Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica Societies and Boat Races

Leica Societies and Boat Races

The camp followers, officials, VIPs, press and Uncle Tom Cobley and all

Busy weekend here at Macfilos. Friday and Saturday I joined many friends in Nottingham for the Leica Society’s annual gathering. It was the usual Leicafest with a bit of everything, from gear drooling to serious photography in the impressive gallery of members’ photographs over the past year.

No, no, definitely no new SL in the near future: Leica’s MD, Jason Heward, speaking at the Leica Society annual meeting in Nottingham on Saturday

Jason Heward, Leica’s UK managing director, was there to give us the lowdown on the latest products. I was disappointed to hear that we cannot expect a Leica SL2 anytime soon, certainly not in the next six months.

All badged up

Our own William Fagan had braved Ryan Air to attend this year and I managed to grab a snap of him all badged up with LHSA, Leica and, even, a Korean Leica owners’ pin on his lapel.

William Fagan, Leica collector, Macfilos reader. Dublin’s finest… (Image Leica Q2, 75mm crop)

Paul Glendell of Classic Cases was also much in evidence. He was waiting to see my M10-D so he could perform a final fitting for his forthcoming case for that camera. Watch his website for details.

Ever the opportunist, he grabbed the Q2 for an impromptu sizing up, thus killing two birds with one stone. At one stage I was camera-less but, fortunately, I did remember to retrieve the gear.

This is the man who makes your Classic Cases — Paul Glendell, all the way from Aberdeen (image M10-D with 75mm Summicron ASPH)]
Apo-This is the man who makes your Classic Cases — Paul Glendell, all the way from Aberdeen (image M10-D with 75mm Summicron ASPH)

Winners and losers

But this morning I stole away after breakfast and drove straight back to London. I’d decided I couldn’t miss the 166th annual Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race, especially since I have been there on the Middlesex bank of the Thames for the past 25 years.

I grabbed the Leica CL with the 55-135mm Apo-Vario-Elmar-T which happens to be the longest lens I have access to at the moment. With a 200mm-equivalent reach, it isn’t ideal for an event such as this, so a little judicious cropping was needed. However, with experience of the Q2, cropping is now quite à la mode, it seems.

Cambridge winning.... (Image Leica CL and 55-135mm Apo-Vario-Elmar)
Cambridge winning…. (Image Leica CL and 55-135mm Apo-Vario-Elmar)
and Oxford losing....
and Oxford losing....
The faces of disappointment, two of the Oxford Crew mightily cropped from the Leica CL's 55-135mm lens at full chat of 200mm equivalent
The faces of disappointment, two of the Oxford crew mightily cropped from the Leica CL’s 55-135mm lens at full chat equivalent of 200mm

Camp followers

It’s a strange event, taking place over a 4.2 mile (6.8km) stretch of the river between Putney and Mortlake. The two teams, seen from the bank of the river, are way in the distance, but the scene is always dominated by the hangers on — the sleek launches of the officials, the dinghies carrying press photographers.

The camp followers, officials, VIPs, press and Uncle Tom Cobley and all
The camp followers, officials, VIPs, press and Uncle Tom Cobley and all

It seems that anyone who has an official capacity on the river is there, following the contestants: Police, Royal National Lifeboat Institution speedster and, even, a breakdown crew. It makes for quite an impressive sight, despite the whole show being over in less than a minute. There’s quite a backwash, too, as the race ignores the normal 5-knot speed limit on the river.

Boat chasing on the Thames
Boat chasing on the Thames

Today Cambridge won for the 85th time since June 10, 1829. Oxford, who have enjoyed much success in recent years, has clocked up 80 wins. Just for the record, that is.

SL and businesslike flash to capture the Leica Society event

The new Leica SL2 wasn’t in evidence this weekend, unfortunately. We do believe Jason, don’t we?

Why not join The Leica Society? Check the website here


  1. .
    Is it something to do with the Macfilos site, and the software which creates it, Mike, but why do so many of the pictures look so very dark, apart from William Fagan?

