography.
    If you have a look at all the posts on the road trip on my blog- therollingoad.blogspot.com you can find a number of photographs which are "nature" and a few which are "landscapes".


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