    For example “..It’s called a camera, you see..” < that one.

  2. Thats a cracking portrait of our beloved William Fagan, Mike. Well taken in my opinion.

    I have noticed that Jean’s images of Myanmar look better on my phone, than on my Mac – but this may be the fact that screen declutters on my phone.

    • Thanks, Dave. It’s a good point David B makes and I agree with him that some of the images we’ve used recently have been too dark. Stuff that looks ok on my monitor doesn’t always reproduce on readers’ tablets, smartphones and computers. It’s something I will try to bear in mind.

  3. The portrait of William Fagan is wonderful and shows a warmth in his soul.
    I have gone to similar boat races and have found them so brief that it is over before I can lift my camera…😊

    • Thanks Brian and Dave (Seargeant) for your kind comments. Mike had his Boat Race over the weekend and I had the Grand National. The first 3 horses home were Irish and the man riding the two in a row winner is from my mother’s home town and the owner was the head of my carrier for the weekend, Michael O’Leary of Ryanair. I believe that he provided two (for two in a row) drinks for all the passengers on the delayed flight from Liverpool on Saturday night, which contained himself and the trainer and jockey. No free drinks from East Midlands last night. I also have an interest in the Grand National as a cousin of mine trained the winner of the race in 2003 and, no, I won’t be giving out racing tips here anytime soon.

      The Leica Society event was very enjoyable, not least because of the opportunity to catch up with old friends. Also, I want to give a word here for the incredible energy of our editor Mike Evans who headed back to London yesterday morning to cover the Boat Race and then put out this article all before I had flown back from East Midlands Airport. Hats off to you, Mike.


      • Thanks, William. I did wonder about mixing Leica and the Boat Race, but really couldn’t be bothered doing TWO articles on a Sunday. I am glad everyone likes your portrait and I trust it meets the approval of Mrs Fagan. The TLS meeting was enjoyable but, as we discussed over the weekend, the membership is definitely “of an age”. How do camera clubs ensure their continued existence and attract younger blood. It’s a conundrum but it is not just camera clubs, it is almost any sort of society or club these days. I’m thinking of writing an article on this and I know you have views, including some news from the LHSA on this front.

        • Thanks Mike. Both TLS and LHSA have the same issues about age profile, but, interestingly, both have seen an increase in membership in the past year or so. The LHSA has an arrangement with Leica AG whereby a membership offer is contained in system camera boxes. This has produced good results, but the trick will be in retaining such members. I mentioned this at the TLS AGM yesterday and suggested that they should talk to Stefan Daniel if they wanted to do the same thing. Both societies have excellent magazines and interesting outings and AGM events, but there is little that would have much appeal for people under the age of 40. You and I have different views about the amount of potential upscaling to cameras by young people who use mobile phones. For them, the world is online and they are not at all interested in making prints the size of barn doors. They also organise events at the drop of a hat (using social media and other online means) and they want to be outdoors taking photos rather than indoors talking about them or cameras. When they are finished taking photos they would rather retire to a pub rather than gather to a meeting room. I believe the gap between the societies and what young people want is too wide to bridge, but the Leica Forum often organises day events which are along the lines of what I suggest and which attract young, old and in between. A good start would be in upgrading society websites to more interactive formats, with a good dose of social media on the side. I know that societies have done some work in these areas, but more activities are needed to drive traffic from younger people.

          It is pretty much the same with camera clubs, although they have other issues, such as the format of judging, competitions and distinctions leading to fairly standardised types of photography, often bordering on cliches.

          I will leave it at that.


          • You are right William about the on-line groups. New photography clubs are based on social media are large in number. I see the traditional clubs as we know becoming facilities for contests, events, darkrooms and studios which those on-line clubs may start to tap into someday (or the other way around).

          • It was good to see you again, Dan, at the Leica Society meet. Camera clubs have changed a lot since I first joined one over 35 years ago. The emphasis is now on competitions and distinctions and the broad perspective which was once there is now gone. In the Dublin Camera Club we had a wonderful man called Eddie Chandler who wrote a book about photography in Ireland in the 19th Century. At this stage I seem to be the only member of the club who is interested in historical photography. You are right that for younger photographers online groups are the way to go. Not only has the technology changed, but so too have lifestyles. As for me, I am writing a book to cover the whole history of photography in Ireland from 1840 to 2020, building on the great work started by Eddie Chandler. Competitions and distinctions don’t really interest me and I have found other outlets for my photographic interests.


        • “..How do camera clubs ensure their continued existence and attract younger blood..” ..I doubt they will. Once upon a time, when photography was an ‘arcane art’ art of juggling apertures and shutter speeds, and choosing film of a suitable ASA (sensitivity) while balancing grain size and ‘acuity’, contrast and ‘gradation’ and weighing the merits of ‘Rodinal’ versus ‘Acutol’, D-76 vs ID-11 – or mixing your own developer from one of Geoffrey’s (Crawley’s) recipes – a camera club was a helpful pool of talent and expertise ..unless it was just the Chairman showing off his Hasselblad.

          Those days are gone: (next to) no-one now chooses between Verichrome Pan, Panatomic-X, Plus-X, Tri-X, or “Ilford Film – for Faces and Places”. Any expertise that’s needed is just a couple of clicks away ..so why physically travel to Nuneaton, Wolverhampton or Nottingham?

          It’s not arcane any more; the camera does it all. [People don’t meet to discuss cars – unless they’re old and not made any more (..the cars)]. People don’t go to meetings to find out how best to wire their house, or how to install incandescent gas lamps.

          (Our boating society is still going ..from strength to strength.. but we don’t discuss hemp versus coir rope materials, or how to tie knots.)

          Some clubs die out, other new ones take their place, primarily online.

          I don’t think you’ll find many film clubs – and clattering Bell & Howell 16mm projector – still existing.

          When they’re no longer viable, they die. Like Kodachrome.

          • Over here, cameras are never discussed at camera clubs. Possessions are not rated on this side of the pond. You dare not mention that you have a Leica or a Hasselblad or, worse still, produce one or it could end up where the sun don’t shine. ‘Camera Club’ is quite a misnomer as they are basically photography clubs. The main ‘feeders’ into camera clubs are classes run by clubs where novices learn how to used Lightroom and Photoshop etc and also the basics of exposure, focus and composition etc. Some camera clubs have gone all modern and have competitions for photos taken with phones. One thing I have noted is that younger members tend not to stay and there is usually a solid core of stalwarts.


          • All very laudable but it would drive me to distraction. I’d better stay in London! I’m sure John Shingleton would love it, though. It tales all types…..

          • David , you are totally wrong on car clubs-“[People don’t meet to discuss cars – unless they’re old and not made any more (..the cars)]”.-at least in my experience here in Australia. The Porsche Club of New South Wales-just one of a number of Porsche clubs in Australia -has 1256 members and 63 more joined last month. And yes we talk about cars and most of the members have new or newer cars. Indeed us older members with old Porsches feel very much in the minority. And the Porsche Club is not the only local car club with a rapidly growing and young membership.
            I am not aware of the situation in the local camera clubs so I cannot comment. The two camera clubs I dabbled in over the years here in Australia -admittadly the last time was over ten years ago-were dominated by old people with an interest in what I would term very stuffy photography. Unless they have totally changed I cannot see them enjoying the healthy membership situation of the local car clubs but I may be wrong. I’m not about to find out-twice bitten and all that…

          • John, I’m glad to know that your Porsche Club is going strong. Perhaps it’s because Porsches are speedy racers, so people enjoy zooming along in them, like racing sailors enjoy zooming along in boats, and there are plenty of sailing clubs with plenty of members.

            I was thinking more of the ‘tinkerers’ who used to be car club members; Hillman Minx club members, or members of the original Mini clubs, who’d get together and discuss how best to quieten their motors by sticking insulating felt beneath the bonnet, or how to stop rain getting under the daft-place-to-put-it, immediately-behind-the-radiator, distributor cap, and so forth.

            But as cars need next to no maintenance now – I mean modern cars, and if they do need it, then it’s generally too specialised, or computer-controlled, to be done with a spanner, a torque wrench and a bit of tape around the holes in the silencer (muffler) – then the old-style d-i-y-repair car clubs seem to have fizzled out, except for defunct marques, I think, like Morris Minors, MGs, Saabs, and suchlike.

            But I’m glad to hear (read) that your Porsche Club is doing so well! (I can’t stand other people’s headlights in my eyes – and people in Britain for some unknown, but weird, reason now seem to like driving with their headlights on all day long! – so I’ve never tried one of those low-down, sitting on the tarmac, road-hugging Porsches ..though I believe that Michael has a taller, higher version. So I’ve never tried a Porsche, and don’t know much about them, except that they have flat-four engines, I believe, like the Subaru which I used to drive.

            Perhaps it was silly of me to mention car clubs, as I’m only aware of the ones which have died out, and not the ones which are – obviously – prospering!

          • David and John, the one-make car club is alive and well and, perhaps, car clubs are an exception to the general rule these days. As I have discovered at Brooklands (which hosts a large number of one-make rallies every year) there are still clubable enthusiasts for all makes from Bentley, Rolls Royce, Porsche down to the Austin Allegro. I noticed at the recent Mini event that there were a lot of tinkerers there, especially owners of early Minis, and they seemed to be doing engine rebuilds on the tarmac — but why wait for an event to do this? One enterprising chap had called out the RAC….

  4. The Dark Blues were outgunned, notably by the will of the 47 year old James Cracknell, OBE. (Yes, the average age of the old boys in the “Veteran” race held the day before to test ancient tales, beer taps, and course setup is 42.) He is a mutation branched far from regular human material.

    Oxford did claw back to under a length at the end, which is very, very hard to do in match racing. Some grit there.
    The Boat Race is greatness.

    • Yes, I didn’t go into any sort of detail since I imagined Macfilos readers — especially the many outside the UK — wouldn’t be interested in a battle between two boats on the Thames. I agree, though, it makes a great spectacle and provides a fleeting moment of greatness, history in the making. I am very fortunate to live near the river and I, therefore, feel I am duty bound every year to get out a camera and record the occasion.

      • I were brought up on John Sneg (well, John Snagge, but in those days an ‘a’ was pronounced as an ‘e’) calling “In, Ite ..In, Ite” on the wireliss.

        An English ‘a’ is still pronounced as an ‘e’ in Germany – as if stuck in the 1930s – when German people speak English ..as in “The Lest Samurai”, or “bed luck” or “Med Mex Beyond Thunderdome”. It’s like talking with the Queen Mum, not that I ever did, you understend.

        • You are quite right, David. A has definitely suffered a vowel shift in our lifetimes. But I hadn’t associated this with the German pronunciation which does transform an English A into an E. It reminds me of the curious but rather appropriate German word for mobile phone — Handy. Many Germans think this is an English word, which it is, but the meaning is completely contrived by the Germans. Even fluent English speaking Germans can be heard referring to their “Hendy”. They assume English speakers, whether in Britain, USA, Canada, Australia or wherever, will recognise the term. Most people are left guessing. HOWEVER, what a good invention of a name for a mobile phone/cellphone or whatever we tend to use. I’ve often thought it should be adopted in the English-speaking world.

          • “Hendy”, yes! (..I did spend a few months welding aluminium beer kegs at Teddington bus garage with a chep called Hendy [J Henderson McCartney] ..about half a lifetime ago..)

            It is ebsolutely “hendy” to heve a phone tucked in your pocket ..it should, you’re right, be the universal name for a cellphone.


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